-ization station

Realization. Industrialization. Immobilization. We use words ending in the suffix -ization so frequently that many native English speakers might not know what –ization even means and how adding it changes the meaning of a word.

-ization: action, process, or result of making
Merriam-Webster

When we add –ization to the words realize, industrial, and immobile (like we did at the beginning of this post), here’s how their meanings change:

realization: the action of realizing; the state of being realized
Merriam-Webster

Example: This house is the realization of years of planning and building.
In other words: Years of planning and building realized the end product of this house.

industrialization: to make industrial
Merriam-Webster

Example: The industrialization of countries is a major factor in improving economic viability.
In other words: Making countries industrialized is a major factor in improving economic viability.

immobilization: to make immobile
Merriam-Webster

Example: The immobilization of her broken leg aided in its healing.
In other words: Immobilizing her broken leg aided in its healing.

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List of –ization words

actualization maximization
alphabetization modernization
Americanization nationalization
brutalization normalization
capitalization optimization
categorization organization
colonization personalization
commercialization randomization
decentralization revitalization
deodorization sanitization
equalization symbolization
externalization summarization
fossilization terrorization
generalization traumatization
globalization unionization
hospitalization utilization
initialization vandalization
legalization vaporization
liberalization visualization
magnetization winterization

You can find a longer list of –ization words here.

Alternatives to –ization
Recently, I saw the word professionalization, and I thought, “What an ugly word.” Adding –ization to words often turns them into five syllable plus tongue twisters.

If you also feel that the suffix –ization lacks a certain elegance, there are ways to avoid adding it to the word you’d like to use. For instance, there are many times when you can rewrite a sentence so you simply use the root word.

Here are some examples:

Original: The popularization of vampire movies is astounding.
Rewrite: It’s astounding how popular vampire movies are.

Original: The revitalization of downtown is important.
Rewrite: It is important that we revitalize downtown.

Original: We must achieve optimization of our skills.
Rewrite: We must optimize our skills.

What do you think?
Do you like using –ization words? Or do you find them to be overly complicated? What are your methods to avoid using –ization words? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

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Ouch! That comma splices!

Lesson: how to correctly join independent clauses

 

Take a look at this sentence.

The Martians want to look their best, they wear their green jumpsuits.

There is something wrong here. (And it’s not that the Martians think jumpsuits are high fashion.) Notice the comma between best and they? That’s called a comma splice. Sounds painful, doesn’t it?

The comma splice is a common error in sentence construction. When the parts of the sentence on each side of the comma can stand alone as separate sentences (These are called independent clauses.), you can’t use a comma to separate them.

Don’t fear. There are several remedies to the comma splice.

1. Separate into two sentences
Because independent clauses can function as separate sentences, you can use a period to separate them. Here’s how this correction looks:

The Martians want to look their best. They wear their green jumpsuits.

In some instances, it might also make sense to use a question mark to separate the independent clauses, such as in this comma splice example:

Did the Martians look silly in their green jumpsuits, yes they did.

Since the first independent clause is actually a question, you’ll want to place a question mark after it. Here is how this correction looks:

Did the Martians look silly in their green jumpsuits? Yes they did.

In other instances, you may want to use an exclamation point to separate the independent clauses, such as in this comma splice example:

The martians look ridiculous, green jumpsuits are ugly.

Because the first independent clause lends itself to more emphasis, you could use an exclamation point after it. This correction looks like this:

The martians look ridiculous! Green jumpsuits are ugly.

2. Separate with a comma and a coordinating conjunction
Coordinating conjunctions are the words and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. These words join parts of a sentence together. In sentences with more than one independent clause, they work with a comma to separate the clauses. Here’s how this correction looks:

The Martians want to look their best, so they wear their green jumpsuits.

3. Separate with a semicolon
If both independent clauses deal with the same general idea, then you can separate them with a semicolon. Here’s how this correction looks:

The Martians want to look their best; they wear their green jumpsuits.

However, if the independent clauses are not about the same general idea, then the semicolon isn’t the best option. For example, take a look at this comma splice example:

The Martians wear their green jumpsuits, they eat purple custard.

The first independent clause deals with wearing clothes. The second deals with eating food. Since these two ideas are not related, a semicolon shouldn’t connect them. To make it correct, you would want to use option 1:

The Martians wear their green jumpsuits. They eat purple custard.

or option 2:

The Martians wear their green jumpsuits, and they eat purple custard.

Voilà. That’s how you fix comma splices. (Just try to stay away from Martians. I heard they’re poor dressers.)

“If I were you” and other subjunctive stumpers

I promise this golden toilet will help you learn subjunctive. Image courtesy of toiletguppies.blogspot.com

Lesson: using were in the past subjunctive mood

Subjunctive is difficult even for most native English speakers, mainly because it’s not a tense; it’s a mood. Past, present, future—those are tenses. We use them to tell what happened at a certain point in time. Moods, however, tell how a speaker feels about those events.

Have you ever heard a sentence starting with “If I were you”? That’s subjunctive (past subjunctive, to be exact). And past subjunctive with the word were is what we are going to talk about today.

When to use subjunctive
Before you learn how to use it correctly, you have to know when to use it.
You would use subjunctive when you want to express wishes or desires.

Example: I wish you were here.

You would also use subjunctive to express that conditions are false or unlikely.

Example: If I were rich, I would buy a golden toilet.

Was = a common mistake
Because subjunctive is so confusing, it’s common to hear people say was when they should say were.

Have you heard sentences like this before:

It would be nice if she was on vacation.
If I was her, I would dump that loser.
If he was president, he would order Ice Cream Fridays.

In each of these sentences, was should be were. The first sentence expresses a desire (“It would be nice . . .”), and the second and third sentences express false or unlikely conditions. I can’t be her, so that is a false condition. Also he is unlikely to be president, so that is an unlikely condition.

Key words and phrases
One way to figure out if you should use were instead of was is to listen for key words and phrases. Here are some giveaways that you should use subjunctive and were:

I wish that . . .
It would be nice if . . .
I would like it if . . .
It would be wonderful if . . .
It would be super amazing and totally awesome if . . .

As you can see, the above phrases all express wishes and desires. That’s a big clue that you’re dealing with subjunctive.

Another clue is if there is an if/then construction:

If I were you, then I would eat a million donuts.
If I were her, then I would ride a tricycle.
If I were him, then I would be the best drag queen.

But—there won’t always be a then with this construction. Sometimes, it is just implied, as with this example:

If I were a cat, I would step on my owner’s keyboard to piss her off while she’s trying to work.

You can note, though, that the construction is essentially the same.

Remember . . . if you are expressing wishes or desires or conditions that are false or unlikely, use were instead of was.

Quiz
This quiz mixes up past tense (was) with subjunctive (were). Use the skills you’ve learned today to determine if the sentence would use was or were. The answers are at the bottom.

  1. If I _______ Mary, I would wear a lot of blue eye shadow.
  2. When I _______ seven years old, I grew a third arm.
  3. It would be fantastic if she _______ a superhero.
  4. I _______ terrible at math, and I still am.
  5. If I _______ a rockstar, my band name would be Dottie and The Ellipses.

Answers: 1. were (false condition) 2. was (past tense) 3. were (wish/desire) 4. was (past tense) 5. were (unlikely condition)

who vs. whom

A few weeks ago, I was listening to an episode of my very favorite podcast, A Way With Words. (Seriously, if you’re a word nerd, you need to check this out.) A woman called in to the show to share what I think is the best mnemonic device for remembering whether to use who or whom in a sentence. To get in the right spirit, you have to imagine sitting around a campfire and chanting a little chant that goes:

Him-ah, Whom-ah . . . He-who!

(I’ll pause here so you can practice the chant. Go ahead. Unless you’re on the bus or in the office, no one is going to hear you. And even if you’re in public, so what?)

What this chant is explaining is that if the who or whom in a sentence can refer to the word him, then you should use whom. Thus “Him-ha, Whom-ah.”

Example: Whom did you invite to the Saturnalia party? I invited him.

The chant also explains that if the who or whom in a sentence can refer to the word he, then you should use who. Thus “He-who.”

Example: Who made these Saturnalia presents? He made them.

Let’s chant it one more time for good measure. . . . Him-ah, Whom-ah . . . He-who! (Feels great, doesn’t it?)

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grammatical awesomeness behind who vs. whom
The grammatical rules behind this chant deal with subjects and objects.

Who is a subject, which is a person or a thing that is doing the action of a sentence.

Let’s look again at our who example: Who made these Saturnalia presents?

Here, who is the subject of the sentence because it refers to the person who did the action of making the presents.

However, whom is an object, which is the person or thing that is having the action of the sentence done to them.

Let’s look again at our whom example: Whom did you invite to the Saturnalia party?

Here, whom is the object because it refers to the person who is receiving the action of being invited to the party.

quiz
Test your who vs. whom skills with a little quiz. The answers are at the bottom.

  1. _______ made this huge mess?
  2. _______ should we blame for this stench?
  3. They hired _______ to clean up this rubbish?
  4. ______ said he likes the smell?

Answers: 1. who 2. whom 3. whom 4. who

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

Sign up for the Dot and Dash newsletter to get writing tips and tricks and exclusive deals.  

Follow Dot and Dash on social media.
Twitter: @GrammarParty
Instagram: @dot_and_dash_llc
Facebook: facebook.com/dotanddashllc
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/dotanddashllc

 

Simply Dashing Part One: The Em Dash

Welcome to part one of a three-part series about horizontal fun in the punctuation department: the em dash, the en dash, and the hyphen. Through this series, you’ll learn the difference between these marks and when to use which one.

Let’s take these marks from longest to shortest. That means we are going to discuss the em dash first.

Em dash basics
The em dash received its name from typesetting. It is the width of a letter m, hence the name em dash.

The em dash is used to show :

  • emphasis
  • interruption
  • sudden breaks in thought
  • lists
  • quote attribution

 

When used to show emphasis, interruption, sudden breaks in thought, and lists, em dashes may replace commas, semicolons, or colons. Because dashes are meant to be used sparingly, they have a greater impact than commas, semicolons, and colons—and they can really pump up the volume on your sentence.

Em dash used for emphasis
Think about when you’re telling a story or a lecture or explaining rules to someone, and you have come to the place where you want to make a main point. You pause, right? You pause to alert the listener that something important is coming. When translated to text, this is where you would use an em dash for emphasis. The main point is one example of when you would want to use emphasis. You could also use emphasis to show danger or excitement and for gobs of other reasons.

Here are some examples:

Class, there is a squiggly line on the board—this is very important—don’t ever divide the horseshoe by the squiggly line.

Don’t ever divide the horseshoe by the squiggly line—especially you in the back row.

One time I divided the horseshoe by the squiggly line—and the building blew up.

Em dash used for interruption
If you read fiction, you’ll probably recognize this use of the em dash from dialogue. It looks something like this:

“I want you to know that I—,” Sarah began to say.

Or this:

“I want you to know that I—”

“What?” Cal interrupted. “You love me?”

Em dash used for sudden breaks in thought
If you’re like me, then you usually have a hundred thoughts going through your head at any given moment. (Unless you’re eating cookies. Then you just concentrate on how delicious those cookies are.) The em dash is also used to illustrate when another thought jumps into a sentence.

Here are some examples:

Those cookies—oh boy, were they delicious—came from Marsha’s bakery.

Those cookies—the ones with the raisins in them—were a gift from Sam.

Sam—he’s such a good guy—buys me cookies every Tuesday.

Em dash used for lists
The em dash does a good job of setting off lists when using commas or a mix of commas and semicolons would make your sentence look too clunky.

Here are some examples:

Three people—Sam, Sarah, and Cal—went to math class together.

They learned that some mathematical characters—the horseshoe and the squiggly line—can be dangerous.

After math class, they did two things—studied for their test and ate cookies.

Em dash used for quote attribution
When listing the author of a quote, you’ll sometimes see an em dash before the author’s name, like this:

Live long and prosper.
—Spock

If I were human, I believe the correct response would be “Go to hell.”
—Spock

How to make an em dash
In most cases, Microsoft Word automatically makes an em dash for you when you type two hyphens. Simply type the first word, then (without hitting the space bar) type two hyphens, and then (without hitting the space bar) type the second word. When you finally hit the space bar after typing the second word, the two hyphens turn into an em dash.

However, there are circumstances, such as when using the em dash for quote attribution, when this won’t work. In these cases, use the steps below.

  1. In Microsoft Word, go to the Insert tab.
  2. Click Symbol from the drop down box.
  3. Click Special Characters.
  4. Click Em Dash.
  5. Click Insert.

Spaces around em dash?
The answer about whether to put spaces around em dashes depends on which style guide you use. The Chicago Manual of Style says not to put spaces. But, the Associated Press Stylebook says to put spaces.

If you are writing something that requires the authority of a particular style guide, then check that guide for the answer. If you are writing something for work, inquire whether your company has a house style guide, and check there first to see if it has a ruling on the spaces issue.

Be sure to check back for parts two and three of this series to learn how to use en dashes and hyphens. As always, you can also follow me on Twitter at @GrammarParty.

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