Archive for October, 2012


October 31, 2012

When you tack on the word “above” to the front of another word to turn it into an adjective, sometimes it’s hyphenated, and sometimes it’s a single word.

Single Word Examples:

Aboveboard = free from all traces of deceit or hidden facts

The supervisor was aboveboard when he noted that this project would require a considerable amount of overtime.

Aboveground = located on or above the surface of the earth

There are separate inspection methods for aboveground pipelines and subsea pipelines.

For these words, it doesn’t matter whether they appear before or after the noun they modify.

Hyphenated Examples:

Above-mentioned = mentioned in the text in a preceding paragraph

The above-mentioned core analysis procedure was used to test the newly acquired cores from Wells A-987 and B-456.

Above-referenced = referring to the source cited previously

The carbonate facies were categorized according to the above-referenced Lucia paper.

For these hyphenated words, on the other hand, it does make a difference if they appear after the noun they modify, in which case they revert back to two separate words.

Unhyphenated Examples:

The core analysis procedure mentioned above was used to test the newly acquired cores from Wells A-987 and B-456.

The carbonate facies were categorized according to the Lucia paper referenced above.


Typo of the Day: “ally” instead of “alloy.”
I guess the two metals are good friends and work together when under pressure, which might make them allies. Yet another one that got away from Spell-Checker!

Profound Quote of the Day:
“Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends.
Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies.”
– John F. Kennedy, 35th US President, 1917–1963

Write Every Day

October 26, 2012

Practice makes perfect.

Surely you have heard this adage many times, but there have been studies to verify the truth of the matter.

For example, Malcolm Gladwell’s study, Outliers: The Story of Success (Little, Brown & Co., 2008) found that it takes about 10 years, or 10,000 hours, of practice to attain true expertise. If you want to perfect your writing, that’s a lot of writing!

Here’s a testimonial that it actually works:
Jeffrey Gitomer, a sales trainer with a bald head and a bold YES! attitude, attributes his success to writing.

“WRITE EVERY DAY. Writing leads to wealth. Not money, wealth. Every penny I have earned since March 23, 1992, I can trace back to something I wrote. But MUCH MORE than money, I have gained reputation, recognition, and rewards that have enhanced my success all the way to fulfillment. And I promise that writing every day will do the same for you.”

I subscribe to his Sales Caffeine email blast, which comes every Tuesday morning and always contains something positive you can use in your career, whether that is in sales or engineering or whatever you do. It’s the kick in the pants you need to propel you forward with a smile on your face and a belief in your heart that what you do is important. You can sign up for his e-newsletter at:

Jeffrey writes the way he speaks, with a no-holds-barred approach. Nothing flowery or intellectual, but he tells it like it is and provides encouragement to help you to do the same.

After writing articles for about a decade for various magazines, I have finally become a master, even though my degree is in Chemistry, not English. And the thing is, writing every day is addicting! I’m so glad I can write these Tips of the Day to express myself, help others, and gain a following in cyberspace. In fact, this week I am fixin’ to reach 100,000 hits on my WordPress blog, where I store my Tips of the Day for posterity!

That would never have happened if I didn’t make it a point to write every day. So just set aside a few minutes each day to log what you did that day, capture a few ideas, daydream, or rant. With enough practice, you too can become a master writer and attain the wealth and recognition you deserve.

Profound Quote of the Day:
“You are what you practice most.”
– Richard Carlson, psychotherapist and author of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff .. and It’s All Small Stuff, 1961-2006

Positive About Negative

October 24, 2012

Jobin, a Peanut Gallery member from Oman, sent me a good question today:
“Please clarify for me: can I use ‘positive’ in sentences where I have a negative meaning?
Maybe my example would help you understand what I mean:
1.      I am positive that he won’t make the meeting.
2.      I am positive that both Tom and Harry is not suitable for this task.”

Yes, Jobin, you can be positive that a negative thing is true. Your first sentence is perfectly correct. Your second one could be better stated in several ways:

2A.     I am positive that both Tom and Harry are unsuitable for this task.
The plural subject “Tom and Harry” must take a plural verb, so change “is” to “are.” Unsuitable sounds even stronger than “not suitable,” which emphasizes how positive you are about this fact.

2B.     I am positive that neither Tom nor Harry is suitable for this task.
This version looks at each person separately and declares each unsuitable.

2C.     I am positive that Tom and Harry are unsuitable for this task.
By leaving out the word “both” you could imply that the two of them as a team or duo are not suitable. Perhaps they don’t get along well together. However, if either one were paired with someone else it might work out OK.

So there are several ways to say this correctly, and the choice is up to you.

Profound Quote of the Day:
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts:
therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.”
– Marcus Aurelius, Roman soldier, 121-180

Dishonored vs. Ignored

October 23, 2012

I ran across a case where the word “dishonored” was used as the opposite of “honored,” but it wasn’t the right word for that situation.

When creating reservoir models, whether static or dynamic, you want the model to “honor” certain data points that have been measured, such as well logs or core analysis data. In this case, “honor” means to regard or treat those data with the respect they deserve.

However, if some data points look funky or if the measuring tool used in a certain well was not calibrated or normalized properly, you might not want to include those data points as “controls” in the model. In such a situation, you would not “dishonor” the data; you would “ignore” those data points.

To dishonor something means to bring shame upon it or treat it in a degrading manner, with the connotation of disgrace. Dishonor is usually used in reference to people or to bank notes or checks.

On the other hand, to ignore something means to refuse to take notice of it or to reject it as ungrounded, and this is much closer to the meaning in the case of suspicious data.

Disregard would be another word that could be used in this situation, as this means to pay no attention to it or to treat the data as unworthy of regard or consideration.

Correct Usage Example:
Because the log data from Well A-385 could not be normalized, those data were ignored/ disregarded, and only the logs from the other four wells were honored in the static model.

Profound Quote of the Day:
“If you can’t ignore an insult, top it; if you can’t top it, laugh it off; and if you can’t laugh it off, it’s probably deserved.”
– Russell Lynes, American critic, 1910-1991

Learning English

October 19, 2012

Many people in the oil patch have English as a second language, and they have a lot of questions about words that look alike or sound alike. There is a very helpful website to help folks with some of these mix-ups:

Thanks to Christian, a Peanut Gallery member in Houston, for sharing this link.
One interesting entry is pasted below:

overtake vs. takeover / take over

Overtake is a verb. It can mean to go beyond something by being better, or if you’re driving to come from behind another vehicle or a person and move in front of it.
For example: You should always check your rear view mirror before you overtake another car.

Takeover as a noun is used when one organization gains control of a company by buying most of its shares.
For example: In September 2006 Merck announced their takeover of Serono SA.
Take over as a phrasal verb means to get control of a company by buying most of its shares.

Example: Mitt Romney plans to take over the US presidency in the November election.

Typo of the Day:
Infectivity (instead of injectivity)
Perhaps infectivity would be a good key performance indicator of Microbial EOR projects.

Good Advice of the Day:
“Run always after a dog, he’ll never bite you; drink always before thirst, and it will never overtake you.”
– Francois Rabelais, French clergyman, 1493-1553

Perfect Your Tables

October 18, 2012

There are a lot of little details you must pay attention to if you want your tables in your documents to be perfect. Here are a few that I ran across in my editing efforts today.

If you are cutting and pasting text into cells of a table in Microsoft Word, you may not notice it, but often there is a single space before the text after you have pasted it. This can cause problems down the road if somebody wants to convert that table into an Excel spreadsheet and then sort the data, as that pesky little space can throw off everything. One clue that you may have this problem is when text wraps around in the cell, the second line is a tad further left than the first line. Then you can go and delete all those spaces, which will make a nice, straight alignment on the left in your table and you will avoid any sorting problems when it is converted to Excel.

Another detail is to check the spelling in the table entries just as carefully as the regular text, if not more so. I saw “Annal” instead of “Annual” in a table of recommended frequencies for maintenance tasks today, along with “Quaterly” and “Quartly” instead of “Quarterly.” Surely you don’t want to have to take apart, inspect, and clean the dad-gum thing after every quart of liquid it produces!

Capitalization consistency is also important if you want to have a perfect table. You don’t want to have “Power Factor” in one cell of the table and “Power factor” in another cell, or “Every 3 Years” in one cell and “Every 3 years” in another cell. Make them all the same. And while you are making things the same, make sure you have all dashes, not some dashes and some hyphens.

Bad Example:
Visual inspection – See Procedure 987.654.321
Thermal scan – See Procedure 321.654.987

By paying attention to the little things, you create far more trust in your readers when it comes to the big things.

I received a comment from the Peanut Gallery about my last Tip of the Day. Steve in Qatar wrote:
I would distinguish “version” from “revision” as follows:  multiple valid versions can exist concurrently.  Typically only the most recent revision is valid, such as for a drawing or procedure, for which the new revision supersedes the previous revision. And you could kill two birds with one stone and tell them that it’s superSEDE not superCEDE.

Thanks, Steve. Good points, both.

Profound Quote of the Day:
“Trust is built with consistency.”
– Lincoln Chafee, Governor of Rhode Island, b. 1953

Versions, Revisions, Editions

October 16, 2012

I received the following question from Mohamed of the Omani Peanut Gallery:
“Would you please clarify the difference between version, revision and edition?”

A version is a variant from the original, such as software version 2.0 or a translation of a classical work from its original language. It can also mean an account of an event as seen by two different people or perspectives.

His version of the marital argument differs from hers.
Because Woman was created with additional bells and whistles and functionalities, Woman is considered Man Version 2.0.

A revision is a revised version, so basically the same thing. Revision is something you do to come up with a new version, preferably with lots of corrections made. I basically do this all day long.

An edition can also be a translation or version, but there is an added meaning that the other two words do not convey: a printing or publishing of many copies all at one time (in a batch).

Ken Hoffman’s Drive-Thru Gourmet column appears in the Thursday edition of the Houston Chronicle.
I have the ninth edition of Webster’s dictionary.
If you want to compose a PDF document, you need the Adobe Professional Edition, not just the reader.

The key difference between version and edition is publication. You can write many versions of a manuscript, but only the published versions are referred to as editions. A new version means something has changed, but a new edition could mean that the first printing is all sold out, so they had to crank up the presses for a second publication run.

Profound Quote of the Day, especially in reference to the Texas State Board of Education:
“History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte, French military commander, 1769-1821

Clearing the Mind

October 14, 2012

I received the following question from Steve, a log  cabin guy out in the Peanut Gallery:
“I was curious to find out how you  center yourself and clear your mind before writing. I have had trouble clearing  my mind and getting my thoughts out. I truly do enjoy writing; however, it just  seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually wasted just trying to figure  out how to begin. Any recommendations or hints?”

My dear Steve, why on earth would you want to clear your mind? No wonder you have an empty page – you are trying to have an empty head. The goal of writing is to get what is in your head onto a piece of paper, or perhaps a modern screen.

The best way to start doing that quickly is to, well, start doing that quickly. Just write down something, anything. It doesn’t have to be the beginning; you can start in the middle. It doesn’t have to be an executive summary or introduction; you can start with the first step of the procedure you followed. Just write down one thing you know you want to say, any fact at all, in any order. If you think of another topic or fact while you are writing, then put a bold subhead with that topic at the bottom of the page and go back to what you were writing. You can add more details about that other topic later.

There is an excellent book about how to overcome writer’s block that is recommended often at writers’ club meetings and conferences. It’s called Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg, who has been working with writing groups for 30 years. It is full of prompts to get you started and tips for how to turn off the inner critic so you can keep on going. You can find it on amid rave reviews.

But don’t wait for that to arrive in the mailbox; just start typing, even if you have to start every piece with “It was a dark and stormy night.” Put something on the page, get those fingers typing and the thoughts will start flowing. You can cut and paste and rearrange and edit later, just do the “brain dump” as fast as you can. But whatever you do, don’t clear your brain!

I got another comment from the Peanut Gallery from Mohammed in Oman:
“It seems that John F. Kennedy lived about half a century in the president chair. I know it is a typing mistake.”

The dates I normally put in my Profound Quote of the Day at the end of my Tip of the Day represent when the person was born and died, not length of service as President or philosopher or whatever. But I can see where one might interpret the year span in
“John F. Kennedy, 35th US President, 1917-1963”
as Kennedy’s presidential term, the way this was written.
That’s a good example of why clarity is important!

Writer’s Block Quote of the Day:
“Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite:

‘Fool!’ said my muse to me, ‘look in thy heart, and write.’”
– Sir Philip Sidney, English  poet, 1554-1586

Business Units

October 5, 2012

Sometimes we corporate types like to name our business units after certain areas of the world, and then refer to that corporate entity by that name.

Bad Example:
South Dakota has the responsibility of preparing quarterly and annual maintenance reports for all critical equipment.

Now, somebody from another company or business unit may read this requirement and think that the State of South Dakota has responsibility for compiling this report and submitting it by the stated deadline.

(Hey, this world is full of people who could misread this: foreigners, autistic folks, blondes, Aggies, the list goes on….)

Although you may be able to abbreviate this way when speaking to small corporate groups, it would be far better to be specific about the entity in formal written documents like guidelines, procedures, and contracts that people are supposed to follow to the letter.

Corrected Example:
The Acme South Dakota Business Unit (BU) has the responsibility of preparing quarterly and annual maintenance reports for all critical equipment.

Refreshing Statesman Quote of the Day:
“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer.
Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
John F. Kennedy, 35th US President, 1917-1963

Plural of Spectrum

October 3, 2012

What is the plural of the word spectrum? Is it spectrums? Or spectra?

According to both Webster’s and American Heritage Dictionaries, “spectra” is listed first, followed by “or spectrums,” which means they are equal variants and either can be used.

The Latin plural, spectra, is more commonly used in scientific writing, so I prefer that.

Here are a few other Latin words that end with –um whose plurals end with –a:
Datum => data
Maximum => maxima
Minimum => minima

The adjective form of the word is “spectral,” as in spectral decomposition. This is a method of utilizing seismic data and the discrete Fourier transform (DFT) for imaging and mapping temporal bed thickness and geological discontinuities over large 3D seismic surveys.

Profound Quote of the Day:
“Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.”
– Plato, Greek philosopher, 427-347 BC