Monthly Grammar Tips: December 2015

Opus is a full-service marketing agency. As such, we consider each and every member of the Opus team to have a direct hand in marketing. Every point of contact with customers, prospects, and partners presents an opportunity to further our brand. We take pride in the quantity and quality of our communication—no matter the medium—which makes it even more important for our writing to be strong and free of errors. To that end, Opus sends out weekly “Friday Grammar Notes” with the aim of raising the bar of the written word across the entire agency. Our notes should provide utility to everyone, whether you’re a fledgling scribbler or a confirmed word nerd. 

PLURAL SURNAMES

An apostrophe should never be used to make names plural. Go back and read that part again.

CORRECT: Merry Christmas from the McClellans.

WRONG: Merry Christmas from the McClellan’s.

Like common nouns, some names need an es to make them plural. Add es to most names ending in s, x, z, ch, and sh (with some exceptions).

EXAMPLE: Happy Holidays from the Waterses.

EXAMPLE: Holiday Greetings from the Hutchingses.

EXAMPLE: Season’s Greetings from the Marquezes.

EXCEPTION: Merry Christmas from the Reichs. [This name is spelled with a ch but is pronounced with a k sound.]

Yeah, we agree, that can be a little awkward even though it is correct.

ALTERNATIVE: Happy Holidays from the Waters Family.

ALTERNATIVE: Holiday Greetings from the Hutchings Family.

ALTERNATIVE: Season’s Greetings from the Marquez Family.

Proper nouns that end in y don’t require the ies that you use for plural common nouns.

CORRECT: Happy New Year from the McCoys.

CORRECT: Merry Christmas from the Lowerys.

WRONG: Happy New Year from the McCoies.

WRONG: Merry Christmas from the Loweries.

Hyphenated surnames should just pluralize the second part, but families that use multiple surnames can pluralize both and throw in a hyphen or an ampersand. There are lots of special cases where families come together, so you can get creative — as long as you don’t use an apostrophe!

HYPHENATED SURNAME: Best Wishes from the Gordon-Burgesses.

MULTIPLE SURNAMES: Merry Christmas from the Woods & Ellmans.

ALTERNATIVE: Merry Christmas from the Wood-Ellman Family.

CREATIVE: Merry Christmas from the Snussells. [A concatenation created by Jim Snell and his wife, Tara Russell.]

AS BEST WE CAN vs AS WELL AS WE CAN

Both expressions are correct as written above, but avoid using a second as in the first expression.

CORRECT: We are dealing with this storm as best we can.

CORRECT: We are dealing with this storm as well as we can.

INCORRECT: We are dealing with this storm as best as we can.

BULLET LIST PARALLELISM

Parallelism means maintaining a consistent structure for each item in a list. Here are some tips for maintaining parallelism in your bullets:

  • Start with the same part of speech (e.g., noun, verb)
  • Use the same verb tense (e.g., present, past, future)
  • Use the same voice (e.g., active or passive)
  • Use the same sentence type (e.g. statement, question)

INCORRECT:

When writing, some of the most important rules are

  • Avoid weak words like very and really
  • Spelling and better punctuation
  • Getting someone to proofread it for you.
  • Parallelism in your bullet points

CORRECT:

When writing, you should remember the following rules:

  • Avoid weak words like very and really
  • Double-check your spelling and punctuation
  • Get someone to proof-read it for you
  • Maintain parallel structure in your bullet point lists

The correct example above works as strong writing by following these guidelines:

  • The list is introduced by a complete thought, rather than the first half of a sentence.
  • All list items are direct instructions of what to do, starting with present-tense verbs in an active voice.
  • List items are consistently punctuated.

 

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