RESPECT: Showing Consideration for Readers through Economy of Words, Elegance, and Correct Grammar

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Ulla de Stricker, de Stricker Associates

Following on her piece in the January 2013 issue, Ulla de Stricker offers additional examples of common but easily avoidable errors in English language usage.

Just because … doesn’t mean. This mangling is so common most people think it’s correct!

WRONG: Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you should stop being active.
CORRECT: The fact that you are retired doesn’t mean you should stop being active. Your status as a retired person should not imply your being inactive.

SOLUTION IF YOU’RE NOT SURE: You are retired. That (fact) should not mean …

Tip: Never begin a sentence with “just because”. It is ok to have the phrase at the end of a sentence: Why would I stop being active just because I’m retired?

Comprised of. There is no such expression!

WRONG: Canada is comprised of provinces and territories.
CORRECT: Canada is composed of … Canada is made up of … Canada comprises …

SOLUTION: In Canada, there are … Canada contains …

You and I—You and me Why are you afraid of me?

WRONG: Peter gave Susan and I a gift / Peter told Susan and I that …
CORRECT: Peter gave Susan and me a gift / Peter told Susan and me that …

IF STILL IN DOUBT: Insert also: Peter gave Susan and also gave me … Peter told Susan and also told me …
SOLUTION: Susan and I received a gift from Peter. Susan and I heard from Peter that …

Its vs. It’sIt’s time to put the apostrophe in its proper place—and only there!

WRONG: Look at this report – its amazing how good the photo on it’s front page looks.CORRECT: It’s (it is) amazing how good the photo on its front page looks.

MEMORY AID: “It is” has 4 letters so “it’s” has 4 characters. “Its” is a possessive similar to “his”—3 characters.

Try and. No, please don’t. Please try to.

WRONG: I’ll try and finish the report by 3pm.

[Technically means I will try something unrelated and I will absolutely finish the report by 3pm.] CORRECT: I’ll try to finish the report by 3pm.

SOLUTION: I’ll attempt to finish the report by 3 pm. I will make every effort to finish …

Who vs. That: The fear of WHO lives on!

WRONG: I know a consultant that can help us. People that volunteer in the community deserve recognition.
CORRECT: I know a consultant who can help us. People who volunteer in the community deserve recognition.

Although words like consultant, colleague, client, and so on are nouns, they refer to humans and deserve a great big “WHO”!

SOLUTION IF YOU’RE NOT SURE: I know a consultant specializing in our business; he can help. People offering to volunteer in the community deserve recognition. Volunteers in the community deserve recognition.

Those that: The tipoff is having two th-words together

WRONG: Those that are unable to attend the meeting will receive a summary.
CORRECT: Those who are …

When “those” refers to people – “WHO” it is!

BETTER YET: Those unable to make the meeting will receive …

TRICK: If “those” refers to objects, still avoid the inelegant “that”: Instead of “those projects that are not yet finished will get special attention” say “those projects not yet finished will get special attention” or better “projects not yet finished will get special attention”.

Since we’re on the subject of whoEconomy of words please!

WRONG: There are many people that say …
CORRECT: Technically: There are many people who say … but why use unnecessary words?
“Many people say … ” is so much more elegant.

SOLUTION IF YOU’RE NOT SURE: It is commonly believed …

Pickup, pick-up, or pick up? A simple trick to remember

WRONG: I’ll pickup the document later today. Could you pick-up the newspaper on your way?
CORRECT: I’ll pick up the document. It is available for pickup (or pick-up) after 3 pm.

MEMORY TRICK: If you can separate the words—I’ll pick the document up—they stay separate!

Myriad. Period!

WRONG: The calendar shows a myriad of meetings this month.
CORRECT: The calendar shows myriad meetings this month.

SOLUTION: Myriad = many, so just use “many”: The calendar shows many meetings.

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