Writing Tips

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Semicolons in a Series

When the items in a series themselves contain commas, separate the items with semicolons. Incorrect: We visited Erie, Pennsylvania, Buffalo, New York, and Toronto, Ontario. (Confusing. Semicolons needed to make clear distinctions.) Correct: We visited Erie, Pennsylvania; Buffalo, New York; and Toronto, Ontario.

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Hyphens for Clarity

Hyphens within a word can make some words clearer. They are frequently used with prefixes ending with the same vowel as the root begins with to show pronunciation or emphasize meaning. They are also frequently used to distinguish between words. Examples: co-op (instead of coop, also prefix ending with same vowel as root beginning) re-elect

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Sure/Surely

Sure is an adjective. It modifies nouns or pronouns. Surely is an adverb. It modifies verbs, adjectives, or adverbs. Correct: It is a sure thing. (Thing is a noun. An adjective modifies it.) Incorrect: It is sure hot outside. (Hot is an adjective. It should be modified by an adverb.) Correct: It is surely hot

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Unequivocal/Unequivocable

Unequivocal means “leaving no doubt.” Unequivocable does not exist. Equivocal, equivocally, and unequivocally are all legitimate words with the same root. Similarly, equivocable, equivocably, and unequivocable do not exist.

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Would Have/Would Of

Could of does not exist. Neither do should of, will of, or would of as verbs. Write could have, should have, will have, or would have. If you want to emphasize the pronunciation, write it as a verb contraction: could’ve, should’ve, will’ve, or would’ve.

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