Archive for March, 2013

Overall vs. Over All

March 29, 2013

According to Merriam-Webster, “overall” is an adverb that means generally or as a whole. As a noun, overalls are pants with a bib and houlder straps, or loose, protective trousers worn over your normal clothes. As an adjective, “overall” means general, including everything, or viewed as a whole.

Overall, I think the drilling went well. (adverb)
Put on overalls if you are going to work with acids. (noun)
Unfortunately, the acid stimulation was an overall failure. (adjective)

“Over all” is an expression that contains a preposition (over) and a pronoun (all). It means “above the whole thing” or “on top of everything.”

Make sure you put tarps over all the equipment to keep the rain off.
“I am Yertle the Turtle, oh marvelous me, for I am king over all that I see.” – Dr. Seuss

If in doubt, substitute the word “general” or “generally” for “overall” in the sentence, and if it fits, use the single word. If it doesn’t fit, use “over all.”

Generally, I think the drilling went well. (OK to use overall as adverb)
Unfortunately, the acid stimulation was a general failure. (OK to use overall as adjective)
Make sure you put tarps generally the equipment to keep the rain off. (Not OK to use overall; use over all)

Profound Quote of the Day:
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
– Thomas Alva Edison, American inventor (light bulb, phonograph, motion picture camera), 1847-1931


Secure vs. Procure

March 29, 2013

Which word would you use in the following sentence, “procure” or “secure”?

What is needed is a list of what items to _______ and the quantity desired.

According to Merriam-Webster, to “procure” means to get possession of or to obtain something. To “secure” means to make safe or sure. It also means to get lasting possession or control of something. The word “secure” has the connotation that the item might get away somehow and that ownership of it must be protected. On the other hand, “procure” merely means to get your hands on it, either by buying it or borrowing or even begging.

So, looking at our example, it appears that the goal is to get your hands on the items, not ensure that they are locked up in a controlled environment. So “procure” would be a better word in this case.

Here’s another case:
We need to ________ another drilling rig until 2017.

In this case, you are not only trying to get your hands on one, but also trying to make sure it is available for your exclusive use for the full time period, without anybody else contracting it in between. Thus, “secure” would be the better word to use in this sentence.

Profound Quote of the Day:
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
– Benjamin Franklin, American publisher, scientist and statesman, 1706-1790


March 22, 2013

According to the SPE Style Guide, we should use the words “million” and “billion” and “trillion” to express large, rounded numbers. You should spell out the preceding numerals of nine or less, unless you have a unit of measure (days, hours, and years count as units of measure.)

85 million b/d
six billion people

However, if you are using SI metric units, you should not use “million” or “billion,” but should use powers of 10 notation. This is done by using a decimal numeral between 0 and 10, then a space, then inserting a multiplication or “times” symbol (×), then a space, then a 10 with a superscripted power.

6.023 × 10(23) mol(-1)    (Avogadro’s number, the number of molecules in a mole)

Don’t use an X or an x, as these are recognized digitally as letters, whereas the times symbol is not. To get a times symbol, click the Insert tab (next to Home tab in the Word Ribbon), then go all the way to the right and click on the Omega sign for Symbol, and if it’s not there among the recently used symbols, scroll down to the middle of the sixth line to find the ×, and click on Insert.

I have seen quite a bit of the following format used in technical papers: 6.023E23.  Do not use that. Not only is this mashed together and digitally unsearchable, it could be confused with 6.023 × e(23), where e is the exponential number = 2.718181828… raised to the power of 23, not 10 raised to that power. Yes, I know some calculators use the 6.023E23 notation, but that’s because they don’t know any better and they have a limited number of digit spaces available and no superscripting capability (like WordPress).

You, on the other hand, know just what to do and how to do it.

Personal Anecdote:
I was driving to work today and saw a chartreuse Ford Fiesta with a Cal Tech license plate frame and a Texas vanity license plate with the number: 2.998E10
How geeky is that??

What’s even geekier than that, the first thing I did when my computer booted up was go to Google to find out what that number meant. Turns out, it is the speed of light in cm/sec, which is used to convert from wavenumbers to frequency. Cool and geeky with a sense of humor – nice combination.

But I sure hope he doesn’t drive that fast!

Profound Quote of the Day:

“Cleverness is not wisdom.”
– Euripides, Greek poet, 480-406 BC



March 19, 2013

Those who are not native English speakers will sometimes use a word in a politically incorrect manner, simply because there are multiple meanings of the word.

One example is the word “simple,” which can mean “easy” or “stupid,” depending on the context.

That was simple. (easy to do)
He is simple. (stupid or mentally retarded)
She was a simple child. (naive or innocent)
They led a simple lifestyle. (modest, not ostentatious)
He was a simple amateur. (lacking in knowledge or expertise)
She asked him to tell her the simple truth. (sheer, unmixed)
It was a simple fracture. (single, as opposed to compound fracture)

According to Merriam-Webster, calling a person simple means the person is mentally deficient, having a degree of intelligence inadequate to cope with anything complex or involving mental effort. So don’t call the person simple when you really mean he or she makes something look easy.

Profound Quote of the Day:

“And be a simple kind of man.”
– Lynard Skynard song

This advice from a mother to a son means “be modest and not complicated”

Near vs. Nearby

March 19, 2013

Both near and nearby can be used as both an adjective and an adverb, so that’s why these terms are often confused.

Nearby means “close at hand,” both as an adjective and as an adverb. In both cases, the word can be used either before or after the word it modifies.

The gas flare can be seen from the nearby town. (adjective before modified word)
The gas flare can be seen from the town nearby. (adjective after modified word)
Locavores prefer to eat nearby grown foods. (adverb before modified word)
The toolpusher dwells nearby. (adverb after modified word)

The word near is far more interesting, because it can also be a verb and a preposition.

He gathered his courage to near the judge’s bench. (verb meaning “to approach”)
Please keep the stack of cups near the coffee pot. (preposition meaning “close to”)

Those are fairly straightforward; but let’s take a closer look at the adjective and adverb

Adjective Examples:
Near kin, near and dear to my heart (closely related or intimate)
In the near future (close in time or distance)
Near miss, near beer (barely)

Adverb Examples:
Keep your friends near and your enemies even closer.
She was near dead when the ambulance arrived.

OK, so knowing all that, let’s look at the following sentence and see which word should go there:

The company agreed to monitor air quality _____ the apartment complex.

What part of speech is needed? In this case it would be a preposition, as in the “near the coffee pot” example above. Other prepositions would fit here, such as around or in. Since nearby is not used as a preposition, you must use near here.

Corrected Example:
The company agreed to monitor air quality near the apartment complex.

Profound Quote of the Day:

“Slight not what’s near through aiming at what’s far.”
– Euripides, Greek poet, 480-406 BC

Receiving Feedback

March 16, 2013

Today’s Writing Style Tip of the Day is brought to you by Shea Writing and Training Solutions, a Houston-based company that helps you “create clarity out of chaos, one sentence at a time.”

The last time we shared a Tip from them, it was about how to review another person’s writing graciously. Today, they will discuss how to give receive feedback from someone
else about your writing.

Authors should:
•       Consider advice fully and carefully before deciding whether to accept it.
•       Explain tactfully why you chose to reject certain suggestions. For example, you might say, “This document follows requirements from _______company policy document, so we are going to have to preserve the content as is.”
•       Realize that the reviewer is trying to help make the document better. Don’t get defensive.
•       If you need more clarity on suggestions, ask questions such as, “Why do you think we should add a section for ____?”
•       Thank the reviewer for his or her feedback.We encourage respectful discussion of reasoning behind suggestions and decisions. This kind of discussion often results in compromise that satisfies both parties and further clarifies writing for the end users and readers.

And if the Grammar Guru and Punctuation Pro says it’s wrong, it’s wrong. Period. No arguing.

Profound Quote of the Day:

“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.”
– Elon Musk, billionaire founder of SpaceX, Tesla, SolarCity and PayPal., b. 1971

Hydrochloric Acid

March 15, 2013

Here’s a short sentence that required quite a bit of fixing:

The well was acid stimulated with HCL acid.

The first thing this chemist saw was HCL. It should have been HCl, the chemical compound comprised of one atom of hydrogen (H) and one atom of chlorine (Cl). If you look at the Periodic Table of the Elements, elements with two letters have the first letter as upper case and the second letter as lower case.

The second thing to be fixed was “HCl acid.” HCl stands for hydrogen chloride, if it’s in the gaseous state. In an aqueous solution, which undoubtedly they were using for stimulating the well, it is called hydrochloric acid. Therefore “hydrochloric acid acid” was repetitively redundant. And saying that the well was “acid stimulated with HCl acid” was repeatedly repetitively redundant.

The third thing was that “acid stimulated” could have been hyphenated. I’ve seen this phrase often both hyphenated and not; but normally when a noun and a verb are used together to express a single concept, the two words are hyphenated.

Oil-based mud
The mud is based on oil.

Our Example:
Acid-stimulated well
The well was stimulated with acid.

I think it follows the same formula, so I would hyphenate it.

So here is our corrected sentence:
The well was acid-stimulated with HCl.

Hilarious Typo of the Day:
Peek production is expected in 2016.
Better close your drapes, blinds, and shutters in 2016!

Profound Quote of the Day:

“Remember, happiness doesn’t depend upon who you are or what you  have; it depends solely on what you think.”
– Dale Carnegie, American author (How to Win Friends and Influence People) and motivational speaker, 1888-1955

Logical and Systematic

March 13, 2013

Hi, everybody out there in the Peanut Gallery! Did you miss me?

Sorry I’ve been away so long, but I had a huge (600+ pages!) project I had to finish by Feb. 28 and barely got it done by March 11. And by “done” I mean the first draft of the “final” document until all the changes come in, supposedly by next Monday. I logged some overtime hours, too.

Well, I have a question from the Peanut Gallery that has been sitting in my Inbox until I
finally came up for air.

Mikhail, past president of an SPE Student Chapter and member of the very first class graduating from the University of Houston with a BS degree in Petroleum Engineering, asks:

“What’s the difference between Logical and Systematic, if any?”

Short Answer:
Logical refers more to the brain and reasoning, and systematic refers more to the process or system ­– a recipe, if you will.

Long Answer:
Logical means deductive, analytical reasoning according to sound and valid principles. In other words, organized thinking.

It’s logical that there would be less traffic on the way to work and more parking spaces available in the garage, because many people are out of the office on Spring Break with their kids.

Systematic means methodical in procedure or following a set plan, marked by thoroughness and regularity of efforts. In other words, organized doing.

The company’s Mechanical Integrity Program ensures that each business unit has a systematic way to monitor equipment health and perform preventive maintenance at regular intervals.

You can be systematic without being logical. For example, a person with a compulsive disorder may have a very systematic way to prepare for work each morning, but there is no logic in taking two full hours to wash your hands 27 times, comb your hair 27 times, and check to see if the garage door is closed 27 times. But he does this methodically every single morning.

You can also be logical without being systematic. For example, you can figure out in your head that a certain result needs to happen for the good of all, but you improvise along the way on how to achieve it.

Ah, but when logic comes together with a good system, that is when wonderful things can happen!

Profound and Logical Quotes of the Day:

“Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas.”

“The grand aim of all science is to cover the greatest number of empirical facts by logical deduction from the smallest number of hypotheses or axioms.”

– Albert Einstein, German physicist, 1879-1955