Monthly Grammar Tips: May 2017

Building a brand depends on every point of contact that each employee has with customers, prospects, and partners. And despite being experts within respective disciplines, everyone is still occasionally bedeviled by a common high school nemesis: GRAMMAR! To help with the challenge, Opus sends out weekly “Friday Grammar Notes,” addressing misspellings, misuses, and misnomers in everyday communication. This quickly became the source of much dialogue around the proverbial water cooler, so we decided to make it a recurring feature on our blog. We hope you find it as useful as we do!

This month we delve into the disappearing hyphen, exposed a few events-related misspellings, clarified some compound nouns (and the verbs that form them), and laid down the law on clichés worth deleting.

THE CASE OF THE DISAPPEARING HYPHEN

It’s happened to all of us: you say and hear a word hundreds of times, but when you type it out, you’re not sure if it’s one word or two? Or is it hyphenated?

We’ve put together a quick list of terms that can safely be written as one word:

  • Airtight
  • Ashtray
  • Ballpark
  • Bedbug
  • Nickname
  • Nightclub
  • Nitpick
  • Nonprofit
  • Offline
  • Online
  • Redhead
  • Sightseeing
  • Snowflake
  • Website
  • Windbreaker
  • Worthwhile

And that’s just to name a few! According to Reuters, about 16,000 English words have lost their hyphen due to the need to simplify language in the Internet age. We can only expect lists like these to grow!

MYRIAD MNEMONICS FOR MYSTIFYING MISSPELLINGS

A few more commonly misspelled words to watch out for in your writing:

  • Caribbean—When talking about the tropical region famously inhabited by pirates, remember “two b” sure to use only “one arrrr.”
  • Independent—When writing about something that stands or acts alone, remember the humble ant. A true hive mind creature, the ant is eminently reliant on its fellow insects. Thus, there is no place for an “ant” in independent.
  • Liaise / Liaison—In the agency world, we often play the coordinating role between two parties. When using either of these words, remember the two parties involved; there are no i’s in team, but two in “liaison.”

THE CONFOUNDING NATURE OF COMPOUND NOUNS

Let’s look at some confusing words frequently used in the events industry. In each of the following cases, the single-word version serves as a noun, and the two-word version is an action.

Giveaway/Give Away

Example: “Rob sourced some awesome giveaways for Cisco!” vs. “The radio station is going to give away free tickets to the event.”

Takeaway/Take Away

Example: “The attendees left the breakout session with some great takeaways on industry trends.” vs. “I hope they never take away bagel Wednesday!”

Getaway/Get Away

Example: “The top performers at Pure Storage enjoyed an island getaway in Maui last week.” vs. “Jeff told everyone to get away from the popcorn machine before it was done popping.”

The hyphenated versions of these words (give-away, take-away and get-away), have undergone the same evolution as the words featured in Grammar Note #87—they’ve lost their hyphens over time.

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX: CLICHÉS TO AVOID

Clichés appear in media all around us: advertisements, TV, music and work communication. Here are a few common office clichés that are best avoided, and some phrases to use instead.

  • think outside the box vs. deliver fresh ideas
  • let’s circle back vs. let’s revisit this
  • push the envelope vs. innovate
  • jumping through hoops vs. taking excessive steps
  • in our wheelhouse vs. within our capabilities

Keep your professional writing clear and concise. A great first step to achieving that is by ridding your emails of clichés.

Fun fact: the word cliché is actually an onomatopoeia. “Cliché” is the sound a metal printing press makes when it prints the same words over and over again. No wonder it is used to describe overused and repeated phrases!

For more grammar goodness, check out the rest of our tips. Until next month, fellow grammarians, good writing!

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