Quiz Time


Correct weaknesses in each of these sentences.

1. We both went to the same high school for a period of time until Jack won a scholarship to a private school.

2. The meeting is set for 8:30 am tomorrow morning, please meet me there at 8:20.

3. Joyce and I were introduced for the first time at a party hosted by the Snyder’s.

4. Let’s try and play a trick on Jerry like the clever ones he continuously pulls on us.

It’s about time

I hope you caught my not-so-subtle hint and saw that each sentence contained a weakness related to time – but each had an additional issue. Here are the traps I set for you.

1. A) Because “period of time” is a common redundancy, we’d usually want to choose “period” or “time,” but here we need neither because “until” provides the time context. B) Watch out for the “both … same” redundancy.

So we might wind up with this: We went to the same high school until Jack won a scholarship to a private school. But if we want to name the school, we should delete “same” and use “both”: We both went to Wilson High until Jack won a scholarship to a private school.

2. A) Using both “am” and “morning” is redundant. B) The comma after “morning” is inadequate because what follows qualifies as another complete sentence. We can solve this common error by using a semicolon, starting a new sentence, or using a conjunction. Here, a conjunction works well: The meeting is set for 8:30 am tomorrow, but please meet me there at 8:20.*

3. A) We don’t need “for the first time” with “introduced.” B) The apostrophe in plurals of last names is a common error. All we need is an “s” (or an “es” if making the name plural adds a syllable, such as in “the Weisses” or “the Wertzes”). So our corrected version is this: Joyce and I were introduced at a party hosted by the Snyders.

4. A) Old-school writers reserve “continuously” for something that is ongoing, like your heartbeat or the sun’s heating of our planet. When something is intermittent, we want “continually.” (This means that companies boasting of “continuous improvement” as a core value might want to change that to “continual improvement.”) B) Watch out for “try and” where it should be “try to.” So we wind up with this: Let’s try to play a trick on Jerry like the clever ones he continually pulls on us.

*Should I go with “AM,” “am,” or “a.m.”?

I doubt that anyone would call you wrong if any of these is your preference. A few authoritative resources prefer “a.m.” because we are writing an abbreviation for “ante meridiem.” I lean toward “am” because the absence of commas seems consistent with the way we are writing in the digital age (and it’s quicker), but, of course, on occasion it could be confused with the word “am.” And there’s no confusion with “AM,” but many designers like using lowercase wherever possible.

In addition to presenting workshops on writing in the workplace, Norm is a writer, editor, and writing coach. His 100+ Instant Writing Tips is a brief “non-textbook” to help individuals overcome common writing errors and write with more finesse and impact. Learn more at http://www.normfriedman.com/index.shtml.   

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