Tabs on Writing

The Business of Business Writing by John Tabellione, Principal at

Deer (sic) Santa:

Posted by John on 14 November 2017 | No responses

Back in the previous millennium, comedian Tim Allen starred in the first of three movies entitled “The Santa Clause.” Fast forward to the 21st century–specifically today–when a local metro newspaper reporter spelled the popular version of St. Nicholas’ appellation with the letter “e” at the end of jolly old elf’s surname. Guess what that reporter’s stocking is getting for Christmas.

By definition, a clause is a group of words that includes a subject and a verb and can convey a complete idea, as in a sentence or part thereof. Apparently, our hometown “Jimmy Olsen” used to pay more attention reviewing weekend movie reviews than during grammar and spelling classes.

As far as Santa Claus‘ transportation is concerned, did you know that reindeer have deeply cloven hooves so their feet can spread on snow or soft ground? Cloven hooves are split into two toes or digits called claws, and are named for their relative location on the foot: one the outer, or lateral claw; the other, the inner, or medial claw.

So, as the song goes:

You better watch out
You better not cry
You better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town…


R.i.P., Y.A.T.

Posted by John on 16 October 2017 | No responses

Recently, former New York Giant football quarterback legend, Y.A. Tittle, passed away. In his memory I am re-editing an old blog post from 2013.


Many moons ago, the Tabs on Writing blogger (aka the Atlanta Freelance Writer) was the sports editor for his high school newspaper. Under his byline called–not coincidentally–Tabs on Sports, he had a unique opportunity to interview Y.A. Tittle, who, at the time, was the star quarterback for the New York Giants.

Since algebra was one of the courses being studied at the time, the headline for the article ran like this: “Y.A.T. + P.A.T.=7”. (Solution to this equation: a touchdown run or pass from Y.A. Tittle, plus the point after touchdown, kicked by George “Pat” Summerall, equals seven points in football terms. Note: Summerall got his nickname based upon his kicking specialty.)

In doing some research recently, I came across a blog that used Y(elberton) A(braham)’s surname as a homophonic pun, i.e., “Why a Tittle?” Have to confess I missed the connection at first.

Eventually, I realized the “point” of the pun, so to speak: a “tittle” is the dot that is placed over the letter “i” or “j” in the English language. The blogger, a marketing pro, was bemoaning the misuse of a lower case “i” in the spelling of words on signs and elsewhere that otherwise have all other letters in upper case. See, for example, the title of this blog post. It should read: R.I.P. instead of R.i.P. (caps versus lower case).

Perhaps this is all a bit “over the top” shall we say. Nonetheless, the expression has more meaning now when referring to crossing our “t’s” and dotting our “i’s” (and “j’s”) with tittles.

Just for the record, while “Y.A.” led the Giants to three straight NFL championship games (pre-Super Bowl era), unfortunately, he never was able to deliver a championship title for the Giants.

Forsooth! Surely You Jest!

Posted by John on 13 October 2017 | No responses

Though rarely used in everyday conversation or writing except in humorous or ironic contexts, Merriam-Webster tells us that forsooth is formed from the combination of the preposition for and the old English noun sooth meaning “truth” or “true.” Thus, taking that logically to the next step, a sooth-sayer is one who can accurately predict the future.

The root word “sooth” lives on today in the verb “soothe,” which technically means “to show, assert, or confirm the truth of something.”

That being said. however, a reporter in a article for the local Atlanta hometown newspaper recently misspelled the intended word to soothe as to sooth (sic) over feelings.

Quite possibly, the journalist may have been thinking of the word smooth (i.e., having a continuous even surface), which is spelled without an “e’ at the end of the word.*



*That is, except as a nutritious drink with fruit, juice, milk, or yogurt, which in that case is spelled: smoothie.



Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire

Posted by John on 5 October 2017 | No responses

If you’ve noticed people taking animals into churches this week it’s because Wednesday, October 4th, was the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, who believed that nature itself was the mirror of God, calling creatures his “brothers” and “sisters”, even preaching to the birds. Thus, on Francis’ day, Christian churches bestow a blessing on pets and other four-legged or winged creatures since he is considered the patron saint of animals.

While many of us are familiar with this attribute of Francis, did you know that the founder of the Franciscans himself chose never to be ordained a priest, but remained a friar, or mendicant (beggar) of his religious order, combining monastic life and outside religious activity and devoting himself to a life of poverty. He is known to have worn a peasant-type coarse woolen tunic and tied it around himself with a knotted rope, similarly-dressed as the people of the countryside to whom he preached penance, brotherly love, and peace.

Quite different from the earlier days of his youth, spent as a high-spirited, wealthy young man, who, at one time, even joined the army of an Italian count; but an illness, an incident with a beggar, and a beatific vision converted him to turn his life around.

In 1223, it was St. Francis who created the tradition of a live nativity scene complete with animals, commonly referred to today as a Christmas creche.

His beautiful Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon includes a stanza to Brother Fire: “Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire, through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.” He wrote this poem after he suffered a rare illness that caused blindness, and forced him to endure a medical procedure that cauterized his face with a hot iron. Francis reported that Brother Fire had been so kind that he felt nothing at all.

On a side note, at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Cartersville, Georgia, the Knights of Columbus (as they do in parishes all across the country) prepare fish dinners on Fridays during Lent. The burning liturgical question there remains: what’s the name of the Franciscan fryer who cooks all their fish dinners?



Mind Your P’s and Q’s

Posted by John on 20 September 2017 | No responses

We recently returned from a wonderful vacation in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland. Naturally, we visited just about all of the various famous sites where we learned to queue up with all of the other tourists:

One place we didn’t get a chance to queue up, unfortunately, due to time restraints, was the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, founded in 1759. We did, however, manage to quaff a few Guinness pints at local pubs during our vacation, where we learned to mind our P’s and Q’s. Tradition has it that the term originated in the 17th century when bartenders tallied the the pints and quarts, that is, the P’s and Q‘s consumed by the regulars. In turn, the barkeep might recommend that the customers “mind their P’s and Q’s.”

Incidentally, not only did each of these attractions and locations exceed our expectations, we had the luck of the Irish on our side: the Good Lord decided to cue beautiful weather for us, typically a rarity in the foggy, showery British Isles.

Tabs on Branding and Spelling

Posted by John on 6 August 2017 | No responses

In case you haven’t heard, Coca Cola has dared to change the recipe for its Coke Zero calorie-free soda, and has modified the brand name to “Coke Zero Sugar.”

In fact, Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey called the new drink a “reinvention of Coke Zero.” Supposedly, it tastes more like original Coca-Cola secret formula, concocted in 1886 by Dr. John Stith Pemberton, an Atlanta pharmacist. In addition, the bottles and cans of Coke Zero Sugar will emphasize red coloration to look more like regular Coca-Cola containers versus its previous graphic design emphasis on black.

Today, Coke’s hometown newspaper took extreme literary license to misuse the company’s brand in a headline that read: “Coke Zeros (sic) in on how to keep Consumers Happy Amid Changes.” Apparently, the ghost of “New Coke” from 1985 still haunts the corporation’s hallways.

The point of this blog post, however, is that the editors presumably could have at least put the misspelled brand in quotation marks, if their intent was to create a pun. Any student, though, who learns to spell the plural of “zero” (as a verb) from this Sunday’s newspaper headline in that manner will likely end up with zeroes on his or her test.

Let’s hope the popularity of Coke Zero Sugar doesn’t take a nose-dive and go down in flames the way Japanese air force Kamikaze pilots did in World War II, as they intentionally crashed their Zeroes into targets more so than with any other aircraft.


P.S. Personally speaking, it would have been fine with me if Coke had simply kept its first diet soda brand name from 1963: TAB, of course.

Record Rain Delays

Posted by John on 19 July 2017 | No responses

So our granddaughters are visiting this week from Chicago and we’re treating them to everything from a trip to see the pandas at Zoo Atlanta to a Braves/Cubs game at SunTrust Park to one of their favorite fruit snacks: cored pineapple. Last night, we waited out not one, not two, but three rain delays–the longest ever for our family–as a storm cloud hung over the stadium as a bad omen for the home team. Despite the ground crew’s efforts, the Braves skidded backward to a losing record from their recently achieved .500 perch.

The girls, however, are big-time, loyal Cubbies and they struck a chord with the thousands of other Cub fans who had infiltrated the park. We survived 6 innings that began after a two-and-a-half hour rain delay and headed home close to 1:00 a.m. where we and they watch the final few outs.

Each one then proceeded to plug in her power cord to their respective electronic device for the night and then headed off to sleep.

Today the Cubs completed the three game sweep of the Braves according to the script that the “Chicago Tabbies” predicted.

No joy in “mudville” tonight…


The Great Debate

Posted by John on 9 July 2017 | No responses

I received an urgent email this week from an organization stating, “I’m sitting here with baited (sic) breath” for a monetary donation. I didn’t take the bait, however.

Obviously, what they should have written was “with bated breath,” meaning with reduced force or intensity.

Too often people receive and fall for enticing, too-good-to-be-true offers, only to discover too late that the perpetrator had baited and switched them.

When will those spam emails ever abate?


Facebook and Google Found Guilty by EU

Posted by John on 28 June 2017 | No responses

Apparently, if the European Union (EU) does find that the you’re breaking their anti-trust laws, they’re serious about prosecuting, even if you’re a behemoth social media company.

In May, the EU fined Facebook 110 million euros ($122 million) for misleading regulators during a 2014 review of the WhatsApp messaging-service takeover.

And, then just yesterday, Google got hammered when EU regulators fined them a record-breaking €2.42 billion ($2.73 billion with a “b”) for antitrust violations pertaining to its Google’s Shopping search comparison service.

As draconian as these measures may seem, if you read the fine print, the penalties are but a minute percentage of the two companies’ annual sales volumes. Google had revenues last year of $90 billion; Facebook: $27 billion.



A Better Means to An End

Posted by John on 23 June 2017 | No responses

Did you happen to read the news released by the Census Bureau this week that indicates the median age of the U.S. population as  of the most recent figures has grown to 37.9 years old versus 35.3 years old back on April 1, 2000 (no fooling). The median age occurs where half of the population is younger and the other half older. Simply put, we’re all getting a little long in the tooth.

If you’re having trouble making sense of the difference between the median and the mean, statistically speaking, here’s a primer:

The median is the middle point of a number set in which half the numbers are above the median and half are below

The mean, sometimes called the arithmetic mean, is the sum of all the numbers in a set divided by the amount of numbers in the set. Expressed in another way, the average of a set of numbers is the same as its mean; they’re synonymous. For example, the mean or average of 4, 5, 9, 14, and 18 is  50 divided by 5, or 10, whereas the median, or mid-point of these five numbers is 9.

For demographic reasons vis-a-vis statistical reasons, median is more resistant to weighting errors than the mean. “The baby-boom generation is largely responsible for this trend,” said Peter Borsella, a demographer for the Census Bureau. In other words, that large segment would outweigh other age groups if calculated as a straight average, causing an imbalanced result.

You know what I mean?