By Mary Morel | Feb 2013
When I was rewriting my online programs and e-books over Christmas, I wrote that an exclamation mark in an email could sometimes soften the tone and make the message less aggressive. My editor strongly disagreed with me, sending me an email laden with exclamation marks to make her point.
I removed the offending paragraph, but I still maintain that, although exclamation marks have no place in formal business writing, they are often useful in emails. I admit to using them quite frequently.
My editor is not the only one who dislikes exclamation marks. The style editor of The Economist has decreed that its journalists should no longer include exclamation marks with a company’s brand name (e.g. Yum! and Yahoo! will be plain Yum and Yahoo).
What are your views on exclamation marks? Email email@example.com
Oral or verbal
Question: Which is better – an oral report or a verbal report?
Answer: You can use either oral or verbal. I prefer oral, but it is just a preference. The reason for my preference is that verbal is an ambiguous word. Although verbal means spoken, it also means anything put into words, whether written or spoken. But that is nitpicking, because using verbal to refer to spoken reports is common and probably gaining in popularity.
What’s your preference? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
France says ‘non’ to hashtags
France is fighting a losing battle to keep its language pure (as it has been doing for many years). The Ministry of Culture has decreed that hashtags should be referred to as ‘mots-diese’.
Other changes France has tried to impose are:
- 2003: email was called ‘courriel’ – the word stuck in Quebec and Belgium, but not France
- 2005: blogs were dubbed ‘bloc-notes’
- 2006: podcasting was called ‘diffusion pour baladeur’
- 2010: cloud computing was named ‘informatique en nuage’
‘Le news dans mon email ce weekend – c’est cool, yes?’
The Sun-Herald, 3 February 2012.
Pet peeve and a typo
Typos spotted by a reader this month
‘Some waking pattern is repeating itself, resulting in a viscous cycle.’
Ranges that go nowhere
A pet peeve of mine is writers starting a list with ‘range from…’ or ‘ranging from…’ and forgetting the ‘to…’
- The articles range from new research, synopses of presentations, news roundups and commentary on current issues.
- The articles range from new research, synopses of presentation and news roundups to commentary on current issues.
Many sentences read better with ‘including’ or ‘include’ because the items in the list are often a false range. In a blog, John E. McIntyre gives this example:
‘Millions of copies of self-help books, by writers ranging from the Dalai Lama to M. Scott Peck, have been purchased by readers seeking road maps to happiness.’
He asks what is the continuum on which one can place the Dalai Lama and M. Scott Peck and states that to ‘have a range requires a set of objects, persons, topics or attributes within a limited set’.
Read his blog.
Conveying information in a visual form
Graphs and tables can contextualise information and tease out unseen patterns and connections. Watch a TED talk by journalist David McCandless on the power of visualising data.
The rise of she
Between 1900 and 1945, 3.5 male pronouns appeared for every female pronoun (she, her, herself, hers). The ratio had shrunk to less than 2:1 by 2005.
What we can read into these stats?
My blogs this month
This month I wrote about my favourite authors on grammar and writing:
Words of 2012
Macquarie Dictionary’s Word of the Year Committee chose phantom vibration syndrome as 2012’s word of the year. The committee recommended it be abbreviated to PVS.
I had never heard this phrase, though when I read the definition, I recognised the syndrome. In case you’re also in the dark, it means ‘a syndrome characterised by constant anxiety in relation to one’s mobile phone and an obsessional conviction that the phone has vibrated in response to an incoming call when in fact it hasn’t’.
Honourable mentions were also given to:
- Crowdfunding (small donations canvassed through social media)
- Technomite (young child adept at using digital media)
- Marngrook (type of football played by Aboriginal people of south-eastern Australia before European settlement)
- First World problem (problem related to affluent lifestyles)
The People’s Choice Award went to First World problem.
Quotes of the month
‘An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own jokes.’
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Elaine: I was just curious why you didn’t use an exclamation point?
Jake: What are you talking about?
Elaine: See, right here you wrote ‘Myra had the baby’, but you didn’t use an exclamation point. I mean if one of your close friends had a baby and I left you a message about it, I would use an exclamation point.
Jake: Well, maybe I don’t use my exclamation points as haphazardly as you do.
(‘The Sniffing Accountant’, 1993)