Archive for May, 2014

Prior To vs. Before

May 22, 2014

Grammar purists will tell you that you should not use the expression “prior to” as a preposition when you mean “before.”

They will tell you “prior” is an adjective that means “earlier” or “previous.” You wouldn’t say “earlier to” or “previous to,” so you shouldn’t use “prior to.”

My well-worn Webster’s dictionary says “prior to” is “pompous or affected,” and others say the expression is “stuffy,” and “longer, clumsier, and awash with pretension.”

My dictionary also says (under synonyms for preceding): “PREVIOUS and PRIOR imply existing or occurring earlier, but PRIOR often adds an implication of greater importance,” as in the word “priority.”

Work orders with waivers approved prior to their due date are also considered compliant.
Work orders with waivers approved before their due date are also considered compliant.

The second one is simpler and clearer – especially if English is not your native language!

Funny Typo of the Day
“It is the responsibility of the Project Manager to ensure that all rules and regulations are followed to ensure food standing with local and state authorities.”

Snarky Comment:
Those local and state authorities – especially the police – can be bribed with doughnuts!

Profound Quote of the Day:

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world!”
Anne Frank, German Jewish girl and diary author killed in the Holocaust, 1929-1945



May 20, 2014

The next time I see somebody use the word “pre-planning,” I’m going to have to report that person to the Department of Repetitive Redundancy for using a pleonasm.

You see, “planning” is the act or process of making a plan or plans. A plan is a mental formulation or a graphic representation that is done before the action takes place. A plan is also a scheme, program, or method worked out beforehand for the accomplishment of an objective. The concept of “before” is already included in the word, which makes the “pre–” prefix, which also means “before,” unnecessary. It’s the same situation with “advanced planning” or “future plans,” which are also pleonasms. Nix, Nix.

So what in the Sam Hill is a pleonasm, you ask? It’s two words put together that mean the same thing. Here are some examples I found on
– burning fire
– cash money
– end result
– all together
– invited guests
– null and void
– cease and desist
– ATM machine
– HIV virus
– RAM memory

A pleonasm is the opposite of an oxymoron, which is two words put together that mean the opposite:
– awfully good
– deafening silence
– pretty ugly

These are not to be confused with Oxy morons… (don’t get me started.)

Bet You Didn’t Know….
The official plural of “oxymoron” is “oxymora”, although “oxymorons” is becoming more acceptable.

It is a good idea to avoid using pleonasms in your writing, because they are redundant.
It is also a good idea to avoid using oxymora in your writing, because they can be confusing.

Funny Tidbit:
When you search Google for “pre-planning” you get ads for cremation services and funerals. You either plan for your funeral, or you don’t; there is no such thing as post-planning in that industry!

Profound Quote of the Day:

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

–  Alan Lakein, American businessman, author of How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life, which sold 3 million copies


May 18, 2014

Effectively is a rather unusual adverb because you can put it in two different places in the same sentence and have it mean two entirely different things.

Example 1:
This drilling mud removes cuttings from the well effectively.

In this location, “effectively” means purposefully and efficiently, in a way that produces a desired result.

Example 2:
This drilling mud effectively removes cuttings from the well.

In this location, “effectively” means virtually, in an indirect way, actually but not officially or explicitly.

Now, which mud would you rather use?  Mud Number 1, of course!

Here is another scenario:
1)  Port authorities said maritime operations there were shut down effectively.
This means they wanted to shut down because of a bomb scare, and they did a really good job of it.

2)  Port authorities said maritime operations there were effectively shut down.
This means they didn’t want to shut down, but the fog made it impossible for them to work.

The moral of this story is: Be sure you put the word “effectively” in the right place in the sentence to convey the meaning you really want.

Meaning #1: Had a good result – put “effectively” at the end of the phrase or sentence.
Meaning #2: In effect, for all intents and purposes, basically – put “effectively” before the verb.

Here’s another example of such usage:
A good charitable foundation makes sure that the monies raised are used effectively. (Meaning #1)
They were effectively controlled by the people they were supposed to be investigating. (Meaning #2)

Profound Quote of the Day:

“Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss.”

–  Lee Iacocca, American businessman, former CEO and Chairman of Chrysler Corp., b. 1924

Verses vs. Versus

May 10, 2014

Verses vs. Versus
Although they are pronounced nearly the same, these two words are completely different parts of speech.
The word “versus” is a Latin-based preposition that means “against” or “in contrast to.”
The word “verses” is a noun, the plural of “verse,” which is a line of a poem, a stanza of a song, or a numbered part of a Bible chapter.

Here’s a bad example I saw today:
Trip sheets are used by the driller to track hole fill verses metal displacement.

If you are comparing two things, use versus, not verses – unless, of course, you are Shakespeare:
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.”

According to the SPE Style Guide, you may abbreviate versus as vs., which is what I do often in my Writing Style Tip of the Day titles (see above).
Verily, I think this is one of my best titles ever.

Welcome to the 49 new subscribers in Bogota, Colombia!
I have a nice gift for you to bring you up to speed quickly.

One of the local Peanut Gallery members, Don here in the Houston office, sent me a nice link to a whole bunch of words that are mistaken for each other:

If I had written it, I would have used “Affect vs. Effect” instead of “Affect and Effect.”
You might want to bookmark this website if you struggle with any of these pairs of similar words.
Thanks for sharing, Don.
And thanks to Dale Walker for promoting my writing tips in South America.

Profound Quote of the Day:

“I have not the slightest pretension to call my verses poetry; I write now and then for no other purpose than to relieve depression or to improve my English.”

–  Alfred Nobel, Swedish scientist who invented dynamite (the Nobel Prize is named after him) 1833-1896

May 2, 2014

Letter vs. A4 Paper Size

Here in the USA we default to “letter” size paper (8.5 x 11 inches), whereas in the Middle East offices they use A4 paper (210 x 297 mm or 8.3 x 11.7 inches). Why the difference?

There is actually an ISO standard (ISO 216) for paper sizes. In the A series, A0 paper is one square meter in area with an aspect ratio (x/y) of [X] , so if you fold that in half, you get A1 paper, and if you fold that in half, you get A2 paper, and if you fold that in half, you get A3 paper, and if you fold that in half, you get A4 paper. Now, guess what you get when you fold that in half….?

The ISO standard also has a B series and a C series. B1 size paper is halfway between A0 and A1, and B2 paper is halfway between A1 and A2, etc. B series paper sizes are used for posters, books, envelopes and passports.

The C series is only used for envelopes, as defined in ISO 269. Now, for you real geeks out there: the area of C series sheets is the geometric mean of the areas of the A and B series sheets of the same number. That means that C4 is slightly larger than A4, such that an A4 letter fits nicely inside a C4 envelope. Likewise, a C4 letter fits inside a B4 envelope. How cool is that?

Here is a handy-dandy table with all the dimensions of the A, B, and C series paper sizes in both mm and inches.

ATT75073 1 ATT64577 2

Now, back to those crazy North Americans, who are a bunch of mavericks and have to do things their own way. In the USA, Canada, and Mexico, they use 8.5 x 11 inch “letter” paper (also called ANSI A), 8.5 x 14 inch “legal” paper, and 11 x 17 inch “tabloid” or “ledger” paper (also called ANSI B). The ANSI paper sizes also follow a fold-it-in-half rule (see above).

The thing to remember is this: If you are composing a document in North America that will be printed outside of North America, you will have to go to the Page Layout tab in Word, click on Size, and change it from Letter to A4. Then you will have to scroll through your whole document and adjust picture sizes or do a “Keep With Next” on certain items so they don’t break across the page in an ugly way. It’s much easier if you start with the correct size paper setting in the first place!

Profound Quote of the Day:

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”

–  William Wordsworth, English poet, 1770–1850