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Monday, December 17, 2012

My Pet Peeves: From the X, Y and Z Entries in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual

Here's the 22st (and final) entry in my alphabetical series of pet peeves--from the X, Y and Z sections 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:


Xerox Trademark for a brand of photocopy machine. Commonly misspelled as Zerox. Don't use Xerox as a verb or noun to mean copy, photocopy, copy machine or copier. Use one of those words instead: The assistant made a photocopy, not The assistant made a Xerox.


Yahoo Unless the company is paying you to promote its website and search engine, don't end Yahoo with an exclamation point. You're under no obligation to follow its marketing style.

years Use numerals without commas: In 2004 a disastrous earthquake hit the region. Use an s without an apostrophe to show spans of decades or centuries: 1790s, 1900s, '90s.

Years are the one exception to the rule against beginning a sentence with numerals: 1994 was a wonderful year

If it's necessary to spell out a year, avoid using and within the number: two thousand one, nineteen sixty-eight.

year to date No hyphens unless used as an adjective: year-to-date sales. Except for charts and graphs, avoid abbreviating as YTD. Also, consider using simpler so far instead of to date.

yet Like the conjunctions and, but and soyet is a useful, correct transition word at the beginning of sentences--instead of regardless and in spite of. For emphasis, yet may be followed by a comma. 

you By using the pronoun you, you suggest immediacy and directness between you and your reader. But make sure you and the reader know who you is. And avoid using you if it sounds accusatory or insulting. 

Also, always use a plural verb with you, even when you is singular, referring to only one person: Nate, I know you are sick. You alone have understood. You both are busy. See Myths and Superstitions of Writing.

your, you're Often confused or misspelled. And computer spellcheckers won't catch the mistaken substitution of one of these homonyms for the other. Your is the possessive form of the pronoun you, meaning "belonging to you," while you're is a contraction of "you are."

yours Sometimes misspelled as your's. Don't ever add the apostrophe before (or after) the s.

youth, youths Use for boys and girls ages 13-17. Use man, men, woman and women for people 18 and older.

yuppie Colloquial, trite term. It means young urban professional. Avoid the word but not the people.


zeitgeist Capitalize the name of the excellent coffee shop in Pioneer Square, Seattle. If you use this German noun in other ways, lowercase it; it means "the spirit of the age," or, more clearly, "the general thought, feeling, ideas and outlook of a particular generation, era or place."

zero, zeros (n.); zero, zeroes (v.) Don't include unnecessary zeros in times and dollar amounts: 10 a.m., $35; not 10:00 a.m., $35.00

ZIP code Use all caps for the abbreviation for Zone Improvement Program, but always lowercase the word code. Don't put a comma between the state name and the ZIP code: Seattle, WA 98126-2225

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