Monthly Archives: August 2012


This week we discuss money; more specifically, how to refer to dollars and cents in text.  I’ll let your financial advisor help you with the trickier task of earning those dollars and cents.

Generally, when referring to dollars, use the dollar sign—don’t spell out “dollars”—and when identifying reasonably round figures greater than one million, use the word “million” rather than a long series of zeros, e.g.:

  • $250 million; $30 billion
  • The Six Million Dollar Man (an exception to the “use a dollar sign” rule)

Indicate both dollars and cents for an even dollar amount only if there are references in the sentence to other mixed dollar and cents amounts; otherwise, use only the dollar figure, e.g.:

  • Edwards sought $293,436.00 in attorney fees and $14,272.92 in costs.
  • The court entered judgment in the amount of $277,882.

And finally, use a comma in numbers with more than three digits, e.g.:

  • $2,750
  • $12,000

That is all for now …

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This week we discuss adverbs.  Adverbs are sentence elements that are used to modify verbs, clauses, and other adverbs, and can often be identified by the ending “–ly.”  They tell you how someone did something, e.g.,

  • The Scribe scanned his opponent’s brief, quickly noting the arguments.
  • While the Whos slept, the Grinch quietly stole their treats.
  • For now we see through a glass, darkly.

“Most adverbs,” says writing advisor William Zinsser, “are unnecessary.”  While that’s true, the Scribe is not a total curmudgeon when it comes to the use of adverbs in expository writing.  For example, we can join two independent sentences together using conjunctive adverbs (accordingly, also, consequently, however, indeed, likewise, nevertheless, otherwise, similarly, therefore—to name a few):

  • John Steinbeck was raised in Salinas; accordingly, many of his stories were based on the people and places in Salinas.
  • Ted Williams wanted to be known as the best hitter that ever lived; consequently, he worked at his hitting craft until he perfected it.

Really, adverbs are not inherently bad.  But when they’re overused, they clutter sentences, annoy readers, and add little to the argument.  So, since adverbs are easily overused, use them sparingly.  Don’t use them when the verb already is doing the work—and the adverb is redundant, e.g.,

  • The car alarm shrieked loudly.
  • Dropped in the river, the stone plunged quickly to the bottom.

How can an alarm shriek, except loudly?  How can a stone plunge, except quickly?  Since the verb is already doing the work, skip the redundant and annoying adverb. 

There are times, however, when an adverb usefully conveys important information.  Consider these examples:

  • The car quickly approached the corner, and crashed.
  • The player knowingly took a performance enhancing drug, and competed in the Olympics.
  • The Scribe quickly walked to court, because he was late.

The bottom line: as with all parts of speech, be sure that you know why you are using an adverb.  If you conclude that it is unnecessary, skip it.  But if it helps convey information to your reader, then use it confidently!

That is all for now …

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How to correctly express fractions, percentages, and time in text.

Today we briefly discuss the expression of fractions, percentages, and time in text.


Fractions appearing in nonquoted text either alone or with numbers less than 10 are spelled out; fractions appearing with numbers 10 or higher are expressed as numerals, e.g.:

  •  My cat is nine and one-half years old.
  • Stephen has an 11 1/2 shoe size.
  • One-eighth

When fractions are expressed as numerals, insert a space between the whole number and the fraction.  Don’t use a hyphen.  (“10 2/3,” not “10-2/3.”)


Spell out the word “percent” when used in text, but use numerals for the number itself (unless the number begins a sentence).  Use the percent sign (%) in tables, e.g.:

  •  There is a 60 percent chance it will rain.
  • Thirty percent of the work had been completed.


Always include minutes and “a.m.” or “p.m.,” e.g.:

  •  Trial started at 9:00 a.m. sharp.  (Not “9 a.m.”)
  • We have dinner reservations at 7:00 p.m. at Genoa.  (Not 7 o’clock in the evening.)

That is all for now …

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