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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Dash in and Use the Dash Correctly!

Many writers seem hesitant to dash in and use a dash or two in their writing.  Although it is not wise to overuse dashes, a sprinkle or two of dashes used sparingly may add a little spice to a writer's sentence structure.

Perhaps the reason for dash-less writing is the uncertainty about when to use a dash correctly.  Here are the three rules to help writers be more confident about dash use.

*Rule:  Use the dash to indicate an abrupt break in thought.


     The real villain turns out to be -- but I don't want to spoil the
     ending for those of you who have not yet seen the movie.


*Rule:  Use a dash to set off parenthetical material.


     Very few people in this class -- three to be exact -- have
     completed their projects.

*Rule:  Use a dash to mean namely, in other words, that is, and similar expressions that precede explanations.


     She joined the chorus for only one reason -- she loved to sing.

(Note:  The dash and colon are often interchangeable in this use.  A dash may be considered more emphatic than a colon.  If the dash is overused, it loses its emphasis.)

Now that you are dashing through your writing, don't forget to put the one-horse open sleigh in the barn, and laugh all the way through your dashing.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Mess of Adjectives

While dining today at a local restaurant chain, I checked out the even newer menu.  One item caught my attention immediately -- "Chop Steak."  

Was "Chop Steak" a hybrid of a chop and a steak?  Was the chop a pork or lamb one?  Was the steak stuffed with a chop perhaps?  Or could knife skills have been utilized in the chopping of the steak before cooking?  Maybe a Ninja was involved? 

The menu item should have been listed as "Chopped Steak."

It is not "ice tea;"  it's "iced tea."  It is not "old-fashion ice cream;" it's "old-fashioned ice cream."  It is not a "wind-power generator;" it's a "wind-powered generator."

A participle is a word that is formed from a verb and used as an adjective. 

For those of you who like to know the rest of the story, know that present participles end in -ing, and past participles end in -d, -ed, -n, -en, and -t (saved, talked, seen, bitten, crept). They show action, but do not serve as verbs in the sentence.  Although participles in a verb phrase containing a helping verb are thought of as verbs, other participles modify nouns and pronouns, and thus act like adjectives.

(*Note:  A hyphen is used in a compound adjective when it precedes the word it modifies.)
Standard English is not "chopped liver."  Correct these minor mistakes in writing and use adjectives correctly.  Chop chop.