Archive for September, 2012

Number Sense

September 29, 2012

I saw in an equation today the value of .75.

For folks like me who wear bifocals and have little floating specks traversing our eyes, tiny little periods can easily be missed.

Therefore it is a good idea to express decimal values less than one with a zero before the decimal point.

Bad Example:    .75
Good Example:   0.75

See? It is so much clearer that this is a small number. And if this paper is going to be copied or faxed or scanned or digitized, having that zero present will solve any disappearing period issues and the end-user will know for a fact what the number is supposed to be.

Besides, the SPE Style Guide specifically says:
“When writing decimal fractions, place a zero to the left of the decimal point
(0.5 not .5).”

Numerical Typo of the Day:
2103′ instead of the year 2013

This is a two-fer boo-boo: not only is the number transposed, but the unit of measure is wrong, feet instead of a year. Note that you should use ft not ‘ to designate feet. Folks like me with bifocals and floaters can see “ft” a whole lot better than those tiny single quotation marks.

Profound Quote of the Day:
“A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.”
– Plato, Greek philosopher, 427-347 BC


Introductory Phrases

September 28, 2012

A good way to break up a group of sentences that all have the same subject-verb-object format is to use an introductory phrase, which makes the reading a bit more interesting and engaging.

The drilling should be finished by Monday. The completion should be installed by Thursday. So by this Friday, the team should be ready to do the hookup to the steam line.

Rule of Thumb:
If the introductory phrase is four or more words long, use a comma after it – just like the third sentence in the example above.

What about shorter introductory phrases? Commas are usually not necessary for intros of 1–3 words.

Later he will be able to meet with you. (1 word)
In 2013 oil production will reach the target plateau. (2 words)
In my office I have the blueprints for that equipment. (3 words)

Generally, you don’t need a comma in such cases unless the short intro is a transitional word or adverb, as in this very sentence.
Other similar expressions that require a comma include:
In addition,
In fact,
After all,

Sometimes you need a comma after a short intro just so the sentence is not misunderstood.

Bad Example:
After eating the superintendent went back out to the drilling rig.
(Superintendents tend to be a little spicy!)
Corrected Example:
After eating, the superintendent went back out to the drilling rig.

Typo of the Day:
Free water lever
This should be “free water level,” but spell checker didn’t catch it because it’s a real word.

Profound Quote of the Day:
“There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.”
– Jane Austen, British author, 1775-1817

Proved vs. Proven

September 28, 2012

The past participle of the verb “to prove” can be either proved or proven.
Webster’s dictionary says “proved or proven,” which means they are equal variants and can be used interchangeably. British writers tend to use “proved” more often, while American writers tend to use “proven” more often.

She has proven him wrong on more than one occasion. (American)
She has proved him wrong on more than one occasion. (British)

If you are using an adjective, Webster’s dictionary says “proven” is used more often.

Proven gas reserves
A proven method

Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say about “Proven”:
“… gradually worked its way into standard English over the past three and a half centuries. It seems to have first become established in legal use and to have come only slowly into literary use. Tennyson was one of its earliest frequent users, probably for metrical reasons. It was disapproved by 19th century grammarians, one of whom included it in a list of ‘words that are not words.’ Surveys made some 50 or 60 years ago indicated that proved was about four times as frequent as proven. But our evidence from the last 30 or 35 years shows this no longer to be the case. As a past participle, proven is now about as frequent as proved in all contexts. As an attributive adjective (proved or proven gas reserves) proven is much more common than proved.”

Interestingly, a search on, limited to the SPE Papers, showed 11,213 hits for “proven” and 19,216 hits for “proved.” As an adjective, there were 563 hits for “proved reserves” vs. 396 hits for “proven reserves.”

My conclusion: It doesn’t matter which word you use for it, as long as you abide by the SPE definitions for calculating reserves. Here’s the link:

Guidelines for Application of the Petroleum Resources Management System (PRMS).
This new, 221-page document replaces the 2001 “Guidelines for Evaluation of Reserves and Resources” with expanded content that is updated to focus on using the 2007 PRMS to classify petroleum reserves and resources.

Profound Quote of the Day:
“As a vessel is known by the sound, whether it be cracked or not; so men are proved, by their speeches, whether they be wise or foolish.”
– Demosthenes, Greek statesman, 382–322 BC

Uninterested vs. Disinterested

September 26, 2012

The other day I got a comment from a member of the Peanut Gallery based on a recent Tip of the Day about Unsatisfied vs.
Dissatisfied. (

Ted in Oman (that’s next door to Saudi Arabia) writes:
“A recent example you gave reminded me of something you have touched on in the use of the correct adjective: Uninterested in comparison to Disinterested.

The referee should be disinterested in the outcome of the game he is refereeing.

In the case above, the word ‘disinterested’ is applied because the referee should be impartial or unbiased.

My son is uninterested in walking the dog and leaves it to me to do.

In this example, my son is simply not interested in walking the dog.

I have not checked any of these examples in any reference books so you may have a more accurate way of explaining the differences.”

Very good, Ted! You get an Attaboy on my whiteboard in my office.

Grammar Girl (Mignon Fogarty) agrees with you that uninterested means bored, unconcerned or indifferent, whereas disinterested means impartial or unbiased.

I hope that my disinterested yet interesting responses to questions from the Peanut Gallery keep people from becoming uninterested in my Tips of the Day.

Profound Quote of the Day:
“Books are standing counselors and preachers, always at hand, and always disinterested;
having this advantage over oral instructors that they are ready to repeat their lessons as often as we please.”
– Robert Chambers, Scottish writer, 1802-1871

National Punctuation Day

September 25, 2012

September 24 is National Punctuation Day, and in honor of this jubilant festival, here is your invitation to compose a three-sentence (max) paragraph about which punctuation mark should be elected President. You must include all 13 punctuation marks:

apostrophe  ‘
brackets  [ ]
colon  :
comma  ,
dash  –
ellipsis  …
exclamation point  !
hyphen   –
parentheses  ( )
period .
question mark  ?
quotation mark  ”  ”
semicolon  ;

You may use punctuation marks more than once, and there is no word limit, only a sentence limit (3). Deadline is Sept. 30. Email your entries to Jeff Rubin at:<>.

As you may recall, I won a prize last year for my entry. Here is my entry for this year’s contest:

Which of the [13] punctuation marks should be President, you ask? I’m pretty sure – though not positive – that the question mark would be a poor leader; after all, a former U.S. President said: “Ask not what your country can do for you….” The exclamation point (sometimes called the bang) is a stand-up guy with strong opinions, so that’s my choice!

Profound Quote of the Day:
“As to the presidency, the two happiest days of my life were those of my entrance upon the office and my surrender of it.”
Martin Van Buren, 8th President of the U.S., 1782-1862

Practical vs. Practicable

September 21, 2012

A Peanut Gallery question was received today from Don in Texas:
“I tend to get confused when trying to decide whether I should use ‘practical’ or ‘practicable.’ What advice does the Guru have for

Practical means relating to a practice or action, rather than a theory; useful or able to be put to use or put in practice. Practical applies to persons and things and implies proven success in actual use. Use this in employee reviews.

Some PetroTechs are practical engineers, although they have no engineering degree.
He has a practical knowledge of Spanish because his grandmother was Mexican.

Practicable means feasible, doable, or capable of being done, but has only been proposed and has not yet been tested or put into use. Practicable applies to plans, not people or things. Use this in field development plans.

Steamflooding is not practicable at depths greater than 3,000 ft unless you have a downhole steam generator.

Here’s a good way to think about the antonyms, impractical and impracticable.
“Something impractical is not smart or efficient, but something impracticable is just plain impossible to do.”

Profound Quote of the Day:
“The leader has to be practical and a realist, yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist.”
– Eric Hoffer, American philosopher and writer, 1902-1983, Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded in 1983 by Ronald Reagan

Alternately vs. Alternatively

September 21, 2012

Here’s a case where using a very similar but very wrong word can completely change the meaning of the sentence.

Bad Example:
In a WAG project, water is injected alternatively with gas to enhance oil recovery.

Such a water-alternating-gas (WAG) flood uses an injected volume of water followed by an injected volume of gas, followed by another round of water and another round of gas. This is injecting water and gas alternately, not alternatively.

If one were to inject water and gas alternatively, one would choose either the gas alternative (option or choice) or the water alternative, injecting just one fluid.

Here are Webster’s definitions:

Alternate: succeeding by turns, every other one

Alternative: offering a choice, outside the norm (e.g., alternative energy)

The plot thickens, however, because Alternate can sometimes mean Alternative.

Traffic on the freeway was so bad she took an alternate route home. (another choice, not the normal route)

The adverb Alternately always has the connotation of taking turns. I do a lot of this when I’m baking, as the dry ingredients are often added to the mixer alternately with the wet ingredients. Now that the weather is cooling off a bit, I feel like cranking up the oven and baking some goodies for my fellow employees.

Personal “Alternate” Anecdote:
When I tried out for cheerleading, I initially did not make the squad. But during the summer, two girls came riding up to my house on their bikes to tell me that one of them had decided to do sports instead of cheerleading, and since I had the next highest score during tryouts, I got moved up to Alternate. Thus, if one of the cheerleaders was sick or benched for some reason, I got to cheer at the football and basketball games. I thought my whole life was going to change for the better: I would no longer be the brainy nerd, but would become a popular girl with boyfriends galore. Boy, was I wrong! I was still a nerd. In such a small town, nobody is going to mess with Coach’s daughter. But I got to cheer at the games, which was fun. The next year I was a regular cheerleader (not alternate), and they retired the Congeniality trophy to our little squad at the annual competition because we were so friendly compared to the big city squads and had won the Congeniality trophy  four out of the last ten years.

Typo of the Day:
Bean pump instead of beam pump – gotta pump those beans out!

International Talk Like a Pirate Day Joke:
Q: What color socks do pirates wear?
A: Aaaaaarrrrrrrgyle.

Providence vs. Provenance

September 19, 2012

Here’s a sentence that has a subtle boo-boo:

Bad Example:
All available well logs were inspected; however, no providence for the “normalized” curves was provided.

I can understand why the author wanted to use the word “providence,” because the background history was not “provided.” But the correct word to use there is “provenance.”

Providence means divine guidance; provisions and direction from God. I don’t think those well logs were normalized by God himself!

Provenance, on the other hand, is a noun that means the origin or source, from the French word provenir, to come forth. The word “source” could be substituted correctly in the original example.

Corrected Example:
All available well logs were inspected; however, no source for the “normalized” curves was provided.
All available well logs were inspected; however, no provenance for the “normalized” curves was provided.

Howshall we remember this?
God (Providence) provides everything we need, whereas the source (Provenance) has to be proven.

Profound Quote of the Day:
“Providence has nothing good or high in store for one who does not resolutely aim at something high or good. A purpose is the eternal condition of success.”
– Thornton Wilder, American novelist, 1897-1975

Flier vs. Flyer

September 18, 2012

I got an email from a local SPE Student Chapter that said to see the attached “flier” about the upcoming fundraiser golf tournament. I thought the word should have been “flyer.” So I looked it up.

According to Webster, flier can mean either one who flies through the air or an advertising circular (which is actually rectangular – just another idiosyncrasy of the English language).

In the USA, a flier is one who flies in the air, whereas a flyer is a paper handbill; however, outside the USA, these are used interchangeably, with “flyer” about twice as common. In fact, Webster says that flyer is a variant of flier. Essentially, you can use either spelling for either meaning; however, I prefer Flyer for paper and Flier for one with wings. Now, for a paper airplane made from an ad circular, hmmmm…. Flip a coin! Then be consistent in your usage.

Here’s one I hear a lot during baseball season:
He flied out in the second inning.

The past tense of “fly” has been “flew” ever since the 12th century. However, since 1893 the word “flied” came to be the past tense of hitting a fly ball in baseball. I guess sports
broadcasters are not exactly grammarians.

Redneck Quote of the Day:
“I say we fish 5 days a week and work 2.”
– Bumper sticker on a brown Texas pickup truck

Unsatisfied vs. Dissatisfied

September 15, 2012

Everybody wants to be satisfied, but many are not. There are two different flavors of not being satisfied.

Unsatisfied means you have needs that are not being met; you need more; you are unfulfilled.

After being gone for a whole month, the mere kiss on the cheek her husband gave her left her need for love unsatisfied.

Dissatisfied means you are unhappy or disappointed with what you received; you are not pleased.

He was dissatisfied with both the temperature of the food and the quality of the service at that new restaurant.

The unhappy wife in the first example was also dissatisfied, according to this definition. Although there is some overlap, according to the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage: ” … ‘unsatisfied’ is more frequently used to modify nonhuman terms (such as ambition, debts, curiosity, demands, claims) than human ones and that in all instances the meaning is generally of something or someone being ‘unfulfilled’ or ‘unappeased.’”

There is a large, unsatisfied demand for experienced petroleum engineers.

You certainly would not use “dissatisfied” in such a sentence. Only people can be dissatisfied, whereas abstract things like hunger can go unsatisfied. However, people can also be unsatisfied if their wishes, needs, or expectations are not satisfied.

Thanks to Abdulkarim in Yemen for this excellent question from the Peanut Gallery.

Profound Quote of the Day:
“Change occurs in direct proportion to dissatisfaction, but dissatisfaction never changes.”
– Douglas Horton, American clergyman, 1891-1968