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Numbers, Baby!

Numbers

If a number is one or two words, or begins a sentence, spell it out. Otherwise, use figures.

Wrong:

For 13 tortuous dates I had to listen to Tiffany’s inane chatter about her ex-boyfriend, her manicures, her hemorrhoids, and I had to watch her light up the hash pipe before we boinked, But those 13 tortuous dates are over. I am free! Free! Free!

Right:

For thirteen tortuous dates I had to listen to Tiffany’s inane chatter about her ex-boyfriend, her manicures, her hemorrhoids, and I had to watch her light up the hash pipe before we boinked, But those thirteen tortuous dates are over. I am free! Free! Free!

A sentence starts with a number. You have two choices: spell out the number or rewrite the sentence.

Wrong:

125,000 parasitic worms were living in my intestinal tract, causing me nausea, weakness, insomnia, and pain.

Better:

Doctors estimated that 125,000 parasitic worms were living in my intestinal tract, causing me nausea, weakness, insomnia, and pain.

Use figures for addresses, dates, percents, fractions, scores, decimals, statistics, exact money amounts, divisions of books and plays, pages, ID numbers, and time.

Addresses: I grew up at 45 Gurley Road, Stamford, Connecticut, a street that dead-ended on the Long Island Sound.

Dates: On September 11, 2001, I witnessed the catastrophe from my rooftop in Brooklyn.

Percents: After my visit to Yankee Stadium, I concluded that 72% of Yankee fans are dicks; the remainder are mentally ill.

Fractions: I added ½ a cup of Coca Cola to the pot roast, a move of such utter genius that my family, some 22 years later, still begs me for the recipe.

Scores: The Mets whipped the Yankees 10-2, whipped their sorry asses so severely that those pinstriped cry babies couldn’t sit or shit for a week.

Decimals: It’s a sad fact that 0.82 of all men who shoot their wives do so after the divorce, while .73 of women who shoot their husbands do so while they are still married. No woman, however, has ever shot her husband while he’s doing the dishes.

Statistics: The average brain weight of a human brain is 3 pounds; average weight of Yankee fan brains is 1.3 pounds.

Exact money amounts: In 2001, I made $42,383.15 after I had my teeth laser-whitened, my skin tanning machine bronzed, and my posture straightened by 30 sessions with an Alexander Technique specialist.

Divisions of books: In volume 8, chapter 1, page 702, I learned that the closest thing to a Japanese wife is a Jewish husband.

Divisions of plays: In Shakespeare’s Othello, act 5, scene 2, Othello says, “I took by the throat the circumcised dog and smote him thus,” just before stabbing himself.

ID numbers: After the fire, all that was left was a tattooed serial number 32455500921, and a stick of Wrigley’s Big Red, cinnamon-flavored chewing gum.

Time: At precisely 4:30 a.m., I pulled my Checker cab onto the Queensborough Bridge, carrying two strippers from Scores, three sticks of dynamite, four tabs of windowpane acid, five filter-less Camels, six xiao long bao dumplings from Joe’s Shanghai Dumplings in Chinatown, seven double cheeseburgers from White Castle, eight AirLight, Rimfire, Model 10, 600 Series. Smith & Wesson revolvers, nine Trojan ultra-ribbed ecstasy condoms, and ten rotten teeth.

Apostrophe

Apostrophe

Possession

The surgeon’s scalpel shook so badly, that Brad’s soft and succulent brain ended up looking like Vanilla ice cream smothered in ketchup.

Jessica’s saucy blue eyes were more perilous than a Venus Flytrap, and Dirk, poor devil, was the fly.

Remember to add ‘s

Add ‘s to nouns that do not end in s.

I stared, both fascinated and repelled, by Conchita’s dangerous-looking liverwurst.

Add ‘s to singular nouns that end in s.

I would sell my soul to the devil for Moses’s freaky-deaky bagels.

Add only an apostrophe (no s) to nouns that end in s.

Those penniless savages chased me through the streets of Fez, ruining my Armani trousers’ perfect crease.

Contraction

It’s good to be a woman, but better to be a French fry.

I simply can’t go on—not without George’s loud and smoky laughter.

Fix:

Stacys lambchops and loins are juicy enough for a casual breakfast on the veranda, but not for the sort of fine dining the ambassador has grown accustomed to in Mumbai.

Dont eat that Napolean, unless you want to add gluteus to your maximus.

On a bad day, theres always lipstick; on a good day, theres Elvis’ grilled banana and peanut butter sandwiches.


Argument Paragraph

Argument

H.L. Mencken said, “I delight in argument, not because I want to convince, but because argument itself is an end.” For Mencken, the greatest opinion-maker of his time, argument alone was sufficient. The rest of us, however, argue to persuade. In other words, we argue because we want to change another person’s mind. The most effective way we can change someone’s mind is to make sure our argument has merit. And the surest way we can make sure of that is to back up the argument with convincing evidence.

In an argument paragraph, evidence comes in three packages: examples, facts, and expert opinion. If I argue that breast milk is healthier for a baby than formula, I must to talk about the science behind that claim. I might cite statistics from studies showing that babies raised on human milk get sick less often. I might cite studies showing that breast milk-raised kids are, on average, taller and thicker-boned than kids raised on formula. To bolster my pro-breast milk argument, I might interview an expert—a scientist who has studied the effects of nursing, or a researcher for La Leche, the pro-breast milk organization. Or I might quote from a scientific paper, a news article, or a book. In short, to make my argument convincing, I must cite a convincing arguer.

Nevertheless, an argument paragraph must state both sides of the issue, then support one of those sides with evidence.

The following paragraph argues against Sesame Street.

 

For thirty-five years, Sesame Street has been a reliably sweet hour of Muppets and music. But it has never taught kids to read. This comes as startling news not only to parents who have, for decades, been parking their kids in front of the show as a guilt-free alternative to Scooby Doo and Power Rangers, but also to the folks at Sesame Street, a subsidiary of the The Children’s Television Workshop. CTW is a billion-dollar corporation that has sown goodwill, won over TV critics, and earned a fortune, in part by claiming that the show, and its products, teach kids how to read. Relying mostly on a 35-year-old study conducted by the Educational Testing Service, the producers of Sesame Street insist that the show teaches basic literacy. But researchers led by Thomas D. Cook at Northwestern University re-examined the ETS study and found that the learning gain was surprisingly modest. “Kids who watched for a season gained about two letters of the alphabet,” says Cook. If that’s not sobering, consider this: in 1870, a century before Sesame Street’s celebrated debut, the illiteracy rate in America was 20%. By 1992, twenty-five years after Sesame Street’s debut, twenty-five years after a good chunk of American kids had been weaned on Bert and Ernie and Big Bird and guest stars from Paul Simon to Hillary Clinton , the illiteracy rate had climbed to 23%.

 

Choose one of the following topics, then write an argument paragraph, or come up with your own idea.

Should we ban Internet porn?

Should men always pick up the tab on a date?

Should polygamy be legalized in America?

Should orphans be adopted only by families of their own racial or ethnic group?

Should gay marriage be legalized?

In light of the AIDS pandemic, should all schoolchildren be taught how to use condoms?

Should prayer be allowed back in the public schools?

Should we legalize corporal punishment?

Pick your own topic.

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