Grammar for Report Writing

Two or one space after a period?
Yes, it is true that the many-year tradition of two spaces after a period while typing has become one space as used in newspaper and magazine typography. In fact, in the last 20 years one space has become the convention. However, the NCDeval computer program was written 25 years ago and has grown to many thousands of lines of code, which would be beyond arduous to change to the newer one space typing style. Both ways are acceptable. So, for consistency, please use two spaces after periods when you type. The one-space habit is hard to break when typing fast, so there is a button next to page one of the report labeled “2 spaces after a .” Just push that when you are done with the report and it will change any and all multiple spaces after sentence periods to one, and then the entire report will be consistent. It leaves one space after periods within sentences after terms like Dr., Ms. or etc.

Hyphens: word finding problems vs. word-finding problems
This is a two-word modifier so it should be "word-finding problems." If you wrote “she has trouble with word finding” than it is not hyphenated because this statement does not contain a two-word modifier, but if you write “she has word-finding issues” than it is hyphenated. The same rule apples with age, “John is a 76-year-old man” is hyphenated, but “John is a 76 year old” is not, since the latter is not a three-word modifier.

She got married…
The word married is a verb, so you can say “Mrs. Smith married at a young age…” as opposed to “got married…” While often accepted in today’s vernacular, the word “impact” is not a verb, so in formal writing consider not saying “Her poor effort likely impacted her scores.” Instead, say “Her poor performance likely had a negative impact [or effect] on her scores.”

This is term that is considered nonscientific and usually put in quotes, and BTW it is not hyphenated; i.e. The patient’s depressed affect, low motivation and inattentiveness appears to have compromised these results suggesting depression (sometimes called “pseudodementia”) is a factor in her neurocognitive complaints.

Writing out numbers
Any number from one to nine is always written out, never as an Arabic numeral like “She has 3 children.” In formal report writing, say “She has three children.” The only place this is not done is in medication amounts, like this takes Ativan, 1 mg daily. Numbers above ten are written as numerals, like 11, 12, 232, etc.

Writing 34 as thirty-four is correct – thirty four is incorrect. If written out, numbers between 21 and 99 (except, of course, for thirty, forty, and so on) always get hyphenated. Numbers above 99 do not need a hyphen. However, you should never need to worry about hyphen, because normally numbers over nine, are written as Arabic numerals, like 11. The exception is when you start a sentence, always write out the number; e.g., “Fifty-three years ago, the patient met and married her husband.”

The Oxford Comma Dilemma
Is is aspirin, tums, and Aleve. Or, should it be written aspirin, tums and Aleve. The comma that goes just before “and” or “or” in a list of items is called an Oxford, Harvard, or serial comma. In American English it is grammatically optional, but omitting it can lead to confusion. Also, most formal writing (like the APA Style Manual) require its use. Most British style guides do not mandate using it, unless it helps avoid ambiguity. Of course, the Oxford Style Manual does require it. This writer usually omits the Oxford comma following current convention, but does add it in when it helps differentiate items in a long list.

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I’ve taken to skipping it, except when it is needed to clarify an item in a list. The suggestion is skip it unless it helps avoid confusion. As Wikipedia says, “My usual breakfast is coffee, bacon and eggs and toast” is not as clear as “My usual breakfast is coffee, bacon and eggs, and toast.”
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