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Monday, July 16, 2012

My pet peeves, terms beginning with c | Garbl's Editorial Style Manual

Here's the third in my alphabetical series of pet peeves -- from entries in the C section of Garbl's Editorial Style Manual. My style manual covers editorial issues like  abbreviations, addresses, capitalization, English grammar, Internet terminology, numbers, plurals, possessives, punctuation, spelling and word usage. It focuses on U.S. standards for spelling, punctuation, definitions, usage, style and grammar. 

Earlier blogs:

can, may Commonly confused. Use can when writing about capability, physical or mental ability, or the power to do something. Use may when writing about authorization or permission and sometimes possibility: They can finish the report by November. May we have an extra month to finish the report? You may lead the horse to water, but you can't make it drink. May is almost always the correct word to use in a question.
can't hardly Incorrect. "Not" is implied in hardly. Use can hardly, instead, or drop hardlyHis daughter can hardly wait. His daughter can't wait. 

Selected advice and preferences from the capitalization section:

Rule No. 1: Use capital letters to begin proper nouns, sentences, headings, some abbreviations and acronyms, and the important words in composition titles. Proper nouns are the particular names of people, places and things. 

Rule No. 2: Do not capitalize the first letter of a word (or words in a phrase) simply to highlight it or because you or someone else think it's an important word. Excessive, arbitrary capitalization distracts the reader and hinders reading.

Even if a person, business or organization begins its name with a lowercase letter, capitalize the first letter of the name at the beginning of sentences, headings and headlines: Gary de Shazo won the design award. De Shazo expressed appreciation for the support of his colleagues.

Capitalize common nouns such as party, river and street when they are an integral part of the full name for a person, place or thing: Ballinger Street, Rheinard River, Queens County, Democratic Party, Puget Sound. Lowercase those common nouns when they stand alone in later references: the party, the river, the county, the street, the sound.

Terms about organizations:
  • job titles and descriptions Consistency is key. Capitalize official job titles when used immediately before a name as part of a name: Finance Department Director Virginia Schwieterman, Accounting Manager Billie Burke, Budget Planner Mary Munchkin, Computer Technician George Bailey, Media Specialist Tim Wright.
Lowercase titles when used alone or when set off descriptively from a name by commas, often after a name; when applicable, capitalize only the names of departments, divisions and other groups: Virginia Schwieterman, Finance Department director; Billie Burke, manager of the Accounting Division; Billie Burke, accounting manager; Mary Munchkin, budget planner; George Bailey, computer technician; Tim Wright, media specialist. 
  • organizational structure Capitalize the official (proper) names of all organization departments, divisions, sections, offices, units and groups: the Englehart Department of Finance, Accounting DivisionCustomer Services Section, Property Tax Information Office, Marketing Unit, Documentation Group. Use the whole name on first reference.
For later references, shortened versions of organizational names--without the common nouns departmentdivision,section and so on--are acceptable. Capitalize the "proper" name part of full names when using only that part of the name and dropping the common noun: Finance, Accounting, Customer Services. Don't capitalize those words, however, when describing the general function or work of a group. Also, lowercase the "common" (or generic) name part of the full name when using only that part of the name: the department, the division, the section. Be sure the context makes clear the organizational unit the common name is mentioning.
catch-22 Sometimes misused. A catch-22 is not any simple catch, or any tricky situation with a hidden complication. From the excellent antiwar novel of the same name by Joseph Heller, a catch-22 is an absurd or paradoxical situation in which the desired outcome is impossible because of built-in illogical rules: The experienced editor couldn't get promoted to supervisor because he didn't have any experience as a supervisor.

center around Illogical and redundant. Substitute onin or at for around, or use revolve around. Avoid center upon.

children's The apostrophe always goes before the s when showing the possessive: the Children's Home Society. Don't use childrens' (with the apostrophe after the s); children is already plural.

choice between, choose between When between follows choice or choose, use and, not or, between the choices: The students had a choice between taking a midterm exam and finishing another homework assignment. We had to choose between a helicopter ride and a catamaran ride.

clearly Vague. A fact is no more evident when it is clearly evident. Use sparingly to mean "obviously" or "undoubtedly." Drop clearly--or just use clear

comma The correct and preferred uses of commas deserves a blog post all by itself. Stay tuned. 

company names When using a company (or product) name, you have no obligation to help a company market itself (or its products). For most proper names, capitalize the first letter of each word, or capitalize a different letter if preferred by a company: eBay. But capitalize the first letter if it begins a sentence. Do not use all capital letters unless the letters are individually pronounced: IBM and BMW but Subway and Ikea (not SUBWAY and IKEA). Don't use exclamation points, asterisks and plus signs that some companies use in logos and marketing materials for their company (and product) names: Yahoo, not Yahoo!Toys R Us, not Toys "R" Us. Unless it's part of a company's formal name, replace the ampersand (&) with and.

compared with, compared to Often confused. The more common phrase, compared with means "to examine the similarities or differences of two or more things": He averaged 23 points a game in 2001 compared with 17 points a game last year. The speaker compared Congress with the British Parliament. The less common compared to means "to liken two or more things, say they are similar or show a resemblance": The backhoe operator compared her work to climbing Mount Everest. He compared life to a battle. Memory tip: Compared to is metaphorical while compared with is statistical.

complement, compliment Often misused or confused. Complement is a noun or verb for "something that fills up or completes": The company has a complement of 250 drivers, 75 mechanics and 10 office workers. The two ideas complement each other well. A hat may complement a suit, but you would compliment the wearer on her or his hat. A related term: full complement.

Compliment is a noun or verb for "praise or a flattering remark" and "something free": The supervisor complimented the staff for a job well done. The supervisor's compliment boosted morale.

completely This adverb is often completely redundant. Simplify. Don't use completely before full and words likededicated, destroy, devoted, eliminate, perfect, silent, superfluous, unanimous and unique--and redundant.

comply with Try replacing with simpler follow, keep to, meet or obey.

compose, comprise, include Compose is not synonymous with compriseCompose means to create or put together:The division is composed of six sections. Compose takes of, but comprise never does.
Comprise means to contain, consist of or embrace. The whole comprises the parts. Use it in the active voice and name all the parts that make up the whole after the verb: The division comprises six sections. The zoo comprises mammals, reptiles and birds. Don't use comprised of. Think about using simpler consist(s) of or contain(s).
Use include when what follows is only part of the whole: city government includes the Parks and Human Services departments. 

concerning Overstated and formal. Try replacing with about.

consensus Commonly misspelled. Its first letter is the only c. Means "general agreement or opinion of all or most of the people concerned." It does not necessarily mean unanimous agreement. Avoid using the redundant consensus of opinion and general consensus. Simply use consensus or agreementBroad consensus is acceptable.

consequently Overstated. Simplify. Try replacing with so.

continual, continuous Often misused or confused. Continual means "repeatedly, often recurring or intermittent, with breaks in between": She has to repair the car continually. Periodically or intermittently are useful, clear synonyms forcontinually to describe something that starts and stops. Continuous means "uninterrupted, in an unbroken stream":Sales have been growing continuously for the past five years.

continued Don't abbreviate. ContinuedContinued on Page XContinued from Page X, and even To be Continued are clear, concise statements. But if you must abbreviate continued for some questionable reason, use contd., without an apostrophe. Other abbreviations for continued also are abbreviations for other words.

convince, persuade Often confused. Convince involves thought, trying to affect a person's point of view. Persuadeinvolves action, trying to get a person to do something. Convince usually goes with of or thatHe convinced his boss of his value to the company. She convinced her colleague that she was rightPersuade usually goes with toThe students persuaded their teacher to extend the deadline.

could (not) care less If you care somewhat about something, drop the not. But if you don't care at all, keep it.

crisis, crises Sometimes misspelled, misused and overused. Crisis is singular and takes singular verbs. Crises (not crisises) is plural and takes plural verbs. A crisis is "a significant coming together of events -- a turning point -- in which the impending outcome will make a decisive or abrupt change." Avoid referring to -- and responding to -- every difficult situation as a crisis, be it an identity crisis, midlife crisis, environmental crisis, financial crisis, economic crisis or the supposed "bankruptcy" of the successful 70-year-old U.S. Social Security system nearly 40 years from now.

currently Redundant, overstated or imprecise. Unless you're contrasting the present with the past, omit currently, change to now or today, or be more specific about time element.

cutting edge, on the Cliche. Think about replacing with advanced, innovative, new, original or unconventional.

cynic, skeptic A cynic is a disbeliever. A skeptic is a doubter. Skeptics may be good journalists; cynics never are.

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