The Grammar Factor – just three dots, anticipate and expect, different from

August 2012

Just three dots

The topic of ellipses (singular = ellipsis) came up at a workshop recently.

An ellipsis is the three dots ( … ) we use to indicate we’ve left something out of what we’re quoting from. We also use them informally to trail off our thoughts and indicate we could tell you more, but…

One thing is definite about ellipses – they are always three dots; never more, never fewer.

But spacing is a different story. Here are some variants:

She droned on and on… (Microsoft preference)
She droned on and on …
She droned on and on . . .

More important than style is when to use ellipses. If we use them to show we’ve shortened a long quotation, we need to be careful we don’t change the original author’s meaning. For example:

‘This novel is badly written, but it is written with passion.’

In the hands of an unscrupulous blurb writer, this could become:

‘This novel… is written with passion.’

If you use ellipses informally in emails, do it sparingly. Most people find their overuse annoying.

Unless, of course, you’re a genius like Charles Schulz and make them a punctuation style.
http://www.gocomics.com/peanuts/2012/08/08

More information in my online program and punctuation guide: www.onlinewritingtraining.com.au

Difference between anticipate and expect

A reader pointed out that one of the examples in my last newsletter confused anticipate with expect and it’s one of his pet peeves. (The example was a reader’s, not mine!)

So what’s the difference?

These words are often used interchangeably, but anticipate means to expect something and take action in expectation. Expect means regard as likely to happen and does not require any action.

When smoke came out of the volcano, the authorities anticipated it might erupt and ordered the villagers to evacuate. (If you anticipate changes you prepare to deal with them.)

She expected to get high grades because she had worked hard and the exam was easy. (There’s nothing she can do now to influence the results.)

Difference between different from, different to and different than

A reader wrote that his mother taught him to use different from rather than different to or different than, a rule he still uses though he is aware that all usages are now standard.

He is right – all three usages are standard and have been for a long time, but different from is still the only one that seems to meet no objections.

Michael Quinion has written an interesting piece on this topic at http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-dif1.htm

Most searched items on www.onlinegrammar.com.au

Since I am on a theme of word differences this month, I thought I’d share some of the top searches for my online grammar website. They surprise me!

Disorganised and unorganised
Plural of status
Staff or staffs
Lodgement or lodgment and judgement or judgment
Inquire or enquire
Coordinate or co-ordinate

Articles on writing

Semicolons: a Love Story
If you’re a fan of semicolons and find them a useful punctuation mark, read this article by a semicolon fan. http://nyti.ms/LgZM3E

Is the AP Style Guide Archaic?
John McWhorter, an Associate Professor at Columbia who teaches linguistics, believes the justification for sticking to style rules are dim. I agree that style guides lag behind usage, but think organisations need style guides for consistency. Inconsistent styles within, for example, a board pack, are distracting. http://bit.ly/LCeNco

Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please
An oldie, but a goody. Plain language saves time and money, and pleases and persuades readers. And there’s plenty of evidence in this article to support that statement.
http://www.plainlanguagenetwork.org/kimble/dollars.htm

Pet peeves, anyone?
Would you care if someone said: ‘There’s new people you should meet’ rather than ‘There are…’? Finding the balance between sticking with the traditional rules and moving with the times is always a challenge.
http://on.wsj.com/Moa6UZ

Quote of the month

Good sentences are the sinew of style.
The Oxford Essential Guide to Writing

 
 

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