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Advice to put up with.

Elizabeth "Ibby" Vores, who is internal communications specialist at The Miami Herald PublishinK Co., Guesswhere, Fla., writes to ask, "Have you seen this construction ? What's your opinion of it?"

She encloses a photocopy of p. 24, Training magazine, 9/91, with a circle around this sentence: "The Time article, like many media treatments of this trendlet, cites people who 'had it all' and chucked it." She highlighted trendlet.

I have not seen it, and the reason is that it is a nonword. It appears in no dictionary published cisatlantic. The reader of the cover story it appears in will be frustrated and perplexed because she cannot find it and confirm its meaning.

Should the writer trust the reader to make the desired inference, that a trendlet is a little trend as a piglet is a suckling swine? Where would the reader be should the writer decide to call a short journey a triplet?

I remember when bomblet burst upon the scene in 1986, an entry in 12,000 Words, a supplement to Webster's 3rd New International Dictionary. Today it survives only in the over-six-pounds category of lexicons to describe a kind of small bomb carried in quantity within a larger canister.

The trouble with such creations is that they are pretentious; they call attention to themselves without giving something of substance in return ... a quid with no pro quo. There is no real need for them. Besides, is a trendlet a little trend or a beginning trend? There is a difference. The article writer would have done readers a greater service by saying "emerging trend" or "growing trend" or -- if the goal was to blow the reader away --"inchoate trend."

* Lorna Sorenson, one of Wisconsin Bell's word-ringers over in Milwaukee, sent me this spine-chilling cite from a local paper: "Benshoofs car crashed into the guard rail and was ejected through the rear passenger window."

Where's Waldo? More important, where is poor Benshoof? A pronoun, if you please ... a he or she will suffice.

* Paul Zahn writes from Brussels and lABC/Belgium to say, "Your open inquiry about the 'Oxford Comma' in November (ComWorld) struck a chord. As chief editor for the Euroclear Operations Centre, operated by Morgan Guaranty Trust, I have tried to impose the use of the comma after the penultimate element in a series of three or more elements."

To back up for just a moment, my inquiry sought information about the phrase Oxford comma. Some sources say it is the proper label for the second comma in a series like "red, white, and blue." But at least one resource asserted the title should be Harvard comma. Now it appears that the matter is naught but a cyclone in a samovar: Ms. Ellen Fucks, managing editor at Oxford University Press in New York told me "in 16 years here I've never heard it called [Oxford comma]." And Ms. Nancy Clemente, m.e. at Harvard University Press in Cambridge, Mass., said she's never heard of a Harvard comma.

Paul Zahn invokes The Chicago Manual of Style (chapter, verse, and line) in support of his usage, albeit no moniker is applied to the speck itself. He further states, "This sturdy native support should allow us to bury the ghost of the spurious `Oxford Comma' and to re-baptize its reincarnation the 'Chicago Comma.'" Fine with me, Paul. (Those contrary-minded can write him c/o this fine periodical.)

Perhaps the other news is that the fuss about whether to write "every Tom, Dick, and Harry" or "every Tom, Dick and Harry" stands moot, if not mute. Publishers of books and many magazines preserve the comma; those who count the AP Stylebook as their hymnal do not. Consistency in the choice is what counts.

* Cinthia J. Baldhoff, editor of publications for DSC Communications Corp. in PIano, Texas, asks, "When I was growing up, ending a sentence with a preposition was taboo but now I see it more often. Vhat is the correct answer?"

The Random House Guide to Good Writing (reviewed in CommWorld late last year) observes that "putting the preposition at the end of a sentence like 'Who are you speaking to?' has been acceptable for many years. The rule that you should never end a sentence with a preposition was derived from the fact that it is impossible to do so in Latin. Winston Churchill described the extension of this rule into English as the 'sort of nonsense up with which I will not put.'" That opinion comes from Mitchell Ivers, RH managing editor and author of the Guide.

Webster's New World Guide to Current American Usage, by Bernice Randall, observes, "Most grammar books have stopped insisting that a sentence not end with a preposition. This so-called rule, which has tyrannized schoochildren for centuries, was nonsense to begin with, having been invented by English writers who considered it elegant to impose Latin sentence structure on their language."

Finally, John Bremner in Words on Words invites us to "let euphony be your guide. With is sometimes a good word to end a sentence with."

And that's a good rule to adhere to.

Alden Wood, lecturer on edtorial proc edures at Simmons College, Boston, Mass., writes and lectures on language usage. He is a retired insurance industry vice president of advertising and public relations.
COPYRIGHT 1992 International Association of Business Communicators
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Title Annotation:Woods on Words; effective writing
Author:Woods, Alden S.
Publication:Communication World
Article Type:Column
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Previous Article:Corporate and agency work styles compared.
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