Recreate v. Re-create

To recreate is to have fun; to re-create is to make something again. Strictly speaking, the unhyphenated version could mean both, but using the hyphen indisputably makes the meaning clearer.

One Must Follow Another

When combining thoughts in a sentence, stop and consider: do they go together? THEY DON’T FOLLOW: If you don’t mind splurging, each dish tastes homemade. What does one’s mind-set about spending money have to do with how food tastes? BUT THIS MAKES SENSE: Each dish tastes homemade and is worth the considerable expense.

Easy on the Dashes

A sentence should contain no more than one parenthetical phrase set off by dashes. Try reading a sentence with two such phrases. Do you get as lost trying to track the original thought as I do? HUH? The spicy pizza—loaded with chili peppers and hot sauce—brought such tears to my eyes—not to mention pain to … Continue reading

Slash v. Hyphen

Use a slash to show that two words share an interchangeable relationship; use a hyphen to join two words but keep their meanings separate. IMPOSSIBLE AND TROUBLING IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT: “daddy/daughter dance” MORE ACCEPTABLE AND ANATOMICALLY WITHIN REASON: “daddy-daughter dance” The question to ask when deciding which to use is: do I mean … Continue reading

Bigger Words Aren’t Smarter Words

Among beats amongst, and amid beats amidst. These are only two examples of simplicity trumping ornamentation. Merriam-Webster lists amongst and amidst as variants of their shorter siblings. The writer who uses these words doesn’t seem more authoritative or learned; in fact, their use signals that the writer is trying to impress the reader with gaudy … Continue reading

Make Your Verbs Work

Often, lists are more complex than just “a cat, a dog and a bunny.” When a list does start to get complicated, review the sentence to ensure that your verb works with each noun in the list. IT DOESN’T WORK: The day of celebration includes a luncheon, candle ceremony, potluck dinner and the Rev. George … Continue reading

Writing Is Not Speaking

When you have a verbal conversation, context and body language fill in the gaps created by the more lax style of communication. Not so in writing. Clarity is muddied when the contractions and omissions of speech are translated to the page. TOO INFORMAL FOR MY LIKING: Baker Frank Goldberg’s making croissants that have the whole … Continue reading

Who vs. That

A who is a human. A that is anything else. These words aren’t interchangeable. COLD DISTANCE: “Jerry, the auto mechanic that fixed my car last time, has moved on to another shop.” APPROPRIATE RECOGNITION: “Jerry, the auto mechanic who fixed my car last time, has moved on to another shop.” There’s some debate about which … Continue reading

I vs. Me

Don’t let the old and I rule overwhelm you. Sometimes and me really is correct. How do you know which one to use? Just remove the other person. NOPE: “That’s what he said to Craig and I.” (Take out Craig: “That’s what he said to I.”) YEP: “That’s what he said to Craig and me.”

Say It Once

Repeating a thing or idea in a sentence with a similar word or parallel phrase doesn’t strengthen—and in fact muddies—your point. NO NEED: Hayley lives her life like many other young girls, blissfully unaware of any problems or real tribulations. THERE YOU GO: Hayley lives her life like many other young girls, blissfully unaware of … Continue reading