Archive for March, 2012

As Well As

March 29, 2012

We’ve already discussed compound subjects, which have two subjects connected with the conjunction “and” that take the same plural verb. But sometimes there are two singular subjects in a sentence that are joined by a phrase like “as well as” or “along with” or “combined with” or “in addition to” or “together with” or “accompanied by,” and these two subjects share the same verb.

Q: Do you use a singular or plural verb in such a case?

A: Singular.

Q: Why?

A: You’ll see why if you just diagram the sentence.

(Coming soon in a future Tip of the Day)


A time stamp as well as the date is recorded by the tool upon activation.

The driller along with the company man has the authority to make that decision.

The bottom water drive combined with the water injection is expected to recover 60% of the oil in place.

The oil minister accompanied by the CEO is expected to arrive at 2 p.m.

If you substitute these italicized expressions with “and” in these same sentence constructions, you will need to use a plural verb.

One caveat when using “as well as” in oil patch writing:

When people working in the oil and gas industry see the word “well,” one thing comes to mind. Try to use “and” instead of “as well as” whenever possible so the word “well” doesn’t conjure up the typical image in the readers’ brains.

Funny Example:

Q: How are you today?

A: I’m well, thank you.

Q: You’re not a well!

Profound Quote of the Day:

A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.

– Benjamin Franklin, American statesman, 1706-1790


National Grammar Day

March 23, 2012

I must apologize to y’all out there in the Peanut Gallery for forgetting to mention that National Grammar Day was March 4th.  (Get it? March forth, an entire grammatically correct sentence in a date.) But it was a Sunday, and I don’t work on Sundays (except for laundry, cooking, dishes, and sometimes even grocery shopping.)

National Grammar Day was established in 2008 by Martha Brockenbrough, founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar. While some English teachers might celebrate by playing Pin the Apostrophe on the Contraction (a nerdy version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, a birthday party classic), we will celebrate by giving you official grammarian permission to use either form of the following adverbs:

•       Anyway or Anyways

•       Backward or Backwards

•       Forward or Forwards

Feel free to use them any way you like. (Yes, “any way” would be two words here.)


“Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn’t know it, so it goes on flying anyways.”

– Mary Kay Ash, American businesswoman, 1918-2001

“You can’t connect the dots looking forwards; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

– Steve Jobs, American businessman, 1955-2011

My husband Charlie doesn’t use either “backward” or “backwards.” He uses “bass-ackwards.”

So, anyways, happy belated National Grammar Day!

The Art of Teaching

March 20, 2012

I was reading the newspaper and ran across a quote that gave me pause and got me thinking. (Oh, geez, not again!)

Sir Ken Robinson, a British educator who moved to Los Angeles after being knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his contributions to education, was saying how schools today crank out students in an assembly-line fashion like Model T cars. We don’t let students discover their innate talents or what they love to do so they can be fulfilled in their life and career.

Sir Ken said with our focus on standardized tests we are “fostering a culture of conformity and compliance, and we’re undermining the quality of teaching. We’re reducing teachers to a delivery system when really, teaching is an art form.”

What does this have to do with writing, you ask? For one thing, such “skill and drill” can kill the desire to write beautiful prose. But more to the point, all writing – even this piece – has the option of being either a delivery system or an art form.

I often get the most feedback on my Tips of the Day when I hop up on my soapbox and speak, er, write from the heart, rather than spell out the dry definitions and categorize the parts of speech. (Those I generally have to look up, and I include them mainly to look like I know what I’m talking about.)

But think about it. When you are writing your weekly status report, you are teaching somebody what you did and why it’s important. You can do this in terse bullet points, or you can make it interesting – even exciting – so the reader will want to open the file to see the results of what you did last week.

How about when you are writing a scope of work or field development plan? The facilities should come alive in the reader’s mind as you describe all the parts and schedules and economics. And when you’re capturing best practices and rules of thumb, you can include the true stories about the successes and failures that put a face on the lessons learned, making them come alive.

When you are writing, you are teaching. And teaching should be an art form, not a delivery system.

Profound Quote of the Day:
“It is by teaching that we teach ourselves, by relating that we observe, by affirming that we examine, by showing that we look, by writing that we think, by pumping that we draw water into the well.”

– Henri Frederic Amiel, Swiss philosopher, 1821-1881

Allude vs. Elude

March 19, 2012

To allude to something means to make an indirect reference to it.


In questioning whether the construction project was “to be or not to be,” the facilities manager alluded to Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

To elude something means to get away from or escape.


I can picture her face and hear her voice in my head, but her name eludes me.

The respective nouns formed from these two verbs, allusion and elusion, are confused with each other and with illusion and elution.

Allusion means an oblique reference to something.


The facilities manager’s allusion to Shakespeare was only appreciated by the technical writer, as she was the only one who chuckled.

Elusion means an evasion or clever escape.


Every evening after supper my son comes up with a brand new method of elusion to avoid having to walk the dog.

An illusion is a misleading or deceptive image or idea, a hallucination.


The new hire, who just graduated from college, is under the illusion that he will advance to management within a year.

Elution is something that goes on in a chemistry lab. An adsorbed material is eluted from the adsorbent by means of a solvent.


The elution of the heavy oil from the whole core sample with methylene chloride is going to take several weeks.

Profound Quote of the Day:
“If you want something, it will elude you. If you do not want something, you will get ten of it in the mail.”

– Anna Quindlen, American journalist, b. 1953

Encyclopedia Obsolete

March 19, 2012

I read in the paper today that after 244 years, the print version of the Encyclopaedia Britannica has officially ceased publication. The 32-volume set of the 2010 edition sold for $1,395. In 1768, the first edition was only three volumes, and by 1990 US sales had grown to 120,000, declining since then due to the emergence of the Internet.
Not to worry, the company’s digital version, which began in 1981, is being updated daily on the website – vetted by experts, not open to any yahoo who cares to change things, like Britannica is now focusing on digital learning products and website subscriptions.
I remember visiting Grandma Brady in Buffalo, NY, when I was a little girl. She had a complete set of the Book of Knowledge, which was really old even back then. This encyclopedia was quite different than the ones organized alphabetically. Each book was a different subject, such as:

• The Earth

• Science • Animal Life

• Plant Life

• United States

• Other Countries

• Fine Arts

• Literature

• Golden Deeds

• Men and Women

• Things to Make and Things to Do

The first thing I did after kissing Grandma was to make a beeline for the Book of Knowledge. I could sit quietly and read all afternoon.
Then I grew up. And CD-ROMs were invented, which could hold an entire set of encyclopedias on a single disc.
In 1991, during National Library Week, the Texaco Library used the old “free food” trick to lure us into the library each afternoon. Hey, it worked. So I went up there and they showed me their new toy while I was munching on chocolate chip cookies. It was a CD-ROM. I was amazed!
At the time, I was also a Technical Editor for SPE Papers, critiquing them and selecting which ones would be published in SPE journals. And in the middle of a cookie, a light bulb flashed on in my brain! What if we could put SPE Papers on a CD-ROM? We could search by topic or keyword and find them and print them out – wouldn’t that be great?!
So I called up SPE Headquarters and suggested we put SPE Papers on a CD-ROM. “What’s a CD-ROM?” they asked.
It took me about 18 months to convince the SPE staff and Board to do it, at which point they assigned a committee to the project — which slowed me right down. After another 18 months of convincing the committee, we published the first SPE MasterDisc, a searchable CD-ROM index of all 25,000 SPE Papers published to date. We followed that with the SPE eLibrary, which later added technical papers from a dozen other societies in our industry and morphed into Anybody with an Internet connection can now search for, find, buy, and print out all 100,000+ SPE papers.
Wow, how far we have come in the digital age! We have taken huge volumes of knowledge and made them searchable and accessible all over the world with digital technology. And with a Kindle or iPad, you can still curl up quietly at Grandma’s house and read to your heart’s content.

Profound Quote of the Day:
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

– Albert Einstein, German physicist, 1879-1955

Well Control vs. Control Wells

March 14, 2012

When I hear or read the phrase “well control,” what comes to mind is blowout prevention, managed pressure drilling, and preventing gas kicks by using the appropriate mud weight.

However, recently I have been seeing the use of that same phrase, “well control,” to describe using well logs and other well data in simulators to calibrate and set limits on property distribution throughout the simulator grid.

Bad Example:

Due to very dense well control, the maximum depth error from time-depth conversion is around 15 ft – far below the vertical resolution of the seismic data.

Let’s look closely at two definitions:

“Well control” means control of the well, much like “crowd control” means control of the crowd.

“Control well” means a well used for the purpose of control, as in controlling the limits or values in a simulator.

This is the expression that should be used in our example.

Corrected Example:

Due to the high density of control wells, the maximum depth error from time-depth conversion is around 15 ft – far below the vertical resolution of the seismic data.

Soda vs. Pop

March 14, 2012

My very first job was as a 10-year-old selling pop with my little brother on the golf course across the street in beautiful upstate New York. We’d fill up an ice chest with cheap store-brand soft drinks, set it on the red wagon, and go to the far northeast corner between hole #4 and hole #5. There we would spread out a blanket and I’d read my Happy Hollister mysteries in the sunshine, stopping every now and then to answer the following questions:

Q: Do you have any beer?

A: No.

Q: Why not?

A: Because I’m only ten.

I should have said “Because I’m a perfect ten,” but I wasn’t that clever yet.

Of course, they don’t sell pop here in Houston, they sell soda, which brings me to my Tip of the Day.

I read in the Sunday newspaper that there is a new resource that explains which areas of the country people call a carbonated soft drink “pop” and where they call it “soda.”<>
It’s called the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE, for short), and Volume V, which covers Si–Z, has finally been completed. DARE explains more than 60,000 regional words and phrases, their origins, and their locations. For example, Sloppy Joes are called “slushburgers” in South Dakota. And apparently pop morphs into soda partway through Pennsylvania, resulting in a “cultural fault line.” (I knew you could relate to that!) Volume VI, which contains 1,300 maps of those fault lines by concept, was sent off to the publisher last month.

According to the AP newspaper article, DARE can be used by novelists and actors to create authentic fictional characters, and police have used it to identify suspects – even creating a profile of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski from his writings.

DARE was started 50 years ago by an English professor at University of Wisconsin – Madison, who deployed grad students around the country to interview people and capture the words they used. The first volume was published in 1985, and after the professor died, a grad student took over, and the final volume is finally finished. (Redundancy intended.)

So here are some local terms for a submarine sandwich:

Cuban – Florida

Dagwood – Iowa

Grinder – New England

Hero – NY City

Hoagie – New Jersey

Poor boy (po’boy) ­– New Orleans

Sub – Northeast

Torpedo – North

Profound Quote of the Day:

“An academic dialect is perfected when its terms are hard to understand and refer only to one another.”

– Mason Cooley, American writer and English professor, 1927-2002

A Better Way To Say It

March 10, 2012

Here are a few quick improvements I’ve noted:

Not So Good:                        Better Way: 

Middle East analogs                Middle Eastern analogs

miss-match                            mismatch

orientated                              oriented

was weighted heavier              was weighted more heavily

in the inter-well space             between wells

Here’s a longer one:

Not So Good:  Pressure transient test results are duration of shut-in dependent.

Better Way:  Pressure transient test results depend on the duration of the shut-in period.

And finally, here is a story about some very thirsty oil:

Not So Good: Next, submerge the core in oil, allowing oil to imbibe the core sample.

Why: To imbibe means to drink or to take liquid in. Oil cannot drink in a solid.

Better Way: Next, submerge the core in oil, allowing the core sample to imbibe the oil.

Figure 1 Shows

March 8, 2012

I ran across a couple of ways NOT to reference figures in the text.
Bad Example #1:

Figures 5 and 6 graph the relationship between porosity and permeability for the two rock types.

The verb “to graph” means to plot on a graph. The figures didn’t graph themselves. A person graphed those figures.

Those two figures show or illustrate the relationship you want the readers to see.

Bad Example #2:

Figure 3 pictorially represents the stratigraphy of the field.

How verbose! Again, “shows” or “illustrates” would be preferable to “pictorially represents.”

And I prefer “shows” because it doesn’t get in the way, just like quotations are best attributed by the simple phrase “he said.”

Here’s another no-no concerning references to tables in the text.

Bad Example #3:

Results are tabulated in Table 4.

That’s just plain redundant.

Better options:

Results are listed in Table 4.

Results are shown in Table 4.

Results are given in Table 4.

Profound Thought of the Day:
Today in the Dear Abby column of the newspaper was a poem by the late Robert Muller, former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, 1923-2010.

I thought it was deep, moving, and thought-provoking. And I thought that Sunday’s assignment was the hardest – for me, anyway.
Decide to Forgive

Decide to forgive

For resentment is negative

Resentment is poisonous

Resentment diminishes and devours the self.
Be the first to forgive,

To smile and to take the first step

And you will see happiness bloom

On the face of your human brother or sister.
Be always the first

Do not wait for others to forgive

For by forgiving

You become the master of fate

The fashioner of life

A doer of miracles.
To forgive is the highest,

Most beautiful form of love.

In return you will receive

Untold peace and happiness.
And here is the program for achieving a truly forgiving heart:

Sunday:  Forgive yourself.

Monday:  Forgive your family.

Tuesday:  Forgive your friends and associates.

Wednesday:  Forgive across economic lines within your own nation.

Thursday:  Forgive across cultural lines within your own nation.

Friday:  Forgive across political lines within your own nation.

Saturday:  Forgive other nations.
Only the brave know how to forgive.

A coward never forgives.

It is not in his nature.

Equal vs. Equivalent

March 8, 2012

Equal means the same in value or amount or quality or nature or status; identical.


1/2 and 2/4 are equal fractions

Equal opportunity employer

Equivalent means having the same value, worth or significance; the same in some aspect, but not necessarily all aspects.


The circle and the square are equivalent in area, but have different shapes.

They don’t make that product any more, but the insurance company said we can buy an equivalent model to replace the one that was stolen.

Bottom line: “equal” and “equivalent” are not equal.

Profound Quote of the Day:
“I used to think that running an organization was equivalent to conducting a symphony orchestra, but I don’t think that’s quite it; it’s more like jazz. There is more improvisation.” – Warren Bennis, American leadership guru / MIT & USC professor, b. 1925 His book, Geeks & Geezers (2002), examines the differences and similarities between leaders <30 years old and those >70 years old.