April 2016

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

Recently I read online that “administrate” wasn’t a legitimate verb. Nonsense!
Administer and administrate both mean to manage or direct.”*
(administrative (adj), administratively(adv))

Yes, administer has another meaning: “to dispense,” as when we administer medication. But when it comes to keeping an organization humming, administrate is totally acceptable.

*According to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, the go-to reference for the Associated Press


Grammar To Go
Takeout tips for better writing

A reader wrote me wondering whether grammar rules had changed during the last few years. “I come across sentences like this all the time, especially in online writing,” she said. “Is this acceptable?”

Our AVA (American Viticultural Area) designation varies from Sonoma Coast to Russian River Valley, it is not hard to understand why the grapes grown in this region produce such distinctive wines.

Although language is always evolving, so far the rules about how to combine clauses into sentences are holding steady. This writing error is a “comma splice”—which is what you get when you use a comma to separate independent clauses.

Here’s a quick review.

An independent clause consists of a SUBJECT + VERB + COMPLETE IDEA. An independent clause can stand alone as a sentence.

Mary writes like a scholar. She talks like a truck driver.

Each of theses sentences has a subject, Mary and she, and a verb, writes and talks, plus each conveys as whole thought.

Incorrectly joining two sentences with a comma often stems from the writer assuming the reader knows the relationship between the separate thoughts.

Mary writes like a scholar, she talks like a truck driver.

But a comma is not enough to express a relationship between ideas in English writing, especially your professional business writing. You must do more.

1.     Keep the comma and also add a coordinating conjunction (FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) to directly express the connection.

Mary writes like a scholar, but she talks like a truck driver.

2.     Use a semicolon instead of the comma to imply an obvious connection.

Mary writes like a scholar; she talks like a truck driver.

How would you repair the comma splice in the original sentence? A semicolon would work well, but adding a coordinating conjunction is most common.

Our AVA (American Viticultural Area) designation varies from Sonoma Coast to Russian River Valley, so it is not hard to understand why the grapes grown in this region produce such distinctive wines.

Heads up if someone has ever called you out on this. Usually people either have internal independent clause radar or they don’t. In other words, it’s often the same people who make this mistake. If you’re one of them you’ll need to be extra vigilant in your proofreading.

Thanks to Jennifer Halleck of Halleck Vineyards for raising this question.
http://www.halleckvineyard.com/