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Be Gender Neutral
. . .
No, make that . . . . . . Oh, the heck with it!
It's not acceptable to many people for one gender to be singled
out if you are speaking in general terms, e.g., "everyone has his
own opinions". Using "s/he" and especially "his / her" can be
awkward. Here are some ways to work around this problem:
Get Your Message Across
It's so easy to fall into the trap of clearly knowing what you
want to communicate, but then unintentionally writing something
that confuses your reader. Here are are some examples of
- "Mary told Joan that she had just been promoted." Ahhh, but
which one got the promotion? Rewrite as: "As soon as Mary
was promoted, she told Joan."
- "I'm going to take up baseball. They make good money." Baseballs don't make
money; players do. Change "they" to "the
players" or rewrite the sentence.
- "The aim of business plans are to define a path to success."
The verb "are" is trying to agree with the wrong
word. It should be "The aim . . . is to . . .".
- "When 10 years old, my grandmother told me stories about our
family history." Actually, I'm more interested in the story of
a 10-year-old grandmother. The obvious correction: "When
I was 10 years old, my grandmother told me . . .".
- "It tells about the Roman Empire in this book" and "they all
play hockey in Canada".
Same old problem: the pronouns "it" and
"they" have no antecedents. Rewrite as: "this
book describes the Roman Empire" and "all Canadians
play hockey" (I'm only saying this so I won't disillusion my
You Have To "Proof" It To Me
Typos and other errors in a report or published document can
destroy the credibility of otherwise perfect text. Sometimes these
oversights change entire meanings, with disastrous consequences.
Typos are pesky little
devils. But don't worry. If you don't spot them before you
"go to press", there's always someone nice enough to point out your
Here are some techniques to increase your proofreading
- Focus on each word and each letter in a word (this won't
slow you down as much as you think).
- You might instead read your text backwards. That also helps
you focus on each word because it is no longer in the context of a
- Remember to proofread captions and headings that "hide" off to
the side or at the top of your document.
- Use an opaque ruler to block
lines other than the one you're reading.
- Have someone read a photocopy while you proofread the original
of a page. (This one will get you into trouble during electrical
States of Emergency or with corporate cost-cutting inquisitions.)
Ensure the reader clarifies or repeats important or potentially
confusing text, e.g., names, numbers, homonyms like "two" and
- Proofread a hard-copy printout, not off your monitor screen (it
gives your eyes a break, too). Remember, software with Spell Check
catches spelling errors, not legitimate words used incorrectly.
What about computerized Grammar Check? Well, look closely at what
it says is supposedly wrong or inappropriate. Also, read your
"final" text very carefully to see what it's missed. Some Grammar
Check tools are not very thorough . . . not surprising when you
consider knowledgeable grammarians do not always them.
- "Proofread" your document's structure and appearance, e.g.,
spacing, margins, illustrations. Turning the page upside down
eliminates the distraction of text.
Select one of these topics and fly to the appropriate
"Misused Words and Phrases"
"Noooo! Don't Use THAT Word!"
Viewing Grammar Grabbers Pages in sequence?
These are the ones you likely have not seen yet:
"Oddities & Entities"
Page Design Tips"
"Professional Writing / Editing Services"
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