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Write the Right Word

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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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Write the Right Word: Common Misspellings

English is an odd language at times. Words aren’t always spelled the way they sound. Some have double letters and others do not.

Here are some commonly misspelled words:

Acknowledgment – note no “e” after the “g”

Accommodate – two “c’s,” two “m’s”

Adviser – not advisor

Barbecue – not barbeque, Bar-B-Q or BBQ

Canceled – not cancelled

Commitment – only one “t”

Doughnut – not donut

Embarrass – two “r’s” and two “s’s”

Gauge – not gage when referring to a measuring device or the size of a shotgun

Goodbye – not goodby or good-by

Harass – one “r,” two “s’s”

Occurred – two “c’s,” two “r’s”

Stationery – when you mean writing paper and envelopes

I don't know of an easy way to remember these. Your best options are to memorize them or look them up in a dictionary or online.

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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Write the Right Word: Why Waste Words?

In today’s fast-paced life, people don’t want to take time to read a lot of text. So why waste their time and your effort on unnecessary words by overstating the obvious?

Most readers know May is a month, red is a color, North Dakota is a state, Williston is a city and 2019 is a year, so you don’t need to modify them with phrases such as “the month of” May, “the color” red or a red “color,” “the state of” North Dakota, “the city of” Williston or “the year” 2019.

Keep it simple:

  • North Dakota generally has its last frost in May.
  • His face turned red.
  • The population in North Dakota is growing.
  • Williston has a new forester.
  • The next conference will be in 2019.

 

, information specialist, 701-231-5391

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Write the Right Word: Plurals of Numbers

Forming plural numbers is a lot easier than forming plural words. You simply add an “s” to numbers.

The other key rule to remember is that you do not need to add an apostrophe before the “s.”

Here are some examples:

  • Years: The insect wasn’t common in North Dakota until the late 1980s.
  • Temperatures: Temperatures are expected to drop to the low 30s tonight.
  • Sizes: All the shoe store had left were two pairs of size 7s.
  • Designations: Delta Airlines is phasing out its 747s.

If you are making plurals of numbers that are spelled out, then the rules for making plurals of words apply. For example, sixes (add an “es” to words ending in ch, s, sh, ss, x and z).

701-231-5391, Information Specialist

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Write the Right Word: Plurals

Are you confused whether to add an “s” or an “es” to make a word plural?

Here are some tips:

  • Most words – Add “s.” For example: boys, ships, villages
  • Words ending in ch, s, sh, ss, x and z – Add “es.” For example: churches, lenses, glasses, boxes
  • Words ending in is – Change “is” to “es.” For example: oasis/oases, thesis/theses
  • Words ending in y – Change “y” to “i” and add “es.” For example: army/armies, city/cities
  • Words ending in o – Most require “es.” For example: buffaloes, potatoes, echoes, heroes One exception: pianos
  • Words ending in f – In general, change “f” to “v” and add “es.” For example: hoof/hooves, leaf/leaves, self/selves. An exception: roof/roofs
  • Proper names ending in es, s or z – Add “es.” For example: Charleses, Joneses, Gonzalezes
  • Proper names ending in y – Generally, add “s.” For example: Duffys. Exceptions: Allegheny Mountains/Alleghenies, Rocky Mountains/Rockies
  • Figures – Add “s” and do not use an apostrophe after the figure. For example: 747s, size 7s, temperatures in the low 20s
  • Single letters – Add “’s.” For example: mind your p’s and q’s, the three R’s
  • Multiple letters – Add “s” but not an apostrophe after the letters. For example: ABCs, IOUs

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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Write the Right Word: e.g. and i.e.

Abbreviations and acronyms are commonplace in text messages, and they’re becoming more common in other writing as well.

Two of those abbreviations are e.g. and i.e.

E.g. means “for example.” I.e. is the abbreviation for the Latin term id est, or “that is to say.” The best way to remember that e.g. relates to “example” is that both start with an “e.”

Note that e.g. and i.e. require periods after each letter. They also must be followed by a comma in a sentence. “The producer raised several crops; e.g., corn, wheat, barley, canola, oats and dry edible beans.”

But I’d recommend you not use either of these abbreviations. Not everyone knows what they mean, and many people think they can be used interchangeably. Spell out “for example” instead: “The producer raised several crops; for example, corn, wheat, barley, canola, oats and dry edible beans.” Better yet, drop the “for example” and just use a colon (:) after crops.

You also don’t need to use “that is to say.” If you have to explain what you just said in another way, you shouldn’t be saying it the original way.

I.e. often is used in parenthesis: “Apply XYZ pesticides on a calm day (i.e., winds blowing less than 5 mph).” But you don’t need the i.e. because the phrase in parentheses is clear without it.

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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Write the Right Word: Affect or Effect

“Affect” and “effect” seem to give some writers a lot of problems. First of all, those two words do not mean the same thing and can’t be used interchangeably.

As a verb, “effect” means to cause. For example: “The new department chair will effect many changes in the next few months.”

As a noun, “effect” means result. For instance: “The effect of last weekend’s rain on crop growth was phenomenal.”

“Affect,” as a verb, means to influence. “The team’s loss on Sunday will not affect its standings.”

Avoid using “affect” as a noun. It's used occasionally as a noun in psychology to describe an emotion,

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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Write the Right Word: Among and Between

Are you confused about whether to use “among” or “between”? You aren’t alone.

“Between” generally refers to a relationship involving two people, animals or things. For example: “Let’s keep this news between you and me.” Or: “I have to choose between going to the movie and going to the mall.”

“Among” refers to a relationship involving three or more people, animals or things. For example, “Researchers found no differences in yield among the three wheat varieties they studied.”

Following those same rules, “between” is correct when three or more people, animals or things are considered one group. For instance: “Salary negotiations are underway between the company and its janitorial, secretarial and mailroom staff.” The three types of staff are considered a single unit.

One other note: Avoid using “amongst” for “among” in the writing we do. “Amongst” is considered archaic and overly formal.

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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