Monthly Grammar Tips: March 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 demystified more common misspellings, provided free advice on whether to use complimentary or complementary, gave pronouncements on proper pronoun usage, did some spring cleaning of redundant phrases, and found the most important takeaway of March Madness: plural possessives.

SPELLING IN THE BUSINESS WORLD

When collaborating with your clients or coworkers, do you ever find that reaching concensus is typically dependant on the ability to accomodate everyone’s wishes?

Do you also find that spellcheck programs are handy, but not always fool-proof? Today, we’re taking a quick look at three words which are both commonly misspelled, and frequently used in business: dependent, consensus, and accommodate. (Please put their spellings above immediately out of your mind.)

Here are some easy tips:

Dependent: If you don’t meet the dependent criteria, it’ll put a dent in your eligibility.

Consensus: This isn’t the U.S. census—you need two s’s, so they can reach consensus with one another.

Accommodate: Two c’s and two m’s—you need more room to accommodate all those extra letters.

Or, there’s always the proven write-around-it solution: “Reaching agreement typically depends on addressing everyone’s wishes.”

NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH

Let’s take a look at two words that are commonly misspelled or misused: complimentary and complementary.

Something that is given freely or without cost, or something said as a matter of praise or approval is said to be complimentary.

EXAMPLE: The attendees were unusually complimentary about the complimentary coffee at today’s breakfast; it must have been a special blend.

Something that goes along with, adds to, enhances, or emphasizes the quality of something else is said to be complementary.

EXAMPLE: Luckily, the color of the coffee I spilled on my show pants is perfectly complementary, so the stain actually makes them look better.

If you’re waffling over which of the two to use, remember that there’s no “i” in team, and there’s no “i” in complementary (when you’re talking about things working together).

HIM AND HER AND ME, HE AND SHE AND I

We’ve hit this topic before, but we’re going to take another run at it. This one seems tough to eradicate!

Please, please, never say her and I.  Her is an object (recipient of an action) and should not be used as a subject, in this case, alongside the correct first-person subject, I. You wouldn’t say, “Her talked about the site visit,” so don’t say, “Her and I talked about the site visit.”

 Correct Usage Examples:

SUBJECT PRONOUNS: She and I are going on the site visit. (Subjects DO the action.)

OBJECT PRONOUNS: The venue sent the budget to both her and me. (Objects RECEIVE the action.)

This appears to be a fairly common usage, so you may not even notice.  However, this phrase is grammatically incorrect and so it sounds like nails-on-a-chalkboard. This also applies to the male and plural pronouns: he/him and they/them. For an unknown reason, we don’t recall hearing these misused; it appears to be her fault.

SPRING CLEANING: TOSS OUT YOUR REDUNDANCIES

The sun is shining, birds are chirping, and plants are blooming! That means it’s the perfect time for some spring cleaning. And what better to clear out of the cluttered garage of your writing than by eliminating another handful of redundant phrases.

  • End result / final outcome. If you’ve sent out a post-project wrap-up, you’re probably familiar with these phrases. Results, outcomes, and consequences all take place at the end of something by definition. Qualifiers such as end, final, and ultimate are superfluous.
  • Collaborate together. We do our best work as a team—working together is the name of the game. But adding together onto terms such as collaborate, meet, partner, or merge is unnecessary. That warm, fuzzy sense of togetherness is implied.
  • Added bonus. Everybody loves a bonus! But including the words added or extra is just tacking on bonus length to your sentence.

Everyone’s got some extra words and phrases rattling around in their writing—start freshening up your phrasing today!

MARCH APOSTROPHE MADNESS

So how are everyones’ March Madness bracket’s holding up? Anyone else see the Jayhawk’s epic blowout win coming?

NO. Just…no. That was almost painful to write.

Today, we’ll be revisiting an oldie but a goodie, and a topic it’s always good to have a refresher on: Possessive apostrophes. The good news is that demonstrating possession always involves the letter s and an apostrophe. From there, it gets…more involved:

For a singular noun, always add an apostrophe + s.

EXAMPLE: That last game was too close for comfort, but regional powerhouse Gonzaga remains one of the country’s most popular picks to win it all.

If it is singular and ends in s, also add an apostrophe + s.

EXAMPLE: The bracket-busting Cinderella team is typically one of March Madness’s greatest storylines.

For most singular proper nouns, add an apostrophe + s.

EXAMPLE: As 6.5-point underdogs, Vegas doesn’t like Oregon’s odds against Kansas tomorrow.*

In the case of a proper noun that ends in s, you can simply add an apostrophe.**

EXAMPLE: Kansas’ fans are sure to like that line.*

*This grammar example provided purely for educational purposes. The grammar team in no way condones gambling, which is for entertainment only and not for investment purposes. But go Ducks.

**Style guides differ on this point, but agree that consistency is key. This streamlined, apostrophe-only approach is our official brand language stance, because who wants to see Opus’s in a headline?

For a noun that is plural and does not end in s, add an apostrophe + s.

EXAMPLE: Men’s and women’s basketball are two of the most popular NCAA sports.

If it is plural and ends in s, simply add an apostrophe.

EXAMPLE: College basketball fans’ passion for the game is downright contagious this time of year!

 

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

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