Writing for Business - A Whatis.com Blog


October 4, 2012  2:24 PM

The “so-called” problem

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is preferable?
1. Encryption is the conversion of data into so-called ciphertext, which cannot be easily understood by unauthorized people.

2. Encryption is the conversion of data into a form called ciphertext, which cannot be easily understood by unauthorized people.

Continued »

October 3, 2012  1:22 PM

Em dashes and spaces: AP vs. Chicago

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

I’m taking another run at yesterday’s Q&A. I was apparently wrong about being wrong. I’d been using em dashes correctly all along, if only by accident, since we loosely follow AP style on WhatIs.com. All right … here it goes again. (Pls. note correct AP-style ellipsis. YES — I learned something else already today!)

Which is correct?
1. Vendors—including Apple, Google and Microsoft—all have their own versions of auto-correct programs and, as a result, their own particular auto-correct fails.

2. Vendors — including Apple, Google and Microsoft — usually have their own versions of auto-correct programs and, as a result, their own particular auto-correct fails.

Continued »


October 2, 2012  9:03 PM

Do you put spaces around em dashes?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
1. Vendors—including Apple, Google and Microsoft—all have their own versions of auto-correct programs and, as a result, their own particular auto-correct fails.

2. Vendors — including Apple, Google and Microsoft — usually have their own versions of auto-correct programs and, as a result, their own particular auto-correct fails.

Continued »


October 1, 2012  1:48 PM

“As good or better than” is as bad as, if not worse than…

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
1. His response time for trouble tickets is as good, or better, than ever.
2. His response time for trouble tickets is as good as, or better than, ever.
Continued »


September 27, 2012  2:07 PM

There are two ways—and two ways ONLY—that you can correctly refer to yourself as “myself”

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Is this sentence grammatically correct?
I, myself, would never dream of sharing an offer for a free $250 Walmart gift card on Facebook, but people do it all the time.

Continued »


September 26, 2012  1:23 PM

“Healthy” vs. “healthful” and the problem of audience standards

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
With dinner guests due to arrive within the hour, I started browsing through Pinterest looking for quick and _______ recipes.
a. healthful
b. healthy

Continued »


September 25, 2012  2:35 PM

“Inauthentic” or “unauthentic”?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
Gray market products are either _________, distributed outside the authorized channels, or both.
a. inauthentic
b. unauthentic

Continued »


September 24, 2012  6:48 PM

It’s Punctuation Day. Here — have some more!

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Did you know that September 24th, 2012 is Punctuation Day‽  It’s also Bluebird of Happiness Day, which surely cannot be a coincidence. I love punctuation!

The National Punctuation Day website provides standard punctuation and information about each item.

Wikipedia has an interesting entry on punctuation and some related entries about non-standard punctuation. Maybe teacher never told you, but there are punctuation marks that haven’t gone mainstream, although maybe they should. See that exclamation point/question mark image to the left (and also after the first sentence)? It’s the interrobang, a single character that indicates that the question is asked in an excited manner. So much more elegant than separate punctuation, especially if multiples are used.

Martin K. Speckter invented the interrobang in 1962. Speckter, who was the head of an ad agency, thought that ads would look a lot better with a single character to display both enthusiasm and inquisitiveness. He was right! Although the interrobang has never become standard-issue punctuation, it’s there for you to use, in the Wingdings font.

And then there’s the irony mark. Alcanter de Brahm, a French poet, promoted this backwards question mark  in the 19th century and various proponents have campaigned for it since. It’s never caught on though, and that has led to a great deal of ambiguity.

Surely the world would be a better place if we signaled our ironic statements clearly ؟

Go ahead — celebrate National Punctuation Day with some new punctuation. Enjoy it responsibly!

See more punctuation-related posts here.

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar.


September 24, 2012  1:28 PM

The importance of careful language

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

I was surprised, recently, by a message from Donna Morton, an indigenous peoples activist and CEO of the green tech company First Power. Donna was commenting on our use of the word “savage.” She said it had made her sad. The content was a quiz on, ironically enough, netiquette — proper online behavior: Netiquette savvy or savage? After consulting with Donna and considering the implications of the word, I edited the title to be simply “Quiz: Netiquette” and removed another instance of “savage” in the introduction. The original title is, at this moment, still in the URL but it will be fixed when the tech people can get to it.

When I wrote that quiz, I’m sure I was just pleased to come up with a snappy title and never stopped to consider that it might be considered disrespectful. I don’t associate the word “savage” with indigenous peoples and never have. However, it’s been a derogatory term applied to them for centuries and so it was not a good choice to use in reference to ill-mannered behavior.

I know that the many indigenous cultures around the world are varied and rich and I hope and pray that those cultures and their wisdom may be preserved. I also know that the behavior of supposedly civilized peoples of European origin is responsible for a lot of damage to indigenous peoples and cultures. Their behavior was often savage and the damage continues to this day. The last thing I would ever want to do is to add insult to that injury.

I would never have used that word if I’d thought about it carefully. Although when we hear the word etiquette, we might think of Emily Post and white gloves, the concept is important and always relevant. It’s as true online as it is offline: Good manners are about consideration for the people we share this planet with. And words matter.

See more about Donna Morton and her mission here.

Follow me on Twitter@tao_of_grammar.


September 20, 2012  6:29 PM

Grammar Glossary

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
The phrase “fear, uncertainty and doubt” is an example of:

a. an apposition 
b. an epenthetic 
c. a tricolon

Continued »


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