Factorial – March 2011

Sentence structure

In The Elements of Style, William Strunk said:

‘Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end.’

Yet many teachers of plain language teach: ‘Get to the point at the beginning of the sentence.’ Who is right?

Both are right – putting the main message at the end and getting to the point are complementary messages. These two ideas just address different aspects of writing sentences.

We use the first part of the sentence to briefly introduce the topic and the end part to comment on it. So when teachers say ‘get to the point’, they usually mean ‘introduce your topic clearly and concisely’. The first part of a sentence is usually shorter than the end because it is old or given information. This information may be shared or general knowledge or information previously mentioned in the text.

The end of the sentence has the new information, which is often more complex and weightier than the first part. This is known as the principle of ‘end weight’.


Did you know that OK was first used on the second page of the Boston Morning Post as an abbreviation for ‘all correct’ (o.k.)?

In Boston, in the late 1830s, newspaper editors enjoyed inventing fanciful abbreviations, such as ‘WOOOFC’ for ‘with one of our first citizens’. That abbreviation didn’t stick, but OK did.

Read the full article about OK at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12503686

Email marketing

If you want to learn more about email marketing, you can watch a webinar at http://www.hubspot.com/the-science-of-email-marketing  

Be warned – you have to give your details.

In a nutshell:
• Don’t be afraid to send too much email
• Optimise for mobiles
• Use lots of links
• Send emails early in the morning
• Try sending emails at the weekend

I did recently optimise for mobiles, but don’t worry – you are not about to receive more emails from me.

Pet peeves

This section is for readers’ pet peeves. 

This month’s pet peeves are media commentators saying:
• ‘weather conditions’ for ‘weather’
• ‘emergency situations’ for ‘emergencies’
• ‘behaviour issues’ for ‘bad behaviour’

Date format

If you’re interested in different countries’ date styles, this page is interesting:

Quote of the month

Perfection may be the ideal, but it is the death of done.
Joseph M. Williams and Gregory Colomb, Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace


online grammar
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