By Mary Morel | November 2016
Your grammar questions answered
Punctuation with brackets
Question: A colleague often uses a full stop after a bracket that has an exclamation mark at the end:
(So it looks like this!).
Is it correct to have a full stop after an exclamation mark in a bracket? I’m sure it’s wrong but not sure why!
Answer: In the example you gave the full stop is wrong.
But if that statement were part of a sentence, it would be correct. Here’s an example:
I am writing this in the middle of the night (I can’t sleep!).
I am writing this in the middle of the night. (I can’t sleep!)
In the first example, the information in brackets is part of the sentence. In the second statement, the information in brackets is a separate sentence.
I think dashes sometimes work better than brackets in informal writing. Brackets feel intrusive at times. What do you think?
Position of ‘solely’
Question: Which is correct?
Success cannot solely depend on hard work.
Success cannot depend solely on hard work.
In your answer can you say why?
Answer: The general rule with adverbs is that you put them as close as possible to what they modify. Following that rule, the second sentence is more correct.
However, I think ‘solely’ is a bit like ‘only’, and The Guide to Grammar & Writing website says:
‘The issue of the proper placement of ‘only’ has long been argued among grammarians. Many careful writers will insist that ‘only’ be placed immediately before the word or phrase it modifies. Thus ‘I only gave him three dollars’ would be rewritten as ‘I gave him only three dollars’. Some grammarians, however, have argued that such precision is not really necessary, that there is no danger of misreading ‘I only gave him three dollars’ and that ‘only’ can safely and naturally be placed between the subject and the verb. The argument has been going on for two hundred years.’
Question: Can I use ‘provided’ as an adjective before ‘information’ or only as a past participle after the noun. For example:
I have examined the information provided
I have examined the provided information
Answer: I think the first sentence sounds better, but wasn’t sure that the second sentence was actually wrong, so I posted your question to the Online Writing Training Facebook group.
The consensus was that ‘provided’ cannot be used as an adjective. I am still not sure because I think the following sentence, which is similar, sounds OK:
I have examined the enclosed information.
What do you think?
Self-paced grammar courses
Improve your grammar skills for just $39 a month with my self-paced grammar courses.
My recent blogs and podcasts
Are you a cat or dog person?
A rant about how business writing has become more personal!
My other blog and podcasts are about board papers for my new online Write to Govern course. It is 99% complete and will launch next month. Read more
A conversation with David Wright about strategy and board papers
David says strategy addresses three questions:
1. Why are we here? Why do we exist? This is sometimes called the purpose.
2. At a very high level, what do we want to achieve in the long term?
3. How do we want to achieve that?
Managing the blur between governance and operations
Podcast with New Zealand non-executive director Rod Campbell on board papers. He challenges the mantra ‘directors govern and managers manage’, and has an alternative: ‘managers manage and directors manage the managers, change the managers, or take the consequences if the managers don’t manage well’.
Listen to find out what he means.
Improving financial reporting to the board
Listen to Aaron Slater, Head of Enterprise Performance at Australia Post, talk about the improvements his team is making with financial reporting.
Join the Online Writing Training Facebook group
Join the Online Writing Training Facebook group to discuss writing and grammar. It’s fun!
Interesting articles about writing
Funny road signs that actually exist
It’s worth flicking through these – some are most amusing.
26 annoying business clichés you should stop using immediately
I quite like clichés, but don’t use many in this list. What cliches do you use?
8 phrases that can make your business writing seem outdated
Still on the subject of clichés, I recently said someone wasn’t a ‘box of birds’ and was met with a blank stare. Is your business writing outdated? Read more (‘Box of birds’ is New Zealand slang and means ‘in good health’.)
The language rules we know – but don’t know we know
This BBC article explains some rules I am sure you know intuitively.
Word of the year
The Oxford Dictionaries word of the year is:
Definition: relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.
The word is mostly associated with politics.
Put more simply: lies.
Quote of the month
‘The awful part of the writing game is that you can never be sure the stuff is any good.’
P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters