Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mini-tutorial on writing: part one

As an editor and writing coach, I run across the same grammatical issues over and over again. With the help of a colleague (thanks, Jack!), I’ve assembled this “writing tutorial,” which addresses some of these.

This information, presented in alphabetical order, should assist you in writing professional, clear, succinct, and grammatically correct books, articles, and promotional materials. Although some grammatical information is given, other information is a matter of personal style and format suggestions based on a couple of decades of professional writing and editing experience.

Naturally, the style and format suggestions are only recommendations. As with any of this, it can be viewed as an editor’s job anyway, but the fewer the problems, the less editing will cost you in the long run.

I’ll be running this as a several-part series. I hope you’ll find it helpful!

Acronym’s First Use. Although you understand the need to spell out an acronym or initialism on first use, often you spell them out multiple times. This comes from simply revising the text or forgetting that you have already spelled it out. You can use Find and Replace function in Word to find each instance of an acronym’s use to correct this or prevent it from happening.

Also, there is usually no need to use the acronym if it is never used again unless it is so recognizable as an acronym that readers may not understand it spelled out only. For instance, even if it were only used once, spell out Zone Improvement Plan/Program; you would spell it out, then use the acronym “ZIP.” Otherwise, readers probably would not even know what you are referring to if you only spelled it out.

Additionally, avoid abbreviating terms that you think everyone knows, such as “Ed Calendar.” It is better form and more clear to spell out “Editorial Calendar.”

Acronyms, Plural. Even if the plural goes after the first word, the small “s” goes at the end: Justices of the Peace (JPs). Also, possessives get the apostrophe in the acronym as well as in the spelled out version.

“And” and “But.” It is grammatically acceptable today to begin sentences with “and” and “but”—just do not overdo it.

Articles. Use “a” if the acronym or initialism begins with a consonant; use “an” if it begins with a vowel or a consonant with a vowel sound, such as “an RFP” where “R” is sounded as “are.” (PM-1)

Assure, Ensure, Insure. You “assure” someone of something; you “ensure” that something will be done; you “insure” something with money. Also, use “that” after “ensure” in most cases.

Bulleted or Numbered Items, Introducing.
Always begin bulleted text with a capital letter, even if it is a sentence fragment.

Parallelism is paramount; if items are not parallel, they draw attention to themselves. (See the section on Parallelism.)

Normally, do not use punctuation—such as a comma or semicolon—at the end of each line item if they are fragments.

Use a colon when introducing lists that are fragments, and end the introductory sentence with “as follows,” etc.

Use a period when introducing lists that are complete sentences, and end the intro sentence with “as listed below,” etc.

If there is no “2” or “b” you normally don’t need a “1” or “a.”

No comments:

Post a Comment