Category Archives: Mechanics

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.

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Red Ink Beer-Video Writing Instruction 9.9.14


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 tricky question from the Zen Comma blog about using commas between complicated items in a list
  • discusses an essential writing strategy paragraph structure and how to start paragraphs from Concise Guide to Technical and Academic Writing, and
  • points out a major writing failure from Twitter.

Writing skills are demonstrated with examples and instruction. For more information about David Bowman’s writing guides, please visit http://hostileediting.com.

Video: 11 minutes. Transcript provided below. Continue reading

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Where Does the Comma Go?


Do commas confuse you?

The final stage of the writing and editing process is proofreading: correcting any errors in spelling, punctuation, word usage, and format. Roughly 75% of what I do while proofreading clients’ documents is correct commas.

When I teach university writing courses, I ask the students, “What’s the number one thing that confuses you about punctuation and grammar?” In every class, someone says “Commas,” and about half of the students nod in agreement.

Commas confuse most people. Unlike other types of punctuation, they are used in so many ways. However, if you want to write clearly and professionally, you need to use commas correctly. Continue reading

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When corpses go swimming


“Swimming happily, the corpse floated by his head.”

Ok-what’s wrong with that statement? It seems to say that the corpse is swimming happily, which is a rather odd thing for corpses to do.

The problem is that the introductory phrase is a dangling modifier. This means that the subject (stated or implied) of the introductory adverbial phrase doesn’t match the subject of the sentence.

In the example above, the subject of the main sentence is “the corpse.” However, the implied subject of the introductory phrase “swimming happily” is he. Because they aren’t the same, we, the readers, are left with a rather strange image.

Without having any additional clues about the subject, the reader will assume that the subject of the introductory phrase is the same as the subject of the main sentence. This is why why the corpse seems to swimming happily.

Here’s another: “As a professor of economics, the plan is likely to succeed.”

This seems to imply that the plan is a professor. That’s odd, too. The subject of the main sentence is “plan,” so without any clues to tell us differently, we assume that the subject of the introductory phrase is also “plan,” making “plan” a professor of economics.

Even if we had the clues, however, the phrase would still dangle because the subjects would be different. That’s what a dangling modifier is: an introductory phrase or clause that doesn’t have the same subject (implied or stated) as the main sentence.

Thus, to fix these dangling modifiers, we need to make the subject (implied or stated) of the introductory phrase the same as the subject of the main sentence. Here are possible revisions for the above examples.

“While swimming happily, he saw a corpse float by his head.”
“As a professor of economics, I believe that the plan is likely to succeed.”

Do you know any dangling modifers that amuse you? Have you heard any dangling modifiers or seen any in print (hint, listen to CNN)? Please share below!

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Precise Edit Answers a Question Regarding Grammar


Grammar question for cover letter.

I’m not a English native,and i would like write a cover letter therefore, i need a help for the grammar correction :) thanks in advance.

“your commitment to your clients and awareness to their needs (HAS) attracted me
I’m a self driven person, I set my own goal and PUTTING MY EFFORT TO ACCOMPLISH IT.”

is this sounds right? because I’m not sure on this.

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Punctuating Appositives


Punctuation isn’t complicated once you know what you’re looking at. I see many writers making errors when punctuating appositives. This may be a new term for many folks, so we’ll take a look at what I mean by “appositive,” and then we’ll figure out how to punctuate them correctly.

WHAT’S AN APPOSITIVE?

An appositive is a word or phrase that

  1. renames something you have written and
  2. can serve the same grammatical function as the word or phrase it renames.

If the word or phrase passes these two tests, it is an appositive.

FIRST EXAMPLE OF AN APPOSITIVE

Here’s a sentence with an appositive. Let’s take a look at the phrase “a harsh and stubborn woman.” Is this an appositive?

The committee chairwoman, a harsh and stubborn woman, scorned the director’s request.

First test: In this sample, the phrase “a harsh and stubborn woman” renames “The committee chairwoman.” It means the same thing. This satisfies the first test.

Second test: “The committee chairwoman” is the subject of this sentence. However, if we leave out this subject, then “a harsh and stubborn woman” will serve as the subject (minus the commas around it). In this way, “a harsh and stubborn woman” can serve the same grammatical function as “the committee chairwoman.” This satisfies the second test.

Another way to perform this test is to leave out one phrase and then the other, resulting in two sentences. If they are both grammatically correct, then the phrase passes the second test. Using this example, we have the following two grammatically correct sentences. Continue reading

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6 Guidelines for E-mail Etiquette


When I teach writing courses to business professionals, I often get asked questions about the “rules” for writing e-mails. These students want to communicate professionally, which is why they are in my classes, and this includes how they present themselves and deliver their content in e-mails. 

e-mailetiquette

In response to the question about e-mail “rules,” I answer that I don’t know of any. What I do offer, however, are guidelines for business and personal letters, modified for the e-mail format. These guidelines follow two basic principles. 

1. Business e-mails and personal e-mails serve different purposes.
2. Business e-mails are formal correspondences. 

With these two principles in mind, here are 6 guidelines for writing e-mail. 

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