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Dr. Bette Frick
Bette Frick 
The Text Doctor LLC

How do I know what I know?

Don't worry. I'm not going all metaphysical on you. But I've recently begun to question one of my long-held beliefs about writing, and I feel conflicted.


Here's how it came about: In my last newsletter, I wrote a review of Marcia Riefer Johnston's new book Word Up! How to Write Powerful Sentences and Paragraphs.


I had high praise for her book, but I did challenge her chapter "The Last Word," in which she quotes many revered writing experts who say that the writer's most important point should be placed at the end of the sentence, paragraph, or document. This structure is also known as the "periodic style," and Johnston recommends its use for "every genre, from oratory to poetry to memoir."  

The periodic (left-branching) style is the complete antithesis of what I teach: I believe that the best sentence structure for technical and business writing is right-branching rather than left-branching (see  my 2008 blog for more explanation).


Click here to compare right- and left-branching sentences.

The Text Doctor's Diagnosis August 2013
Links for writers and editors

Quote of the month

"I can fix a bad page. I can't fix a blank page."

Nora Roberts 
American author: 1950- 
I would be toast right now without my Dragon
I recently wrote about experimenting with Dragon, software that enables the user to dictate text into nearly every computer application. At that time, I reported that Dragon increased my writing speed by about 30%.

Well, because I'm currently struggling with my right hand, which is wrapped in a cumbersome bandage after successful hand surgery, my writing speed (dictating to Dragon) has increased by at least 400 percent. I can type only with my left hand, which is annoying and painfully slow. Without Dragon, I would have lost more than two weeks of productivity. There's been a learning curve, of course, but that was nothing compared to the agony of typing and trying to capitalize with one hand.  


Dragon does make some maddening mistakes: Every time I say "Deb," Dragon types "doubt," and I can't seem to train it on that word. Nevertheless, I'm grateful for Dragon and I see how it could help my friend Steve, who had a stroke last year that paralyzed his right arm and hand, or how it could help someone whose carpal tunnel syndrome makes keyboarding painful. 

I'm looking forward to regaining full use of my right hand soon, but I'll probably continue to use Dragon to dictate at least my first drafts.  


Grammar lesson:
When should you use the word "that"?

One of my loyal readers sent me a question about the use of the word "that"; she said, "I am used to seeing the word 'that ' in all instances shown below" and provided four examples. Here's one:

COPAS guidelines require that the initial billing of joint account charges occurs within a 24-month period.

Her boss had removed the word "that" from all the examples, saying:

". . . please be aware the word "that" seldom adds value and can be a major distraction. I have made adjustments both in the attached file and in life. My college English professor told me if I didn't stop using it, I would get an F. I quit using it and I got a C."

Click here to see Bette's response.
Do you know of any good online ESL courses?

I have many very bright bilingual students who need specific, focused training on ESL issues (articles, verbs, and prepositions). Do you know of any effective online courses that could help these writers? Please e-mail me at efrick@textdoctor.com. I'll publish responses in my next issue. 


Thank you!




Elizabeth (Bette) Frick, PhD, ELS
The Text Doctor LLC

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