Garblog's Pages

Monday, October 29, 2012

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

Here's the 14th in my alphabetical series of pet peeves--from entries in the P 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:

A peeves B peeves C peeves D peeves E peeves F peeves G peeves H peeves | I peeves | J peeves | K & L peeves | M peeves | N peeves | O peeves

PAC Acronym for political action committee. Acceptable on first reference but spell out early in the article or document. Lowercase the spelled out form unless its part of a complete name. Legal but not necessarily acceptable are Super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, supposedly because the corporations and unions that send them unlimited amounts of money are people with free-speech rights, belly-button lint and acid reflux (or something like that), says the U.S. Supreme Court.

pair A pair is a group of two or something with two similar parts. The singular noun takes a singular verb: The pair of scissors is in the drawer. His pair of black dress shoes is in the closet. The preferred plural is pairsShe took three pairs of pants on the trip. Also, using a pair of when writing about one set of twins, scissors, shoes and so on is often redundant. Simplify. Try dropping a pair of.

paradigm Obscure, pompous jargon. Unless you're trying to impress and confuse readers simultaneously, use simpler pattern, model or example. Instead of a paradigm shift, try a new idea for doing something or a new way of viewing something.

paragraph Long paragraphs--like long sentences--can intimidate readers. To improve readability and appearance (which affects readability), try to limit most paragraphs to seven lines containing no more than four or five sentences. And think about turning some paragraphs into bulleted lists of parallel points.

One-sentence paragraphs aren't used often in formal, academic and business writing. But they can be effective to stress a single point, to mark a major transition between other paragraphs, to summarize what's already been expressed in a single strong statement or to introduce a new topic with a single strong statement. Journalists often use them; the narrow newspaper columns make long paragraphs look uninviting to readers. One-sentence paragraphs also can be useful in technical writing. 

parameter(s) Jargon. If you're not using this term to mention the variable(s) in a mathematical equation, don't use it. Instead, try perimeter or boundary if you're writing about the border around an area of land or outer boundary of a geometric figure. Usually better in business writing are limits, feature, dimensions, extent or scope. Other useful choices are propertiesrules, conditionsbarriers,guidelines or characteristics.

parentheses ( ) Parentheses may be used to surround words, phrases or even whole sentences that are relatively unimportant to the main text. But they can distract the reader from your main point. Think about deleting the unimportant text. If a sentence must contain incidental information, setting off the information with a pair of commas or a pair of dashes may be more effective. Also try placing the extra information in a separate sentence--with no parentheses.

Parenthesis marks always come in twos, one opening and one closing ( ). Don't use one without the other, including if they're used in numbered or alphabetized lists. 

Place a period outside a closing parenthesis if the material inside is not a sentence (such as this fragment). If a parenthetical sentence (here is one example) is part of a sentence, don't capitalize the first word or end the parenthetical sentence with a period. But if the parenthetical sentence ends with a question mark or exclamation point, put a period after the closing parenthesis (here's another example!). If the material in the parentheses is an independent sentence, capitalize the first word and place the period before the closing parenthesis. (Here is an example.)

party Silly legal jargon for "person." A person may go to a party, belong to a party or be part of a party--and be involved in a lawsuit. See people, persons below.

past, previous, prior Redundant and wordy when used with words like achievement, experience, history, performance and recordAfter the merger, they often talked about their prior experience with the agency. Drop prior. Also, in other uses, before, earlier or last are simpler alternatives to previous.

peaceable, peaceful Sometimes confused and often ignored, unfortunately. Use peaceable to describe a person or nation that doesn't like to argue or cause fights. Use peaceful to describe a person, place, relationship or situation that is calm, tranquil, quiet, or not at war or in violent conflict.

penultimate A useful word for confusing your readers, if not yourself. It means "next to last," but if you mean "next to last," simplify and use next to last. It does not mean "the best, the last, the ultimate," or "the quintessential." If you mean one of those words, use one of those words or a simple phrase like the very last or the perfect example.

people, persons Use person when speaking of an individual: One person waited for the bus. Use people instead of persons in plural uses: Hundreds of people attended the open house. Five people were hurt in the accident. People takes a plural verb when used to refer to a single race or nation: The American people are united. Also, when forming the possessive of peoplepeople's is almost always correct. See party above.

"Participants who need participants are the most wonderful participants in the world." "Members of the community who need members of the community are the most wonderful members of the community in the world." "Those who need those are the most wonderful those in the world." "Others who need others are the most wonderful others in the world." Try people instead!

per Avoid using Latin words when English phrases are available: 10 tons a year or 10 tons yearly instead of 10 tons per annum$4 rate an hour instead of $4 rate per hour. Also, avoid mixing Latin and English: 10 tons per year. Use of per may be acceptable to avoid awkward phrases: They produced 10 tons a year per worker. 

per diem Avoid using this Latin phrase. Instead, use a day, daily and daily allowanceShe will be paid the daily rate. Participants will get a daily allowance and salary.

perform Unless you're writing about entertainers, athletes or, perhaps, politicians, think about deleting or using a form of do or a more accurate word.

perimeter See parameter above.

period (.) This punctuation mark has two main purposes. It ends all sentences that are not questions or exclamations, and it's used in some abbreviations.
Use periods to break up complicated sentences into two or more readable sentences. "There's not much to be said about the period except that most writers don't reach it soon enough." William Zinsser, On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction, 1980. 

Use a period, not a question mark, after an indirect question: He asked what the score was.

Don't put a space between two initials: T.S. Eliot.

Use periods after numbers or letters in listing elements of a summary: 1. Wash the car. 2. Clean the basement. Or: A. Punctuate properly. B. Write simply.

Periods always go inside quotation marks.

Put only one space after a period (and other sentence-ending punctuation, including colons).

period of time Wordy and overstated. Simplify. Use either period or time.

per se Latin for "I'm trying to sound superior to you by using this vague legal jargon." Instead, use clearer, less pretentious, less formal in itself, by itself or of itself. Commas usually go at both ends of those terms: Higher pay, by itself, is not usually the reason people form unions.

personally Usually redundant and unnecessary when used by the person speaking or writing: Personally, I like Pearl Jam. Using personally may be appropriate for emphasis when other people are involved: Instead of waiting for her boss to do it, she personally signed the form. The representative voted against the resolution, though he personally favors it. 

pertain to, pertaining to Wordy and formal. Simplify. Change to is aboutabout, for, of or on.

peruse Pompous, formal and often misused. It means "to read carefully." Use read carefully, read thoroughly or study, if that's what you mean. Use skim, scan or simply read, if that's what you mean.

PIN Abbreviation for personal information number. Acceptable in all references, including first. But spell out term near beginning of article. PIN number is redundant.

plain English, plain language A method of writing that matches the needs of the reader with your needs as a writer, leading to effective and efficient communication. It stresses using familiar words; cutting useless words; avoiding or explaining jargon and technical words; using abbreviations carefully; using inclusive language; writing in active voice; keeping sentences short; avoiding double negatives; using punctuation correctly; using lists; and using headings consistently. Also see Garbl's Plain English Writing GuideGarbl's Plain Language Resources;Garbl's Fat-Free Writing Links.

planning Avoid the redundant future planning.

plurals This item in my style manual deserves its own blog article. Stay tuned (or check the item in my style manual).

positive benefits Redundant and wordy. Simplify. Drop positive.

possess Pretentious. Use simpler have or own instead.

possessives This item in my style manual deserves its own blog article. Stay tuned (or check the item in my style manual).

potentially dangerous, potentially hazardous Redundant. By definition, dangerous and hazardous imply potential harm, injury or loss. Drop potentially.

prefixes Usually, follow these rules for adding a prefix: Do not hyphenate when using a prefix with a root word that begins with a consonant. Use a hyphen if the prefix ends in a vowel and the root word that follows begins with the same vowel. When in doubt, check for specific prefixes and words in my style manual. If not listed there, check your preferred dictionary for specific words, and follow its advice for the first listing of the word. If not listed there, don't hyphenate.

Also, use a hyphen when capitalizing the root word. And use a hyphen to join doubled prefixes: sub-subcommittee. At times, a hyphen is necessary for clarity of meaning: He will reform (correct or improve) the congregation. She will re-form (change the shape of) the clay figure.

preplanning Planning means laying a course. Preplanning is redundant. Replace preplanning with planning

presently Ambiguous, overstated and misused. Simplify. Use soon, in a little while, in a short time or shortly instead, or be precise about the time element. It does not mean nowat present or currently

Presidents Day Not President's Day or Presidents' Day. 

press Don't refer to the print and broadcast news media as the press. Use news media instead: The news media are invited. Organizations produce news releases, not press releases, and hold news conferences, not press conferences

pretty Vague and overused. Use it to describe women, girls, sights and sounds. But delete it, be more specific, or try words like almost, fairly or very in other uses. 

preventative Not a word. Replace with preventive.

prioritize Pompous. Avoid this term. Instead say order, set priorities or rank.

prior to Pretentious, clumsy and wordy. Simplify. Use ahead of or before instead.

privatize, privatization Sometimes misused. To privatize is "to make something private, especially when transferring a government service operated for the benefit of the public to private control, private ownership or private interests": The administration proposes to partially privatize the Social Security system by allowing some workers to divert some funds to private accounts.

proactive An adjective meaning "in anticipation of future problems, needs or changes." Though considered jargon by some, it's a useful antonym to reactive. Use sparingly, delete or try replacing with activeassertive or aggressive.

progressive Sometimes misused as a negative reference to a person, idea, program or action. Used accurately, progressive applies to people who favor progress and reform in politics, education and other fields. It means supporting or openness to new or modern ideas, methods and programs. A progressive person is more inclined to direct action than a liberal person.

pronouns Often confused and misused. The "nominative" pronouns I, he, she, we and they are always the subject of sentences and clauses (groups of words with a subject and a verb). In other words, I and the other nominative pronouns are more likely to be at the front of a sentence or clause (typically before the verb). And the "objective" pronouns me, him, her, us and them are always the object of verbs and prepositions. In other words, me and the other objective pronouns are more likely to be at the back of a sentence or clause (typically after the verb). Also follow those rules when joining pronouns (and other nouns) with conjunctions like and and or.

Examples: I hugged her. He talked to me. She hugged him. We talked to them. They talked to us. We and Alex debated him and her. He and I considered them and Amanda. She or they would attend with me or us.

protester Preferred spelling. Not protestor. However you spell it, you have a constitutional right to do it in the United States--to march, to picket, to petition!

punctuation Use common sense. Punctuation should help reading--to make clear the thought being expressed. If punctuation does not help clarify the message, it should not be there.

When more than one punctuation mark (not including quotation marks, parentheses or brackets) could be used at the same place in a sentence, use only the "stronger"--or more necessary--of the two. Question marks and exclamation points, for example, are stronger than commas and periods: "Have all the ballots finally been counted?" asked the reporter. (The question mark fills the role of the comma.)The topic of his speech is "We demand justice now!" (No period following the exclamation point.)

See parentheses and period above and separate entries in my style manual for other punctuation marks.

puns To quote the New York Times Manual of Style and Usage: "A pun should be a surprise encounter, evoking a sly smile rather than a groan and flattering the intelligence of a reader who gets the joke. ... The successful pun pivots on a word that fits effortlessly into two elements ..."

purchase To purchase is to make a bad buy. You're using two syllables and six letters for purchase but getting no more meaning than you get with buy. Simplify. Use the verb buy instead.

pursuant to Pompous. Unless you're pretending to be a corporate lawyer, simplify and use according to, by or under instead.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...