July 2015

Word Smarts
(Ouch! Did I use that word the wrong way again?)



This cool word is now part of my passive lexicon — I know what the word means but don’t actively use it. Only recently I learned its true definition. I thought it meant some sort of major conundrum. Not so.

The word comes from Hindi and it means an unstoppable force.

V.L. Editing is an editorial juggernaut that is changing the way America writes. (Okay, I exaggerate. But you get the point.)

Grammar To Go
Takeout tips for better writing

Don’t Get Hung Up on Hanged

We all know that the past tense of to hang is hung.

I hung the picture on the wall.
Joe hung his coat on the hook.

But when we mean to hang as a way to off someone, then the past tense is hanged.

The vigilantes hanged the three outlaws.

So when you want to say someone was killed by hanging, use the past form hanged, despite what you see in print and hear in the movies!

Writing Tips

What’s Your Style?
—about stylebooks

When you’re writing, you may find yourself wondering about the right way to say something. What’s the rule? There are rules of proper usage—we refer to these grammar rules to guide our decisions about sentence construction.

Grammar rules govern issues like pronoun usage: I want cookies vs. Me want cookie. They direct our use of word forms: They are already to go vs. They are all ready to go. Grammar rules guide our use of verb tense, combining clauses, run-on sentences, subject/verb agreement, and so much more. There are enough rules to keep us studying for years.

However, when it comes to “correct” English, there is a lot more gray area than you may realize. That’s where style guides come in. Style guides are revered references for editors and writers. You may assume these guides talk about the manner of your writing—terse, flowery, or serious, for example. Instead, a style guide prescribes ways to handle things such as punctuation, capitalization, spelling and other details of writing. Some well-respected style guides are The Associated Press Stylebook and The Chicago Manual of Style.

Interestingly, these resources often don’t agree on the “right” way to write. For instance, The Chicago Manual suggests to spell out numbers below 100, as in an eleven-year anniversary. The AP Style Book, on the other hand, directs us to use digits for numbers over nine: an 11-year anniversary.

So what to do? Choose a style and stick with it, at least within a given piece of writing. Consistency is the key. If you choose to write the name of your business program in capital letters and without an article (no the), as in Basics of Managerial Accounting, then do so all the time. Don’t start referring to it later as The Basics of Accounting, or anything else for that matter. Apply this consistency principle to everything from blog posts and business emails to your website and all your branding.

Being consistent shows you’re in charge of your writing, and it doesn’t draw unwanted attention. If you write a regular blog or newsletter, it may be a good idea to pick up a copy of The AP Stylebook or The Chicago Manual of Style. You can sometimes find them at used bookstores. Or you can subscribe to their online services:  http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/home.html

A stylebook is a good resource for writers, like a dictionary or thesaurus. Whatever your style, stick with it so your writing is clean and instills confidence in the reader that you know what you’re doing.