Archive for June, 2012

Hurdle vs. Hurtle

June 9, 2012

I probably use the dictionary more than anybody else at the company. Today I saw the following sentence and it didn’t look right to me:

“A simple economic hurtle, a positive net present value at 10% discount rate (NPV10), was applied.”

So I wheeled myself over to the bookshelf, pulled out my trusty Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, and noticed that it does not look brand new. It has some stains and dirt and creases, not as many as my Bible, but it sure shows some wear and tear.

Anyway, I looked up the definition of “hurtle,” and found it was only a verb, not a noun. It means “to move with a rushing sound, to hurl or fling.”

This was not the idea the author was trying to convey. Rather, this is what I plan to do when I leave the office at 5 p.m.

So I looked up “hurdle,” which can be either a noun or a verb. As a noun it means “a barrier or obstacle over which a man or horse must leap.”

This was the criterion the author meant.

And then serendipity hit. That’s when you were looking for something else, but you fortuitously come across something pertinent.

It just so happened that another interesting definition of the noun “hurdle” was “a sled formerly used in England for dragging traitors to execution.”

Well, you learn something new every day, eh?

And actually that particular definition worked in this case, because the simulations for this particular field showed that no case met the NPV criterion, so drag that one off to be killed!

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Profound Quotes of the Day:

“Many a calm river begins as a turbulent waterfall, yet none hurtles and foams all the way to the sea.”

– Mikhail Lermontov, Russian poet, 1814-1841

“The biggest hurdle is figuring out who your friends are. Your real friends.”

– Eleanor Mondale, American TV/radio reporter and daughter of US VP Walter Mondale, 1960-2011

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Dependent Clauses

June 8, 2012

Q:  What is a dependent clause?

A1:  One of Santa’s children that he claimed on his tax return.

A2:  A sentence fragment with a subject and a verb that adds information to the sentence, but cannot stand on its own as a sentence.

There are several types of dependent clauses:

•       Noun clauses

•       Relative or adjectival clauses

•       Adverbial clauses

We’ll go through several types of clauses in the next few Tips of the Day so you will be able to recognize them and use them correctly.

First, we will start with a noun clause, which acts as a noun because it can be used as a subject or object.

If you can substitute a pronoun for the clause, it’s a noun clause.

Examples:

Whoever took the last cup of coffee without making more ought to be fired. (subject)

He ought to be fired. (pronoun substituted)
The boss ought to fire whomever took the last cup of coffee without making more. (object)

The boss ought to fire him. (pronoun substituted)

Noun clauses are often introduced by the following words:

That, what, when, where, why, how, who, whoever, whom, whomever, and whether

Examples:

I don’t know what he was thinking.

I don’t know why he did such a bad thing.

He should know where all the supplies are. The cupboards are clearly labeled.

I don’t know whether I should speak to him or not.

Sometimes you don’t need to use “that” in dependent clauses, as mentioned in a recent Tip of the Day.

Examples:

I know that he took the last cup of coffee.

I know he took the last cup of coffee.

I know it. (pronoun substituted)

Note that who and whoever would be used as a subject noun clause, but whom and whomever would be used as an object noun clause, as in the first set of examples above.

So, does Santa even have kids? I can name his reindeer, but I cannot for the life of me name one of his children. Are the elves his children? Anybody out there in the Peanut Gallery know the answers to these and other perplexing questions?
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Profound Quote of the Day:

“Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.”

– Henry Ford, American car manufacturer and businessman, 1863-1947
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PS: Can you find the noun clauses in this quote?

Waiting vs. Awaiting

June 7, 2012

After reading the “Pending vs. Waiting” Tip of the Day yesterday, Victor from Milan, Italy, an enthusiastic member of the Peanut Gallery, asked: What is the difference between waiting and awaiting?”

Good question, Victor. Basically, they both mean to be “on hold” or pause for a period of time expecting something to happen. The main difference between the two verbs is what comes after them in the sentence.

“Wait” takes a preposition between the verb and the thing that is expected (object of the preposition).

Examples:

We are waiting for Core Labs to finish the special core analysis report.

My son is now waiting on tables at LA Bar next to Ragin’ Cajun.

“Await” needs no preposition, just the direct object.

Example:

We are awaiting the Core Labs report; it should be here any day now.

Victor in Milan awaits my response to his question.

If you want to talk about subtle differences in meaning, then “waiting” should convey a passage of time or the delivery of some helpful service (waiting on her, hand and foot), whereas “awaiting” has a connotation of expecting something.

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Profound Quote of the Day:

“Most people are awaiting Virtual Reality; I’m awaiting virtuous reality.”

– Eli Khamarov, English writer, b. 1948

Pending vs. Waiting

June 6, 2012

I saw the word “pending” used as a verb. It is not. Pending is either a preposition or an adjective.

Bad Example:

The project is pending HAZOP before we can break ground.

The correct verb participle here would be “waiting.”

Whether you would use “waiting on” or “waiting for” is the subject of a previous Tip of the Day (Dec. 2, 2011).

Corrected Example 1:

The project is waiting for HAZOP before we can break ground.

The project is waiting for the pending HAZOP before we can break ground.

Pending is an adjective that means not yet settled or awaiting conclusion or confirmation. In this case, the HAZOP, or hazardous operations assessment, is the thing that is pending, not the project.

Corrected Example 2:

We are waiting to break ground on the project because HAZOP is still pending.

We cannot break ground on the project because HAZOP is pending.

Pending can also be a preposition that means during, while in the process of, while awaiting, or until.

Corrected Example 3:

Groundbreaking is on hold pending HAZOP. (while awaiting)

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Repetitive Redundancy of the Day:

A linear line

It would be WAY better to say “a straight line.”
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Profound Quote of the Day:

“Those who are seeking ways to tap into the potential of e-mail will find themselves in a position to capitalize on the pending explosion in Internet usage.”

– Alexander Haig, former US Secretary of State, 1924-2010

Said That

June 6, 2012

I got a question from the Peanut Gallery today. Don in Houston writes:

“I need guidance on when to use ‘that.’ Which sentence is preferred?

1)  Tom said he would finish the job tomorrow.

2)  Tom said that he would finish the job tomorrow.

The standard engineer’s answer works here: That depends. (pun intended)

When using “that” as a conjunction to introduce a dependent clause, you can generally do without it for simplicity’s sake – except when you can’t.

The AP Style Guide recommends:

1)  Omit “that” if the dependent clause after it starts with the verb “to say.”

Example:

Tom said he would finish the job tomorrow.

2)  Leave “that” in when there is a time element between the verb and the dependent clause.

Example:

Tom said this morning that he would finish the job tomorrow.

3)  Leave “that” in after the following verbs: assert, contend, declare, estimate, make clear, point out, propose, and state.

Examples:

Tom asserted that he would finish the job tomorrow.

Tom estimated that he would finish the job tomorrow.

Tom proposed that he would finish the job tomorrow.

Tom stated that he would finish the job tomorrow.

4)  Leave “that” in before subordinate clauses that begin with the following conjunctions: After, although, because, before, in addition to, until, and while.

Examples:

Tom said that although it might cost more, he would finish the job tomorrow.

Tom said that after the valve was delivered, he would finish the job tomorrow.

Tom said that because he was getting married on Saturday, he would finish the job tomorrow.

Tom said that while the weatherman is calling for thunderstorms, he would finish the job tomorrow.

Rule of Thumb:

If in doubt, include the word “that,” as it’s never wrong to have it in there, whereas if you leave it out, the meaning of the sentence can get messed up.
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Profound Quote of the Day:

“I have often said that the lure of flying is the lure of beauty, and I need no other flight to convince me that the reason flyers fly, whether they know it or not, is the esthetic appeal of flying.” –  Amelia Earhart, American aviator, 1898-1937

Increased To or By?

June 1, 2012

I came across the following sentence and couldn’t figure out which way to go:
We increased the speed of the beam pump 2 SPM.

(SPM = strokes per minute, which should either be defined at the beginning of the document or in a glossary at the end)

The two options were:

1)      We increased the speed of the beam pump to 2 SPM (from 1 SPM).

2)      We increased the speed of the beam pump by 2 SPM (from 12 to 14 SPM).

Not knowing the situation first-hand, I left it alone, which would imply Option #2. But using the appropriate itty-bitty, two-letter preposition would have removed all doubt.

Moral of the Story: Don’t be afraid to clarify when you write something that could be perceived from two different viewpoints.

Typo of the Day:

The rig attended the well on May 8, 2102.

Oh, so you’ve got a time machine over there, do you? Interesting….

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Profound Quote of the Day:

“The improvement of understanding is for two ends: first, our own increase of knowledge; secondly, to enable us to deliver that knowledge to others.”

– John Locke, English philosopher, 1632-1704