Archive for December, 2010

The Royal Order of Adverbs

December 22, 2010

Yesterday we considered the order of priority when listing multiple adjectives. Did you know there is also a preferred order for multiple adverbs and adverbial phrases? No? Me neither. We learn something new every day together!

Here’s the Royal Order of Adverbs:

#1 = Manner (how?) Examples: quickly, with enthusiasm

#2 = Place (where?) Examples: downhole, around the corner

#3 = Frequency (how often?) Examples: daily, every week

#4 = Time (when?) Examples: before cementing, at noon

#5 = Purpose (why?) Examples: to prevent blowouts, to keep everyone up to date

Here is an example of a 1-2-3-4-5 construction:

 We have safety meetings religiously at the wellsite every morning at 8:00 a.m. to discuss any hot work needed for the tie-ins.

There is a little more flexibility in the Royal Order of Adverbs than there is in the Royal Order of Adjectives. For instance, shorter adverbs can precede longer adverbial phrases, regardless of the Royal Order. Sometimes the most important adverb or adverbial phrase comes at the beginning of the sentence, set off by a comma.

Example of a 1-1,–1-2-5:

Slowly and carefully, lower the thing-a-bobber gradually into the slot to lock it in place.

This will be my last Tip of the Day for 2010, so let me close with this Royal Order example:

Thankfully, I will be enjoying my vacation at home, sleeping in every day from Dec. 23 to Jan. 2 until well past 8:00 a.m. to rest up for what looks to be a hectic year in 2011.


Brain Teaser Question of the Day:

There are 14 punctuation marks in English grammar.

Can you name at least half of them?

Answer: Fourteen punctuation marks in English grammar:

Period .

Comma ,

Colon :

Semicolon :

Dash –

Hyphen –

Question mark ?

Apostrophe ‘

Exclamation point !

Quotation mark ”

Brackets [ ]

Parentheses ( )

Braces { }

Ellipses …

The Royal Order of Adjectives

December 22, 2010

I bet you didn’t know that there is a certain order in which to put multiple adjectives describing the same thing.
Native English speakers do it without thinking about it, but for those people learning English as a second or third language, we should define the proper order.

We admire “your shiny new red car” and not “red new shiny your car.”

Here is the official order of priority:
#1 = Determiner – definite or indefinite articles and possessives
Examples: the office, your boss

#2 = Observation or opinion
Examples: interesting comment, expensive valve

#3 = Size and shape
Examples: round, three-inch

#4 = Age
Examples: new, five-year-old

#5 = Color
Examples: mottled, red

#6 = Origin
Examples: British, home-made

#7 = Material
Examples: stainless steel, limestone

#8 = Qualifier, often an integral part of the noun
Examples: ball valve, drilling rig

Thus, “your shiny new red car” would be a  1-2-4-5 car, obeying the Royal Order.
We usually put commas in between multiple adjectives in a row, unless the words are really short and string together nicely like the shiny new red car (we wouldn’t say “shiny, new, red car”).

Their reliable, four-inch, used, purple, Swedish, stainless steel butterfly valve is a 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8.
And so are her delicious, big, annual, decorated, home-made, gingerbread Christmas cookies.

Five Times Lower / Less / Smaller

December 10, 2010

How can something be five times lower, or five times less, or five times smaller than something else?

Clearly, the people who write such expressions do not understand fractions, decimals, or percentages (although they might comprehend factors or orders of magnitude). Petroleum engineers, however, should exhibit ample evidence in their writing that they eat fractions, decimals, and percentages for breakfast. Therefore, they should never use these expressions, lest someone think the other numbers in the document equally fuzzy.

In the engineering world, five times larger means 5× or “multiply by 5.” If X is smaller than Y by a factor of five, then X = Y/5. That means X is one-fifth the size of Y, or 20% of the size, which translates to 80% smaller or a value that is 80% lower. Use those expressions instead to ensure clarity and give the impression that your number sense is 100%.

Little Things That Bug Me

December 9, 2010

I’ve been editing almost all day today, and I ran across six little things I wanted to share with y’all.

#1: Dean-Stark is hyphenated; Karl Fischer is not.

#2: Homogenous and homogeneous mean the same thing, but the former is used more often when talking about chemicals or food, while the latter is used more often when talking about rocks.

#3: Rubblized, not rubbelized

#4: Liquefied, not liquified

#5: A compound subject made up of two singular nouns takes a plural verb.
Resolution and clarity are compromised when that happens.

#6: Critical means crucial or vital. It is a black-or-white, life-or-death property with no gray area. Therefore there should be no adverbs in front of it that connote a measureable degree of criticality, such as “especially critical” or “particularly critical.” It’s either critical, or it’s not.


Hilarious Typo of the Day:

Instead of being insulated, the cooler for the core samples was “insulted.”

Like vs. Such As

December 8, 2010

There is a subtle difference in meaning between these two expressions when you are listing items.

This company promotes employees from within like Tom, Dick, and Harry.
This company promotes employees from within such as Tom, Dick, and Harry.

In the first sentence, Tom, Dick, and Harry are not necessarily the people being promoted from within; rather, people from within who have characteristics similar to them, or people like them, are being promoted.

In the second sentence, Tom, Dick, and Harry are cited as examples of people from within who have been promoted.

Here’s another set of examples:
PetroAir plans to have direct flights to major oil industry centers like Dubai, Aberdeen, and Houston.
PetroAir plans to have direct flights to major oil industry centers such as Dubai, Aberdeen, and Houston.

Although this sentence could go either way, the first example hints that other cities with a critical mass of oil professionals would likely have direct flights, whereas the second example gives three cities that are certainly on their list. Subtle, but different.

In short, if you mean “resembling,” use “like,” and if you are citing specific examples in a group, use “such as.”

Not On Monday

December 8, 2010

When referring to something happening on a certain date or day of the week, often you can eliminate the word “on.”

Due to the holiday, our weekly team meeting will be held Tuesday.
The meeting with the Ministry of Oil will be held Jan. 21.

There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, and generally these involve clearing up any misunderstandings.

He told Joe on Friday that the compressor would be down for routine maintenance.

In this case, “He told Joe Friday” might bring to mind memories of Dragnet TV shows.

Another exception would be to avoid confusion as to which of two events actually happen on that date.

Bad Example:
The tender board approved a contract to begin construction of the gas processing plant Wednesday.
(They are not going to begin construction Wednesday; the tender board approved the contract Wednesday.)

Corrected Example:
The tender board approved on Wednesday a contract to begin construction of the gas processing plant.

More or Less Compared To

December 3, 2010

What is wrong with this sentence?
Rotary sidewall coring is more expensive compared to percussion sidewall coring methods.

The first thing wrong with it was covered recently in Tip #153, where we learned that “compared with” is used for contrasting, whereas “compared to” is used for “likened to.”

The second thing wrong with it is the wordiness and redundancy of “more … compared to.” The concept of “more” already embodies the idea of a comparison, and so the correct expression would be “more … than.”

Corrected Example:
Rotary sidewall coring is more expensive than percussion sidewall coring methods.

The same rule applies to expressions where something is less, rather than more.

Bad Example:
This sugar-free fudge has less calories compared to my mother’s fudge recipe.

To correct this, first we must remember (Tip #20) that we use “fewer,” not “less” for countable items. Second, the word “less” already states a comparison, so “compared to” is redundant, not to mention wrong due to the fact that we are contrasting. Thus, the correct sentence should read:

This sugar-free fudge has fewer calories than my mother’s fudge recipe.

But it just doesn’t taste the same!

Floating Hyphens

December 1, 2010

Every now and then we may run into a situation where we have two hyphenated words in the same sentence, and each of them has the same word to the right of the hyphen.

Bad Example:
The pressure-dependent and temperature-dependent properties need to be input into the model before running the simulator.

This certainly sounds redundantly repetitive, and it is.
That is why we use a “floating” or “suspended” hyphen for the first occurrence. This construction is also called a hanging hyphen or a dangling hyphen.

Good Examples:
The pressure- and temperature-dependent properties need to be input into the model before running the simulator.
Simultaneous translation was available for French- and Spanish-speaking delegates.
He listened to classical music written by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century composers.
This chemical additive should not be used if there are any phosphorus- or sulfur-containing compounds in the solution.

Many nontechnical editors prefer to avoid floating hyphens by rewording the sentence.

He listened to classical music written by composers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
This chemical additive should not be used if the solution has any compounds containing phosphorus or sulfur.

However, the SPE Style Guide and several other style guides say it’s OK, and the floating hyphen certainly comes in handy on occasion.

By the way, the hanging hyphen can also dangle on the other side.
The Eni-owned and -operated Blacktip gas field lies off the northern coast of Australia.