Recently in Reader's roundup Category

The i's have it!

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If you're not sure of the difference between the words complementary and complimentary, you're not alone. It's a tricky one, and one simple vowel change is the only thing that denotes which definition of the word is correct. Complementary (with an "e" not an "i") means completing something, forming a whole. Complimentary (with an "i" not an "e"), on the other hand, means flattering or praising.

Grammar guru

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If spelling errors trip you up while posting on Facebook, tweeting, or emailing, help has arrived. Grammarly Lite is a free tool you can download that catches your errors before you broadcast a message to the social media world. Kinda cool, huh?

A or E, what gives?

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Ah, the old affect vs. effect condundrom. Even experienced writers need an occasional refresher on this tricky grammar rule. Here's a tip to remember the difference between the meaning of each word. Affect means to act on or to produce a change in. Think "a" for affect and "a" for act on. (Ex: The hot weather affected the flowers.) Effect, on the other hand, means something that is produced by a cause or result. (Ex: The effects of the snow caused major traffic delays.) Now hopefully, the effects of this little lesson will affect what you write!

Apples to... apples?

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If two words look similar and sound similar, they probably have similar meanings... right? Not always. For example, take the words "appraise" and "apprise." Only one letter is missing from the latter, so how could the two words not be close to meaning the same thing? Well, actually, appraise means to estimate the monetary value of something (appraise the value of a house, for example) or to estimate the importance of something (such as to appraise the writing of Shakespeare). Apprise, on the other hand, means to give notice to or inform (for instance, to be apprised of a friend's travel plans).

Bracketed commas, and what they can do for you

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The comma is a pesky little piece of punctuation that tends to trip up many an innocent bystander. One such time is in the use of bracketed commas.

You can use commas to mark both ends of a clause that causes an interruption in a sentence or provides additional information. This is called bracketing commas. The commas mark an area where a reader could easily pull out that clause and still have it be grammatically correct, though potentially less interesting. For example, take the sentence, "John Keats, who never did any harm to anyone, is often invoked by grammarians." Removing the clause "who never did any harm to anyone" does not make the sentence grammatically incorrect, just less interesting.

Sometimes bracketed commas may seem necessary when they really aren't. If the clause is integral to the meaning of the sentence, you don't need to present it with a pair of commas. For example, take the sentence, "Belinda opened the trapdoor and, after listening for a minute, closed it again." Removing "after listening for a minute" still provides a grammatically correct sentence, but one that is not as informative. That clause is integral to understanding the meaning of the sentence.

Getting feedback on your performance

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Getting feedback on how you're doing at work isn't always easy. Sometimes you never hear anything until there's something wrong, and perhaps you could have prevented the incident with early feedback. Amy Gallo, a contributing editor for Harvard Business Review offers some very helpful tips on getting feedback. Her article is aimed at getting feedback when you're "the boss." However, the principles she outlines are pretty universal. You might want to check out her article and see if you can use her tips to either solicit feedback or reverse-engineer her ideas to give feedback to others.

Good questions for check-ins

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Paula Seeger in OCM passed along some useful information regarding staff and supervisor check-ins from The Management Center. Here are the three top questions they recommend to "get beneath the surface" during check-ins:

1. What makes you say that?

This is a good follow-up to all kind of statements -- from "things are going fine" to "The venue seems like they're not going to budge on the price." The idea is that you don't just want the surface statement -- you want what lies behind the surface statement, and this question gets at that.

2. What do you think?

If a staff member isn't sure how to handle a problem or move forward on a project, before you suggest a path to try, ask this question first. You might learn that your staff member suggests that solution herself -- or a better one.

3. What are you most worried about?

This question can open the door to all kinds of information and concerns that you might never hear about otherwise. You might think that staff members will tell you their worries without being asked -- but many won't.

Again, thanks to Paula (and to The Management Center) for these helpful tips.

Food truck!

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This just in from a faithful News & Notes reader! The Cave Cafe Food Truck will be serving up Afro-Italiano fusion (you read that right) on the Williamson Hall plaza on Monday and Wednesdays from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook to see where they'll turn up next. Nom nom.

Say what? Misused words

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There are some words we use so often that we don't even realize they may not mean what we think they do. Like the word "literally," for example. If you watch the comedy Parks and Recreation, you know how much Rob Lowe's character loves using it. But is he always right? Literally means "the exact meaning of the word(s)" without exaggeration or inaccuracy. So if Rob Lowe says, "I literally flew down the road while running," that means he suddenly sprouted wings.

Or how about the word "less?" We often confuse it with "fewer." Here's the trick: "less" refers to a quantity that can't be counted; "fewer" refers to numbers. Saying there were less vegetables available at the Farmer's Market is not correct. You can count vegetables. Instead, you would say there were fewer vegetables available.

Kind of interesting, huh? To read about some more words that we commonly misuse, check out this fun article. (Note: Princess Bride fans will especially love it.) Thanks to OCM's Paula Seeger for suggesting this topic.

Harried hyphens

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If you often wonder whether you need to hyphenate a compound word, take heart in knowing that hyphens can be annoyingly tricky, even for the best writers and editors. The Chicago Manual of Style advises that you first look up the compound word in a dictionary. If you can't find it, try to figure out the grammatical function of the word. Is it a noun, an adverb, or an adjective that modifies a noun? If so, there's a pretty good chance it's hyphenated.

Here are some examples: a four-year-old ate the cookie; the blue-eyed girl smiled; a full-time student at the university. You can also reference this helpful hyphenation guide from the Chicago Manual of Style. Or, you can always jump on YouTube and check out this Schoolhouse Rock video.

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