Garblog's Pages

Friday, October 28, 2016

How to make your last name plural on holiday cards and avoid apostrophe catastrophe.

Making a last name plural is a matter of spelling, not punctuation. Do not add an apostrophe. Follow the rules of spelling.

Except don't change the spelling of proper names when making them plural. Add es to most proper names ending in es or zGonzalezes, Jameses, Joneses, Parkses. Add s to other proper names, including most proper names ending in y even if preceded by a consonant: the Clintons, the Abernathys, not the Abernathies.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide

Since Thursday, Oct. 13, is International Plain Language Day, I'm posting a link my website on plain language, aka plain English: Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide.

Plain English is an approach to writing that concentrates on the needs of your readers. This clear writing approach is often called plain language because of its international value and use in other languages. It is ideal for people who write to and for clients, customers, employees, organization members, ratepayers, students, equipment and software users, and taxpayers. It's especially useful for nonfiction but can be applied to fiction. It helps us write for people who read at all levels of time, interest, education and literacy. It also benefits readers with limited English proficiency or learning disabilities.

Plain English principles can help you write clearly and concisely. Plain English matches the needs of your readers with your needs as a writer, leading to effective, efficient communication. It is effective because your readers can understand your message. It is efficient because your readers can understand your message the first time they read it. That reader focus--combined with logical organization, clear writing and inviting appearance--is key to creating usable, informative documents for your organization.

Monday, June 27, 2016

It's not bad grammar - Baltimore Sun

John McIntyre writes in the Baltimore Post:
"An additional mistake is to give the written dialect of English primacy over the spoken, as if written standard English were the 'correct' form of the language and speech a corrupted version. People who think that have got the wrong end of the stick. Speech is the primary language, which we are learning in infancy long before schooling. Speech is where new words and new usages of old words arise, the place where language evolves."

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Memorial Day versus Veterans Day

Not intending to launch a battle between these two U.S. holidays, I'd like to reduce the confusion between the two. They have different, distinct purposes.

As described in Garbl's Editorial Style and Usage Manual:

Memorial Day Capitalize the U.S. holiday for honoring men and women who died while serving in the country's armed forces. Since 1971, it's been celebrated the last Monday in May. Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day, which commemorated the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers. For the holiday honoring men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces, see Veterans Day.

Veterans Day Capitalize. No apostrophe according to the U.S. statute establishing the legal holiday to honor all men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces. Since 1978, it's been celebrated on Nov. 11. Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day to honor people who served in World War I. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, formerly the Veterans Administration, also takes no apostrophe. For the U.S. holiday honoring men and women who died while serving in the country's armed forces, see Memorial Day.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Chicago Style Q&A: New Questions and Answers - New Questions and Answers

I get a monthly email announcing the latest Q&A. This one is for May 2016.

For me, the questions and answers run from useful to interesting to irrelevant.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

From Baby Boomers to Millennials

I keep reading about Generation X and millennials as generations that follow my generation of baby boomers. But I haven't been sure what years they cover. So I did a bit of web searching. I added entries of what I found out to Garbl's Editorial Style and Usage Manual.

Some demographers, historians and commentators narrow the birth years and then try to describe the interests of people within each generation. My style manual entries don't dabble with that interest stuff.

baby boomer Two words, no hyphen, lowercase. The post-World War II population surge, or baby boom, ran from 1946 to 1964. The terms, though not the people they refer to, are approaching triteness. 

Generation X Capitalized. The generation born after the baby boomers (1946 to 1964). Generation X spans birth dates ranging from the early 1960s to the early 1980s. Gen X is acceptable on second reference. Members of this generation are Gen Xers

millennials Members of the generation following Generation X (early 1960s to early 1980s). Millennials have birthdates ranging from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. Also known as Generation Y. There doesn't seem to be a widely used term for the next generation (the early 2000s onward), though Generation Z has its adherents. 


Monday, April 25, 2016

Anthony Trollope’s Witty and Wise Advice on How to Be a Successful Writer – Brain Pickings

Anthony Trollope’s Witty and Wise Advice on How to Be a Successful Writer – Brain Pickings

"The letter, found in The Letters of Anthony Trollope(public library), is brilliantly timeless and timely, a much-needed reality check for all aspiring writers as well as entrepreneurs of all stripes in our age of expecting instantaneous success: ...
"My belief of book writing is much the same as my belief as to shoemaking. The man who will work the hardest at it, and will work with the most honest purpose, will work the best. ..."

Friday, April 22, 2016

Style manual updates of terms about sexual orientation and gender identity

I recently updated gay, lesbian, sexual orientation, transgender and related terms in Garbl's Editorial Style and Usage Manual. I reviewed preferences of the Associated Press, New York Times, and GLAAD for using these terms.

cross-dresser Include hyphen. Use this term instead of transvestite to describe someone who sometimes dresses in clothing associated with the opposite sex. Cross-dressing does not necessarily indicate that someone is gay or transgender. See gay, lesbiantransgender.

gay, lesbian Identify a person's sexual orientation only when it is relevant. Do not refer to "sexual preference" or to a gay, homosexual or alternative "lifestyle." Use gay (adj.) to describe men and women attracted to the same sex, though women commonly prefer lesbian (adj, n.). Ask, if you can! Lesbian women is redundant. When the distinction is useful, consider using lesbians and gay men.

Avoid using the outdated homosexualexcept in clinical contexts or references to sexual activity. Lowercase gay and lesbian except in names of organizations. Don't refer to gays with disparaging, offensive terms. Use gay and queer carefully in other contexts. Do not use gay as offensive, incorrect adolescent slang meaning "stupid." See LGBT; sex, sexism; sexual orientation.

gay rights Advocates for gay issues prefer equal rights or civil rights for gay people. Though commonly used, gay rights inaccurately implies "special rights" that are denied other citizens.

gender Gender has become an acceptable term for writing about differences between males and females, especially their social, psychological and cultural traits--or who we are. Sex is more often used when writing about physical and biological traits--or what we do. Stay tuned. See sex, sexism.

homosexual Outdated clinical term considered derogatory and offensive by many lesbians and gay men. See gay, lesbiansex, sexismsexual orientation.

husband, wife Regardless of sexual orientation, husband or wife is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage. Or use spouse or partner if requested by individuals in the marriage. See sexual orientation.

LGBT Sometimes GLBT. Acceptable on first reference for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. But spell it out elsewhere in the document. See gay, lesbiansexual orientationtransgender.

same-sex marriage, gay marriage Both terms are acceptable, though the former clearly covers both lesbians and gay men. See husband, wife;sexual orientation.


sex, sexism Base communication on relevant qualities of men and women, not on their sex or sexual orientation. See gay, lesbiangendersexual orientation. ...

sexual orientation The scientifically accurate term for an individual's enduring physical, romantic or emotional attraction to members of the same or opposite sex. Don't use sexual preference, which implies that sexuality is a matter of choice. Cite a person's sexual orientation only when it is relevant. See gay, lesbianhusband, wifesame-sex marriage.


transgender (adj.) Use the names and pronouns (he, his, she, her, hers) preferred by transgender people whose physical characteristics or gender identity as male or female differ from their sex at birth. If that preference is not known, use the pronouns consistent with the way the individual lives publicly. Identify a person as a transgender man or transgender woman only when it is relevant. See transsexual.

transsexual (adj.) An older term preferred by some people who change their gender through medical procedures. Transgender is generally preferable. Ask when possible! See transgender.

Monday, April 18, 2016

All the Euphemisms We Use for ‘War’ | The Nation

William J. Astore writes in this excellent article from The Nation:
"The more American leaders and officials—and the media that quotes them endlessly—employ such euphemisms to cloak harsh realities, the more they ensure that such harshness will endure; indeed, that it is likely to grow harsher and more pernicious as we continue to settle into a world of euphemistic thinking. ...
"Don’t think, however, that the language of 21st-century American war was only meant to lull the public. Less familiar words and terms continue to be used within the military not to clarify tasks at hand but to obscure certain obvious realities even from those sanctioned to deal with them. ...
"For any future historian of the Pentagon’s language, let me sum things up this way: Instead of honest talk about war in all its ugliness and uncertainty, military professionals of our era have tended to substitute buzz words, catchphrases, and acronyms. It’s a way of muddying the water. It allows the world of war to tumble on without serious challenge ....
"The fact is that trendy acronyms and snappy buzz words have a way of limiting genuine thinking on war. If America is to win (or, far better, avoid) future wars, its war professionals need to look more honestly at that phenomenon in all of its dimensions. So, too, do the American people, for it’s in their name that such wars are allegedly waged. ...
"In short, the dishonesty of the words the US military regularly wields illustrates the dishonesty of its never-ending wars. After so many years of failure and frustration, of wars that aren’t won and terrorist movements that only seem to spread as its leaders are knocked off, isn’t it past time for Americans to ditch phrases like ;collateral damage,' 'enemy noncombatant,' 'no-fly zone' (or even worse, 'safe zone'), and 'surgical strike' and adopt a language, however grim, that accurately describes the military realities of this era?
"Words matter, especially words about war. So as a change of pace, instead of the usual bloodless euphemisms and vapid acronyms, perhaps the US government could tell the shocking and awful truth to the American people in plain language about the realities and dangers of never-ending war."

Monday, March 14, 2016

Can Your Employer Forbid You From Talking Politics at Work?

Alison Green writes in U.S. News & World Report:
"'Private-sector employers may generally impose broad limits on employees' political activities and discussions during working hours, even if other types of personal activities are permitted,' says Dan Prywes, partner in the District of Columbia office of the law firm Bryan Cave.
"However, federal law also protects employees' right to discuss labor issues -- wages and working conditions -- with each other. So employers need to tread carefully here. They can't ban you from urging co-workers to support Candidate X 'because she supports higher wages.' But those same protections don't apply if you take labor issues out of the discussion. For instance, you're urging people to support Candidate X 'because she's strong on foreign policy' or for another reason not connected to labor issues."
In other words, when discussing our free speech rights, we must remember the first words in the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law ...." That is, the government is prohibited from "abridging the freedom of speech."
Here's the entire amendment, all about what the government cannot do: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Garbl's Editorial Style and Usage Manual: politically correct

I recently added politically correct to my online style manual:

politically correct Abbreviate as P.C. It means agreeing with or adhering to the idea that people should avoid using language or acting in a way that could be offensive, discriminatory or judgmental to a particular group of people, such as in matters of race, class, gender, or sexual orientation. That sensitivity is reasonable and admirable, but critics often use the term in derogatory or disparaging ways. Alternatives include tolerance, diplomatic, inclusive, polite and bias-free.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Garbl's Editorial Style and Usage Manual: on climate change

I just added an entry on climate change (and global warming) to my newly online editorial style and usage manual. It describes preferences for related terminology about climate change.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Back Online! Garbl's Writing Center

I recently reinstalled the website I created back in 1997 as Garbl's Writing Resources Online. Now called Garbl's Writing Center (with Writing Resources as one section), it went down in September 2015 when, first, I moved out of the Seattle area served by Comcast and, second, Comcast was ending its service anyway of supporting personal websites.

Fortunately, my new Internet service provider (Wave Broadband) in Port Townsend, Washington, provides that service. I haven't yet updated all the details on website pages or checked all the links to make sure they're current, but I'm working on it!

In the months ahead, I may be reducing the size of the website as I decide if I want to continue supporting all the sections, especially the Writing Resources and Bookshelf sections. In my retirement, do I want to continue spending time keeping them up-to-date?

All the dead links in past blog articles to my old website locations will likely remain dead. But here are the new links to the main sections of Garbl's Writing Center:
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