Archive for May, 2012

Typo in the Headlines

May 31, 2012

US presidential contender Mitt Romney had a major typo in his new iPhone app: he misspelled the word “America.”

This typo has made the headlines. It’s even worse than when our school superintendent candidate misspelled “public schools” as “pubic schools” on his resume. We didn’t hire him; should we hire Mitt as President?

After Romney clinched the Republican presidential nomination in the Texas primary last night, his “I’m with Mitt” app was released, which allows users to post photos of themselves along with 14 different banners, one of which reads: “A Better Amercia.”

The typo lit up Twitter as various people poked fun at what “Amercia” might stand for.

My definition is “land without mercy.” When you put the prefix a– in front of something, it means “not” or “without.”


Achromatic = having no color, without color

Apologies and corrections follow such big typos; rarely do you see ones of this magnitude.

Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul told MSNBC that “mistakes happen.” Romney’s campaign has submitted a corrected app to the folks at Apple, which will have to approve the new typo-free version.

That’s why they need to pay editors big bucks to catch that stuff. A good editor will show “no mercy” when it comes to grammar, punctuation and typos.


Profound Quote of the Day:

“I contend that a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”

– Winston Churchill, English statesman, 1874-1965


Spud, Spudded

May 30, 2012

To spud a well means to start drilling or digging with a spud.

Q: What is a spud?

A1: A potato.

A2: A digging or cutting tool having the characteristics of a spade and a chisel.

The past participle of the verb “spud” is “spudded,” which follows the rule about doubling the letter after a short vowel before adding –ed.

Two Ds – great for participles, not so great for report cards.

The same rule applies to the present participle, spudding.

Think of it as “pudding” with an S – at the beginning, not at the end, in which case it would be “puddings.”

Typo of the Day:

Theses wells will be completed with a beam pump.

“Theses” is the plural of “thesis,” which means a hypothesis or position to be proved.

Many Master’s degrees require a thesis to be written as a capstone of a research project.

So, hypothetically, these wells are going to be completed with a “nodding donkey.”

Profound Quote of the Day:

“For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.”

– Ernest Hemingway, American novelist, 1899-1961


Choosing Between

May 26, 2012

When presenting two options or choices, use the conjunction “or” between them.


The summer intern was given the option to choose a field job or an office job.

After giving this advice, a member of the Peanut Gallery named Jenny asked:

“When you choose, you choose this or that, but when you choose between things, do you choose between this and that?”

Good question, Jenny!

I looked it up, and standard usage is: “between this and that,” although “between this or that” is sometimes used, but not preferred.

Here is the rule:

“Between” should be followed by a plural noun or pronoun, or by nouns and/or pronouns joined by “and.”

–       Courtesy of


He is choosing between two jobs right now. (plural noun)

He is having a hard time choosing between them. (plural pronoun)

He has to choose between a field job and an office job. (nouns joined by “and”)

Then the boss will have to choose between him and me. (pronouns joined by “and”)

Note: Pronouns after the preposition “between” should be objective case (me, him, her, us, them), not subjective case (I, he, she, we, they).

“Choosing this or that” is the way to go when presenting two mutually exclusive, individual options (chocolate or vanilla); whereas “choosing between this and that” may suggest a range of values, with your choice somewhere in between the two endpoints.


She had to choose something between chemistry and physics, possibly physical chemistry.


Profound Quote of the Day:

“Wisdom is the knowledge of good and evil, not the strength to choose between the two.”

– John Cheever, American author, 1912-1982, winner of the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Etc., Etc., Etc.

May 26, 2012

Whenever I see the abbreviation for et cetera (etc.), I think of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I, where Yul Brynner repeated this Latin phrase three times in a most commanding way as the King of Siam.

But when I see the expression abbreviated as “ect.,” I cringe, as it reminds me of ectoplasm, and that’s a whole different movie (Ghostbusters).

Q: When should you use etc.?

A: When you mean “and others just like it” or “and so on and so forth.”


You should take Calculus in high school if you plan to be a petroleum engineer, mechanical engineer, chemical engineer, etc.

According to The Grammarist:

“Etc. is best reserved for times when (a) there is no question of what’s being omitted, or (b) when listing every item in a large group would be unnecessary.”

Q: When should you NOT use etc.?

A1: When referring to people; use et al., which means “and others.”

A2: When you have already used “for example” or “such as” or “e.g.” in the sentence.

Bad Examples:

For example, if the drill bit gets stuck or the mud motor dies, etc., we may take longer than two days.

He hates cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.

The geosciences, e.g., geology, geophysics, etc., require a solid earth science background.

Just take the “etc.” out, and these three sentences are fine without it.

Other tips concerning etc.:

1)      Always put a period after the C, even when another punctuation mark follows, but do not put a second period if it is the last word of the sentence.

2)      Never use “&” or “and” before etc., as that would be repetitively redundant. The et of et cetera means “and” in Latin, so you would be saying “and and so forth.”

3)      Never use it more than once – etc., etc. – unless you are the King of Siam. That would also be repetitively redundant.

4)      Use a comma after etc. if it falls in the middle of the sentence.


Siltstone, wackestone, packstone, shale, etc., are types of sedimentary rocks.

Finally, knowing that et cetera literally means “and the rest” in Latin, we can sing the theme song to Gilligan’s Island as:

“With Gilligan, the Skipper, too, the millionaire and his wife, a movie star, etc., are here on Gilligan’s Isle.”

Replace or Re-Place

May 17, 2012

I got a question from the Peanut Gallery today, and that always makes my day.

Issa in Houston asks:

“Is there any prefix that might be hyphenated in verbs?

I see this one when I fuel up my vehicle:

‘Replace nozzle when finished.’

I definitely can’t replace it!

They don’t have spare ones there! Can I re-place it?”

Well, Issa, re– is a joined prefix that only requires a hyphen if the first letter of the next part of the word is an E.






The word “replace” can mean “substitute another just like it” = install a replacement, but it also means “put it back in its original place or position.”

So, if you don’t have a replacement for the fuel nozzle, it must mean that you should put the original one back in its original place, not leave it lying on the ground.

Upon hearing this, Issa replied:

“I’ll never ask the attendant for a replacement nozzle again!”

Profound Quote of the Day:

“Computers are magnificent tools for the realization of our dreams, but no machine can replace the human spark of spirit, compassion, love, and understanding.”

– Louis Gerstner, former IBM CEO, b 1942

Up and Down Suffixes

May 17, 2012

I did a Tip of the Day two years ago about how up– and down– are joined prefixes, not hyphenated.


Updip and downdip

Uptime and downtime

Q: What about suffixes, i.e., –up and –down at the end of the word?

A: Well, that depends.

If used as a verb phrase, generally two words are used (not hyphenated).

If used as a noun or adjective, use a single word.
Up Examples:

Build up (verb)         buildup (noun, adjective)

Clean up (verb)         cleanup (noun, adjective)

Hook up (verb)          hookup (noun, adjective)

Jack up (verb)          jackup (noun, adjective)

Set up (verb)           setup (noun, adjective)

Start up (verb)         startup (noun, adjective)

Down Examples:

Blow down (verb)        blowdown (noun, adjective)

Break down (verb)       breakdown (noun, adjective)

Draw down (verb)        drawdown (noun, adjective)

Hold down (verb)        holddown (noun, adjective)

Pump down (verb)        pumpdown (noun, adjective)

Shut down (verb)        shutdown (noun, adjective)

Exception vs. Exemption

May 15, 2012

Both the words “exception” and “exemption” refer to leaving something out of a group, but there is a distinct difference in what is left out and why.

An exception means that the thing left out does not follow the same rule or custom as the other things in that group.


The word “weird” is an exception to the rule “I before E except after C.”

The expression “to take exception” means to object.


When my son said I was middle-aged, I took exception to that statement. He replied, “Mom, if you live to be twice what you are now, you’d be doing really well. That puts you in the middle now, doesn’t it?” (He inherited this logical sass from yours truly.)

An exemption is permission to be left out that is granted by someone in authority.


Because he absolutely had to have the report finished today, he was granted an exemption from attending the weekly staff meeting.

Another common use of the term exemption is for income taxes. There are many tax exemptions written into the US Tax Code to spur economic activity, and when they change, as they often do, it keeps a whole gaggle of accountants employed across the nation.
Funny Typo of the Day:

Perditions, instead of predictions in the following sentence:

“These figures show the history match and the perditions of oil, gas and water produced.”

Perdition means utter loss or destruction, or eternal damnation in hell. Totally losing all those produced hydrocarbons would be hell, indeed!


Profound Quote of the Day:

“The man who promises everything is sure to fulfill nothing, and everyone who promises too much is in danger of using evil means in order to carry out his promises, and is already on the road to perdition.”

– Carl Jung, Swiss psychologist, 1875-1861


Speeded vs. Sped

May 10, 2012

I came across an error that launched a study of “speeded” vs. “sped.”

Bad Example:

The pump cannot be speed up any further because it is at its maximum setting.

The present tense “speed” does not work here; you need a past participle because it is a passive voice = form of the verb “to be” + past participle.

Q:  So what is the past participle of “speed”?

A:  That depends.

It depends on whether the word “up” follows. If it does, use speeded; if it doesn’t, use sped.


Even though my turn signal was on, that car speeded up so I couldn’t change lanes.

That car sped by me so fast, it must have been going 90 mph.

Speed/Sped has a few cousins that follow the same rule for making the past simple and past participle:




Plead/Pled (although “pleaded” is acceptable and is actually used more often)

So, back to our original example: since the verb phrase contains the word “up,” we will use “speeded.”

Corrected Example:

The pump cannot be speeded up any further because it is at its maximum setting.


Profound Quote of the Day:

“We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing.”

– R. D. Laing, Scottish psychologist, 1927-1989

Pre-, Post-, and Mid-

May 8, 2012

Today’s tip is a request from the Peanut Gallery. Justin writes:

“Any tips on how to write post as a prefix to a year? Do I write post 1978 or post-1978?”

Short answer: post-1978

We use a lot of different expressions to denote “before,” “during,” and “after.” We also use years and months as time milestones, so naturally we will want to combine the two for the purpose of setting the temporal stage before, during, or after a certain year or month. Here is how it is done.






In a previous tip, I shared that pre– and post– are normally joined prefixes, i.e., they are not hyphenated, except when the term is capitalized. In the case of pre– the hyphen is used if the next word starts with a vowel.

Capitalized Examples:

post-World War II

pre-Civil War

Vowel Examples:



It is therefore logical that the name of a year, such as 1978, would follow the same pattern as a capitalized proper name.

According to

“It is suspected that, in the beginning, all prefixed words had hyphens. However, over time, some hyphens in words have disappeared. For most prefixed words, both versions exist (e.g., post-natal and postnatal). If you are unsure, use a hyphen. The hyphen version is very likely to be acceptable.”

A joined prefix is never used as a separate word before the one it modifies. Therefore “post 1978” would be incorrect.


May 4, 2012

I have accumulated a list of funny little things I saw that needed fixing, and none of them merits a whole diatribe, so I’ll just address these little issues with five mini-tips all rolled into one big one.

Boo-Boo #1:

We were able to run the casing easily because the wellbore did not have a sever dog leg.

I am so glad that poor dog did not have his leg cut off! I’m sure the author meant “severe” not “sever,” which means to cut off. And dogleg is a single word, not two words.

Corrected Example #1:

We were able to run the casing easily because the wellbore did not have a severe dogleg.

Boo-Boo #2:

The 8.5″ section will be dilled over the weekend.

I presume you are going to use some kind of brine with that dill herb to treat the well and pickle it, eh? My Grandma J. used to make some amazing Polish dill pickles. Ah, but I digress. I’m sure the author meant “drilled,” not “dilled.” Spell Checker didn’t catch it.

Boo-Boo #3:

The company plans to reveres the flow in the pipeline.

To revere means to have deep respect or admiration for something, and I’m sure an oil company respects the oil. Surely, though, the author meant “reverse” here, meaning change direction.

Boo-Boo #4:

The current plan will be focused on infill drilling.

Here we have a verb tense problem. The current plan exists in the present, and it has a current focus. The infill drilling will be done in the future, but the future tense verb “will be” pertains to the current plan and should match its subject; hence, we should use a present tense.

Corrected Example #4 (a two-fer):

The current plan is focused on infill drilling.

The current plan focuses on infill drilling.

Boo-Boo #5 is also a two-fer:

RTP to production

RTI to injection

RTP means “Return to Production,” so “RTP to Production” means “Return to Production to Production,” which, of course, is repetitively redundant.

Likewise, RTI means “Return to Injection,” so you do not need to add “to injection” after it. It’s always best to spell out such acronyms or initialisms the first time they are used. Then, whenever you use them after that, just say in your mind what it stands for and see if that sounds right in the sentence.

What is a boo-boo, you ask?

A boo-boo is a blunder or silly mistake. It is also a small scratch or cut.


Mommy put a bandage on the little girl’s finger, then kissed the boo-boo to make it better.

Boo-Boo was also the name of Yogi Bear’s little sidekick in the Saturday morning TV cartoons. Boo-Boo tried to keep Yogi out of trouble, which he often got into despite being “smarter than the average bear.”


Profound Quote of the Day:

“Russia, France, Germany and China – they revere their writers.

America is still a frontier country that almost shudders at the idea of creative expression.”

– James A. Michener, American novelist, 1907-1997