speak n spell

Stupid people who can’t spell or speak with any kind of intelligence whatsoever irritate the shit out of me…

I mean really, how hard is it people, Take a few minutes and LEARN SOMETHING.
Spend a little brain power when you speak, it might make you look more educated…

Grammar and Usage Tips

Contents

Capitalization
Rules for Title Case
Keyboard Identifiers
“web” vs. “Web”
“e-mail” vs. “E-mail”
Random Acts of Capitalization
Terminology
Preferred Terms for Various Characters
“Click” vs. “Click On”
“Comprises” vs. “Comprised Of”
“License” vs. “Licence”
Hyphenation and “One Word or Two?” Issues
Verb, Noun, or Modifier?
Prefixes
Compound Words
Two-Word Verbs
Em Dashes
En Dashes
Grammar
“Only” As an Adverb – Correct Placement
“Display” As a Verb – Correct Usage
“Then” As a Conjunction (Avoid!)
“Install” As a Noun (Avoid!)
“Different From” vs. “Different Than”
“So” vs. “So That”
That vs. Which
Active Voice vs. Passive Voice
Collective Nouns
Sentence Integrity: What Is the Subject?

Capitalization

This section contains the following topics:

Rules for Title Case
Keyboard Identifiers
“web” vs. “Web”
“e-mail” vs. “E-mail”
Random Acts of Capitalization

Rules for Title Case

In titles (such as section headings for which design guidelines specify title case), always capitalize the first and last words, and apply the following rules to the other words:

Capitalize… Do not capitalize…
Nouns
 
Pronouns (including its)
 
Verbs (including is, are, and other forms of be)
 
Prepositions that are part of two-word verbs (“Check In the File”)
 
Adverbs (including than and when)
 
Adjectives (including this, that, and each)
 
Prepositions with five or more letters (between, without)
 
Subordinating conjunctions (if, because, as, that)
 
Any usage of which
 
Both elements of a hyphenate (“Two-Step Process”, “Cross-Reference”)
Articles (a, an, the, some)
 
The word to in an infinitive phrase (“How to Cook Turnips”)
 
Prepositions with four or fewer letters (with, for, to, at)
 
Coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or)

Notes:

Do not capitalize case-sensitive computer terms or product names that start with a lowercase letter (“The fdisk Command”).

In table column headings, capitalize only the first word of the heading (as in the preceding table).


 

Keyboard Identifiers

In accordance with Microsoft’s style guidelines, use all-uppercase for the names of keys. In addition, apply the following rules when indicating keyboard-related actions:

  • Use plus signs with no spaces to indicate simultaneous key presses (CTRL+A, CTRL+ALT+DELETE).
  • Use commas followed by spaces to indicate sequential key presses (ALT, O, P).
  • Use a hyphen (with no spaces) followed by an initial cap to indicate a type of selection (CTRL-Select, SHIFT-Select).

 

“web” vs. “Web”

There is no consensus at all on web vs. Web or on Web site (or Website) vs. web site (or website). For consistency, use lowercase except when explicitly referring to the World Wide Web:

You can get it on the Web.

Reconfigure your web browser.

For web site vs. website, see Compound Words. (Hint: Use web site).

 

“e-mail” vs. “E-mail”

Regard the “e” in e-mail as shorthand for “electronic” rather than as an initial:

Right: You can use SuperServer to send e-mail.

Wrong: You can use SuperServer to send E-mail.


Notes:

Always include the hyphen in e-mail.

Do not refer to a single message as “an e-mail”; say “an e-mail message” instead (just as you would say “a glass of water” rather than “a water”).


 

Random Acts of Capitalization

Avoid capitalizing a term or phrase just because it sounds or feels important or proper noun–ish; either it’s a proper noun (or an actual title) or it isn’t. (The saying “When in doubt, leave it out” applies to such acts of capitalization—and in some cases, to telling jokes at parties.)

Right: See the online help.

Wrong: See the Online Help.

 

Terminology

This section contains the following topics:

Preferred Terms for Various Characters

“Click” vs. “Click On”

Preferred Terms for Various Characters

Here are two examples of correct terminology for special characters or punctuation marks (for more examples, see the Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications):

Right: Quotation marks

Wrong: Quotes

Wrong: Quote marks

————

Right: Equal sign

Wrong: Equals sign

 

“Click” vs. “Click On”

Use click rather than click on.

Right: Click the blue button to accept the peace offer.

Wrong: Click on the red button to launch the missiles.


Note: Double-click is always hyphenated.


 

“Comprises” vs. “Comprised Of”

Comprises means “consists of” or “is made up of”; therefore, it is incorrect to say “comprised of”, which is like saying “consists of of”.

Right: The group comprises a doctor, a lawyer, and a mob boss.

 

“License” vs. “Licence”

For consistency, use license rather than licence.

 

Hyphenation and “One Word or Two?” Issues

This section contains the following topics:

Verb, Noun, or Modifier?
Prefixes
Compound Words
Two-Word Verbs
Em Dashes
En Dashes

Verb, Noun, or Modifier?

Sometimes a pair of words should be separate, hyphenated, or combined into a single word depending on whether the pair functions as a verb (“Check out the file”), a noun (“The checkout was successful”, or a modifier (“The check-out procedure involves three steps”).

Note that some word pairs do not have all three forms. For example, checkin is not a word; use the hyphenated version as a noun or modifier, and use check in (two separate words) as a verb.

Sometimes, if there is no ambiguity, a two-word modifier doesn’t need a hyphen:

Perfectly fine: Web site traffic

Not wrong: Web-site traffic

At other times, however, the hyphen is required:

Right: Short-armed postal worker

Wrong: Short armed postal worker

You want to be sure that you’re not dealing with a short postal worker with a gun.

Note that a two-word verb used as a modifier always takes a hyphen:

Right: Specify the check-out directory.

Wrong: Specify the check out directory.

 

Prefixes

Include a hyphen after a prefix (a nonword appendage such as pre or un) only when there is a particular need for it. The following do not require a hyphen:

predefined
 
prepopulated
 
multiline
 
subset

A hyphen is necessary in special cases as in the following examples:

  • Re-create (meaning “create again”; avoiding recreate, which means “take part in recreational activities”)
  • Non-English (where the main word is a proper noun)
  • Pre-existing (avoiding a double “e”)
  • Re-sent (meaning “sent again”; avoiding resent as in “I resent that remark!”)

 

Compound Words

Some compound words are free from dispute (for example, weekend is one word); however, there is sometimes no consensus regarding relatively modern terms. One example is web site vs. website. For consistency, use web site (or not!)

 

Two-Word Verbs

The second word in a two-word verb (such as log in, log on, or check in) is part of the verb; do not replace it with into or onto.

Right: Log on to the network.

Wrong: Log onto the network.

————

Right: Check the file in to FileEater Pro.

Wrong: Check the file into FileEater Pro.

 

Em Dashes

An em dash (—) often indicates an interruption in a thought. In technical writing, however, use em dashes mainly to delimit parenthetical statements that deserve more attention than parentheses would indicate, or (sometimes) instead of a colon or semicolon to link clauses. Do not put spaces around an em dash.

“Then drag the mouse—without releasing the mouse button—until the image is where you want it.”

“Deleting all your settings is probably not a good idea—after all, you spent a lot of time getting them just right.”

In HTML, use — (rather than the Windows character) for an em dash.

 

En Dashes

In addition to the usual uses for an en dash (number ranges, date ranges, and minus signs), use an en dash instead of a hyphen if one part of the hyphenate is a two-word term:

New York–born artist

Dialog box–type options

Normally, you don’t put spaces around an en dash; however, as a special case, you can use an en dash surrounded by spaces instead of a colon in lists (if, for example, the list is introduced with a colon):

  • Doe – A female deer
  • Doh! – A Homerism
  • Dough – The main ingredient in pizza

If you introduce a range with a preposition, do not use an en dash in the range; use a word like to or and:

Right: From 1995 to 1999

Wrong: From 1995–1999

————

Right: Between 1995 and 1999

Wrong: Between 1995–1999

In HTML, use – (rather than the Windows character) for an en dash.

 

Grammar

This section contains the following topics:

“Only” As an Adverb – Correct Placement
“Display” As a Verb – Correct Usage
“Then” As a Conjunction (Avoid!)
“Install” As a Noun (Avoid!)
“Different From” vs. “Different Than”
“So” vs. “So That”
That vs. Which
Active Voice vs. Passive Voice
Collective Nouns
Sentence Integrity: What Is the Subject?

“Only” As an Adverb – Correct Placement

Place the adverb only next to whatever it modifies in the sentence.

Right: They bought only three books.

Wrong: They only bought three books.


Note: “They only bought three books” is slightly ambiguous, because it could mean that instead of actually reading the books, they merely bought them. Even though the meaning is usually discernible from the context in such cases, the muddying of the word order can have an unprofessional ring to it.


 

“Display” As a Verb – Correct Usage

Used as a verb, display always takes an object:

Right: The FooBar appears at the bottom of the window.

Wrong: The FooBar displays at the bottom of the window.

————

Right: Otherwise, SuperServer does not display the Euro symbol correctly.

Wrong: Otherwise, the Euro symbol does not display correctly.

 

“Then” As a Conjunction (Avoid!)

From the Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications:

Then is not a coordinate conjunction and thus cannot correctly join two independent clauses. Use and or another coordinate conjunction or then with a semicolon or another conjunctive adverb to connect independent clauses in, for example, two-part procedural steps.

Correct

On the File menu, click Save As, and then type the name of the file.

Incorrect

On the File menu, click Save As, then type the name of the file.

Avoid using then to introduce a subordinate clause that follows an if clause (an “if…then” construction).

Correct

If you turn off the computer before shutting down all programs, you may lose data.

Incorrect

If you turn off the computer before shutting down all programs, then you may lose data.

Note that the semicolon option (“On the File menu, click Save As; then type the name of the file“) is not to everyone’s taste (though it is grammatically correct), because the semicolon can give the impression of hitting the brakes a bit hard. Consider using the form of Microsoft’s example above (“On the File menu, click Save As, and then type the name of the file“).

 

“Install” As a Noun (Avoid!)

Install is a verb only. Unlike some verbs (like run), install should not appear as a noun. (You can say you had a nice run, but you can’t say you had a successful install. Instead, say that installation was successful.)

Right: SuperServer Installation Fails Without Adequate Disk Space

Wrong: SuperServer Install Fails Without Adequate Disk Space

 

“Different From” vs. “Different Than”

Use different from, not different than. Also, be sure to contrast apples with apples:

Right: The benefits of reading the book are different from the benefits of watching the documentary.

Wrong: The benefits of reading the book are different from watching the documentary.

 

“So” vs. “So That”

From Dictionary.com:

Many critics and grammarians have insisted that so must be followed by that in formal writing when used to introduce a clause giving the reason for or purpose of an action: He stayed so that he could see the second feature. But since many respected writers use so for so that in formal writing, it seems best to consider the issue one of stylistic preference: The store stays open late so (or so that) people who work all day can buy groceries.

However, a problem arises if leaving out that makes the meaning slightly ambiguous. Consider the following three sentences:

  1. I’m taking out the garbage so that the kitchen won’t stink in the morning.
  2. I’m taking out the garbage so the kitchen won’t stink in the morning.
  3. I’m taking out the garbage, so the kitchen won’t stink in the morning.

The meaning of example 1 is perfectly clear: “I’m taking out the garbage in order to prevent the kitchen from stinking in the morning.”

Assuming that number 1 expresses the meaning intended by the speaker, example 3 is incorrect. The comma changes the likely meaning as follows: “Because I’m taking out the garbage, the kitchen won’t stink in the morning.” This is incorrect—after all, the kitchen might stink due to something completely unrelated to the garbage (a dead rat, for instance).

What about example 2? Is it example 3 with a missing comma, or is it example 1 without the optional that?

Choose so that when it alleviates ambiguity; otherwise, you can choose so (to avoid undue formality or wordiness). Note that the example from Dictionary.com conveys basically the same information no matter which way you interpret so:

The store stays open late so people who work all day can buy groceries.

 

That vs. Which

We all know that which vs. that is a matter of unrestricted vs. restricted clauses, but here is a handy rule of thumb that saves a few brain cycles:

If you’ve written which without a comma (or a left parenthesis or an em dash) before it, you’ve probably done something wrong.


Note: This doesn’t count uses of which like “Which finger is the ring on?” or “Speaking of which…”


Here are some examples of the rule in action:

Right: My baseball card collection, which used to belong to my dad, is not for sale.

Right: In my vast tool collection, I have a hammer that used to belong to my dad.

Wrong: In my vast tool collection, I have a hammer which used to belong to my dad.

“Who” vs. “That” or “Which”

Use who rather than that or which when referring to a person.

Right: Joe was the only employee who sold the stock before it collapsed.

Wrong: Joe was the only employee that sold the stock before it collapsed.

 

Active Voice vs. Passive Voice

Avoid passive voice except when it is necessary (or preferable) to avoid explicitly naming the performer of the real action. (To avoid making it obvious that you don’t know who did it, you might say “The information was leaked to the press” rather than “Someone leaked the information to the press”; however, if you know who did it, say “The White House leaked the information to the press.”)

In the incorrect form of the example below, passive voice is not only less effective, it leads to broken grammar (see Sentence Integrity: What Is the Subject?).

Right: SuperServer does not display the Euro symbol correctly when using the Oracle wire driver.

Wrong: The Euro symbol is not displayed correctly when using the Oracle wire driver.

 

Collective Nouns

The consensus of experts regarding whether the verb should take the singular or plural form to agree with a collective noun is that it depends on whether the emphasis is on the group acting as a unit or on the individuals acting somewhat independently.

This view suggests that “The company is creating jobs” and “A bunch of children are tracking mud through my house” would both be reasonable sentences.

 

Sentence Integrity: What Is the Subject?

Answering the question, “What is the subject?” explains what is wrong with the following sentences:

Wrong: To log in to SuperServer, the AC power must be connected.

The AC power probably doesn’t plan to log in to SuperServer. Thanks to that nasty passive voice, “AC power” is the subject of the sentence. The active-voice version is, “To log in to SuperServer, you must connect the AC power.” That makes “you” the subject.

Wrong: When taking the train across Canada, the scenery is beautiful.

Scenery doesn’t take trains. There’s no passive voice here; the sentence just doesn’t work. You have to say “On the train trip across Canada…” or “When you take the train across Canada…”


Note: In certain cases (such as commands), the subject “you” is implied when (and only when) no subject appears at all (“When taking out the trash, [you] be sure to put the lid back on the can”).


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