Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Crash Course in Adverbials—Modifiers of Verbs

An adverbial is any structure—a word, phrase, or clause—that performs the function of an adverb: it modifies a verb by telling us how (manner), where (location), when (time or frequency), or why (reason) an action is done. Just like adjectivals, we have several choices of adverbials.

1. Single-word Adverbs
These are the easiest of the bunch! You've seen them, you've used them, and you've known them all of your life—those "-ly" words like nervously, quietly, actually, suddenly, harshly, and slowly as well as "non -ly" words like now, then, today, often, always, sometimes, never, here, there, everywhere, etc. Single-word adverbs like these provide simple information about how, where, when, or how often the action expressed by a verb happens. Furthermore, a great deal of these adverbs are quite versatile with regard to movability. Take this example from a favorite textbook of mine:

Suddenly the wind shifted.
The wind suddenly shifted.
The wind shifted suddenly.

As you can see, single-word adverbs of manner like suddenly can be moved to various positions within a sentence.

2. Nouns and Noun Phrases
You may not realize it at first, but quite often nouns and noun phrases (which are noun "headwords" combined with any determiners or modifiers that may accompany them) take on adverbial roles. Don't believe me? Check out these examples:

Clark works this week.
I walked home.
Every day she studies.
They sent the package airmail.

Do you see how these nouns and noun phrases are functioning as adverbs? In the first example, this week tells us when Clark works. In the second, home tells us where I walked. In the third, every day tells us how often she studies. And in the fourth, airmail tells us how they sent the package. So, be on the lookout for such nouns—if you see a noun or noun phrase that actually tells you when, where, how, or how often a verb happens, you have yourself an adverbial!

3. Prepositional Phrases
That's right: prepositional phrases can put on not only an "adjectival" hat, but also an "adverbial" hat. You remember the parts that constitute a prepositional phrase, right? It requires a preposition followed by an object, which is always a structure functioning as a noun ("nominals," which I'll cover in a future post). Here are some examples of adverbial prepositional phrases:

The team hiked in the woods.
During winter we burn wood.
The smell permeated throughout the theater.
She did it for his sake.

Sometimes adverbial prepositional phrases just pile on one another, as in this example:

Oliver studied at the library for several hours on Saturday.

Again, because all these prepositional phrases are telling us where, how long, and when an action takes place, they are adverbial. One challenge, however, is determining whether a prepositional phrase is playing an adjectival or adverbial role. Take a look at this next example—can you tell which prepositional phrase is adjectival and which is adverbial?

The chariman of the Federal Reserve discussed his views on CNN.

You can do it. :)

4. Infinitives and Infinitive Phrases
Remember these? An infinitive is the particle to followed by the base form of a verb. When this verb is accompanied by a direct object or any modifiers, it is upgraded to an infinitive phrase, and either of these can certainly function as adverbials. Please direct your ocular activity toward these examples:

I went home early to relax.
Jennifer took on two paper routes to earn money for camp.
Mom cashed a check to buy a new TV.
The cat jumped to reach the window.

All the infinitives and infinitive phrases here are providing us with adverbial information—specifically, at least in these cases, why these actions happen. So, the next time you hear someone close to you say something like "I did it to make you happy," be sure to tell them, "Hey! 'To make you happy' is an adverbial infinitive phrase that tells me why you did it!" And then be prepared to endure a long stare of concern.

5. Participles and Participial Phrases
Though not extremely frequently, participle forms of verbs (well, namely, the present participle forms) and, by extension, participial phrases can function as more than just adjectivals—they can be adverbials, too. Check these out:

I rang the bell, and the dogs came running.
My uncle made a fortune selling cars.

While participles and participial phrases more commonly modify nouns in their roles as adjectivals, you should be able to detect when they are actually modifying verbs. In these two cases, we see how (or in what manner) the dogs came as well as how my uncle made a fortune.

6. Subordinate Clauses
Another type of dependent clause, subordinate clauses are groups of words containing a subject and a verb but are introduced with subordinating conjunctions (such as because, since, when, while, after, until, etc.) and therefore cannot stand alone as complete thoughts (they are not to be confused with another dependent clause you saw in my last post—the relative, or adjective, clause, which begins with a relative pronoun). These clauses clearly can function as adverbials, provided that they give adverbial information. Here are some examples:

The audience gasped when the magician thrust his sword into the box.
Before you take that exam, you should eat some breakfast.
Pay close attention to your e-mail because a virus could be lurking there.

Of course, these adverbial subordinate clauses (which, in these cases, tell us where and why these actions take place) can appear either before or after the independent (or "main") clauses to which they are attached. If a subordinate clause appears before an independent clause, the two should be set off from each other by a comma.

And there you have it! If you have any questions about adverbials, feel free to ask in the comments section!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Opportunities for Students at UHM Publications

I was talking to some of the people that work with the KaLeo, Kalamakua, and Hawai'i Review the other day. They mentioned to me that they were in some serious need of people that know how to edit, write, or both. Pretty much what I got from this is that there is a serious need for people that can add quality content to either of these publications. The Board of Publications (BOP) is the overseeing board for the publications that we have on campus and have a list explaining what some of these publications are about. Also, on the "Publications" tab on the BOP website navigation menu, there are all of the publication's open positions.

They Banned "Bromance"

Well, they "banished" the word, not the special relationship. Lake Superior State University annually releases a list of words that they are sick of. The 2010 list contains words that they consider to be especially overused, misused, or useless.
  1. shovel-ready
  2. transparent/transparency
  3. czar
  4. tweet
  5. app
  6. sexting
  7. friend as a verb ("friending," "unfriending," etc.)
  8. teachable moment
  9. in these economic times...
  10. stimulus
  11. toxic assets
  12. too big to fail
  13. bromance
  14. chillaxin'
  15. Obama-prefix or roots (i.e., Obamanomics)
I found this rather random bit while looking up stuff on cliches, which I find very problematic while copyediting. The magazine I work for does a lot of travel-type pieces and I often find myself striking out the ol' "it wasn't the destination that counted, it was the journey" sentiment.

Cliches are rather interesting though. I think they say something about the mass appeal, durability, and utility that a certain phrase or word has. And there's a fair chance that if you saw a stranger's list of cliches, you would be surprised by some of it. Nonetheless, cliches don't belong in polished writing. But recognizing them is tricky. The magazine's editor might be bugged by something that seems innocuous enough to me and vice-versa. If the both of us agree that the phrasing is tired, then we will probably strike it from the copy. If, following a discussion, only one of us is bothered by it, the phrasing is left intact.

Backstage in a Bureaucracy

A News@UH item on the book I edited for UH Press.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Advanced vs. advance

On the back cover of the book I edited for UH Press is this blurb:
Backstage in a Bureaucracy is a compelling primer for anyone interested in politics and public service. Susan Chandler and Richard Pratt give us an advanced look into government in the twenty-first century. Must reading for aspiring leaders.
—David Heenan, Estate of James Campbell Trustee
Advanced ("far on or ahead in development or progress; new and not yet generally accepted") is what we call a past participle: the past-tense form of a verb employed as an adjective. Advanced is commonly seen in such phrases as advanced placement exam, advanced stage of negotiation, people of advanced years.

Unfortunately, the simple adjective advance ("done, sent, or supplied beforehand") is the correct word for Heenan's statement.

KOK Edit

An impressive list (in alpha order) of resources for copyeditors and those who employ copyeditors.

And more about looking things up…

Zwicky cites this by Carol Saller.

On the importance of looking things up…

The following is a post by Arnold Zwicky, whose piece on Eleanor Gould Packard I recently shared via our blog.

John McIntyre’s latest Baltimore Sun column, “Just look it up”, begins:

When an article assigned in my editing class contains an uncommon word, I ask my students what it means. The usual response is a row of blank stares. It appears that they just shrug when they encounter unfamiliar vocabulary. And then I explain to them that if you release an article that contains words you do not understand, you have not really edited it. But you will be held accountable for anything in it that is wrong.

An article on Newswise, “Study Shows Universities May be Failing to Sufficiently Teach Basic Research Skills,” suggests that many students don’t use the library and fail to take full advantage of electronic sources—in fact, don’t have a clear sense of how to begin research.

A salient paragraph: “To manage large amounts of information, the report says, ‘students in both large universities and small colleges use a risk-averse strategy based on efficiency and predictability.’ In other words, students avoid drowning by limiting the sources they turn to and the amount of information they take in.”

There is another side to this phenomenon, the willingness, displayed widely on the Internet, to make assertions or challenge other people’s work without troubling to check. What is a character flaw in civilians is a sin in copy editors, as Carol Fisher Saller explains today at The Subversive Copy Editor.

Oi. All the riches of the net and the web, and instead of taking advantage of them, some people are (apparently) overwhelmed by the material and contract their search strategies. Of course, university libraries are themselves vast and hard to navigate, but now people have the immensity of the net and the web at their fingertips, and tools for searching through them. Why don’t they use them?

Some time ago, I suggested (in deliberately hyperbolic language) on Language Log that “the InterWeb makes people lazy and stupid”, citing some instances of the effect, noting in particular that users of these resources have come to expect that everything of consequence will have clickable links, so that when no such link is provided the users treat the information in question as simply unavailable.

Wikipedia and some other sites provide clickable links, but in such profusion that most users just disregard them, though as I saw when I complained about “link fanaticism” on Language Log, many people enjoy the kind of random exploration all those links invite; you can find all sorts of neat stuff. But for people who are actually trying to find out about some specific topic, or who ought to be, the profusion of links undermines the utility of the resources; there are just too many.

Next, lots of people have come to view the net and the web as primarily social places, as locales for communicating opinions, personal news, reactions, anecdotes, reminiscences, gossip, and so on, in loosely connected, rapidly written exchanges — a view that threatens to overwhelm sites that were intended as locations for serious discussion on intellectual, technical, scientific, artistic, professional, and academic matters. I complained two years ago about Language Log comments, and how the blog’s stated policy was frequently and flagrantly violated. (The American Dialect Society mailing list suffers from similar problems.) As the readership of Language Log has expanded, significantly, these problems have gotten much worse. (I’ve said to the other bloggers that I think we’re experiencing a Success Disaster.)

A perennial problem on both LLog and ADS-L is that so many commenters/posters don’t use standard reference works (despite their being recommended again and again; I’ve gotten very testy about it) or check the archives to see if the topic has been discussed before — yes, I know, this can be difficult to impossible to do in some cases — so discussion proceeds from the ground up, chaotically, time after time.

If you’re someone trying to find information, or someone who should be, then you’re looking at a roiling sea of material, without a rudder or compass. So maybe it makes sense for students to pull back and rely on just a few sources. Or, worse, just ask their friends.

It gets worse. The wonderful resources available to students — to all of us — are shot through with looniness, falsehoods (honestly believed or maliciously spread), parodies, confused thinking, and other pitfalls. In a discussion a while back on ADS-L it became clear that a great many students had no way to think critically about what they read and so gullibly accepted all sorts of things.

It’s no good just mocking the students who get caught up in these many traps. They need help, of several kinds: training in critical thinking, information about good reference sources (John McIntyre went on to list a few for copy editors), advice about how to thread their way through all that material, good examples of how more experienced writers and thinkers work their way through it.

And someone needs to keep saying: You Could Look It Up! Even if you’re not a copy editor (or fact-checker), not looking it up is still, as Carol Fisher Saller put it, a character flaw.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Editing the president

The president of our esteemed institution just sent out a Thanksgiving message. I thought this paragraph needed special attention from an editor:
Every one of the top elected officials in our state have had their own lives profoundly impacted by the University of Hawai'i. They are our graduates, and in one case the son of a longtime faculty member. We are proud that our university continues to produce leaders for Hawai'i's future -- in politics and government, business, law, the sciences, medicine and health, engineering, education, skilled trades, and the list goes on and on.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Not as good as Samantha's

I fear my post isn't as good as Samantha's, which quoted a passage in which Thanksgiving, eating, flying, and misbehavior are connected.

Joel Bradshaw, the head of the journals department at UH Press, wrote a conference paper some years ago, and I recently asked him for a copy of it. He said he'd posted it at UHP's blog. Here is part of it:

Cultural Evolutions

In many ways, the digital era has been very, very good for academic journals. Their authors have acquired many more readers, all across campuses and all around the globe. Their publishers have implemented more efficient means of production and dissemination, and often found very significant new streams of revenue. But there have been some difficult cultural adjustments.

Subscriber counts are becoming less important as a metric for assessing readership than actual counts of article views online. And those online readers are much less likely to be subscribers, much less likely to be able to evaluate the reputation of the journal, and much less interested in anything but the disembodied article they found via an all-purpose search engine. This has led to an identity crisis for many journals. Are they a place for scholarly dialogue, or just a warehouse of articles awaiting consumers who may or may not care about which brand they buy?

Journal articles become harder to distinguish from chapters in multiauthor books, and senior scholars in the humanities tend to contribute less and less to journals because they tend to be overcommitted to editors who have solicited their contributions to more highly valued books. As journals become more and more specialized, those with broader—and often more prestigious—coverage, tend to attract less of the cutting-edge research that makes people feel the need to subscribe as individuals.

Finally, in an era of fast food, online communities, and instant feedback, ambitious scholars have less patience with the languid cycles of journal review and publication.

That dwindling patience no doubt extends to careful editing as well.

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we all recover from the quizzes and prepare for Thanksgiving break I thought we could share a smile over this error from a political email I received:

While Thanksgiving Day offers choices such as what kind of stuffing you prefer and just how much mashed potatoes is too much, flying to your destination may require deciding whether to be ogled or felt up.

"Potatoes" are a countable quantity so the passage should read-

While Thanksgiving Day offers choices such as what kind of stuffing you prefer and just how many mashed potatoes are too many, flying to your destination may require deciding whether to be ogled or felt up.

I suppose that once the potatoes are mashed they become uncountable though, so it becomes a debate over whether "mashed" is an adjective of "potatoes" or if "mashed potatoes" are their own entity.


The tilde

The tilde is a common diacritical mark. I wrote to Luis Verano, of the University of Oregon, about it recently, and here is what he said.

One of the diacritical marks in Spanish is the tilde. When placed over the letter n (ene), the tilde creates a new letter—the ñ (eñe)—which produces the palatal nasal sound ny, as in the word señora or señor. Ramón Gómez de la Serna (1888–1963), a writer from Spain, referred to the ñ jokingly as “una n con bigote” (an n with a mustache). The ñ is an entirely different letter, however, and words that begin with ñ appear in a separate section in dictionaries.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tsk, Tsk

Don't think I will shop at this store for their sale items.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Omitting a Conjunction in a Series

After doing the sentence error exercise, I've learned a new rule that I thought I would say a little more about. This is number seven on the sample questions page:
They said they plan to sleep in their SUV, a five-year-old Chevy Tahoe, into which they’ve packed boxes of important documents, bags of clothes, some food
I mistakenly added the word "and" between the serial comma and the last item in the series, which is actually unnecessary. Below is an excerpt from the ClearWriter website.

"Dropping a conjunction has the opposite effect of adding a conjunction: creating a series that is not exhaustive, but a mere sampling of possibilities. It also makes your reader see the parts of the series as more separate than joined.

This 20th century is baffling, difficult, paradoxical, revolutionary."


"Community Party" aka "Communist Party"

At some point in their lives, Scott and his wife embarked on a tour
that included the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China.
After returning to their home in Maine, they co-authored a book about
their experience overseas entitled "The Brave New World".
In their book, they characterized the people of China as "peaceful socialist giants". Here is an excerpt,

"The pro-peace attitude of the people of the Soviet Union and People's
China is not based on fear of war but on confidence in their theory and
way of life. One Soviet trade unionist put the matter to us in this
way. 'We are not afraid of war. We have been through it and survived
its cruelties and horrors. We know that we can take it. Just because we
have been through it and suffered from it, we know how terrible war is.
It wastes materials, but worse than that, it squanders human idealism,
energy, wealth and life. Still worse, those of us who are trying to
build a socialist society are diverted and preoccupied by war. We know
from bitter experience that if we are to engage in socialist
construction we cannot fight wars. War is a full-time occupation."

In my research on "community party", I found
the term to be interchangeable with "Communist Party".

The Community Party- is opposed to the exploitation of people by
capital, and demands the protection of citizens from economic

"Amongst the privileged class, that is the property owners, share owners
and business owners, an opinion exists that ones own welfare is
their own individual concern. Their mind senses that any single person
has the power to become rich, propertied, and therefore empowered and
less of a burden... The philosophy of the privileged class is a selfish
and bullying idea that treads on the unfortunate and weak, whilst
destroying the very fabric of our society by destroying the mutuality
that is the community. As Communists, we object to the philosophy of
the privileged class and strive to create a society that protects the
weak, helps the unfortunate, and limits the power of those that would
seek to exploit them. Our philosophy is that of the Community."

Scott Nearing was raised with many privileges (he was an alumni of the
prestigious Wharton School of Business) reserved for the
upper-class;however, Scott strongly agreed with views of the Community Party.

I'm not sure if I've been able to articulate clearly here; however, I
feel certain that the use of "Community Party" in the Nearing document
was not necessarily a mistake.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Seriously now…

I didn't realize that the blog's sidebar had a link to this February 2005 encomium by Arnold Zwicky. Worth reading now—near the end of the semester—because it presents editing from the author's point of view. I've mentioned the importance of understanding our craft from this perspective, but Zwicky's voice will give my words new meaning.


In response to an affectionate appreciation ("The Point of Miss Gould's Pencil", by Verlyn Klinkenborg, NYT 2/16/05, p. A26) of the work of Eleanor Gould Packard at The New Yorker, where she served for 54 years, Michael R. Burr (letter to NYT, 2/21/05, p. A20) elevates the magazine's "venerable arbiter of style" (Klinkenborg) to a kind of sword-wielding sainthood:

No mere proofreader or pedant, Eleanor Gould Packard was a guardian of civilization in a thankless struggle to avoid its disintegration. She upheld standards and imposed discipline, which in turn taught discipline in one's thought, and ultimately in one's actions as well.
For those of us who care about such things, Miss Gould's magnificent efforts are greatly appreciated, and she will be sorely missed.

Burr totally misses the point of Klinkenborg's appreciation (now echoed in a longer memorial by David Remnick in the 2/28/05 New Yorker, pp. 34f.)—that what Gould was trying to do was help writers say what they were aiming for in a language with "a kind of Euclidean clarity—transparent, precise, muscular" (Remnick)—and instead celebrates her career with ravings about the disintegration of civilization. We aim for grace and style, but somehow we get barbarians at the gates. Undisciplined barbarians, at that. Some people seem unable to think about matters of syntax, usage, logic, rhetoric, and diction except through the distorting glass of the image of the Great Decline.

Not, however, Klinkenborg and Remnick, who experienced Gould's editing first-hand.

As Klinkenborg puts it:

I learned from her neatly inscribed comments that even though I was writing correctly—no syntactical flat tires, no grammatical fender-benders—I was often not really listening to what I was saying. That may seem impossible to a reader who isn't a writer. But Miss Gould's great gift wasn't taking writers seriously. It was taking their words seriously.

She received the title Grammarian (a title that was retired with her), not because she was primarily concerned with grammaticality, but (presumably) because people who aren't actually grammarians use the label grammar for everything in language that is subject to regulation or judgment. She had four pet peeves, Remnick reports, two of which (failure to observe the distinction between restrictive and non-restrictive modifiers, incorrect subject-verb agreement) are matters of grammar in the narrow sense, two of which (indirection, careless repetition) are not. But it's clear from what Klinkenborg and Remnick say that her attention was almost entirely devoted to other things; after all, grammar in the narrow sense was very unlikely to be an issue in manuscripts submitted by Janet Flanner, J. D. Salinger, Pauline Kael, or Lawrence Weschler. Writers and editors valued her advice (even when they bridled at it) not because she saved them from error but because she was trying to help them realize their intentions.

I've had many experiences with editors. Some I remember with distaste even after many years; few things are quite as alarming and frustrating as an editor who comes at your manuscript like a grammar-checking program, with nothing more than a long list of Don'ts and fixes for them. But other encounters were rewarding, with editors who aimed for clarity, an effective voice, and an appreciation of the audience, and who negotiated choices and changes with me. (Most recently, Bruce Shenitz at Out magazine.) Somehow, the putative disintegration of civilization never entered into these exchanges.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


An artifact from one of my 2006 classes.

Editor wanted

Just read a message from the membership director of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses that had the following passage:
This is a survey created by a graduate student conducting a study about print and/or online presses about how literary work is promoted. The collected information will be available to all our members— we think it will be a great way for CLMP members to see a break down of what your colleagues are doing to promote their projects, especially with social media.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Capitalization Quiz

This is more of a comment in addition to the longer discussion Cindy started earlier.

Going over the capitalization quiz, I had issues with "Fulbright fellowship" in number 14:
Last spring, sometime in late March, I believe, Grillbody heard that he had been awarded a Fulbright fellowship.

The quiz says that the word fellowship is not capitalized. I feel that it should be because the two words together represent the proper name of the fellowship.

Which way is correct? Or is this just an example of up/down style?

Editing and Writing

We had discussed in class the idea of being both an editor and a writer and if those positions are conflicting. I was reading the forward of Beloved, written by Toni Morrison. She writes:

“The question of priorities--how can you edit and write at the same time--seemed to me both queer and predictable; it sounded like “How can you both teach and create?” “How can a painter or a sculptor or an actor do her work and guide others?” But to many this--write combination was conflicting.”

She goes on to give a detailed explanation of her feelings about this subject. I might add, while working as an editor she published four novels. I think this shows that yes, it is possible to be an editor and a successful writer.

The use of the colon

I found this helpful with the use of a colon.

Right or Wrong?

The ingredients for the chocolate cake: flour, cocoa, butter, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract.

Wrong! The above sentence includes a list of cake ingredients introduced by a colon. A colon is indeed expected to introduce a list but the text preceding it must constitute an independent clause making up a sentence that can stand alone. As the preceding text is merely a noun phrase and not an independent clause answering to the double requirement of both subject and predicate, placing the colon here is wrong. A correct wording would therefore be:

We need several ingredients for the chocolate cake: flour, cocoa, butter, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract.

Another (flat) biographical note

You might want to print this out and try editing it:

Oakley Hall, author of eleven novels, two of which were made into movies, five mysteries, six librettos, and a textbook, is teaching classes for the creative writing program in the UHM English Department spring semester. Hall, who attended the University of Hawaii in 1938, is a professor of English at the University of California, Irvine, where he directs a graduate program in creative writing. The movies, "Warlock" and Downhill Racers," were based on his novels.

I'm glad I didn't write that (which)

Written by Michiko Kakutani for the New York Times:
Nowhere is this PC mood more striking than in the increasingly noisy debate over language—that has moved from university campuses to the country at large—a development that which both underscores Americans' puritannical zeal for reform and their unwavering faith in the talismanic power of words.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Same thing, new week

Since we are still in study/quiz-mode, I figured I would post something much like last week. I have another "informational query" if you will. Is the definition for Word style meant to mean the Microsoft Word styles we worked on creating in class? If it is, I have written what I have so far below. If not, what is a word style?!

Word style: A unique set of formatting specifications.

Editing vs. Writing

While studying for the exams I have been thinking about meaning and intention, especially in the case of James Frey and the business letter we analyzed in class. In A Million Little Pieces James Frey intentionally misleads his readers, whereas in the business letter the author is unable to clearly convey his message at all.

I felt that the biographical note we edited was a whole different animal, though. I can see why it is a publisher's nightmare; I am still troubled by it myself. To me, a piece like this walks a fine line between editing and writing. I didn't feel that way about the business letter because all the ideas were on paper, just not in an ideal arrangement. And in the business letter the content was not factual. Working with the biographical note, I really felt strained trying to achieve meaning from its content.

For example, the my first draft of the first sentence read "Scott Nearing taught economics for ten years at the University of Pennsylvania, but after leading a public fight against child labor, he was dismissed from his teaching post." I then changed the sentence to "Scott Nearing taught economics for ten years at the University of Pennsylvania, but after a public fight against child labor, he was dismissed from his teaching post." The revision seemed safer to me, because the original did not state that Scott Nearing led the fight.

I felt that editing the business letter, though certainly a formidable task, was still editing, but in the case of the biographical note the information is so unclear that it borders being inaccurate, and if I have to read a biography of Scott Nearing to edit the biographical note, can I still just call it editing?

I suppose some editing jobs are just tougher than others. I know that studying editing has really helped me to improve my writing!

University of Hawai`i Style Guide

I recently ran across the online version of the University of Hawai`i Style Guide (as opposed to the University of Hawai`i Press Style Guide) and think it is useful to look at. I was interested to see, for example, that they use Pacific Islands, Pacific Rim, Pacific Basin, but Pacific region. The guide is primarily for official communications from UH, particularly media releases that are channeled through UH Creative Services (the publications office of External Affairs and University Relations), but even if you are not writing media releases it is useful because it offers guidelines for writing about the kinds of things people in a university setting often find themselves writing about, such as grades, courses, degrees, departments, chairs, etc. And I was interested to learn that because Creative Services is concerned with media releases, they recommend the use of Webster’s New World College Dictionary, since it is Associated Press’s dictionary of choice. The guide also offers useful advice on Hawaiian spelling.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Angry Copyeditors

I think we've read something similar to the "Apostrophe Catastrophe" article (but hopefully not the same thing!). I was struck by the manner in which the author was so upset by the excessive use of apostrophes. The following sentence is pretty indicative of the whole piece: "My long-simmering irritation over the apostrophe crisis finally reached a boil the other night while helping my 11-year-old daughter with her homework."


Is the author a volcano or a human being? Either way, it looks like things are going to be on fire soon. I've got to say, I can't blame people for sometimes thinking copyeditors to be grumpy, insufferable jerks with raging superiority complexes. Sure, the angry rants and grammar vengeance blogs are fun to read, but I'm starting to wonder if "grammar snobbery" plays a part.

This class has definitely hammered home the point that there is a way to be constructive and helpful without being mad, demeaning, and dehumanizing. In sum, I think that Pat's emphasis on the "authors are people too" matter is really, really important and I think it's good to see it modeled so well in class. Also, this article has made me realize that it's totally possible to care about the correct use of language without being a raging grammar nazi.

Community Party

Cindy wrote me a long response about my Scott Nearing post, pointing out that the Community Party was a distinct entity similar in its mission and principles to the Communist Party. As far as I can tell, though, it was the latter Nearing was ejected from for holding irreconcilable views.

Cindy, many thanks for your great research; we all benefit from it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Scott Nearing

I said the following things when I gave you this assignment:
  1. it may appear to be simple, but it is not;
  2. you need to think about what caused what in order to connect things; and
  3. this kind of biographical note causes the people in my office more trouble than any other kind of writing.
As you know by now, Scott Nearing was a real person. Let me add here that the admiration of young people expressed in the paragraph is also real and is not limited to his adopting "the simple, rural life."

Did anyone look him up to find out about him? That is something my boss often reminds us to do when we're editing biographical notes. He urges us to find out things like major events, major publications, awards and other forms of recognition, and so forth and to use what we discover to edit the note. These awful summaries--I say "awful" because they reduce someone's life, ambitions, ideals, travails, et cetera to a few sentences--are horrible creatures to deal with, especially after being handled by the kind of amateur who wrote the paragraph I gave you.

If you had looked up Nearing, you would have found that "Community Party" should be "Communist Party" and, as I said on Tuesday, he lived to be a hundred years old and had a full, rich life. While you were editing, you also should have asked yourself when "today" was in relation to the exploitation of child labor and the advent of World War I.

Sometimes when we are given a piece of writing that is lifeless and naive, we assume its subject is lifeless and simple. When editing biographical notes, we have to be on guard against the following:
  1. assuming that the writer has given emphasis to the right things--and the degree of emphasis is correct;
  2. assuming that simple declarative sentences following one another do not have links or connections; and
  3. accepting without question phrasing like "He had a public fight against child labor."
As I said in class, we have a fight with our mom, but we use different syntax when writing about a fight for the public good.

P.S. This image is from Americans Who Tell the Truth.

Quotation marks and other punctuation

While reading about quotation marks at Guide to Grammar and Writing, I came across the following explanation of why punctuation marks appear inside quotation marks.
There are peculiar typographical reasons why the period and comma go inside the quotation mark in the United States. The following explanation comes from the Frequently Asked Questions file of alt.english.usage: "In the days when printing used raised bits of metal, "." and "," were the most delicate, and were in danger of damage (the face of the piece of type might break off from the body, or be bent or dented from above) if they had a '"' on one side and a blank space on the other. Hence the convention arose of always using '."' and ',"' rather than '".' and '",', regardless of logic." This seems to be an argument to return to something more logical, but there is little impetus to do so within the United States.
This doesn't explain why printers in England set type differently, however, and it appears that the FAQ page for alt.english.usage no longer has this explanation. After doing a search for "In the days when printing used raised bits of metal," I see that this explanation is quoted a lot, but apparently without correct attribution.

West Hawaii Today

I saw this headline on the front page of the sport's section. Unless the author intended to conjure up the image of a chain gang (which is what this headline makes me think of), I believe the idiom commonly used to indicate a difficult situation- such as the heavy burden facing the local high school football team- would be to say "tough row to hoe". In other words, the team faces a situation that is difficult to handle. ('A hard row to hoe' is the alternative form.)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Yet Another Studying Query…

Regarding the terms we have to define in our sample quiz questions, I'm finding we've used them so much in class that they've just become inherent (much like the grammar rules, as I mentioned in an earlier post). So I thought I would try running the definitions I came up with by everyone else. I’m having quite a bit of trouble with these so I’m really hoping for some feedback!

  • Style Sheet: A database composed from and kept for a specific document to ensure consistency throughout said document. Items on a style sheet include, but are not limited to, punctuation, special symbols, numbers, and an alphabetical list.
  • House Style: The set of preferences an editor must follow when editing for a certain company or publishing house. These preferences include a preferred style manual and dictionary, among others, which all help to avoid inconsistencies.

I think he's being nice

You may have heard about the controversy surrounding Keith Olbermann. In a statement released today, he thanked his supporters and said the following:
I also wish to apologize to you viewers for having precipitated such anxiety and unnecessary drama.

You can see how leaving out one or two little words can alter meaning. We wouldn't have stumbled over the sentence if he had written
I also wish to apologize to you viewers for my having precipitated such anxiety and unnecessary drama.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Punctuation Review

So, in anticipation of our quiz, I've been looking at chapter 4 and two other sites:

(1) Grammar Girl - I've put a link to her discussion of a common error, the comma splice (even though the link is included under "references" to the right). This refers to the tendency by which two main clauses are separated only by a comma, rather than by a comma and a coordinating conjunction (alternatively, the two clauses can be separated by a period or semicolon).

Squiggly ran to the forest, Aardvark chased the peeves."

Squiggly ran to the forest, and Aardvark chased the peeves."

(2) The Sentence Sleuth - This blog is run by a copyeditor who was a guest writer on the Grammar Girl site four or five times. It's a little less polished, but not horrible. And the idea behind it is so simple: take a sentence and point out an error.

Our textbook is obviously a much more broad review of grammar applications, etc. but these sites provide short yet memorable discussion which I think will make the studying process a little more varied and a little easier.

Punctuation Acronyms?

I was going over the suggested material and was wondering if anybody has any mnemonic devices that I can use to remember the rules for punctuations?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Capitalization quiz

In preparation for the series of quizzes, I've revisited the Capitalization quiz and information link. I can't seem to get my mind around this rule.

The rule states:

We capitalize names of courses: Economics, Biology 101. (However, we would write: "I'm taking courses in biology and earth science this summer.")

In number nine of the quiz, this rule does not apply to "physics course." I was wondering why physics is not capitalized?

9. Didwell somehow managed to get an A in his physics course, but he failed History 104.

Would you capitalize physics if you dropped the word course?

"Didwell somehow managed to get an A in Physics, but he failed History 104."

Also, in number fifteen the word economics is not capitalized. What is the rule here?

15. Tashonda earned a master's degree in business before she went on for a Ph.D. in economics.

A Crash Course in Adjectivals—Modifiers of Nouns

An adjectival (pronounced "add-jek-TIE-vul") is any structure—a word, phrase, or clause—that performs a function traditionally associated with, of course, adjectives: it describes, restricts, or otherwise modifies a noun. An adjectival essentially answers the questions of "what kind?" or "which one?" We have several choices of adjectivals:

1. Single-word adjectives
You're probably most familiar with these, which need the least amount of explanation. Big, small, tall, short, round, wide, ugly, beautiful—these are all simply single-word adjectives and can, depending on how you cast your sentence, appear either before or after (or before and after!) the nouns they modify. Here's an example:

The tall house was ugly.

I suppose if I were to discuss compound adjectives, they would probably find an appropriate place here in this category, despite the fact that they are composed of more than one word. But we've already discussed those enough, so let's move on. ;)

2. Nouns (no, seriously!)
Yes, it may seem strange to hear that nouns are another type of adjectival, but bear with me! While they may appear to be nouns in form, they may very well be adjectives in function. Since I couldn't think of my own, here are some great examples from the seventh edition of Understanding English Grammar by Martha Kolln and Robert Funk:

the brick house
the neighbor boy
a marble bathub
that test pilot
Bill's kitchen table

As you can see, brick, neighbor, marble, test, and kitchen are all nouns, but each is clearly functioning as a modifier of the noun that follows. When you see nouns like these, you should think to yourself, "Noun in form, but adjective in function."

3. Prepositional Phrases
Consisting of a preposition (like on, for, in, of, to, about, around, etc.) followed by an object (which is always something functioning as a noun), a prepositional phrase is able to function as a giant adjective. Keeping in mind that an adjectival modifies a particular noun, check out these examples:

I ate the cake in the fridge.
The store around the corner is great!
Dominick is a person of great integrity.

Can see you what, specifically, these prepositional phrases are modifying? In the fridge is modifying the cake—it tells us which cake the speaker is referring to. Around the corner similarly specifies which store is being discussed, and of great integrity tells us what kind of person Dominick is. We can safely say, then, that these prepositional phrases are indeed adjectivals.

4. Participles and Participial Phrases
These types of adjectivals are derived from verbs. If you recall from my earlier post about infinitives and the "principal parts" of verbs, you'll remember that every verb has a past participle and a present participle form, both of which can function as adjectives. Ready for more examples? Here are some past participles performing the job of an adjective:

The bored students just rolled their eyes.
You must find the stolen artifact!
My exhausted brother crashed on his bed.

Bored, stolen, and exhausted are all past participle forms of verbs—bore, steal, and exhaust—and are able to function as noun modifiers. Now, here are some present participle verb forms:

We have no running water!
The dictator's army went on a killing spree.
I'm taking a cooking class this semester.

These present participle forms—those familiar "-ing" forms of verbs—are modifying nouns and therefore can be called adjectivals.

Now, let's complicate matters a little bit. Because these participle forms are derived from verbs (indeed, they have "verb DNA" in their genes), they can be accompanied by any modifiers or objects that you may otherwise associate with verbs. One of my previous posts discussed direct objects—nouns or noun phrases that receive the action of a verb—which follow transitive verbs. So, for instance, if an adjectival present participle just happens to be derived from a transitive verb, the adjectival would require a direct object. By placing a direct object after your adjectival present participle, you've just upgraded your adjectival to a participial phrase. Confused? Here's an example to examine:

Tell me about the boy eating his pencil.

Here, we have an adjectival present participle, eating, modifying the boy. But in this particular instance, eating is intended to be transitive—it requires a direct object—and so it is followed by his pencil, which is the object receiving the action of eating. A present participle coupled with a direct object transforms the adjectival from a single-word participle to a participial phrase.

Of course, a present participle may not always come from a transitive verb; it may very well be intransitive and thus require no direct object at all. Nevertheless, like any other verb, the participle can still be modified by adverbial structures (which I'll explain in a future post). To see what I mean, look at this example:

I was entertained by the child acting foolishly.

In this case, the adjectival present participle is accompanied by a simple adverb, foolishly, which tells us how the child is acting. It's important to note at this point that a participial phrase (that is, an adjectival participle accompanied by a direct object and/or any modifiers) always follows the noun it is meant to modify. Conversely, single-word participles appear before the nouns they modify.

Before moving on, let's return briefly to past participles and how they can also become participial phrases. These, too, can be modified with adverbial structures. Observe the following:

The plays written by Shakespeare will stand the test of time.

You'll notice that a past participle, written, is intended to modify the noun plays, but this time the participle is paired with an adverbial modifier—by Shakespeare. Once again, the pairing of a participle with any modifier constitutes a participial phrase, and once more, a participial phrase always follows the noun it modifies.

Okay. That was a bit rough. Let's move on to an adjectival structure you're likely more familiar with.

5. Relative Clauses
These are a type of dependent clause—a group of words that contains a clear subject and predicate but cannot stand alone as a complete thought. Relative clauses, sometimes called "adjective clauses," belong to this broad class of clauses. They always begin with a relative pronoun (that, which, who, whose, or whom), whose antecedent is always the noun being modified by the relative clause. Example? Sure.

I drive a car that guzzles gasoline.

Here, a relative clause is used to modify the noun car. The clause begins with a relative prounoun, that, which refers to the noun being modified. We can understand, then, that that is the car and that the car guzzles gasoline. It should be noted, too, that in this particular clause, that (the car) is acting as the clause's subject. You can tell because that is the thing—the actor—performing an action. Another example of a relative pronoun functioning as a subject is this:

She's mad at the teacher who grades unfairly.

Once again, in this relative clause, the relative prounoun who (which stands in for the teacher) is the clause's subject because it is the teacher who performs the action of grading unfairly. This would also be an opportune time to inject a little opinion: while it has become acceptable to use the relative pronoun that to refer to people (you know, human beings), you must drop this habit immediately, for it is most irritating! When referring to people, use who (for a subject) or whom (for an object). Okay, I'm done with the preaching.

Hey, speaking of whom and objects, use this particular relative pronoun when it refers to a person who is the recipient of an action in a relative clause. This example might make this point clearer:

My friend, whom I called earlier, should be arriving soon.

In this case, the relative pronoun whom still refers to the noun being modified, friend, but in this relative clause, the friend is actually receiving the action of the verb called. Thus, it is not the subject of the clause; it is the direct object. The subject of this clause is actually I, as in I called my friend earlier.

This point about objects in relative clauses applies to the relative pronoun that as well, but that can refer to anything other than a human being. And, of course, that can be either a subject or an object.

Finally, I won't say anything about the punctuation of adjectivals, particularly relative clauses—after all, Pat has already discussed this topic somewhat extensively in class. Just remember that the question of whether to place commas around adjectival phrases and clauses is a matter of whether they are restrictive or nonrestrictive.

I think this is enough for one post, and I hope you've found it helpful. If you have any questions or concerns, ask away!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Translations and Editing

In this morning's Star-Advertiser there was an interesting Island Voices piece, "Chinese translation of election ballot was poorly done." The writer said the Chinese translation of the latest election ballot contained inconsistencies, mistranslations, and unintelligible parts that confused and frustrated Chinese voters. Language access is a hot issue, and I think most agencies are happy just to find someone, or anyone, who can translate their materials. Increasingly, though, we hear about poor translations. This article points out the real problems that poor translations can cause and suggests the need for competent editors, as well as translators, in all languages.

Of MS and men…

Wikipedia appears to have a good entry on manuscript. On that page are this beautiful image of an Armenian manuscript and a gloss of MS and MSS. I found the entry by typing abbreviation for manuscript in the Google search engine. When I typed abbreviation MS, the search results listed this page first.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Innate Grammar

As I fill out my list of items, I realize that I can recognize errors and fix them but can't necessarily explain WHAT the grammatical error is. Does anyone else have this problem? Maybe this is more a question for Pat, because it's a little frustrating!

Monday, November 1, 2010

A business letter worth admiring

There are a few things in this letter I would correct: deeply-valued shouldn't have a hyphen; the men's names should have probably appeared in the same order throughout; and the family may be close, but there does need to be a space in "TheOrton." All in all, though, I thought the letter was wonderful. The message was warm and sincere, despite the sentimental content, and the picture of the company that emerged was solid.

I was especially happy to see that
  • the right case (objective) was used in "No matter whom you're shopping for this holiday season";
  • parallelism was preserved in "you'll find truly unusual gifts that evoke happy days, promote warm feelings, and bring a beaming smile to the face";
  • a hyphen was used in the adjectival compound "a family-owned business";
  • no comma separated adjectives in "special young person";
  • no comma appeared before the restrictive clause "when young ones raced downstairs"; and
  • that was used to denote the restrictive in "a family and a tradition that have endured."
The diction of the letter is also deserving of mention, I think: cherished; authentic; precepts of ardent, honest customer service; gratitude for…kindness, privileges, and opportunities. And note that three sentences toward the end begin with we:
  • We will celebrate being part of a family and a tradition that have endured through hard work, frugality, imagination, and ingenuity. [The last four nouns are nothing special by themselves, but together they are fresh and strong.]
  • We will celebrate the vast and growing audience of customers who today are part of that tradition, expanding it through their own deeply-valued stories and memories.
  • We are delighted to welcome you to this tradition and to our family.
When the reader finally gets to "Enjoy!" the exclamation point does seem fitting.