Red Ink Beer Video Writing Instruction 9.13.14


What’s in this episode?

In this episode of Red Ink Beer, David Bowman, owner of Precise Edit and author of 9 writing guides,

  • answers a reader’s question about using commas with “too” at the end of a sentence (posted at the Zen Comma blog),
  • shows how to write the body of a paragraph (strategy from  Concise Guide to Technical and Academic Writing), and
  • corrects a fast food restaurant’s sign with three words and three errors.

Writing skills are demonstrated with examples and instruction. The transcript is provided below.

For more information about David Bowman’s writing guides, please visit http://hostileediting.com. To contact David Bowman at Precise Edit, please email him at info@preciseedit.com.

Video time: 10:16

Red Ink Beer is supported by Precise Edit and Hostile Editing.

Transcript

Hi, I’m David Bowman. I am the owner and chief editor of Precise Edit, and I am also the author of 9 writing guides, all available at HostileEditing.com.

In this episode of Red Ink Beer, we will first answer a reader’s question about comma placement that was posted over at the Zen Comma blog (http://ZenComma.wordpress.com). Next we will take a look at an essential writing skill having to do with the body of a paragraph. And finally, we will take a look at a major writing fail that I found on a billboard in front of a fast food restaurant.

So, let’s get started and let’s take a look at the reader’s question.

Reader Question

The reader asks,

“Is it still correct to put a comma before also and too at the end of a sentence? I’m a proofreader and I’m finding the younger people are dropping the comma.”

The Answer

The short answer to the question is “yes.” Like all conjunctive adverbs, these words need to be separated from the rest of the sentence with commas, even if they appear at the end of a sentence.

This is an interesting question because we need to talk about a class of words called “conjunctive adverbs.” Conjunctive adverbs are words like thus, therefore, also, too, however, and a variety of other words. “Conjunctive” means “join together”: con = with; junctive = join. What they do is join the meaning of a second statement or sentence with the information in a prior statement or sentence. They join them together.

A word like therefore or too shows how the information that I’ve just presented is joined with the information in a prior statement.

Let’s take a look at how conjunctive adverbs work, and we’ll also see how the commas work. You’ll find more information about this in the comma guide Zen Comma, but I’m hoping that this example I will show you will give you a good idea about not only how do conjunctive adverbs work but also how do we use commas with conjunctive adverbs, in particular those conjunctive adverbs that fall at the end of a sentence. So, let’s take a look at the example.

Bob will take an apple for lunch. I will take an apple for lunch.

Here we have two separate sentences that each communicate an individual message. However, if we want to show that the second sentence somehow relates to the first sentence, we add the conjunctive adverb too at the end of the second sentence:

Bob will take an apple for lunch. I will take an apple for lunch, too.

This now means that my having an apple for lunch is somehow related to Bob’s having an apple for lunch. Notice that there is a comma in front of the word too. Like all conjunctive adverbs, too is separated from the rest of the sentence with commas.
I hope that this simple example gives you a good idea about how conjunctive adverbs work and, in particular, how commas work with conjunctive adverbs.

You can get a lot more information about them [commas] from the writing guide Zen Comma or by taking a look at the Zen Comma blog at http://zencomma.wordpress.com. As a matter of fact, that’s where this question came from.

I’m very serious about helping people use commas correctly because I understand how commas help the reader to understand the messages and the information that we’re trying to relate. To the reader who posted the question, thank you, and I hope that it helped you who are watching to understand how commas work with conjunctive adverbs.

Writing Strategy: Paragraph Content

In a prior episode of Red Ink Beer, we looked at a writing strategy having to do with starting a great paragraph, which we called the context of the paragraph, where we introduce the idea and do several other important things. Now, we’re going to expand on that and take a look at what you do inside a the paragraph, basically how do you provide information about the main idea in a coherent way, in a consistent way, and also keep the reader fully aware of what you’re trying to present to them.

This writing strategy comes from the writing guide Concise Guide to Technical and Academic Writing, available over at the HostileEditing.com website. It’s available in paperback (obviously), but also in PDF and Kindle. All right, so let’s take a look at the example and see what do we do in the middle of a great paragraph.

The term “disabilities” comprises many conditions that may inhibit student learning (e.g., visual and auditory difficulties, cognitive processing delay, behavioral management). Often student with disabilities require specialized instructional strategies to reduce the degree to which those inhibitors may affect learning. Students with special needs require a highly qualified teacher with training and experience in addressing such needs. As part of the tutor selection process, ATS identifies those teachers possessing these unique skills, resulting in the ability to match students with special needs with tutors possessing appropriate teaching ability. Teachers will utilize strategies that allow for differentiated pacing with careful sequencing, monitoring, and control of the learning process.

Here, I have highlighted [italicized] the context of the paragraph. The context of the paragraph tells us that the paragraph will be about students disabilities and learning.

The term “disabilities” comprises many conditions that may inhibit student learning (e.g., visual and auditory difficulties, cognitive processing delay, behavioral management). Often student with disabilities require specialized instructional strategies to reduce the degree to which those inhibitors may affect learning. Students with special needs require a highly qualified teacher with training and experience in addressing such needs. As part of the tutor selection process, ATS identifies those teachers possessing these unique skills, resulting in the ability to match students with special needs with tutors possessing appropriate teaching ability. Teachers will utilize strategies that allow for differentiated pacing with careful sequencing, monitoring, and control of the learning process.

Next, I have highlighted [italicized] the content of the paragraph. Everything that is in this section of the paragraph should be about student disabilities and learning, and as we look at the paragraph, we see that this is true.

The term “disabilities” comprises many conditions that may inhibit student learning (e.g., visual and auditory difficulties, cognitive processing delay, behavioral management). Often student with disabilities require specialized instructional strategies to reduce the degree to which those inhibitors may affect learning. Students with special needs require a highly qualified teacher with training and experience in addressing such needs. As part of the tutor selection process, ATS identifies those teachers possessing these unique skills, resulting in the ability to match students with special needs with tutors possessing appropriate teaching ability. Teachers will utilize strategies that allow for differentiated pacing with careful sequencing, monitoring, and control of the learning process.

Finally, to illustrate this point, I highlighted [italicized] the individual words and phrases that reflect the main idea of student learning and student disabilities. An advantage of this is that it creates what’s called “topic chain.” A topic chain is exactly what you’re seeing here: a series of words and phrases that keep referring the reader back to the main idea so that they know what it is that we’re talking about.

All right, what did we learn from this example? What we learned is that once we have established the main idea for the paragraph in the context, every sentence and all the information that follows need to relate to that main idea in some way. We also saw how we manage longer paragraphs so that we can keep the reader on track with the main idea, and we use what’s called “topic chains.” The third thing that we learned is that any information that doesn’t relate to that main idea needs to go somewhere else, either removed completely or dropped into a different paragraph at a different point in the document.

Well, if we can clearly communicate the main idea of the paragraph in the context, and we can clearly communicate information about that idea in the content, then we have a pretty chance of making sure the reader understands what it is that we want them to learn as they read our documents.

So, that is the main strategy for tonight. In a later episode, we’ll talk about how do you finish a great paragraph, but at least at this point, you’ll be able to communicate your ideas clearly and coherently to your readers.

Writing Fail

Now, as promised, let’s take a look at a writing failure, a major writing fail that I found on a billboard up in a small town in the northern part of the state. This appeared on the marquee for a fast food restaurant. Its intention was to provide support and encouragement for the local [high school] football team. The problem, as you’ll see, is that even though this is a very short statement, it has as many errors as it does words.

This is the exact transcription of the sign:

Lets go Trojan’s!

Three words, three errors.

First, “lets” is supposed to be a contraction, so we need an apostrophe-S here to make it a contraction for “let us.”
Second, there’s no comma after the word “go.” Whenever we’re directly addressing somebody, we always need to separate the name with a comma. And third, why do we have that crazy apostrophe-S for “Trojans”? We never use an apostrophe-S to create a plural.

This is what the sign should have read

Let’s go, Trojans!

An apostrophe-S for the contraction, a comma after “go,” and no apostrophe-S for “Trojans.”

What amuses me about this example is here this person is trying to encourage the local [high school] football team, which means they’re in support of what the schools are doing, and yet, in just three words, we’ve made three writing errors, which really isn’t a good example to set if our audience is school-aged children.

I suppose that if there’s one more thing that we’ve learned from this example, it’s that if you’re going to put statements out there in a very public way, you really need to make sure that your spelling, your punctuation, and your grammar are correct.

The End

This brings us the end of another episode of Red Ink Beer, and thank you for stopping by. I hope that you have found this video useful as you look for strategies to improve not only communicate your ideas in writing but also your ability to present yourself professionally and credibly through your writing.

Again, I’m David Bowman, the chief editor and owner of Precise Edit, also the author of 9 writing guides, each of which is available over at the HostileEditing.com website. I hope that you’ll stop by and find a writing guide that’s useful to you.

Thank you very much for being here! Have a good night.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Editing, Mechanics, OOPS!, Videos, Writing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s