SfEP conference 13-15 September 2014. Sorting out sentences. Sarah Price.

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Information about SfEP conference 13-15 September 2014. Sorting out sentences. Sarah Price.

Published on September 30, 2014

Author: TheSfEP

Source: slideshare.net


To paraphrase a well-known song: 'It ain't what you say, but the way that you say it.' As editorial professionals it is our job to ensure that the author's prose is fit for purpose. This is not just a case of dealing with the nuts and bolts of grammar and punctuation, but also ensuring that the text is phrased in such a way as to convey its intended message elegantly and effectively.
This slide deck looks at the ways in which we add value. It discusses style, phrasing, grammar and punctuation.

Sorting out Sentences Sarah Price (sarahprice.sprite@sfep.net)

‘It ain’t what you say (it’s the way that you say it)’*  Grammar and punctuation  Writing techniques * With apologies to Melvin ‘Sy’ Oliver and James ‘Trummy’ Young’s song ‘It Ain't What You Do (It's the Way That You Do It)’

Grammar and punctuation Verbs Prepositions Restrictive vs. non-restrictive clauses View slide

Verbs: Tenses Three tenses: • Past • Present • Future  Tenses shouldn’t be mixed in the same sentence – unless there’s a reason View slide

Verbs: Modes Modal verbs express judgement, or indicate that the text is not set in stone ‘May’ used to indicate permission, but ‘can’ is more often used today ‘May’ and ‘might’ are often used interchangeably today

Verbs: Voice Active voice – the actor is stated: • In this workshop, the tutor explained grammar. Passive voice – the actor isn’t stated: • In this workshop, grammar was explained. Use active where the actor is important.

Active vs. passive Put the sentence below into the active voice: • The sandwiches were made between 8:00am and 10:00am by Sally and Fred, and were put on the empty shelves by Jane just before the doors were opened.

Verbs: Subject–verb agreement (1)  The verb should agree in number with the subject; take care if the verb is separated from the subject: • No major change in terms of microstructure and mechanical properties are possible.  Collective nouns (e.g. family, team) take singular verbs, unless the focus is on the individuals: • The team is developing software. • The team have different opinions about the program’s effectiveness.

Verbs: Subject–verb agreement (2)  Take care with pronouns such as all, any, none, some: • All of the tree was visible; all of the trees were visible.  Data, media, errata, criteria and phenomena are plural • Although ‘data’ and ‘media’ are often singular today  Singular verb with ‘anyone’, ‘each’, ‘either’, ‘everybody’, ‘everyone’, ‘neither’, ‘no one’ and ‘someone’: • Each of us likes the book./Everyone likes the book.

Verbs: Dangling (hanging) participles Ambiguous if the actor isn’t obvious: • Ambiguous: Looking through the window, my son was talking to his friend. • Clarified: When I looked through the window, my son was talking to his friend. No need to change if there is no ambiguity: • Driving along the road, the sun was shining.

Verbs: Gerunds  A gerund is a ‘verbal noun’ and should take the possessive personal pronoun: • My asking her would cause problems.  Today this is often referred to as the present participle and can take an object pronoun in informal situations: • Me asking her would cause problems.

Which preposition? Verbs Verbs often used with the wrong preposition include: • Consists of ... • Comprises ... (no preposition) • Different from … (US: different than …) • Similar to … • Compared with … (or to …)

Which preposition? Nouns Nouns often used with the wrong preposition include: • Insight into • Consequences for (or of) • Reason for • Proxy for • Tendency to • Understanding of • Implications for

Restrictive and non-restrictive clauses: That vs. which  Use ‘that’ to introduce ‘restrictive’ (or defining) clauses – the information is necessary to the meaning: • This is the book that we will use. • Does it work without ‘that’? (This is the book we will use.)  Use ‘which’ to introduce ‘non-restrictive’ clauses – supplementary information: • This is the book I mentioned, which I read over the summer.

Punctuation: Serial/Oxford comma  In a list, a comma is not needed before ‘and’, unless there are items within the list joined by ‘and’: • For breakfast we had grapefruit, croissants, toast and marmalade, and coffee.  Serial/Oxford commas are used before ‘and’ in all lists: • More common in US English than UK English.  Follow house style, and/or ensure consistent usage

Punctuation: Semicolons and colons Use semicolons to indicate a separation greater than a comma: • We had jam for tea; afterwards we went for a walk. Use colons to introduce lists and ideas: • They had provided a lovely tea: sandwiches, scones, jam, chocolate cake and lashings of ginger beer.

Punctuation: Apostrophes (1) Apostrophes indicate possessives (e.g. John’s book) or contractions (e.g. don’t do that) Beware of possessive its and the contraction it’s (it is) Similarly, no apostrophe in hers, his, theirs

Punctuation: Apostrophes (2) Use ’s after names ending in s and singular words: • Fred Jones’s book • the witch’s cat Use s’ for plural words ending in s: • footballers’ wives (but: men’s clothing). No apostrophes in plural abbreviations and acronyms (TLAs), or plural dates (the 1990s)

Apostrophes The security software is running its’ weekly scan. My friend Angus’ bicycle. The peoples’ voice has been heard. The apostrophe’s font is wrong.

Punctuation placement with quotation marks and parentheses  Fragments – punctuation outside: • He said he was feeling ‘a bit tired’. • We went to see Wolf Hall (in Stratford-upon-Avon).  Complete sentences – punctuation inside: • She said: ‘I’ve had enough of work today.’ • We went to see Wolf Hall. (It was on in Stratford-upon- Avon.)  US English puts end punctuation inside quotation marks (often double quotation marks):  He said he was feeling “a bit tired.”

Punctuation: Hyphens and dashes (1)  Hyphenate: • compound terms and adjectives to avoid ambiguity (child-friendly policies, small ladies-gloves); • prefixes that stand as words on their own, between repeated vowels and consonants and to avoid ambiguity (re-sent, resent)  There is no need for a hyphen in compounds after adverbs ending in -ly (e.g. quietly spoken) (Note: US English sometimes hyphenates these.)

Punctuation: Hyphens and dashes (2)  Use en-dashes (en-rules): • for number ranges • instead of ‘to’ or ‘and’ (e.g. sound–picture integration, London–Brighton rally) • to indicate a break in a sentence (US em-dashes) • parenthetically (instead of brackets or commas) (US em-dashes)

Hyphen or en-dash? Rogers*Hammerstein musical Safely*driven bus Right*hand lane From 1990*1995 Children aged 8*10

Ellipses ... to indicate the omission of a word or group of words. For effect ... Punctuation around an ellipsis isn’t necessary unless for sense. Ellipses are not necessary at the beginning and end of a quotation.

Spacing after full-stops At one time two character spaces followed a full-stop Not necessary with proportional spacing, so just one space

Exercises Correct the sentences on the handout (if necessary)

Writing techniques Structure Style General principles Weasel words

Structure Logical order: • Introduction • Main body • Summary/conclusion Use headings as ‘signposts’ Similar headings for similar content

Style: Non-publishing Author neutral Clarity important (e.g. information leaflets) Paragraphs and sentences should be short with lots of signposting Active voice as much as possible

Style: Publishing Preserve the author’s voice Text should be clear, but style often deliberately more convoluted • If you have to read something more than once to understand, it needs attention Query rather than change if making substantive changes

General principles (1) Consider breaking up text with lists, tables and diagrams: • Numbered lists for sequential steps • Bullet lists where sequence/hierarchy not important • Graphics aid understanding of complex ideas • Tables and charts for statistical info

General principles (2) Use consistent terminology (especially for non-native English speakers or translation) Be consistent with dates, numbers, caps, etc. Hyphenate to avoid ambiguity (e.g. brown dog-bowls)

General principles (3) Explain abbreviations at first mention Query ambiguity – don’t second guess Avoid redundancy, for example: • completely full • past history • erroneous misconception

Weasel words Some words cause confusion and are often misused, for example: • principal/principle • complement/compliment • fewer/less • practise/practice

Practise your writing skills  Write a short text (one A4 page maximum) on one of the following: • How to do something (e.g. make a cup of tea, use the washing machine, change a light bulb) • A description of your typical working day for someone who is going to cover while you are on holiday  Your text should have a beginning, middle and end

Recommended books  David Crystal • Rediscover grammar, Longman • Making sense of grammar, Pearson Longman  Bill Bryson: • Mother tongue: The English Language, Penguin • Troublesome words, Penguin  Lesley J. Ward and Geraldine Woods, Grammar for Dummies, Wiley  Sydney Greenbaum, Oxford Reference Grammar, ed. E. Weiner, Oxford University Press  Gordon Jarvie, Bloomsbury Grammar Guide, A & C Black  New Hart’s Rules, Oxford University Press

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