Quick hits from college, Instagram, and TV news

By Joe Diorio

Like wine, our writing improves with time. The following statements were written by undergraduate college students and shared with me by an adjunct instructor of public relations. The writers need more time in the barrel. The editorial comments are by me, not the instructor. The name of the school is withheld for very obvious reasons.

An average woman weighs 140 pounds. Most models are 98 percent thinner than the average American woman. So, a model weighs 2.9 pounds? Are we talking person or Barbie doll?

Beaches are getting smaller as the sea continues to move closer to the mainland. And the oceans, I guess, are getting bigger, too.

Tobacco users form an unnecessary mess the university can no longer tolerate. Those cig butts won’t biodegrade by themselves.

The International Whaling Commission will continue to promote unethical aspects of scientific whaling to the conservation community. Next on their agenda is burning more fossil fuels and killing off a few endangered species.

Many people have different definitions of Public Relations, that is mostly because people interpret Public Relations differently. Yes. Yes, they do.

Much more harm comes from bullying than positive. True. A knuckle sandwich at lunch is not part of a balanced diet.

Even though cellphone usage isn’t the leading cause of accidents due to distracted driving it is the most common. Wait, what?

From Instagram

Some quick hits from my Instagram account, appropriately titled @a_few_words_about_words:

To hyphen or not to hyphen, that’s a good question. Which is correct? UAW President Ray Curry is that union’s former:

A.    secretary treasurer

B.    secretary-treasurer

The Associated Press Stylebook says to use the hyphenated version when it is a title, and to capitalize it only if it precedes a name.

Speaking of capitalization, the AP Stylebook also advises following factoid: Capitalize the first word after a colon only if it is the beginning of a complete sentence. (See what I did there?)

To spell out or not to spell out. Do you spell out UNICEF on the first reference? No, the name should appear in all caps. It stands for United Nations Children’s Fund. The words “International” and “Emergency” were once a part of the name but were long ago dropped … from the name, not the mission.

True or false quiz. If a quote extends over two paragraphs, you do not need to use a quote mark at the end of the first paragraph. True! Don’t use a close quote mark at the end of the first paragraph unless the quoted material does not constitute a full sentence, as in the following:

“I am shocked and horrified by the slaying.

“I am so horrified that I will ask for the death penalty.”


He said he was “shocked and horrified by the slaying.”

“I am so horrified that I’m asking for the death penalty.”

Lastly (for now) is there a difference between “use” and “utilize”? Yes, in the simplest terms, “use” explains that something is put into action, as in “I use my pen to write.” Conversely, “utilize” comes into play when something goes beyond its original intended use, as in, “I utilize my pen as a bookmark.” Don’t replace “use” with “utilize” and think you look smart. Instead use words like “apply,” “employ,” or “manage.”

TV News … enough said

I know producing a television news broadcast is way harder than any of us realize. But does the grammar used on television have to be so, so … ah, you get the idea.

On September 28 a local affiliate reported positive news: A story about a U.S. Marine carrying groceries for over one mile in the rain for a woman who was confined to a scooter. “The act of a U.S. Marine has gone viral,” the anchor said. No, it did not. The PHOTO of the U.S. Marine carrying this woman’s groceries went viral. If his act went viral, then we would see scores of people carrying groceries for a disabled individual. A nice thought, to be sure, but that’s not what happened.

Let’s write carefully out there, people.

Joe Diorio is a writer living in Nashville, Tennessee. His first book, A Few Words About Words, is available now.

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