September 2015

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

Match these words and definitions.

chutzpah                upstanding person
kibitz                      crazy
mensch                   nerve, courage
meshugga               snack
nosh                        chat

Find answers at the bottom of this newsletter.


Grammar To Go
Takeout tips for better writing

Chutzpah, kibitz, nosh—you likely have come across these Yiddish words in your reading. The rule is to italicize foreign words in our writing. However, these common Yiddish words are usually found blended into copy without any special treatment. That’s because they aren’t foreign any longer. You will find each of the words in Word Smarts above in Merriam-Webster. Once a word makes it into the dictionary, it’s no longer considered foreign.

However, you won’t go wrong using italics if you think your audience will be unfamiliar with the word. Go ahead and give it italics. If you use the word more than once in a given document, you only need to italicize it the first time it appears.

Truly foreign words—ones not in the dictionary—need to be both italicized and defined.
Example: When it comes to correct punctuation, veni, vidi, vici (ie., I came, I saw, I conquered). 


Veni.jpg

Writing Tips
It’s Latin  to Me
—i.e., e.g., et al., etc.

Although English is rich with Latin words, usually we don’t come across Latin in everyday reading and we certainly don’t use it in our writing. However, there are a few Latin abbreviations that we use—and misuse—perhaps too often.
 
Contrary to what you often see, it's better style to save these Latin abbreviations for notes, parenthetical remarks, lists, and so on. Use whole English words in the main body of a document (as I did with "and so on" instead of "etc."  in the previous sentence).

— don't use i.e. and e.g. interchangeably
I.e. is short for the Latin id est, which means “that is” or “namely.” E.g. means “for example” and is the abbreviation of exempli gratia.
 
Which one should you use? Test by reading your sentence with “that is” or “for example” in place of the abbreviation. Then substitute with the abbreviation that makes sense.

Consider the following two sentences that mean very different things. 
 
1. The farmer grows a variety of vegetables (e.g., carrots, kale and okra).
2. The farmer grows a variety of vegetables (i.e., carrots, kale and okra).
 
In the first sentence we understand that the farmer grows all sorts of veggies and some examples of what she grows are listed. In the second sentence we understand that carrots, kale and okra are the only veggies she grows. 
 
—use et al. for people and etc. for things
Et al. means “and others” and is short for Latin et alii. Etc. is short for et cetera and means “and so on." 
 
—don't use “and” with etc. or et al.
Both these abbreviations include the word "and" in their Latin meaning so using "and" is redundant.
Ex: … carrots, kale, okra and etc. (wrong)
 
—don’t use etc. after “for example” or “e.g.”
When you write “for example” it’s clear the list includes some examples and not the entire group.
Ex: …  vegetables, for example, carrots, kale, okra, etc. (wrong)
 
— always use periods with these abbreviations
Use periods as shown in the many uses throughout this article, regardless of where the abbreviation falls in a sentence. (Note that one period at the end of a sentence is always enough.)
Ex: Carrots, kale, okra, etc. are some of the veggies she grows.
 
— use commas as you would if you had used words instead of abbreviations
In American English you usually see a comma after i.e. and e.g. before the list or explanation that follows it. 
Ex: … i.e., X, Y and Z. 
Ex: … e.g., X, Y and Z.
 
— don’t italicize these abbreviations
They are common to the English language.


Word Smarts answers

chutzpah                nerve, courage
kibitz                        chat
mensch                     upstanding person
meshugga                 crazy
nosh                         snack