Today's post begins the first of what I hope will be many posts concerning common grammar and style misuses I see quite often. In journalism school, I became quite the word nerd, and I sometimes become slightly angry when I see people abusing the English language.
The J-Tips I offer here on the Relatively Journalizing blog can probably be found elsewhere online as well. In fact, I'll probably reference some of them as I offer advice. I'm not attempting to add anything new to good writing techniques so much as I am just re-emphasizing the importance thereof. What I will do is definitely recommend some good resources for anyone who wants to be a better writer. Remember, better speaking also comes with better writing.
The Associated Press Stylebook, The Media Writer's Handbook and On Writing are some of the essential works good writers should read, I believe. The stuff presented in The Elements of Style is pretty good too, but a lot of the rules are dry and outdated, so I'd use common sense here. You also have to realize there is a difference between literary and journalistic writing, the very least of which is the use of the serial comma. To me, writing in a journalistic style is best all of the time. The punctuation usage and crisp, concise storytelling of journalistic writing soars high above that of literary writing watered down with too many adjectives and descriptions for the sake of descriptions. Tell me the story already! I'd also like to give a nod to Eats, Shoots & Leaves, a great book written more from the perspective of English in the British tradition. The panda-themed book is one that will make every writer stop and think twice about the importance of every single letter or punctuation mark he or she types each day.
OK, so let's get on to today's J-Tip...
Alumnus (one male graduate)
Alumna (one female graduate)
Alumnae (more than one female graduate)
Alumni (more than one male graduate, or a group with men and women)
Looking for some support for this? Well, I don't need to link anything this time... just check your closest dictionary (oh yeah, I forgot to mention above, a dictionary and a thesaurus are key books to have around as well)!