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Write the Right Word

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Write the Right Word: Regard

The word “regard” seems to give writers and speakers a lot of trouble.

If you are using it in a phrase such as “in regard to” to mean “about,” “concerning” or “on the subject of,” you don’t need to add an “s” to “regard.” For example, “This email is in regard to your questions on tree planting.” or “The shopkeeper called in regard to your order.”

The same applies to “with regard to,” which is another way of saying “in regard to.” You don’t need the “s” on “regard.” For example, “With regard to our recent snow storm, most of the snow has melted.”

Better yet, avoid the phrase. Instead, you could say:

“I’m responding to your question on tree planting.”

“The shopkeeper called about your order.”

“Most of the snow from our recent storm has melted.”

However, you do need an “s” on “regard” if you are talking about good wishes, compliments or greetings. For example, “Give my regards to your parents.”

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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Write the Right Word: Alumnus, Alumna, Alumni, Oh My!

Do you get confused when referring to someone who attended NDSU or other educational institution?

I don’t know of an easy way to remember which word to use, so here is a cheat sheet for you:

  • Alumnus – Use it when referring to a man who attended a school.
  • Alumna – This refers to a woman who attended a school.
  • Alumnae – Use this when talking about more than one woman who attended a school.
  • Alumni – This refers to more than one man who attended a school. You also use this when talking about a group of men and women who attended a school.

“Alum” is an informal way to refer to a man or woman who attended a school. The other words are preferable. If you do use “alum,” make sure your meaning is clear because alum also is a chemical compound.

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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Write the Right Word: Quality

Avoid using “quality” when describing or modifying a noun. Despite the way it is being used, it’s not a substitute for words such as “good,” “great” or “fine.”

Quality also can be bad, poor or mediocre. So if someone says, “I just saw a quality performance,” you really don’t know anything about the performance.

When we communicate with our audiences, we need to be concise, but we also need to be clear. So the next time you think of using “quality” to modify a noun, remember, it needs its own modifier. For example: “We want to have high-quality health care.” Or this: “The drought resulted in a poor-quality wheat crop in parts of the state.”

“Quality” as a noun doesn’t need a modifier. For example, “I question the quality of this gadget.” Or this: “The reviewer offered his opinion on the play’s quality.”

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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Write the Right Word: Drop the ‘S’

When using words indicating direction such as “toward,” “forward” and “upward,” you don’t need to tack an “s” on the end.

That’s according to the Association Press Stylebook, which we follow in Ag Communication.

Here are some examples:

  • “The line moved forward a few inches at a time.”
  • “The cattle ran toward the fence.”
  • “The monthly report indicates an upward trend in sales.”

“Afterward,” which means at a later time, subsequently or thereafter, also should not have an “s” at the end, the AP Stylebook says. For instance, “The fire happened while the homeowner was away, but he found out about it shortly afterward.”

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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Write the Right Word: One Word or Two?

Sometimes two words get pushed together to form one thought.

I don’t know of an easy way to remember which are one word or two. Here are a few examples, based on the Associated Press Stylebook, which Ag Comm follows for spelling grammar and punctuation, or the Random House Unabridged Dictionary for words not in the AP Stylebook.

One Word

Airfare

Airflow

Cellphone

Cleanup when used as a noun and adjective. For example: “The oil spill cleanup took several days.” “The cleanup process will take weeks.”

Mealtime

Oftentimes

Two Words

Boot camp

Cow herd

Feed mill

Seat belt

Sugar beet

Wild rice

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

 

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Write the Right Word: Was or Were

Do you ever wonder whether you or someone else has used “was” or “were” correctly?

In their simplest form, both are in the past tense, meaning they should refer to something that already happened. Which one you use depends on whether you are talking about one or more than one person, animal or thing.

For instance: “She was 10 years old when the family moved to the farm.” “The animals were in the barn.”

The confusion starts when you use the subjunctive mood. It’s for situations that are hypothetical or contrary to fact, or you’re expressing doubts, wishes or regrets. The bottom line is you use “were” in all these cases.

For example: “I wish I were done with my chores. Then I could go to the movie.” The speaker obviously isn’t done with the chores.

Or this: “If your dad were home, he would help you with your project.” This indicates the dad is not home.

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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Write the Right Word: More Sound-alikes

Whether to use “capital” and “capitol” can be confusing. They sound alike but aren’t interchangeable.

A capital is where a seat of government is located. For instance, Bismarck is the capital of North Dakota.

Capital also refers to money, and sometimes includes equipment or property belonging to a person or business. For example: “The producer had enough capital to buy more land.”

A capitol is the building that houses the U.S. or a state government. For example: “The North Dakota Capitol is 21 stories tall.”

Two other words that be confusing are canvas and canvass.

A canvas is a strong, heavy cloth used for items such as sails and tents, or as a covering. It’s also a surface on which artists paint. For instance: “He covered the pile of wood with a canvas tarp.”

A canvass is a survey or review. For example: “Election officials will meet Thursday to canvass the votes from Tuesday’s election.”

Canvass also can mean to solicit something. For instance: “Joe Smith will canvass his neighbors to see how they feel about the proposed street lighting project.”

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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Write the Right Word: When Not to Use an Apostrophe

Apostrophes often indicate letters are missing in a word, such as 4-H’er. 4-H’er is a shortened version of “4-H member.” The apostrophe takes the place of the letters “memb.”

Apostrophes also can denote possession, such as in “Sarah’s book.” The apostrophe indicates the book belongs to Sarah.

But you don’t need an apostrophe in a word ending in “s” when it is used primarily as a description. For example: owners manual, teachers college, RedHawks pitcher, producers request.

The line between possession and description can be a little fuzzy. So here’s an easy way to remember the difference: Don’t use an apostrophe if you can use “for” or “by” in the phrase. For instance: a manual for owners, a college for teachers, a pitcher for the RedHawks, a request by producers.

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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Write the Right Word: Because vs. Since

Despite the way they're often used, “because” and “since” do not mean the same thing and shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

Use “because” to indicate a cause-and-effect relationship. For example: “He went to the store because his mother needed milk and bread.” Or this: “I stayed home because I have a cold.”

Use “since” to indicate the passage of time. “ABC Co. has been in business since 1964.”

Here’s an easy way to remember which word is correct: Use “because” if you are indicating a cause. So in the examples, the cold caused me to stay home and the mother’s need for groceries caused the man to go to the store.

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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Write the Right Word: When Not to Use a Hyphen

Knowing when and when not to use a hyphen can be confusing.

Here are some words that do not require a hyphen when used as a noun or adjective (noun modifier) and are two words when used as a verb, according to the Associated Press Stylebook, which we follow for spelling, grammar and punctuation:

  • Backup – One word as a noun and adjective but two words as a verb. For example, “She will serve as a backup to the secretary.” “I hope we have a backup plan.” “I have to back up because a fallen tree across the road is blocking my way forward.”
  • Login, logon, logoff – One word as a noun but two words as a verb. For example, “A login is required every time you access this website.” “I log off my computer at the end of the day.”
  • Ongoing – One word in all cases. “Drought is an ongoing problem in the Midwest.” “The program is ongoing.”
  • Online – One word when referring to a computer connection or as an adjective – For example: “You will be able to register for the workshop online.” “I am involved in online trading.”
  • Pickup – One word unless used as a verb. For example, “He bought a pickup.” “I will pick up my friends at 5 p.m.”
  • Setup - One word as a noun and adjective but two words as a verb. For example, “He rearranged the setup in the meeting room.” “I don’t like the setup options.” “She hopes to set up the display tonight.”
  • Takeoff, takeout, takeover - One word as a noun and adjective but two words as a verb. For example, “I’m ordering takeout for supper.” “Please take out the trash.” “The business succeeded in its takeover of a major competitor.” “Would you take over this task?”

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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