Category: grammar

Creating a habits scorecard, tips for a better life, and taking a 31-day challenge

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Welcome to the first Monday of 2021. I hope you’re doing well. Here’s a few things I’d like to share with you from The Editor’s Desk.

Creating a Habits Scorecard

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits (currently in the to-read pile next to my bed), published an article (it’s an excerpt from the book) on creating a Habits Scorecard. This exercise will help you to discover what habits you should change. He discusses “pointing and calling” your habits so that you become more conscious of them. The Habits Scorecard enables you to list your habits, and rank them as positive, negative or neutral.

Quote from the article: “As you create your Habits Scorecard, there is no need to change anything at first. The goal is to simply notice what is actually going on. Observe your thoughts and actions without judgment or internal criticism. Don’t blame yourself for your faults. Don’t praise yourself for your successes.”

100 tips for a better life

Conor Barnes of ideopunk wrote an article called 100 Tips for a Better Life. Here’s a few that I liked:

  • Establish clear rules about when to throw out old junk. Once clear rules are established, junk will probably cease to be a problem. This is because any rule would be superior to our implicit rules (“keep this broken stereo for five years in case I learn how to fix it”). 
  • When googling a recipe, precede it with ‘best’. You’ll find better recipes. 
  • Learn keyboard shortcuts. They’re easy to learn and you’ll get tasks done faster and easier. 
  • Done is better than perfect. 
  • Exercise is the most important lifestyle intervention you can do. Even the bare minimum (15 minutes a week) has a huge impact. Start small. 
  • Discipline is superior to motivation. The former can be trained, the latter is fleeting. You won’t be able to accomplish great things if you’re only relying on motivation. 
  • Things that aren’t your fault can still be your responsibility. 
  • Compliment people more. Many people have trouble thinking of themselves as smart, or pretty, or kind, unless told by someone else. You can help them out. 

Taking the 31-day challenge

Austin Kleon created a template to help you follow a 31-day challenge. Basically, you pick something small and you do it every day. I would like to write something in a journal or notebook every day. I write for other people most of the time, so it would be nice to write something for myself.

Google Docs add-ons

I use Google Docs to write articles and blog posts for some clients because that is what they prefer. I’m OK with it, but I still prefer writing in Word – it’s just what I’m used to doing. However, Google Docs does have its advantages, like being able to share and enable comments with others (this can be a disadvantage as well). Farrah Daniel wrote about Google Docs add-ons that can help to make you more efficient with your writing. The ones that look most useful to me include:

  • GDoc SEO Assistant – it generates relevant SEO suggestions and related keywords based on the keywords you provide
  • i should be writing – it allows you to set a timer or word count to motivate you to write
  • OneLook Thesaurus – find synonyms, related words, adjectives, rhymes, and more

Grammar and editing tools

For those of you who need more help with your grammar and spelling, check out these grammar and editing tools from Write Life. Grammarly seems to have a lot of fans. I don’t use any of these tools, but you might like them.

What I wrote

Here’s something I wrote recently for Business.com7 Most Effective Lead Nurturing Strategies.

What I read in 2020

I track what I read in Goodreads and in a notebook; when I’m done reading, I write two pages about the book. According to the Goodreads annual review, I read 36 books in 2020. Here’s a list of some of my favourites (in no particular order):

What I watched

Over the holidays, I watched a lot of TV shows and movies – actually, I always watch TV shows and movies, it’s a thing I do. Here’s a bit of what I enjoyed watching:

  • Ozark (Season 2)
  • Wonder Woman 1984
  • The Mandalorian (Season 2)
  • The Queen’s Gambit (Season 1)
  • Roald Dahl’s The Witches
  • Writing on the Bathroom Wall

What I listened to

I listen to podcasts while I work. Sometimes I’ll select random podcasts when I’m all caught up on my subscribed episodes. One of my recent favourites was the Jerry Seinfeld episode on The Tim Ferriss Show – I’d recommend subscribing just for that episode. My newest podcasts are Build Your Copywriting Business from Filthy Rich Writer and Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! from NPR.


Thanks for reading. Feel free to share it with people you know who you think would enjoy it.

David

Six ways to take notes, how to use a semicolon, and creating an effective landing page

Here’s what I read this past week.

Six great ways to take notes

Mai Duy Linh from Craft Your Content wrote about the six best methods of taking notes. I take notes after reading books, doing interviews with clients, and when I want to get some thoughts down after consuming some great content. Everyone has their own way of taking notes so that they are easy to recall for future use. Here are six different ways to take notes:

  1. Structured online method: This is a traditional type of notation and most people are familiar with it. It’s a simple and quick way to take notes.
    1. Write down each topic: Main idea => Subtopic or key concept => Supporting details.
    2. Record information during class or when reading a textbook.
    3. After finishing the class, check the notes; if necessary, write them down.
  2. Cornell method: This method is ideal for revision. Divide the paper into three parts: 
    1. Cues: Write down the main points of the test or questions that may be included in the test. 
    2. Notes: Write all the ideas in a system.
    3. Summary: Abstract the main idea of ​​the whole lesson.
  3. Mind map: This method gives you a way of thinking about the material by gathering main ideas and sub-ideas when writing an essay or reading books. 
    1. Select a central theme, using a drawing or keyword in the middle of the blank paper.
    2. Choose keywords for main ideas and draw them to the central topic with lines or roots.
    3. Split branches for additional ideas.
    4. Check for gaps and links.
  4. Flow notes: This “unstructured” method involves jotting down the most important parts in whatever way makes most sense to you. 
    1. Write the information in your own words.
    2. Use diagrams and images to represent new ideas.
    3. Connect ideas backward, between topics, and with what you already know.
  5. Structured analysis method: Take notes and analyze them at the same time to save time later.
    1. Divide the page into two parts: Notes and Remarks.
    2. Write notes on the left column.
    3. Adding reviews and analysis to the right column to deepen your knowledge.
  6. Bullet journal: This method is effective for recording work and plans. It’s suitable for those learn with visuals with images.
    1. Create a table of contents.
    2. Create a diary for the current month. Fill in deadlines or events you have this month.
    3. Open the next blank page for journaling today. Write the date, jot down day events, notes for yourself, and work you want to accomplish.
    4. At the end of the day, create a diary for tomorrow and move unfinished tasks into it.

How to use a semicolon correctly

Meghan Moravcik Walbert from LifeHacker wrote about how to use a semicolon correctly. Many people misuse punctuation marks, and semicolons are one of the most poorly understood. You can use a semicolon:

  • To connect two independent clauses in one sentence instead of using a period to make two sentences (Frank had pasta for dinner; his no-carb diet is out the window.)
  • To separate items in a list instead of commas (Once the pandemic ends, I am going to eat baguettes near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France; eat some paella on the boulevard in Madrid, Spain; and have some wood oven pizza in Napoli, Italy.)

Create an effective landing page

Matt Maiale and Julian Shapiro from Demand Curve wrote about how to create a more effective landing page. They provided examples of how to write headlines, add hooks, and speak directly to your audience. The first section of their guide discusses the section above the fold (ATF), which included the headers, subheads, and call-to-action buttons. They focused on three steps:

  1. Identify how users get value from your product
  2. Add a hook to get them to keep reading
  3. Speak directly to customer personas

Need help with your writing? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

Matching the verb to the subject of your sentence

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There are many situations where it can be difficult to determine whether to use the singular or plural form of a verb in a sentence. The key is to focus on the subject, and not all the other words around the subject that can distract you. To follow are examples of when to use the singular or plural form of a verb depending on the subject.

Note: Thanks to The Elements of Grammar by Margaret Schertzer for the direction.

Note 2: Some of the sentences are written in passive voice, or in a way to illustrate the point, and not necessarily the most effective or efficient way.

Compound subjects

Use the plural when the subject includes two or more nouns or pronouns connected by AND, except when the nouns refer to the same person or express one idea

  • Our cars and trucks are equipped with GPS devices.
  • He and his mother are on the school committee.
  • My wife and partner says I should pay more attention to her.
  • The heart and soul of the team is the goalie.

Use a singular verb when connecting singular subjects with OR or NOR.

  • Either the dog or the cat is sitting in your chair.
  • Neither Franklin nor Bash knows who took the pizza.

If you have one singular and one plural subject connected by EITHER-OR or NEITHER-NOR, put the plural subject second and the verb should agree with the plural subject.

  • Either the owner or the employees are able to deliver the goods to the client.
  • Neither my wife nor my children are allowed to drive my new car.

Agreement

The verb should agree with the subject. Ignore any nouns placed between the verb and subject.

  • The list of companies is located on my desk.
  • The latest report about our findings has been published on our website.

Verb before subject

Be careful when the verb comes before the subject. Pay attention to whether the subject is singular or plural, regardless of the order.

  • Lisa said there were case studies being written about how their customers used their software.
  • Within this book are appendices for the different resources used in its writing.

Working with quantities

The verb should agree with the noun in the prepositional phrase when working with fractions.

  • Half of the bottle was finished before I took it out of the cabinet.
  • Half of the people were from outside the region.

The verb should be singular for nouns of quantity, distance, time and amount that are treated as a unit.

  • Fifty dollars is enough for a birthday gift.
  • Six feet of space is required between the two of you.

Collective nouns

A collective noun names a group of persons, animals or things. If the noun refers to a group doing something as one, make the verb singular. If the noun refers to the individuals in the group, make the verb plural.

  • The group has come to a decision on where to go for dinner.
  • The parks committee are not in agreement on where to place the playground equipment.

Other blog posts on grammar topics


Do you need help with writing or grammar issues? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

Understanding the four main properties of nouns

In a previous post, I discussed the different types of nouns. Today’s post is about the main properties of nouns.

According to the Chicago Manual of Style, nouns have four main properties:

  • Case
  • Number
  • Gender
  • Person

Case

Case refers to the relationship between a noun (or pronoun) and other words in a sentence. While there is some disagreement about whether there are two or three cases, you only need to concern yourself with two:

  • Normal = no apostrophe: The principal is in her office.
  • Possessive = apostrophe: This is the principal’s office.

Number

Number shows whether the noun refers to one object (fox, stick, candy) or more than one object (foxes, sticks, candies). Some nouns differ when describing one object (person) compared to more than one object (people).

Gender

Gender is not used as often in English as it is in other languages, such as French or Spanish, which have masculine and feminine accompanying articles. Other languages also refer to non-living things in the masculine or feminine, whereas English typically uses gender only for people and other living creatures.

Gender can be masculine (son), feminine (sister) or common (parent). In the masculine and feminine cases, a gender-appropriate pronoun can replace the noun (e.g., he for son, she for sister).

Many gender-specific nouns that refer to a person’s job or position have gender-neutral versions. For example:

  • Police officer instead of policeman / policewoman
  • Firefighter instead of fireman / firewoman
  • Flight attendant instead of steward / stewardess
  • Server / waitperson instead of waiter / waitress

Note: The English language is constantly being updated to address people who do not identify with either the masculine or feminine gender, or who are gender-fluid. I am not knowledgeable enough to cover this topic in proper detail. My goal is simply to explain the meaning of gender in the use of nouns.

Person

Person refers primarily to pronouns, but also applies to nouns used with pronouns. A noun or pronoun can be in the:

  • First person = the one doing the speaking: I, David, swear that…
  • Second person = the one being spoken to: Girls, you are being…
  • Third person = the one being spoken about: That car belongs to…

Do you have any questions about grammar? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

Understanding the different types of nouns

flat lay photography of an open book beside coffee mug
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If you’re a writer, then you should understand the most important tools of your trade – words. After all, words are your bread and butter. Many writers focus on understanding and properly using verbs, as they drive the action. However, you should also be familiar with nouns and how to use them.

According to the Chicago Manual of Style 15, a noun is “a word that names something, whether abstract (intangible) or concrete (tangible).”

  • An abstract noun describes something that you cannot see, hear, touch, taste or smell (e.g., feelings, concepts, ideas or events).
  • A concrete noun describes something that you can either see, hear, touch, taste or smell.

A common noun is the informal name of an item in a class or group – an apple, a box, a bridge. Common nouns are not capitalized unless they begin a sentence or appear in a title.

A proper noun is a person’s name (e.g., Frank, Arlene), or the official name of a thing or place (e.g., Toronto, CN Tower). Proper nouns are always capitalized.

Count nouns have singular and plural forms (e.g., boat / boats, pixie / pixies. loaf / loaves). When a count noun is the subject of the sentence:

  • The singular count noun takes a singular verb (e.g., the box is heavy).
  • The plural count noun takes a plural verb (e.g., the boxes are heavy).

Mass (noncount or collective) nouns cannot be counted. They apply to something that is abstract (e.g., love, pressure) or something that has an unknown number of people or things (e.g., the staff, membership).

  • When a mass noun is the subject of the sentence, it usually takes a singular verb (e.g., the population is large).
  • When used in the collective sense, it can take either a singular or plural verb (e.g, The group is difficult to please / The group of vendors are difficult to please). The singular verb puts the emphasis on the group, while the plural verb focuses on the individual members.

Do you have any questions about grammar? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David