Need a short conference, lunchtime, or banquet presentation? Choose from among any the following topics to fit the time available, or write us to discuss other writing-related topics you have in mind:

Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers and Other Illogical Constructions

Focus on the careful placement of modifying words, phrases, and clauses and raise awareness of the need for precision in professional writing. In addition, we will addresses the problem of redundancies and other errors in logic:

  • Should we write “The corporation only grossed $3 million this year” or “The corporation grossed only $3 million this year”?
  • Can we write “Driving home from the office, the car swerved out of control”?
  • What is wrong with road signs that say “Prepare to stop when flashing”?
  • Is it acceptable to write about “advance reservations,” “underage minors,” or “free gifts”?
  • Can e.g. and etc. appear in the same parenthetical expression?

Agreement Issues

Review rules governing difficult subject-verb and pronoun-antecedent situations:

  • Do collective nouns such as group, team, and committee take singular or plural verbs and pronouns?
  • Should we write, “She is one of the women who is assigned to the case” or “who are assigned to the case”?
  • How can we avoid awkward constructions such as his/her or his and hers?
  • How can we make verbs and pronouns agree with either and neither (“Neither of the respondents is or are liable for the plaintiff’s economic losses.”).

Pronoun Case Issues

Choosing the appropriate pronoun can be difficult.  We will cover the most difficult issues in pronoun usage:

  • Confusion between I and me. Should the conversation be kept between my client and I or between my client and me?  Did she give the summaries to Tom and I or Tom and me?
  • Pronoun confusion in comparisons. Is Ms. Jones more efficient than him or than he?
  • Confusion between who and whom. Should we write that the judge will sentence whoever or whomever the jury finds guilty?
  • Appropriate situations in which to use reflexive pronouns. Can we write, “Please give the information to Mr. Smith and myself”?

We will address these and other pronoun case issues, providing simple explanations and fail-safe tricks of the trade.

Word Confusion

Our lexicon changes constantly.  We will review a number of words that writers often confuse or misuse, including

  • insure, ensure, and assure;
  • anxious and eager
  • effect and affect;
  • bimonthly and semimonthly;
  • farther and further;
  • like and as;
  • disinterested and uninterested;
  • infer and imply; and
  • lay and lie.

Punctuation and Mechanics:

Review common questions about punctuation:

  • When is it appropriate to use a comma before and?
  • When can commas be used with conjunctions such as however, furthermore, and also?
  • When do we use a comma with dates? With month-day-year dates? With day-month-year dates?
  • When do we use commas to separate more than one adjective modifying the same noun?
  • How do we know when to place commas around dependent clauses, including those that begin with which and that?
  • When do commas help prevent a misreading?
  • How should we punctuate with quotation marks and parentheses?
  • How do we punctuate and capitalize the items in vertical lists?
  • Does a colon always have to precede a vertical list?
  • How do a hyphen, an en dash, and an em dash differ?
  • Italics, underscoring, quotation marks—which should we use when citing reports, book titles, newspapers, articles, or songs?
  • How do we use apostrophes correctly, especially with words ending in s, x, ch, sh, and z?
  • Are semicolons more like commas or periods?
  • How do colons differ from semicolons?
  • What are ellipses and how are they used?

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