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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Pet Peeves: From the D Entries in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual


Here's the fourth in my alphabetical series of pet peeves -- from entries in the D 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: 
dangling modifiers Avoid modifiers that do not refer clearly and logically to some word in the sentence. Dangling:Holding the paper to the light above the table, it cast an image on the wallHolding does not refer to the subject of the sentence, it. As written, the sentence suggests that it (the paper) was holding itself (as well as casting its image)--an extraordinary feat! To eliminate the dangling participle, the first words following that introductory phrase should be the name or description of the person (or thing) holding the paper: Holding the paper to the light above the table, Benjamin made it cast an image on the wall. The participle is no longer dangling; it's held in place by Benjamin--or, the subject of the sentence.

Another way to fix dangling participles is to put the original subject of the sentence in the introductory participle phrase, then refer to the object of the action as the replacement subject of the sentence. Thus: As Benjamin held the paper to the light above the table, it cast an image on the wall. The pronoun it could still be confusing to some readers, however: Is it the paper or the light? If that's a problem, replace it with the paper. Here's another way to rewrite the sentence: As Benjamin held it to the light above the table, the paper cast an image on the wall.

data Normally a plural noun, it takes plural verbs and pronouns when writing about individual items: The data have been analyzed thoroughly. Data may take singular verbs when the group or quantity is considered a unit: The data is accurate. Stick with the plural verb after data if you're not sure which one to use.

Also, use data to refer to evidence, measurements, records and statistics from which conclusions can be inferred, not as a simple synonym for facts, knowledge, reports or information. If suitable, consider using simpler information or facts.

daylight saving time Not savings. No hyphen. Always lowercase. FYI, daylight saving time starts at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday of March and ends at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of November, except in areas that exempt themselves.

decades Use numerals to show decades of history. Use an apostrophe to show numerals are left out. Show plural by adding the letter s (no apostrophe): the '50s, the 1990s, the mid-1930s.

decimate Commonly misused. Remember that the Romans used this word centuries ago to mean killing only one in every 10 of their enemies. They didn't use it to mean killing all their enemies. To decimate now means "to destroy a large part of something or to kill many people." Don't use it to mean simply destroy or annihilate, demolish or wipe out, all of which imply doing away with something completely. And don't use decimate to mean something less significant, such as break, damage, defeat, hamper, kill or reduce. Use one of the stronger or weaker alternative words if that's what you mean. See demolish, destroy.

demolish, destroy Both mean"to do away with something completely." Totally demolished and totally destroyed are redundant. See decimate.

demonstrate Overstated. Simplify. Use form of prove, show, describe or explain. But if you want to join with other people to protest or support something in public, go ahead and demonstrate. You have a right to be a demonstrator and take part in demonstrations!

different from, different than Different from is almost always the correct choice--particularly before nouns and pronouns: My car is different from hers. Dogs are different from catsDifferent than is usually wrong. But either phrase can be used before a clause (a group of words with both a subject and a verb): How different things appear in Houston than they appear in Boston. How different things appear in Houston from how they appear in Boston.

differ from, differ with When you mean two items are unlike, use differ from. One thing differs from another. When people disagree or are in conflict, they differ with one another. Stan insisted that his left eye differed from his right. His wife, however, differed with him.

disabled People with disabilities have the same rights as other people, including the right to privacy. Treat them as you would treat other people. If in doubt about mentioning a person's disability, ask him or her. A person who is blind, for example, may prefer to be called blind instead of partially sighted or visually impaired.

Avoid mentioning a disability when it is not pertinent. When necessary to mention a disability, put the person first, not the disability: The man who is blind. The child who is paralyzed. The woman with a mental illness. Also, instead of using broad terms like a person with a mental [or cognitivedisability or a person with a physical [or mobilitydisability, consider using a useful phrase that describes the effect of the disability, if appropriate: She has a disability that makes it easy for her to become lost. Don't say the paraplegic, the schizophrenic, the arthritic, the brain-damaged person.

Disability and disabled are preferred to handicap, handicapped, impairment and impaired. Avoid impersonal phrasing such as the handicapped or the disabled. Instead, say people with disabilities, using person-first language. Avoid condescending euphemisms when writing about people with disabilities; for example, handicapable, physically challenged and special.

doubt that, doubt whether, doubt if Sometimes confused. Use doubt that when expressing disbelief or skepticism or when making a negative statement (using no or not): He doubts that the Easter Bunny exists. I don't doubt that you mean what you say. There's no doubt that she will make the deadline. Use doubt whether when expressing indecision or uncertainty: She doubts whether he'll find his car keys. He doubted whether he could make the best choice. Choose one of those two phrases instead of the vague conditional doubt if.

due to the fact that Incorrect, overstated and wordy. Simplify. Try replacing with because.

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