Erika on Grammar Rules for Digital Communication

The following is a guest post from Associate Editor & Copy Manager Erika Spelman on  following or ignoring the rules for correct grammar and punctuation when writing emails or sending texts.

“Thanks, there’s no rush, since I don’t have a record player.”

I recently wrote this incorrectly punctuated and arguably stylistically flawed sentence in an email to someone who apologized for not yet having returned my old collection of vinyl records. I thought about it consciously before sending it. Would a period after “Thanks” be interpreted as irritation? A semicolon would have been pretentious. A dash might seem too hurried. A comma, though incorrect, seemed friendlier.

Although my last blog post argued with grammarians who frown at the use of “since” to mean “because,” I still secretly feel like I’m getting away with something not quite proper when I use it this way. “Because” in this reply would not have meant the same thing. To me, using “because” would have signified that the cause of there being no rush was that I didn’t have a record player. I did not mean to indicate a causal relationship but to mention a factor that helped explain my feeling that there was no rush.

The aforementioned email is just one example of electronic communications in which I deliberately use incorrect punctuation and less formal syntax than I would in other writing, and I know of other grammar sticklers who confess to doing the same thing. One friend, who is one of the few people I know who actually uses the word “whom” correctly in casual speech, gets worried if I end a text message with a period and will call me to see if I’m angry. Another, whose first reaction to a rather long email I showed her from someone else was that it contained no typos or grammatical mistakes, agreed with me when I described my deliberation regarding the period, semicolon, dash, and comma options in the construction “Thanks, there’s no rush.“ Yes, this shows how much I thought about it–I actually consulted someone I trust who has equal respect for the rules of grammar!

Much has been said about the butchering of the written word stemming from the conventions of text messaging. Going for the fastest and least typing-intensive means of expression is one thing; deliberately breaking rules even when it makes one feel uncomfortable to do so is another.

What rules of grammar do you knowingly break when sending electronic communications?

Erika Spelman is an associate editor and copy manager at AMACOM. She shepherds books through the production process, helps set house style, and serves as a resource regarding style, word usage, and grammar for the company. Prior to joining AMACOM, Erika worked as a principal manuscript editor at West Group and as a proofreader at Counsel Press.

Earlier Posts:
Erika on the Top Ten Copyediting Mistakes
Erika on the Noble Art of Proofreading
Erika on an Associate Editor’s Role in Interior Book Design

Webcast: Speaking with Presence — Delivering Your Message with Authority and Confidence

Photo of John Baldoni, author of The Leader's Guide to Speaking with PresenceThe American Management Association New Media team will be hosting a webcast with John Baldoni, author of The Leader’s Guide to Speaking With Presence: How to Project Confidence, Conviction and Authority. He will be offering techniques to help leaders achieve the kind of genuine presence that leads to lasting trust and quantifiable influence.

Apr 23, 2014
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM Eastern
Fee: Complimentary
Meeting Number: 17837-00001

 With their warmth, confidence, and ability to connect, many leaders appear like they were born to the role. But that is actually rare. What seem to be innate gifts are often the result of learning and practicing communication skills. And, as a leader, your most important job is to communicate effectively. Whether in a meeting, presentation, water-cooler conversation, or formal speech, your ability to deliver a clear, believable message is the tipping point between forgettable and transformational. This webcast gives you a concise starting point to improve your communication skills. You’ll get dozens of practical tips for creating and communicating meaningful messages with presence and authority. To be a truly effective leader, your words need to ring true, and your delivery needs to be authentic. Join us as we explore:

  • How to present your ideas clearly and provide appropriate context

  • Tips for grounding yourself and radiating confidence that will put your audience at ease

  • Steps you can take to refine your public speaking delivery

  • How you should use stories to inform, involve, and inspire

  • Ways to leverage the energy of any room

Jacket image, The Leader's Guide to Speaking with PresenceSign up for John Baldoni’s AMA Webcast.

John Baldoni, president of Baldoni Consulting LLC, is an internationally recognized executive coach, speaker, and author. In 2011, Leadership Gurus International ranked John No. 11 on its list of the world’s top 30 leadership experts. He is a regular online contributor to CBS MoneyWatch, Inc., and Harvard Business Review.

Random Quotes from New Books This April

Jacket image, Successful Business Process Management by Paul K. BermanSuccessful Business Process Management: What You Need to Know to Get Results by Paula K. Berman

“The exact boundaries of a process are usually somewhat arbitrary, especially when you are defining multiple interlocking procedures—where does one begin and the other end? It depends on whose point of view you want to include in the procedure. These decisions also help you determine what triggers the process.” (page 98)

Jacket image, Think Bigger by Mark Van RijmenamThink Bigger: Developing a Successful Big Data Strategy for Your Business by Mark Van Rijmenam

“Hadoop, which is named after the elephant toy of the child of the inventor of Hadoop, was developed because existing data storage processing tools appeared inadequate to handle the large amounts of data that started to appear with the growth of the Internet. First, Google developed the programming model MapReduce to cope with the flow of data that resulted from its mission to organize and make universally accessible the world’s information. Yahoo, in response, developed Hadoop in 2005 as an implementation of MapReduce. It was released as an open source tool under the Apache license.” (page 59)

Want to sample other AMACOM books? Check out our Random Quotes from New Books series.

The Economy of You Author Kimberly Palmer in the New York Times

Photo of Kimberly Palmer, author of The Economy of YouKimberly Palmer, author of The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life wrote an essay, “A Side Business as a Way to Gain Financial Security” that appears in the Your Money section of today’s New York Times.

In the height of the recession, as new rounds of layoffs were announced on what seemed like a daily basis, I was grappling with motherhood. Staring at my newborn daughter’s face, I felt overwhelmed with the responsibility. The job market only worsened my anxiety. What would we do if I were to suddenly lose my job, or if my husband were to lose his? How would we care for our child?

As a reporter working in a struggling industry, I always knew unexpected job loss was a possibility, but now, the stakes had never been higher. Being so financially vulnerable was unacceptable to me. And one day, as I was preparing to interview a businesswoman who made her living by selling cutting boards on Etsy.com, the handmade marketplace, I thought I had come upon a solution: I could have a side job making things to sell on the site.

Jacket image, The Economy of You by Kimberly PalmerRead the full article here.

Kimberly Palmer is the senior editor and finance columnist for U.S. News & World Report. She writes the popular Alpha Consumer blog and is the author of a series of financial guides, Palmer’s Planners, sold through her Etsy shop.

Elizabeth on Rating Books

Like Rosemary, I’m a fan of GoodReads, and I find it useful to keep track of books I’d like to read, or know what friends and family would like to read at gift time. (I’m particularly fond of the mobile app that lets me add books to my to-read list by zapping the ISBN with my phone when I’m in the library.)

The main reason I use Goodreads is to keep track of books I’ve already read, and a little bit about what I thought of them. For the most part, I remember books that I’ve read and enjoyed or disliked. Every so often, one will slip through the cracks. I’m pretty sure I’ve read The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd twice, once before I started using Goodreads, and once in 2010. It was a good book, both times, so I guess it doesn’t really matter. Still, wondering makes me feel a little silly.

Image of GoodReads Challenge Icon

Another thing I especially like about Goodreads is the reading challenges. At the start of the year (maybe as part of a reading resolution) I enter a total number of books I’d like to finish. And then, as I finish and review books, each counts towards the total. I’ve read 19 books this year. It’s inspiring! Look at me cranking through novels, even while I’m juggling grad school and work. Hooray for me!

You might well wonder where I have time to read all these: the answer is they’re mostly novels, and I’m entirely too good at staying up late reading a good book. That’s why coffee was invented.

Ahem. Moving on. The set-up of reading goals is a great example of how gamification works to get customers (in this case, readers like me) enthusiastic about engaging with the site by sharing their progress with reading goals, and writing reviews. I definitely review more of the books I read when I’m logging them for yearly challenges because I want to count them towards my goal. Even if I just assign stars and write a sentence or so about “Solid mystery, enjoyed the characters and the suspense,” I’m at least taking the time to write something about what I thought.

Which brings me to one last thing I’ve noticed about Goodreads: rating books is definitely a social process. When I gave His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik a four-star rating initially, Stephen, an associate editor and fellow fantasy reader, wanted to know what had made me skimp on the final star. His question made me go back and try to think through the process of rating books. After going on to read the next book in the series, I started to think about how much I’d loved being introduced to the characters and their fantasy world. And I started to think more about how I assign different star ratings.

5 Stars: Loved this book! Probably going to talk about it a lot to friends, using lots of superlatives. Stayed up late (or missed a subway stop) because I couldn’t stop reading. Forgot I was reading a book, because I was so engrossed in the story. Probably going to reread.

4 Stars: It was really good, and I’ll recommend it to friends, but possibly not with the same level of urgency and exclamation points. I’ll recommend it to specific friends who like this genre, and not push it so universally. Did not stay up late or miss subway stops.

3 Stars: This book worked for me. Decent story, characters, genre or ideas, well presented. But I put it down to go do other things a few times, and read it in short sprints rather than long stretches.

2 Stars: While there were aspects I liked, there were frustrating parts, and reading this felt like a slow, long chore. There were parts that annoyed me, but I had fun complaining about them.

1 Star or No Stars: Why did I read this? Why was it written? The possibilities are: it was assigned, I was having fun complaining about this book’s many flaws as I read it, or I read it because it was popular and I wanted to know why. May or may not have thrown book against a wall.

How do you track books? How do you rate them?

Earlier Posts:
Introducing AMACOM…Elizabeth
Dispatches from the Special Libraries Association Conference
Elizabeth on Reading Classics on an E-Reader
Elizabeth on Bookish New Year’s Resolutions