Listen to Choose an Appropriate Article

Remember how your fourth grade teacher taught you to use a before a consonant and an before a vowel? Times have changed and that method—by itself—is no longer a valid way to decide whether to use a or an. Today’s grammar rules indicate that use of a or an depends on the sound of the next letter, not just whether it is a consonant or a vowel. For instance, the word hour starts with a consonant but sounds like it begins with the vowel “o” sound, so it would be an hour. There are a couple of letters that can be tricky. First, where there is a long u sound (as in “union”) and o with the sound of w (as in one), you use a. Just think of the long u sound as “yoo” (starting with a consonant sound) and the w sound in “one” as a “w” (consonant sound). Just remember it is the sound of the letter that tells you which to use.

One word that is confusing is historic. The way you pronounce it determines whether it is a or an. Following our rule, it should be “a historic.”

The same rule will apply when you are dealing with abbreviations and acronyms. It will depend on whether you pronounce it letter by letter or as a word. For example, a PPO insurance plan. The acronym PPO is pronounced letter by letter and the first letter—P—is pronounced as a consonant. Another example would be an M.B.A. degree. The abbreviation M.B.A. starts with “M” which sounds like em, so use an.

When you stop long enough to sound the questionable word out in your head, the decision is pretty easy. Just stop, pronounce, and listen. You will get it if you take the time to hear it.

Grammar Giggles – Dear Wendy’s, Are Brains Cannot Handle Your Signs!

A friend sent this Giggle to me.  While “are” and “our” are sometimes confusing, this is really basic 4th grade (or lower!) English stuff.

Wendys

Grammar Giggles – Hey Red Sox, Stick to What YOU’RE Good At!

Pulled this one from Twitter. Your and you’re are confusing to people. Just remember that if the sentence should read “If you see this, you are in second,” then use you’re–which is the contraction of you and are. If the sentence should be “If you see this, your second base is showing,” it means that second base belongs to you.  Pretty simple if you think about it for a minute or two–so please do!

Red Sox

Enclosed Please Find a Lesson on Antiquated Phrases

It seems that in the legal field, it is hard to break old habits–especially in the use of antiquated phrases. One of my least favorite is “enclosed please find.” If you are enclosing something, you only need to say “enclosed is” or “enclosed are” (if you are enclosing more than one thing). That says all that you need to say. You don’t need to fill up a piece of paper or an email with words for the sake of thinking you sound more intelligent when getting the point across and saving your reader time will serve the same purpose. Here are more phrases that you should stop using:

  • Above-referenced. If your communication has a “re:” line, and later in the letter you say “In the above-referenced case,” the reader has a tendency to have their eyes drift back up to the re: line and then back down to re-find their place. Instead use the re: line, but if you refer to it again, say “In the Smith v. Jones case” so your reader doesn’t get interrupted from your message.
  • Under separate cover. If you are sending something else separately, say “I am sending you separately (or by FedEx, etc.)
  • Please note that. This phrase is unnecessary. You don’t need to ask them to note something, just tell them and they are smart enough to at least mentally make note of it.
  • I am forwarding. Saying “I am sending” says the same thing without being so formal.
  • Please do not hesitate to contact me. What you’re asking them to do is to call or email you, so say “Please call me” or “Please contact me” (giving them the option for the most convenient method for them) instead.
  • At your earliest convenience. Give a specific date or just leave this phrase out.
  • With regard to. Use “regarding” instead.
  • In the event that. It is so much simpler to say “if.”
  • Pursuant to your request. “As requested” says the same thing.
  • The undersigned. You are talking about yourself, so just say “I.”

Speak in correspondence (letters and emails) more like you would speak on the telephone and much less formally. Your clients and coworkers already know you are intelligent. Speaking in such a formal way doesn’t make you any more intelligent.

Ease up and be less formal so your reader doesn’t have to wade through a bunch of stuff that is unnecessary to get to your message. Make it easy for them (and you) by using less formal language in your communications.

Grammar Giggles – Capping “of” a Perfect Week

This one comes from Twitter and is from last summer. Again, spell check wouldn’t catch this one. That’s what human eyes and human brains are for! Happy Friday!

USA Today

Grammar Giggles – Oh . . . . klahoma

I have lots of friends in Oklahoma. I go to Oklahoma once a year for a conference. I love Oklahoma. I just didn’t realize until I was researching local rules for a new case we have there that while most states have STATUTES which govern their states, Oklahoma appears to have STATUES. This is a perfect example of something spell check wouldn’t catch and why you need to actually read everything before it is published or distributed.

Oklahoma Statues

Plurals, Possessives, and Surnames Oh My!

10709367_s

A reader asked me to address possessives with a proper name.  I mentioned it in an article early on (see Apostrophail!), but we will delve into it here.

The first rule–the most important thing to remember when working with surnames (a person’s last name)–is do not change a person’s name. You can’t add an apostrophe before an “s” when the surname ends in “s.” For instance, do not make the name “Andrews” possessive by putting the apostrophe between the “w” and the “s.” That is changing the spelling of Andrews. A person’s name is the most personal thing they have. Don’t mess that up! So here are some tips for making surnames plural and possessive.

To make most surnames plural, you add an “s.”

  • The Smiths went to the Halloween party dressed as dice.

That means more than one Smith went to the party. Where the surname ends in s, x, ch, sh, or z, you should add es to make the name plural.

  • The Lopezes have been married for 50 years.

However, if adding es makes the name hard to pronounce, just use the s.

  • The Hastings went to the park for a picnic. (In this case Hastingses would be difficult to pronounce, so Hastings is better.)

As for possessives, to make most surnames possessive, add an apostrophe and an “s.”

  • Mr. Smith’s car was repossessed.

For these surnames that are plural and possessive, make them plural by adding an “s” and then add an apostrophe to make them possessive.

  • The Smiths’ car was parked illegally.

Where surnames end in “s,” to make them possessive, pronounce the word. If you say the extra “s,” you add apostrophe and “s.”

  • Shirley Jones’s son flunked algebra.

You would pronounce it “Joneses,” so you add the apostrophe and “s.” Where the surname ends in “s” and making it plural adds an extra syllable that makes it awkward to pronounce, add only the apostrophe.

  • Mr. Andrews’ house was broken into.

You would not pronounce it “Andrewses,” so you only add the apostrophe. Where you are talking about a surname that ends in “s” and you want it plural and possessive, make it plural first and then follow the rules on making it possessive.

  • The Joneses’ house was for sale.

You make Jones plural by adding “es” because it ends in “s,” but adding apostrophe and “s” after that would make it difficult to pronounce (Joneseses) so you just add the apostrophe.

Again, the main thing to remember is not to change the basic spelling of a person’s name. Start with their name spelled correctly, and then figure out how to make it plural and/or possessive.

Hopefully this is helpful. Don’t upset a person by misspelling their name. Possessives and plurals aren’t difficult if you think about the base word you are trying to change.

 

 

Image credit: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/photo_10709367_smith-name-in-phone-book.html’>bradcalkins / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Grammar Giggles – Periods Are Important!

On a road trip last weekend, a friend spotted this sign in the women’s restroom. Periods need to be used to separate sentences so the message is clear. Periods ARE important (and so are puns)!

Bathroom sign

Grammar Giggles – Ready for a Raod Trip

Ah, the news stations and the headline ribbons. This was shared with me by a friend and as I am leaving today for a quick rOAd trip, I thought it was appropriate to share with you. Happy Friday!

Raod Trips