Archive for February, 2011

Three Little Things

February 25, 2011

I’ve been editing a field development plan and I saw a few little things I wanted to share with the Peanut Gallery.

1)      The preferred plural of “annulus” is “annuli,” not “annuluses.” The latter makes me cringe as bad as when I hear a new piece of chalk screech on a blackboard.
2)      “The wells were cold produced” should be “The wells were produced cold.” Cold is usually an adjective, but in this case it is an adverb describing how the well was produced. One of the definitions for the adverb “cold” is “without preparation or warm-up,” which would apply to wells producing oil before steam injection begins. Would you say “The wells were without warm-up produced?” Surely not. You would say: “The wells were produced without warm-up.” Therefore, the word “cold” should follow “produced,” not precede it.
3)      The phrase “currently ongoing” is redundant. It’s just ongoing, which means “being actually in progress.”

I got a question the other day about monetary expressions:
“Can you say $5 hundred, $5 thousand, and $500 thousand instead of $500, $5,000, and $500,000, respectively?”

Answer: No, those three expressions are not used at all. However, sometimes $5,000 is expressed $5K, and $500,000 can be expressed as either $500K or $0.5 million, depending on how other amounts in the same vicinity in the document are expressed.


Time Ranges

February 19, 2011

As a follow-up to yesterday’s Tip of the Day, today we shall discuss how to express a range of times.

There are two ways to express a time range:
1)      Use an en-dash with no spaces on either side of it.  Example:  9–10 a.m.
2)      Use the “from X to Y” format.  Example:  from 9 to 10 a.m.

Do not use both or a mixture of the two.  Bad Example:  from 9–10 a.m.

If the starting time for an event and the ending time are on opposite sides of noon or midnight, you will need to specify a.m. and p.m. next to the respective time. However, if the event is contained entirely in the morning or evening, you will only need to use a.m. or p.m. once.

Breakfast is served 6–9 a.m.
The team meeting will be held in the Visionarium 9 a.m.–noon.
Lunch is served 11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m. (no “from” and no spaces before or after en-dash)
Dinner is served from 5 to 10 p.m.
The bar is crowded from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Now I’m really hungry.

My personal favorite time range expression is found on a party invitation:  8 p.m.–’til
Although technically it is redundant.

Time Formats

February 18, 2011

Use numerals rather than words to express the time of day in 12-hour format, and use a colon to separate the minutes from the hours.
You do not need the extraneous zeros to the right of the colon for the straight-up hour. Use lower case letters and periods with no space in between for the abbreviations for ante meridiem (Latin for “before midday”) and post meridiem (“after midday”).

10 a.m.   3 p.m.   9:45 a.m.   2:45 p.m.

The construction “3 o’clock in the afternoon” is acceptable, but it is usually only used in formal invitations.

Here are some Bad Examples and Corrected Examples:
eight p.m. => 8 p.m.  (use numeral, not word)
9 a.m. this morning => 9 a.m. today  (redundant)
8:30 p.m. Tuesday evening => 8:30 p.m. Tuesday  (redundant)

Trivia Questions:
Is noon 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.?
Is midnight 12 p.m. or 12 a.m.?

Neither. They are simply noon and midnight. They are not 12 noon or 12 midnight.

According to the AP Stylebook, midnight is considered part of the day that is ending, not part of the day that is beginning, contrary to the practice of most New Year’s revelers.

Airlines and railroads use 12:01 a.m. for arrivals and departures at the very beginning of the day, and they use 12:01 p.m. for noontime trips.
The easy way to remember this is p.m. = post meridiem, or immediately after midday.

Extra Tip of the Day from the Peanut Gallery

February 17, 2011

Christian L. shared a quick way to get the correct length of line for a hyphen, en-dash and em-dash. He noted that the shortest keyboard sequence resulted in the shortest length of the line. This only works in Microsoft Word using the minus sign on the number keypad to the right, not the hyphen in the top row of letters.

Em dash (as in “Fig. 1—Well schematic”)
Keyboard sequence: Ctrl Alt –

En dash (as in “1980–90”)
Keyboard sequence: Ctrl –

Hyphen (as in “re-elect”)
      Keyboard sequence: –


February 17, 2011

A contraction is a shortcut word, usually with an apostrophe to substitute for missing letters. It may be a combination of two words or just a shorter word.
Contractions are often used in spoken language, but should be used less often in written form, as I will describe below.

I + am = I’m
I + have = I’ve
I + will = I’ll
I + had = I’d
These are usually OK to use in emails, but perhaps not in formal writing.

Some contractions can be confusing because they can mean multiple things.
She’s = She + is = She + has
“She’s an ugly dog” could get you in big trouble if you meant “she has” and she thinks you meant “she is!”

Some contractions are confused with homonyms (sound the same):
It + is = It’s – confused with the possessive “its”
We + are = We’re – confused with the verb form “were”
You + are = You’re – confused with the possessive “your”
They + are = They’re – confused with “there” and “their”
In these cases, it is best to spell out both words rather than use a contraction.

A similar argument can be made for “he’d,” which could mean “he had” or “he would.” Again, spell out both words to remove confusion.

One contraction form that is fairly acceptable in written form is:
not = n’t
He wouldn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t, didn’t, wasn’t and won’t (= will not) convey understandable thoughts without sounding stilted or stuffy.
Compare “Don’t you like it?” with “Do not you like it?”
See what I mean?

Another acceptable contraction:
Let us = Let’s (first person plural imperative, not “allow us”)
Compare “Let’s go.” with “Let us go.”
The first is the beginning of an adventure; the second is the end of bondage.

Some contractions are only used in writing.
Gov’t = Government
Int’l = International

Some contractions are considered to be very informal and should be avoided in most written works, with the exception of quoted dialogue.

ain’t = am not
gonna = going to
lemme = let me
getcha = get you
meetcha = meet you
don’tcha = don’t you

“I ain’t gonna eat worms, no way!”
“Lemme getcha some snails, then.”
“Pleased to meetcha! It’s sure hot, don’tcha think?”

Sometimes in everyday speech you end up with compound contractions.
I’d’ve = I would have
wouldn’t’ve = would not have
These should be avoided in business writing.

Another one to be avoided:
Them = ’em
“Love ’em and leave ’em.”
Remember the Rock’em Sock’em Robots toys?  WAY before Nintendo!

There are a few old contractions that are often used in writing:
madam = ma’am (make sure you use the contraction in Texas)
of = o’ (ten o’clock, song title “Peg o’ My Heart”)
it was = ’twas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house.
It was the night before Christmas and….

Spelling it out totally changes the poem from anapestic meter to dactylic meter. That takes poetic license a tad too far!

Dollars and Cents

February 17, 2011

In many documents we generate in the oil industry, some of the most important things the readers will note are the costs and prices and estimated profits to be made; therefore, expressing amounts of currency in the most understandable and readable way is critical.

Bad Example:  US$3.477MM

For the dollar currency, the AP Stylebook recommends using the dollar sign ($) for all references except very casual ones and those without a numeral.

The price of West Texas Intermediate rose $2.13 today.
I’ll bet you a dollar the weekly meeting will be canceled this afternoon.
The yen increased against the dollar again today.

For amounts less than a dollar, use a numeral followed by the word “cents.” For amounts more than a dollar, use the $ and two decimal places.

My very first job was selling soda pop for 25 cents a can on weekends at the golf course across the street. My mom bought it for 10 cents a can, and I usually earned about $7.20 each day. The golfers asked me why I didn’t sell beer. I told them it was because I was only 10 years old.

Here is the preferred form for various amounts:
5 cents     $1.05     $5
$50     $500     $5,000   $500,000
$5 million     $5.55 million     $500 billion
Note that unnecessary zeroes after the decimal point are eliminated. Such zeroes should be maintained in columns or tables if any of the amounts listed contain non-zero cents.

Now, the SPE Style Guide prefers using the ISO abbreviations for currencies rather than symbols such as $, £, ¥, or €. This is because such symbols are often lost in translation to HTML online, resulting in gobbledygoop in the online database. The ISO currency abbreviations, such as USD, GBP, JPY, and EUR, can be found at this link:

If you will be using the same currency throughout a document with many amounts mentioned, such as in a proposed budget or development plan, a statement at the beginning noting that all amounts are in US dollars will suffice; then you can use the $ format described above.

Never start a sentence with an amount of money; however, an amount of money as a subject of a phrase is always singular.

Bad Example:  $555 million for the weekly lottery was a new record.
Good Example: He said $76 million is the most he would pay for that property.

Companies and Corporations

February 15, 2011

The AP Stylebook recommends abbreviating the words “Company” and “Corporation” as Co. and Corp., respectively, when they appear at the end of a proper name, but not if the word occurs elsewhere in the name.


Ford Motor Co.                  Aluminum Company of America

Gulf Oil Corp.                      Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Subsequent references to “the company” or “the corporation” should be spelled out and not capitalized.


Quirky Car Co. came out with a new model, the Zoomer. The company believes this revolutionary “green” car will make gasoline obsolete.

The Perfidius Corp. was indicted for offering bribes to foreign countries to drill for oil. The corporation is also being sued by stockholders for fraud.

For plurals, Co. becomes Cos., as in American Broadcasting Cos.

For possessives, the thing belonging to the Co. becomes the Co.’s, and the thing belonging to the Corp. becomes the Corp.’s.

For plural possessives, the thing belonging to the companies becomes the Cos.’

Hyphenated Oilfield Terms

February 11, 2011

Here are a few words that, like many oilfield terms, are hyphenated when used as one part of speech, but are not hyphenated when used as another part of speech:

flow-test (adj.)           We hope to flow-test the well tomorrow.
flow test (noun)         Tomorrow we will do a flow test.

ramp-up (adj., noun)        We expect the ramp-up in production to take 6 months.
ramp up (verb)                    We expect to ramp up production over the next 6 months.

slip-lock (adjective)           We intend to use a slip-lock completion.
slip lock (noun)                     We intend to use a slip lock during completion.

Here are some other hyphenated terms you won’t find in any other style guide:
free-water knockout

And here’s one that is not hyphenated, no matter how badly you want to:
heater treater

I have submitted these as potential additions to the SPE Style Guide, so maybe they will add them the next time they update it.

Photo vs. Picture

February 10, 2011

I got a question from the Peanut Gallery today:

“What is the difference between using the words ‘photo’ and ‘picture’? It is confusing me most of the time.”

I would say that a photograph (photo for short) is a subset of the category “picture.” Hence, a photo is always a picture, but a picture is not always a photo.

Photos are images taken with a camera (or cell phone these days), whereas pictures can also be drawn by hand using pencil or crayon, painted, or even generated by computers using Microsoft Paint software, for example.

 They say “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but not if I’m generating it!
I can’t even take a decent photo, which would have come in handy in my prior job as a magazine editor. I’ll just have to stick to words as my tools for conveying information.

Fascinating Fact:
The word “photograph” first appeared in the English language in 1839, whereas the word “photo” didn’t come into fashion until 1860, according to Webster’s Ninth Edition dictionary. In 1839 Louis Daguerre invented the first practical process of photography, naming it after himself – the daguerreotype. It involved a sheet of silver-plated copper, polished and coated in iodine, creating a light-sensitive surface. The plate was placed in a camera and exposed for a few minutes, then bathed in a solution of silver chloride to form a lasting image that would not change if exposed to light.

Another Fun Fact:
Pinhole cameras date back to around 1000 A.D.
They were based on an observation made around 330 B.C by Aristotle, who noted that the sun made a circular image when it shined through a square hole.

Pairs of Commas

February 10, 2011

Commas are sometimes used to set off an interrupting thought in the middle of a sentence, much the same way that parentheses or dashes are used. The trouble is, sometimes the writer forgets to put the second comma in, leaving editors like me hanging, waiting for the other shoe to fall.

Bad Example:
Well 73, currently producing 65 bbl/day of oil is the next one on the list for a workover.

There should be a second comma after “oil” to frame the extraneous information on both sides from the rest of the sentence, which can stand alone without it.

You can move the extraneous information to the beginning or the end of the sentence, in which case only one comma is needed.

Good Examples:
Currently producing 65 bbl/day of oil, Well 73 is the next one on the list for a workover.
Well 73, currently producing 65 bbl/day of oil, is the next one on the list for a workover.
Well 73 is the next one on the list for a workover, currently producing 65 bbl/day of oil.