Thursday, December 07, 2006

Personal Finance Grammar and Usage, Part 2.1

Very much like the last usage issue, what's wrong with the following real personal-finance blog sentence?

I wasted .98 cents.

Much like last week, the issue is redundancy. Here, though, more than last week, we run into an actual comprehension issue. The dollar sign and the word "dollars" don't interact to cause confusion--they're just redundant and silly. The decimal point and the word "cents," though...that's a whole different story. What this sentence actually says is that the waster wasted an amount we might transcribe as point ninety-eight cents--a little less than a penny. In fact, the waster (wastrel, even) wasted ninety-eight cents--a little less than a dollar.

To say what you mean with a mimimum of confusion try it one of these ways:
I wasted $0.98.
I wasted ninety-eight cents.
I wasted 98 cents.

Writing is like balancing your checkbook the old-fashioned way--you have to be careful with those decimal points!

4 comments:

Him said...

I love these posts. There is a lot of bad grammar out there in the pfblogosphere - thanks for pointing out how to make it suck less.

While I don't have an Engligh degree, I do a lot of editing at my current job, so I can appreciate these posts whole-heartedly!

mapgirl said...

Thanks for the link and interesting Grammar Nazi tip. Wasting less than a penny is hard to do!

I wish I had more time to edit posts, but it's tough! The copy editor in me always cringes in the morning when I review a post I wrote the night before.

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