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Editorial Help Desk:
Your Resource for Grammar and MCPS Style

Word of the Month

(noun) A blend of prom and proposal, is a recently popular word for an old tradition: asking someone to the prom, but with a little added theatricality and hubbub. It is a word blend, just like brunch (breakfast and lunch) and labradoodle (Labrador and poodle).


Tip of the Month

The Debacle: When to use which or that in a sentence.

You are not the only one to pause while writing to consider whether to put which or that in a sentence. In an informal e-mail, letter, or conversation, the choice is not crucial. However, in a formal document, letter, e-mail, or legal agreement, it can make all the difference in the world to your reader.

Here is a tip:
If the clause was omitted and the sentence would still make sense, use which.
          The childcare center, which is located next to the gym,
          is closed whenever school is closed.
          The childcare center, which is the larger of the two buildings,
          is closed when school is closed.

If the sentence would not make sense if you dropped the clause, use that.
          The childcare center that is located next to the gym will be closed in July.
          The childcare center that will close in July is the one located next to the gym.

This is a quick rhyme that helps one wordsmith remember the rule:
Commas, which cut out the fat, go with which, never with that.
                                                         ~ Patricia T. O'Conner, Woe Is I.

Contact Donna M. Marks on Outlook or call 301-517-8139.

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Do you know the difference between an ELT and an EMT, between FLS and FLES? Keep this reference on hand and you'll never get lost in jargon.

MCPS Acronyms (PDF)

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Learn to prepare memoranda, letters, and other documents in a consistent format. See the updated examples of memoranda and letters. Refresh your knowledge of e-mail etiquette and more.

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