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Monday, November 5, 2012

My Pet Peeves: From the Q and R Entries in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual

Here's the 15th in my alphabetical series of pet peeves--from entries in the Q section and the R 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 and L peeves | M peeves | N peeves | O peeves | P peeves


quantum leap Ironically, a quantum leap (or quantum jump) in its technical sense from physics is only an abrupt change (within an atom or molecule), not necessarily a significant or large change. But as used in the cliche, it's a sudden and important change or improvement. Clarify your words by replacing this term with an explanation of the change or improvement. If you mean "large" or similar adjectives about size, use large or similar adjectives about size.

question mark (?) Direct questions always take question marks: Who is going with the reporter? Did Samuel ask you if you were going? Indirect questions never take question marks: She would like to know who's going with the reporter. For multiple questions, either use a single question mark at the end of the complete sentence: Did Josephine plan the project, manage the budget and supervise the staff? Or stress each element by breaking up the sentence: Did Josephine plan the project? Manage the budget? Supervise the staff? Also, put only one space after a question mark (and other sentence-ending punctuation).

The question mark replaces the comma normally used when attributing a quotation: "Who is going with the reporter?" she asked. The question mark may go inside or outside quotation marks depending on the meaning: Who wrote "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey"? She asked, "How long will it take?" Also, use a single question mark, inside the quotation mark, in sentences like this: Did you hear him say, "Who ate all the doughnuts?"

quite Quite may be redundant, imprecise and unnecessary to mean "entirely, completely or very." Where emphasis is needed, use stronger, more descriptive words or be more precise: He performed all his hits with energy, instead of His performance was quite good.

quotation marks (" ") Put quotation marks around direct quotations: "No comment," the director said. The manager said, "Complete your time sheets by the end of the day Thursday." If a full paragraph of quoted material comes before another paragraph that continues the quotation, do not put quotation marks after the first paragraph. But do put quotation marks before the second paragraph.

Avoid fragmented quotations. Do not use quotation marks to report a few ordinary words used by a speaker or writer.

Don't put the words of one person into the mouths of many: Witnesses at the accident said there was "a tremendous bang, and then all hell broke loose."

Also, put quotation marks around single words or terms for the following uses, but don't overdo it: to suggest irony or a double entendre, The "tycoon" turned out to be a pauper; to note an unfamiliar or unusual term on first reference; and to refer to a word as a word, He tried to explain what he meant by "knowns" and "unknowns" (or use italics instead). Avoid putting single words or terms in quotation marks to draw attention to them as slang, informal or cute.

Quotations within quotations: Use single quotation marks for passages contained within a direct quotation ("She said, 'Ouch!'").

Punctuation: The period and comma always go within the quotation marks. The dash, question mark and exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only. Colons and semicolons go outside quotation marks. Also see question mark above, quotations below.

In headlines, use single quotation marks: Man cries 'Fire!' in theater, causes panic

quotation, quote Quotation is the preferred noun form. Use quote as a verb: Don't quote me on this. He recited a quotation from Hamlet. 

quotations Quoting another writer adds authority to your writing and speaking and strengthens your thoughts and feelings--especially if the reference is recognized by your audience. When possible, quote the other writer directly rather than paraphrasing all his or her words. Try mixing strong direct quotations, paraphrasing that summarizes the other writer's words, supporting facts and figures, and your perspective or analysis if appropriate.

Introduce full-sentence quotations with commas. Introduce multiple-sentence quotations with colons. When using partial quotations and the titles of books, movies and other publications, punctuate as if the quotation marks weren't there. See quotation marks above.

Spell out (don't abbreviate) all words and phrases in direct quotations if that's they way they were expressed by a speaker or writer: "We were in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on October 6." Similarly, use abbreviations in quotations as expressed by a speaker or writer, but make sure its meaning is clear--or spell it out before or after the quotation. 


race Name a person's race only when it is relevant. Some examples, suggested by The Associated Press:
  • In biographical and announcement stories that involve significant, groundbreaking or historic events: Barack Obama is the first black U.S. president. Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Suspects sought by the police or missing person cases using police or other detailed descriptions. Drop the racial reference after the individual is caught or found.
  • When reporting a demonstration or disturbance involving race or such issues as civil rights or slavery.
When an ethnic reference is necessary to identify U.S. citizens, don't hyphenate terms when used as nouns: a Japanese American, an African American, a Norwegian American. But hyphenate the terms when used as adjectives: a Mexican-American organization.

Be aware of stereotyping words, images and situations that suggest all or most members of a racial or ethnic group are the same: flashy, aggressive and happy-go-lucky blacks, inscrutable Asian, conservative Briton, cold Dane, hearty German, exuberant Italian, sleepy Mexican, tight Scot, fiery Spaniard.

Avoid using qualifiers that reinforce racial and ethnic stereotypes: Betty Wong is quiet and reserved might suggest that Asians are shy and docile. Avoid using ethnic cliches: fiestas when writing about a Hispanic.

Be aware of possible negative connotations of color-symbolic words: a black reputation, yellow coward.

Be aware of language that might have questionable racial or ethnic connotations: Culturally disadvantaged suggests superiority of one culture over another.

Avoid patronizing and tokenism toward racial or ethnic groups. But make sure publications represent all groups fairly--in articles and photographs.

racial slurs Of course, do not use a racially derogatory term unless there is a compelling reason to include it. For example, it might be part of a direct quotation that's essential to document specific communication in a conversation or speech.

If a full quotation containing an offensive term must be included, consider using only the first letter of the term followed by hyphens to replace the other letters.

rank Consider using this simpler word instead of the pompous prioritize. Other choices: order, set priorities.
rather Vague adverb. Usually adds little. Omit, or be more precise: The train was rather late. The train was 15 minutes late. 

rationale Formal and overstated. Simplify. Try reason(s), thinking or explanation instead.

reach (a) an agreement (conclusion, decision, etc.) Wordy. Simplify. Change to agree, decide or settle.

real, really Sometimes confused. Both refer to truth, fact or reality, but real is an adjective for modifying nouns: a real illness, a real friend, real diamonds. And really is an adverb for modifying verbs, adjectives and other adverbs: really sorry, a really hot day, it really rained today. A vague word, use really sparingly, substitute very or be more precise. Instead of The assignment was really difficult, write The assignment took two days longer than expected.

reason why, reason is because Redundant. Omit needless words. They canceled the contract because ... Not: The reason they canceled the contract is because ... Also: The reason for the decision is ... Not: The reason why the decision was made is ... Other simpler alternatives: is caused by, is that.

receive Formal, and commonly misspelled. Remember the "i before e except after c rule. Also, consider replacing with forms of simpler get

record Avoid the redundant: The team set a new record. Omit new. Records are new by definition. Other redundant uses: all-time record, a record highThis summer's temperatures may have set a record high. Drop high.

redundancy Unnecessary repetition can annoy readers, take up space, annoy readers, waste time, cause confusion, hinder readability and annoy readers. See Garbl's Redundant Phrase Replacements.

refer back Redundant and wordy. Drop back.

regard As regardsin regard to and with regard to are pompous. Simplify. Replace with about, or try as for, for, in, of, on, over, respecting, to, toward or with.

regarding Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try replacing with about, for or on.

reimburse Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try repay or pay back instead.

reiterate again Redundant and wordy. Simplify. Drop again. Also, try using less formal repeat or shorter iterate instead of reiterate.

reimburse Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try repay or pay back instead.

reiterate again Redundant and wordy. Simplify. Drop again. Also, try using less formal repeat or shorter iterate instead of reiterate.

reluctant, reticent Often confused. Use reluctant to describe someone who's unwilling and slow to do something. Use reticent to describe people who are quiet and unwilling to talk, especially about themselves. Also, hesitant is a more common word to describe people who are not willing to do or say something because they are uncertain or worried.

remain Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try stay.

remainder Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try the rest, surplus, balance or what is left.

remunerate, remuneration Formal and commonly misspelled. Simplify. Use pay instead of remunerate and use payment, reward, pay, salary, wages or money instead of remuneration. Also,remuneration commonly misspelled as renumeration.

renown, renowned Commonly confused. Renown is a noun and synonym for fame, distinction, prestige and eminence. Renowned is an adjective and synonym for famous, notable, celebrated and distinguished. Reknown and reknowned are misspelled words.

reoccur, reocurrence Unnecessary words. Simplify. Replace with recur and recurrence to mean "happening again" or "happening several times."

repeat again (and again), repeat back, repeat over again, repeat the same Redundant and wordy. Drop everything except repeat.

repetitious, repetitive Commonly confused or misspelled. They both mean doing something the same way many times, but repetitious suggests the action is tedious or unnecessary, and repetitive is neutral in its judgment of the action

request (v.) Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try ask, seek or question.

require Overstated. Simplify. Try need or want instead.

reside Pompous. Use a form of live or stay.

residences Use simpler homes or houses instead.

retain Formal and overstated. Consider replacing with simpler keep, continue, hold or save.

refer back Redundant and wordy. Drop back.

rhythm Commonly misspelled.

rock 'n' roll The Beatles and The Rolling Stones are two of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands.

roommate One word. Two m's.

R.S.V.P. The abbreviation for the French repondez s'il vous plait, it means please reply. To avoid confusion, miscommunication, disappointment and frustration, use Please reply instead. And if you must use R.S.V.P., don't put a redundant please in front of it.

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