Archive for January, 2013

Ranked High vs. Highly

January 29, 2013

Here’s a sentence I encountered today:

Original Sentence:
Miscible flooding ranked [high / highly] as a potential EOR method in the screening study.

“High” is an adjective that needs to modify a noun, whereas “highly” is an adverb that needs to modify a verb. If we use the adjective, “high” would describe “miscible flooding.” If we use the adverb, “highly” would describe “ranked.” Based on grammar alone, I would tend to go with “highly.”

But consider some analogues, if you will.

Analogue #1:
Miscible flooding ranked [first / firstly] as a potential EOR method in the screening study.
You certainly wouldn’t say “firstly” here. You would use the adjective “first” and not the

Analogue #2:
Miscible flooding appeared [high / highly] as a potential EOR method in the screening study.
You wouldn’t use “highly” here, either. You would use the adjective.

So “ranked” in our original sentence is used as a linking verb, much like “appeared” in Analogue #2. Therefore the adjective “high” could be used on the other end of it, modifying the subject.

Analogue #3:
Miscible flooding remained [high / highly] as a potential EOR method in the screening study.
Again, the linking verb “remained” would require the adjective “high” after it.

So, let’s go with “high” instead of “highly” in our original sentence.

Famous Quote of the Day:

“The one thing you can’t do when you’re highly ranked is relax.”
William Floyd, American politician, 1734-1821

[Editor’s note: here “highly” is an adverb modifying the passive verb “are ranked.”]


National Handwriting Day

January 25, 2013

How bad is your handwriting?

It was 36 years ago today (Jan. 23) that the national trade group of pen and pencil manufacturers created National Handwriting Day, to be celebrated on the birthday
of John Hancock, who signed the Declaration of Independence so clearly that his
name became synonymous with “signature.”

It seems that cursive writing is going the way of the buggy whip, as young children are learning keyboarding and printing. Only 12% of elementary school teachers are trained to teach cursive writing these days.

Back when I was a pup, I got A’s in every subject except handwriting, for which I got a C. Thank heavens my mom told me to take typing “in case that chemistry thing doesn’t pan out.” I wish she had insisted on shorthand as well, as that would have come in handy as a magazine reporter, especially for people who talk really fast, like Carole Keeton Rylander. For her speeches, I’d just listen and laugh.

I once won a handwriting award, though, when I put my mind to it. See past Tip of the Day:

How much handwriting do you do? Probably not enough of it, I would guess.

But if you ever sit down with a blank sheet of stationery or a pretty note card and write just a few nice thoughts about someone and send it via snail-mail, I guarantee you will make that person’s whole day! If you really want to cement your friendships and business relationships, buy a big box of note cards and send one out each day to a different person in your Rolodex, er, Outlook Contacts. (There I go, dating myself again. I gotta stop doing that!) By the end of the year, you will have reconnected with old friends, caught up with former coworkers, and totally endeared yourself with 365 people in your life. Just a handwritten note to say you were thinking about them, five minutes plus a stamp, will change your life for the better.

And it will give you good practice at keeping your cursive handwriting in top form.

John Hancock Quotes of the Day:

“The greatest ability in business is to get along with others and to influence their actions.”

“There, I guess King George will be able to read that without his spectacles!”

– John Hancock, American statesman and founder, 1737-1793

Laws and Equations

January 25, 2013

One of the cool things scientists and engineers get to do is have something they have invented or discovered named after them. For example, if a chemist like me discovers a new element for the Periodic Table, I would get to name it something like Jeanium. Or if an astronomer named Dr. Willard Bright discovered a star, he could name it Star Bright.

The same works with developing a new equation or theory or physical law. The oil industry literature is full of laws and equations that were named after people.

Darcy’s law
Stokes’ law
Laplace transform
Archie’s equation

Here are two rules of thumb about capitalizing and punctuating these things.

Rule of Thumb #1:
If the person’s name ends in S or Z, the apostrophe goes after the name, but there is
no S after the apostrophe.

Rule of Thumb #2:
Do not capitalize the law, theorem, principle, equation or whatever the thing is the person invented. Only capitalize the proper name of the person, according to the SPE Style Guide.

Bad Example:
Ohms’ Law

Here, the guy’s name was Georg Ohm, a German physicist, and since his name does not end in S, you can use ‘s after the name to denote possession. The Irish baronet and physicist Sir George Stokes, on the other hand, already has an S at the end of his name, so his possessive would be Stokes’ law, with just an apostrophe. Also, the word “law”
should not be capitalized, only the name.

Profound Quote of the Day:

“A good compromise, a good piece of legislation, is like a good sentence, or a good piece of music. Everybody can recognize it. They say, ‘Huh. It works. It makes sense.’”
– Barack Obama, US. President, b. 1961

Along With

January 25, 2013

In a previous Tip of the Day, we learned that a compound subject (two singular nouns with “and” between them) takes a plural verb.

Well A and Well B are ready for hookup to the manifold.

What if we change “and” to “along with” or “in addition to” or “in conjunction with”?
Do we still use a plural verb?
The surprising answer is: No.

The explanation about this comes from Anshul Malik – an Engineer’s angle:

Modifiers do not affect the central subject’s number. Phrases which show the idea of
togetherness, such as ”as well as,” “together with,” “along with,” “in conjunction with,” “coupled with,” etc., always introduce a modifier and not another subject. These phrases are NOT synonymous with “and.” They do not have any impact on the subject or verb.
e.g.: The father along with his children is coming.
Here the only subject is “father” and hence the verb used is singular; “along with his children” is just a modifier.

OK, so knowing that, let’s look at the following sentence.

Quiz Question:
This theory along with a lookup table [enable/enables] the user to model permeability.

The answer would be “enables” because “the theory” is a singular subject and “along with a lookup table” is a modifier of that subject. If you diagrammed this sentence, “lookup table” would be downstairs from “theory” and not on the same line next to the verb; therefore the verb would have to agree with only “theory.”

BTW, did you notice that “lookup” table was not hyphenated? See my previous post for other –up words that are not yphenated:

Profound Quote of the Day:

“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power.
We have guided missiles and misguided men.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr., American civil rights activist, 1929-1968

This Or That

January 20, 2013

Rule of Thumb:
When a compound subject contains two singular nouns separated by the words “or” or “nor,” use a singular verb.

Either Well A or Well B is next on the list to be drilled by the Bandersnatch #6 rig.
Neither Well C nor Well D has been hooked up yet.

But what about the case where one of the nouns is singular and one of the nouns is plural? “That depends.” (This is the Standard Engineer’s Answer.) That depends on which one is closest to the verb.

Either the beam pump or the two ESPs are to be installed this week.
Either the two ESPs or the beam pump is to be installed this week.

This brings us to the sentence I ran across recently.

Quiz Question:
If one or more (is or are) outside the specifications, the lot will be refused.

Thought Process:
Which subject is closest to the verb?  “More.”
Is that singular or plural?  Plural, as it refers to more than one.
Which is the plural verb form?  “Are.”

Quiz Answer:
If one or more are outside the specifications, the lot will be refused.

Famous Quote of the Day:

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”
– Plato, Greek philosopher, 427-347 BC

Fitness for Service

January 20, 2013

Some people are just hyphen-happy. They think that just because some words belong together, they should be hyphenated. Hyphens, however, should be used as glue only for adjectives, not for nouns.

Bad Example:
Each vessel must be inspected for fitness-for-service prior to startup.

Here “fitness for service” is used as a noun (with a modifying prepositional phrase), not an adjective.Therefore, you do not need hyphens as glue.

Glue Example:
Each vessel must pass a fitness-for-service inspection prior to startup.

Fitness-for-service is used as an adjective to describe which kind of inspection is required. The glue hyphens are needed to show that the entire phrase is modifying the noun “inspection.” Without the glue, you have:

Bad Example:
Each vessel must pass a fitness for service inspection prior to startup.
Are we determining whether the vessel is fit for service, or fit for service inspection? To remove all doubt, hyphenate.

Rule of Thumb:
Hyphenate phrases that act as an adjective modifying a noun, but do not hyphenate a noun.

Another Example:
She has the high-permeability core on her desk.  (“high-perm” is adjective modifying the noun “core”)
The core on her desk has a high permeability. (permeability is a noun, with high as an adjective)


Hilarious Typo of the Day:
“Some wells may not need to be replaced if equipped with insulted tubing.”
Well, send somebody out there to talk trash and insult that tubing, which I’m sure is much cheaper in the long run than insulated tubing!

Famous Quote of the Day:

“Being a star has made it possible for me to get insulted in places where the average Negro could never hope to go and get insulted.”
– Sammy Davis, Jr., American comedian, singer and dancer, 1925-1990

Whose and Who’s

January 16, 2013

I ran across a specification for a “data logger whose data can be downloaded.”

The word “whose” is the possessive form of “who” and not a possessive form of “what.”

                          Person        Thing
Pronoun          Who             What
Possessive      Whose          of Which

That means if you use “whose,” then the entity owning the item has to be a person, not a thing. A data logger is not a person, it is an instrument; thus, it is a thing. So how would we say this, then?

Corrected Example:
… data logger from which data can be downloaded.

Person Example:
The geologist, whose report was deleted from the server, went ballistic.

Bad Non-Human Example:
The report, whose author went ballistic, was later restored.

Corrected Non-Human Example:
The report, the author of which went ballistic, was later restored.

Think of the Dr. Seuss book The Cat in the Hat Comes Back:
“Whose shoes did he use? I looked and saw whose.
And I said to the cat, ‘This is very bad news.
Now the spot is all over dad’s 10 dollar shoes!’”

In this example, “whose” is a pronoun for “dad’s” and dad is a person. OK. Good to go.
However, you would not use “whose” for a cat.

Then what about who’s? This is not a possessive; it is a contraction for “who is” or possibly “who has.”

Who’s going to tell the geologist that the report cannot be restored?
Who is going to tell the geologist that the report cannot be restored?

The geologist is taking the person who’s restored the report out to lunch at Chez Louis.
The geologist is taking the person who has restored the report out to lunch at Chez Louis.

Who’s going to use “whose” for a non-human use? Not you.

Kids Say the Darnedest Things:

I was judging the narratives and essays for the Future City competition last evening, and one narrative said:
“Our city is home to people of all kinds of occupations, from intellectuals to engineers, ….”
I busted up laughing. Apparently these middle school students consider intellectuals and engineers at the opposite ends of the human spectrum.


Analog vs. Analogue

January 16, 2013

Today’s Tip of the Day comes to us from

“With the word traditionally spelled analogue, American writers tend to drop the silent –ue in some contexts, making analog. The spellings are largely interchangeable, though analog is usually used in relation to electronics, while analogue is often used in the sense something that bears analogy to something else. Outside the U.S., analogue prevails for all senses of the word.

“A similar trend has changed the American spelling of catalog (formerly catalogue), but other words ending in the silent –ue have not yet undergone the change. For example, dialogue, monologue, epilogue, and pedagogue are still the prevalent spellings, though the shortened forms do pop up occasionally and may continue to gain ground.”

Old School Example:
Due to plate tectonics, the XYZ formation in Brazil is the same age and rock type as its West African analogue across the Atlantic, the ABC formation.

New School Example:
Analog television broadcasting was replaced by digital TV in 2009.

Similarly, one could say that dialog is the digital dialogue.

New School Example:
When the dialog box pops up, click on Done.

Which brings me to a personal anecdote:
Back before Google was invented, I was a Texaco librarian who did literature searches on a very expensive system called Dialog, which was the world’s first commercial online search service in 1972. It has since been purchased by ProQuest. Oh, how powerful I felt when PhDs came to my office to ask me to find papers on certain topics, and I could actually find relevant research that made their day. Today, they do it themselves on Google. Or Bing. For free. Gotta love it!

Profound Quote of the Day:

“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
– Toni Morrison, American novelist, b. 1931


Three Funny Typos

January 11, 2013

Just three quick typos I found today that I thought were funny:

1) Stem chest instead of steam chest.
2) Action items were auctioned instead of actioned. (Actually, actioned is one of those attempts to “verb a noun,” and auto-correct changed it to auctioned. The right word is “implemented.”)
3) Suction valve storking time instead of stroking time. (Somebody must be having a baby soon.)

Have a nice weekend, y’all.

Profound Quote of the Day:

“An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet, 1803-1882

Giving Writers Feedback

January 11, 2013

Today’s Tip is brought to you by Lacey Wulf, Technical Writer at Shea Writing and Training Solutions, who helps you “create clarity out of chaos, one sentence at a time.”

How to Give Feedback on Someone Else’s Writing

If co-workers ask you to give them feedback on their writing, it can either be a pleasant experience or create tension in the workplace. Here are suggestions for successfully communicating helpful input while maintaining a community of respect.

Reviewers should:
•       Be specific.
Instead of “This document is confusing,” say, “In section 5, the specific management roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined.”

•       Be tactful.
Instead of “This is horribly written,” say, “This document states the requirement, but it doesn’t specify how to accomplish the requirement.”

•       Focus on the author’s areas of concerns.
Comment first on clarity, content, and organization before commenting on lower-level issues, such as punctuation.

•       Ask questions to provoke further thought.
Does this requirement also apply to ___ situation? Have you considered including a section about ____?

•       Offer solutions to any issues that you might raise.
This sentence seems out of place. Consider putting it at the beginning of the section.

•       When appropriate, acknowledge strengths as well as weaknesses (e.g., in the body
of an email, when giving face-to-face feedback).

•       State your suggestion, but respect the author’s position and ownership of the text.
After being a member of various writers’ critique groups over the years, I have found that if you offer constructive suggestions for improvement sandwiched in between two compliments or pieces of positive feedback, that sandwich is generally swallowed quite easily by the writer, i.e., no tears.

As Mary Poppins likes to sing: “A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

Shea’s next Timely Tip will address how to receive feedback from a reviewer. Stay

Profound Quote of the Day:

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”
– Ken Blanchard, American businessman, author of the book The One Minute Manager, b. 1939