Archive for May, 2011

Therefore vs. Therefor

May 26, 2011

The other day we discussed proper usage of “therefore” and “hence.” Today we will distinguish between “therefore” and “therefor.”

Therefor = for that, in return for that, for that purpose (often used in legal-speak)
Therefore = consequently, for that reason, because of that, to that end

The speaker will discuss the blowout and the causes therefor.
The speaker shall provide the laptop and all the paraphernalia therefor.
The speaker had a blowout, therefore he won’t be able to speak to us today.

There are several words like therefor that have the same legalistic or archaic tone:
•       Thereafter = after that
•       Thereby = by that means
•       Thereat = at that place
•       Therefrom = from that
•       Therein = in there, in that respect
•       Thereof = of that, from that cause
•       Thereon = on that
•       Thereto = to that
•       Therewith = with that

My dictionary says that most of these words were in use before the 12th century,
and many are considered archaic today. I would avoid using them if you are
striving for clarity, such as in communications with management or stockholders.
However, you can use them all you want if your goal is obfuscation (take note,
you lawyers and IRS instruction writers out there.)

My personal favorite of these is “thereby.”
Spam filters remove email items of lesser importance, thereby increasing

Business Quote of the Day:

A business of high principle attracts high-caliber people more easily,
thereby gaining a basic competitive and profit edge.

– Marvin Bower, late CEO of McKinsey & Company


Get Thee Hence!

May 24, 2011

I’ve noticed people using “hence” to mean “therefore” quite a bit lately, and to me the tone seemed a bit hoity-toity, as if the authors wished to appear intellectual. Usually, hence means “away from this place,” but like its old world brothers “thence” and “whence,” it can be used in a line of reasoning to come to a conclusion.

Here are some common definitions:
hence = away from here (this place or source), from this time on, from this reasoning
thence = from that place, from that time on, from that fact or circumstance
whence = from where, from what source or cause, by reason of which fact

Note that the expression “from whence” would mean “from from where,” which would be repetitively redundant.
Bad Example:                    I told him he should go back from whence he came.
Corrected Example:         I told him he should go back whence he came.

There are some old world cousins that act as opposites of hence, thence, and whence. These words, which have a “to” direction rather than a “from” direction, are rarely used:
hither = to this place, here             Example:  She gave him a “come hither” look.
thither = to that place, there           Example:  The children ran hither, thither and yon.
whither = to where; to what place   Example:  He knows not whither he goes.

How shall we remember this?  I ran across a nifty table that brings it all together

here     hither              from here       hence
there    thither            from there      thence
where  whither           from where    whence

So when should we use “hence” in a line of reasoning, and when should we use
“therefore,” and can we use “thus” instead of either of them?

Use “hence” when you mean “Therefore, from this point forward.”
Example:  Hence, we will proceed with the original casing plan.

“Therefore” means “for this reason, consequently, or because of this or that.” Use it when you want to explain WHY something happened.
Example:  The hole washed out, therefore we shouldn’t rely on the log data.

“Thus” means “in this manner or in that way.” Use it when you want to explain HOW something happened.
Example:  The rate of circulation was increased; thus, the drill bit became unstuck, and we were able to reach TD.

Sage Advice of the Day: (from my dog Pepper)

Wag more; bark less.

If vs. Whether

May 19, 2011

The word “if” is often mistakenly used as a substitute for the word “whether.” In the olden days, say, before the twelfth century, “whether” used to mean “which of the two.” Whether is always used after prepositions and before infinitives.

There was a big discussion about whether to complete the well at all. (after preposition)
They can’t decide whether to complete the well with an ESP or PCP. (before infinitive)

Both “if” and “whether” can be used in front of a clause that contains a subject and verb.
I don’t know if that kind of well can be completed at all.
I don’t know whether that kind of well can be completed at all.

How shall we remember this?

Use “if” to express a condition.
Example: We’re going to complete this well with an ESP if it produces any water.

Use “whether” to express alternatives. (Note: sometimes the “or not” option is implied.)
We’re going to complete this well with an ESP whether it produces water or not.
I’m not sure whether we’ll have time. (or not)

Funny Poem of the Day: (note the subjunctive verb tense)

Whether the weather be cold,
Or whether the weather be hot,
Whatever the weather
We’ll weather the weather,
Whether we like it or not.

Accept vs. Except

May 17, 2011

Here is another homonym pair that is sometimes confused or misused. (Hey, that rhymes!)

Accept is a verb that means to receive willingly, or to admit a person into a group, or to approve of an idea.

The summer intern accepted the job offer.
SPE accepts IT people as members if they have a degree and work in the oil
Horizontal drilling is a widely accepted method of producing oil from thin reservoirs.

Except is usually used as a preposition or conjunction, but sometimes it is a verb that means to exclude or object.

Every summer intern was offered a job except Bob.
(preposition that means “with the exception of”)

SPE would have renewed your membership except you didn’t pay your dues.
(conjunction that means “only”)

He excepted horizontal drilling from the list of potential production methods.
(verb that means “to leave out of the group”)

If in doubt, ask “leave it out?”
If the answer is yes, then use “except.”

Profound Observation of the Day:
Smiles are like hugs: whenever you give one, you get one in return.

The Wonders of Wite-Out

May 13, 2011

No, that’s not a typo in the title. Wite-Out® is a trademarked name of a correction fluid that sure comes in handy when you spot certain typos after you’ve printed out a document.

For example, you see a plural noun and a singular verb, you can whip out your Wite-Out and quickly paint over that unnecessary “s.” The same is true if you spot a singular noun used with a plural verb.

Bad Examples:
The Abracadabra formations lies beneath the Jurassic unconformity.
(paint over the s at the end of formation to make the subject singular to match the verb)

The Subsurface and Operations Teams needs to meet together to discuss surveillance.
(paint over the s at the end of need to make the verb plural to match the

Wite-Out can also be used to paint over those pesky apostrophe’s that some people use to form plural’s, rather than possessive’s. (There are three of them in that sentence.)

Say, for example, that the reserved parking sign for the VP of Operation’s has been bugging you for months. Go to the office supply closet, procure yourself a bottle of Wite-Out, head outside and walk over to that sign. Crack open the bottle, and paint over that pesky apostrophe. Give it a double coat for good measure.

And when it finally rains (hooray!) and the Wite-Out has washed off, make a game of it to see which employee paints over that apostrophe on the parking sign first. Let the winner keep some ceremonial desk doodad until the next time.

Who says good grammar can’t be fun?

Binder Spine Text Orientation

May 12, 2011

In my job, sometimes I get the dubious privilege of working on some really BIG documents; so big, in fact, that they don’t make clips big enough to hold that many pages together. Such a clip would probably be a safety hazard – especially for me. (One of the other nicknames hubby calls me is Grace, as in “Way to go, Grace!”)

A safer means of holding together big documents is the three-ring binder (although I’ve managed to pinch myself several times using those, too.) Some of these binders come with clear plastic pockets in the front so you can slip in a colorful title page. There is usually a similar pocket on the spine for a title, so you can readily pick out the correct binder in a bookcase filled with dozens of white

Here’s the question of the day: Which way do you orient the title text on the spine? You can slip it in “feet first” or “head first.” Which is correct?

As a Texaco Librarian in a former life, I remember tilting my head to the right to read the titles of books on the shelves in the movable stacks. (You can always tell a librarian or bookstore employee by their unsymmetrical neck muscles.) Upon further investigation, I learned that according to Wikipedia, in the US, the UK, and Scandinavia, book spine titles are generally written with the left-to-right title oriented top-to-bottom. That means you would insert the title slip into the binder spine pocket feet first. That way, when the book is placed on a table with the front cover upwards, the title is right side up. In most of continental Europe, however, the general convention for book spine text is the opposite, or bottom-to-top.

Now here’s your helpful Tip of the Day:
Getting that thin slip of paper into that spine pocket can really try your patience. After doing this a number of times, I have discovered four tricks that really help:

1) Cut your title slip so it is a good deal thinner than the binder spine width. For a two-inch binder, make your slip 1.5 inches wide or even narrower so it doesn’t get hung up along the pinched sides.

2) Open the binder as far as you can. This will make the clear plastic less taut across the binder, opening up the pocket a bit wider for you.

3) Stand the binder upright so you are pushing the title slip downward, allowing gravity to help you. Hey, every little bit counts!

4) Wiggle the slip of paper back and forth as you push it “feet first” down into
the pocket. There’s a good reason for this, and I learned it in high school physics class: The coefficient of kinetic friction is lower than the coefficient of static friction.

Keep in mind that if you write your documents more succinctly, you might be able to use a simple clip and not have to fool with binder spine slips at all.

That, Than, Then, and Them Typos

May 10, 2011

Old Eagle-Eye has been catching some itty-bitty typos lately:
“that” instead of “than”
“than” instead of “that”
“than” instead of “then”
“then” instead of “than”
“then” instead of “them”
“them” instead of “then”

You’ve got to be looking very carefully to catch these errors, because these four-letter words are nearly invisible (compared to other four-letter words). When you’re reading, your eye just seems to skip right over them and focus on more important things, such as nouns and verbs. You really have to train your eyes to focus on the little things if you’re going to be a good editor or proofreader.

Now, my husband will tell you that Eagle-Eye is not his preferred nickname for me (that would be Sweetmeat). You see, I’ve been wearing glasses every waking moment since kindergarten, way back in the Cretaceous. I used to have a pair of pink, sparkly cat glasses that came up to a point at the temples. There’s a picture of me missing two front teeth wearing those glasses – YIKES! Nearly half a century later, I now have graduated bifocals with large corrections for astigmatism. So if I can see these little typos, so can you. Keep an Eagle Eye out for then, er, I mean them.

Good vs. Well

May 6, 2011

Everyone in our industry knows a good well when he or she sees one. However, sometimes these same people use the word “good” instead of “well” when the latter should be used as the preferred adverb.

“Good” is an adjective that describes a noun, as in our “good well” example.
That tastes good.
I feel good, Na na Na na Na na Na.
I knew that I would, Na na Na na Na na Na.
(with apologies to James Brown – Yeow!)

“Well” is usually an adverb that modifies a verb. It means “in a satisfactory manner.”
I’m doing very well, thank you.
Here, “well” describes how you are “doing” (verb).

According to Webster’s Ninth Dictionary, “Good as an adverb occurs chiefly in speech and is considered by some to be less than standard; it is seldom found in edited prose except in representations of speech.”

Bad Examples: She sings good. He did good on his exam.
Corrected Examples: She sings well. He did well on his exam.

If you say “You look good,” it means you appear attractive.
If you say “You look well,” it means you appear healthy.
That’s because “well” can also be an adjective meaning “in good health” or “not sick.”

Another one of the many vagaries of the English language.

Profound Quote of the Day:

“Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.”
– Charlotte Whitton

Cannot vs. Can’t vs. Can Not

May 5, 2011

The negative version of the verb form “can”  is the single word “cannot.”
It means being unable to or not being permitted  to do something.
The funny thing about the word “cannot” is you can put the  accent on either syllable.

I simply cannot tolerate people  who drag meetings on and on and on.
I cannot tell the difference between  those identical twins.

The contraction of the single word cannot is  can’t. This is a more informal usage, particularly popular in the South in the  US.

The song “I Can’t Say No,” from the musical  Oklahoma!

There are a few special times when you can split the word  cannot into two separate words. Those times are when the “not” negates or refers  to the verb following it, rather than the word “can” that precedes it. It is an  emphatic form of a compound verb.

You can eat it, or you can  not eat it – that’s up to you.
I can work here, or I can not work here, depending on whether I have a better offer.

These examples do not express  the idea of being able or being permitted to do something; rather, they express a choice between two options: doing it and not doing it.

“I cannot work here” means “I am unable to work here” or “I’m not allowed to work here.”
“I can not work here” means “I am able to not work here; I’m able to work somewhere else.”
“I can’t work here” means there are so many interruptions that I cannot get anything done, so I’m going to find a nice, quiet conference room somewhere so I can be more productive.

Quote of the Day:

“Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love.”
– Albert Einstein

Though vs. Although

May 4, 2011

“Although” is a conjunction (linking word) that expresses the idea of contrast. It means “in spite of the fact that.” It is usually used when the condition given is positive, but the outcome or result is negative.

Although everyone showed up on time, the meeting began 15 minutes late.

“Though” means the same as “although,” but it is used slightly differently, in a poetic or more informal way.

Though the stars may fall from the sky, I shall remain loyal to my true love. (poetic)
I liked the shoes. I decided not to buy them, though. (informal)

“Even though” is an expression that is stronger and more emphatic than “although.” It is often used when the condition given is negative, but the outcome or result is positive.

Even though it was way past quitting time, the Grammar Godmother diligently sent out her writing tip of the day.