Mental Floss’ Article on Comma Usage (Hint: Consider Clarity & Economy)


The Best Shots Fired in the Oxford Comma Wars

According to the article  the Oxford comma, “the comma before the conjunction at the end of a list,” is predominately used to enhance the clarity of a given passage. While I agree with this style, Oxford University Press style, because I believe that  clarity is paramount, others prefer economy (keep it simple and allow the reader to move on). Whatever the style, just don’t let it get in the way of your message!

Pro: “She took a photograph of her parents, the president, and the vice president.”

This example from the Chicago Manual of Style shows how the comma is necessary for clarity. Without it, she is taking a picture of two people, her mother and father, who are the president and vice president. With it, she is taking a picture of four people.

Con: “Those at the ceremony were the commodore, the fleet captain, the donor of the cup, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Jones.”

This example from the 1934 style book of the New York Herald Tribune shows how a comma before “and” can result in a lack of clarity. With the comma, it reads as if Mr. Smith was the donor of the cup, which he was not.

And then there is this example, which could have been resolved by the use of the semicolon.
“By train, plane and sedan chair, Peter Ustinov retraces a journey made by Mark Twain a century ago. The highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector.”

Languagehat dug this gem out of a comment thread on the serial comma. It’s from a TV listing in The Times. It supports the use of the Oxford comma, but only because it keeps Mandela from being a dildo collector. However, even the Oxford comma can’t keep him from being an 800-year-old demigod. There’s only so much a comma can do.

Okrent, Arika. “The Best Shots Fired in the Oxford Comma Wars.” Mental Floss, 22 Jan. 2013. Web. 23 Dec. 2014.

Economic Development Organizations – exempt status requirements

G. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATIONS: Charity Through the Back Door (1992 EO CPE Text)

IRS Publication by Robert Louthian and Marvin Friedlander

– Charitable purposes: “Charitable” includes the relief of the poor and distressed, lessening the burdens of government, and the promotion of social welfare by organizations designed to lessen neighborhood tensions, eliminate prejudice and discrimination or combat community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.) (IRS Regs. 1.501(c)(3)-1(d)(2))

– Economic development corporations: Economic development corporations “generally are established to assist existing and new businesses located in a particular geographic area through a variety of activities including grants, loans, provision of information and expertise, or creation of industrial parks.” (Louthian and Friedlander, 2) While they are established to stimulate economic activity in depressed areas,  economic development organizations are for-profit entities and thus not exempt under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) 501(c)(3).

In order for economic development organizations to be become exempt under 501(c)(3), the organization must demonstrate that it is both organized and operated exclusively for charitable purposes. We must ask ourselves, “are these activities likely to accomplish exempt purposes?”

In all, the ultimate good received by the general public must outweigh the private benefit afforded to the direct beneficiaries. THE ACTIVITIES MUST SERVE A PUBLIC RATHER THAN A PRIVATE INTEREST. Per Louthian and Friedlander’s article, “the organization should demonstrate its specific criteria in eligibility and show how said criteria furthers public [not private] interests.”

The following factors are necessary to conclude that an economic development corporation is primarily accomplishing charitable purposes:

(1) Assistance is targeted

(a) to aid an economically depressed or blighted area;

(b) to benefit a disadvantaged group, such as minorities, the unemployed or underemployed; and

(c) to aid businesses that have actually experienced difficulty in obtaining conventional financing

i. because of the deteriorated nature of the area in which they were or would be located or

ii. because of their minority composition,

(2) Assistance is targeted to aid businesses that would locate or remain in the economically depressed or blighted area and provide jobs/training to the unemployed or underemployed from such area only if the economic development corporation’s assistance was available.

The following organization were granted exemption under IRC 501(c)(3) because their activities were accomplishing the following exempt purposes: relieving poverty and lessening neighborhood tensions caused by the lack of jobs in the area; combating community deterioration by establishing new businesses, rehabilitating existing ones, and eliminating conditions of blight; and lessening prejudice and discrimination against minorities.

1. Rev. Rul. 74-587, 1974-2 C.B. 162: The organization

a. devoted its resources to programs to stimulate economic development in economically depressed, high-density, urban areas, inhabited mainly by low-income minority or other disadvantaged groups, qualified for exemption under IRC 501(c)(3);

b. made loans and purchased equity interests in businesses unable to obtain funds from conventional sources because of financial risks associated with their location and/or because of being owned by members of a minority or other disadvantaged group;

c. established that its investments were not undertaken for profit or gain, but to advance its charitable goals;

d. funds for its program were obtained from foundation grants and public contributions.

2. Rev. Rul. 76-419, 1976-2 C.B. 146: The nonprofit organization

a. purchased blighted land in an economically depressed community and converted the land into an industrial park;

b. induced industrial enterprises to locate new facilities in the park through favorable lease terms that required employment and training opportunities for unemployed and underemployed residents of the area.

Some organizations were NOT granted exemption because “their overall thrust was to promote business as an end in itself rather than to accomplish exclusively exempt purposes.” (Louthian and Friedlander, 4) Operating in  an economically depressed area is not sufficient to receive exempt status.

3. Rev. Rul. 77-111, 1977-1 C.B. 144: One organization wanted to attract customers in an economically depressed area that is mainly minority groups. The organization used various marketing and advertising tools to attract potential shoppers. Another organizations wanted to revived retail sales in an area in economic decline. This organization constructed a retail center via private developer that is required (by the city) to employ minorities for the construction and operation of the project. The organizations:

a. did not limit their assistance to businesses located in a deteriorated area that could not obtain conventional financing;

b. did not limit its aid to businesses that are owned by members of a minority group or to businesses that would only locate within the area because of the existence of the center;

c. did not target benefits for businesses that were actually disadvantaged because of their minority-owned composition or location;

d. did not target benefits for businesses that would only locate or remain in an economically depressed or blighted area and provide jobs to unemployed area residents on account of the organization’s activities.

United States. Internal Revenue Service. G. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATIONS. By Robert Louthian and Marvin Friedlander. Internal Revenue Service, 1992. Web. 8 Jan. 2014. <;

Recent Readings: “More Than Good Intentions,” Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel

More Than Good Intentions
“More Than Good Intentions: Improving the Ways the World’s Poor Borrow, Save, Farm, Learn, and Stay Healthy”

Dean Karlan is also the Founder and President of Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and co-founder of

This book, which Karlan and Appel serve up in an incredibly approachable and readable manner, is all about the innovation and evaluation of global poverty alleviation strategies. How can we creatively, yet methodically, reduce global poverty? The answer is one randomized control trial at a time.

When looking at successful and unsuccessful poverty alleviation strategies, we must constantly adapt to local context. What works in one country may not work in another. Therefore, “it is important to know when and where the different solutions work so that we can apply them when the conditions are right” (252). There are several factors to consider: Why is this solution is effective over another? How does local behavior behavior play a role? What are the intangible qualities that we must consider? These questions help to guide and structure a comprehensive program that may one day be replicated in another community. While it may seem tedious, frustrating or slow, changing behavior and adapting to local context is incredibly important.

Karlan and Appel conclude the book with seven programs that may help to alleviate poverty. For each of the solution, the authors urge donors and development workers to consider the root cause of poverty when attempting to mitigate or eradicate an issue.

– Microsavings
– Reminders to Save
– Prepaid Fertilizer Savings
– Deworming
– Remedial Education in Small Groups
– Chlorine Dispensers for Clean Water
– Commitment Devices (SEED commitment savings)

I found the solution of deworming particularly intriguing because it is a great example of how attacking the root of the issue will have profound benefits across the board. Parasites are an ostensible health issue and deworming will break the chain of transmission (the more protected, the less likely the carriers, and less likely a rampant disease). But, not only does it mitigate health concerns and reduce the need for costly medicine, it also increases school attendance, the ability to save, and allows families to be in an over-all better situation.

To the point above, that programs must be adapted to local context, Karlan and Appel referenced a program that pays patients to see doctors. Two similar programs with radically different results. The program in India did not work because there was a larger issue with corruption; however, paying instructors in Mexico to show up to class did work. Why? The Mexican program managers hired a policymaker unrelated and therefore incapable of foul-play


Karlan, Dean S., and Jacob Appel. More than Good Intentions: Improving the Ways the World’s Poor Borrow, Save, Farm, Learn, and Stay Healthy. New York: Plume, 2012. Print.

Recent Readings: “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” Tracy Kidder

“Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World”
“Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World”

An easy yet thought-provoking read for all those interested in seeing the world through a different lens. As told by Tracy Kidder, Dr. Paul Farmer incessantly travels around the world treating patients in all forms in order to create Options for the Poor (“O for the P”). This book will make you think differently about not only doctor-patient relationships or general health care, but about the unwavering spirit of a group of people trying to enhance lives of the poor. For more information, look into his nonprofit Partners In Health (PIH).

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“We are talking about wealth that we’ve never seen before. And the only time that I hear talk of shrinking resources among people like us, among academics, is when we talk about things that have to do with poor people ” (Jim Kim as quoted in Tracy Kidder 164).

“Margaret Mead once said, Never underestimate the ability of a small group of committed individuals to change the world… Indeed they are the only ones who have” (Kim as quoted in Kidder .

“The goal was to improve the lives of others, not oneself… ‘Paul is a model of what should be done. He’s not a model for how it has to be done'” (Kidder 244).

“All too often international aid organizations weaken the societies they are supposed to help. Often they rely almost entirely on professionals from the world’s wealthy countries, and they fail to make their projects indigenous. This all but guarantees that their projects will neither grow nor last. PIH is different. The organization now has on the order of 6,500 employees. The overwhelming majority come from the impoverished countries where PIH is working. Fewer than one hundred of the employees come from the United States” (Kidder 07).


Kidder, Tracy, and Michael French. Mountains beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World. New York: Delacorte, 2013. Print.

Proposal Writing Tips (brought to you by Carl Dickson at

There are a few staples necessary to create a winning proposal (not to include pricing):

1. Compliant response per Government stipulations in the RFP, Section L, and Section M
2. Past performance and relevant experience provide substantiation for claims
3. Proposal is easy-to-read and customer-centric

How do we craft a proposal that is customer-centric? First, always put your conclusion first! Second, start is to ask yourself questions that will allow you to think like the decision maker. For example:

  • What am I going to get or what will the results be?
  • How much is it going to cost and is it worth it?
  • What could go wrong?
  • Why should I believe you? How can you prove you can do this?

Need more information? Click here.

But, what if you don’t know the customer that well? First, look to the proposal for hints. For example, does the RFP mention price frequently? Does the RFP emphasize quality? If the RFP, Section L and Section M cannot help, again, think like the decision maker. For example:

  • What matters to people like them?
  • How does a person like that tend to make decisions?
  • What matters to organizations like theirs?
  • How does an organization like that tend to make decisions?

Once you start thinking like this, it is hard not to write everything as if you are responding to a proposal.


Dickson, Carl. “8 Things You Can Do To Transform Mediocre Proposal Writing Into Great Proposal Writing.” 8 Things You Can Do To Transform Mediocre Proposal Writing Into Great Proposal Writing., 2013. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <;.


[’s] free articles openly discuss the theory and foundations behind our recommendations and are intended to provide some help for people who want to build their own solutions. For those who want something they can implement immediately, PropLIBRARY provides the templates, forms, and process documentation that make it easy to turn theory into winning proposals. PropLIBRARY is available as a Single User Subscription and a Corporate Subscription.

Advice from on How to Get Things Done

Between our professional work load, social calendar, academic goals, and volunteering commitments, it can sometimes feel like we are wearing too many hats all at the same time. There is never enough time in the day, days in the week, weeks in the month….

Coming from an Organizer through-and-through, I found this article (by Laura Schwecherl) both relevant and applicable. Sometimes, you just need to take a step back, make some lists,  and clean up a bit 🙂

#3. Wake up earlier. If still able to squeeze in enough sleep, try extending the day by getting up an hour earlier — when it’s still quiet and there are fewer distractions. My advice: Get to the gym in the morning! Even though it seems counter-productive, you’ll feel more energized, be in a better mood, and feel great about yourself before you  even get to the office.

#9. Take a midday workout break. Can’t fathom cleaning the bathroom? Or having writers’ block? Working out during the day could actually boost productivity, so the time spent exercising could actually help us get more done later. My advice: That is, if you haven’t already gone in the morning!

#16. “Eat the frogs.” We swear it’s a real term. Do the task you’re least looking forward to first to get it out of the way. (No guarantees Prince Charming will emerge.). My adivce: I think it depends on the task, sometimes it is nice to get the “little things” out of the way.

#24. De-clutter. Get rid of anything in the way that may cause distractions. Put away the dishes, fold clothes, and get rid of excess papers on the desk. My advice: You’ll feel like you already accomplished something, and will want to continue “the streak.

Schwecherl, Laura. “27 WAYS TO GET MORE SH!T DONE.” Greatist., 28 Feb. 2012. Web. 09 Apr. 2013. <;.

BuzzFeed: “30 Ways To Instantly Transform Your Workspace”

Organization can take several forms (physically or electronically), and can yield several benefits (professionally or personally).  A clean desk encourages a clear head. But, sometimes trying to start a new system of organization can be arduous. Here is a creative, inspiring list to clean up – at home or at the office. Thank you, BuzzFeed!

Personally, I recommend:

#12. Binder clips make great cord catchers.

#16. Keep loose papers out of the way by attaching clipboards to the wall. Great for Project Managers that have several checklists to keep organized.

#19. Make a compact charging station out of a lotion bottle. This would be great to have in boardrooms or classrooms for when someone needs to charge their device on-the-go.

#28. Use a dishrack as a ready-made filing system.


Okun, Alanna. “30 Ways To Instantly Transform Your Workspace.” BuzzFeed., 02 Jan. 2013. Web. 09 Apr. 2013. <;.

ZingAnything Citrus Zinger Water Bottle

It is hard to find something more energizing (or beneficial to your health) than fresh, ice-cold lemon water. For a great water bottle that encourages tasteful hydration, I recommend Citrus Zinger. It can be a little clunky for running errands or using at the gym, but it works great for around the home.


  • The Citrus Zinger offer an easy way to extract juice and flavor from citrus fruits and infuse them directly into your water bottle.
  • Finger hole provided for easy carrying, wide mouth top allows for easy filling and ice cubes, if needed.
  • Cushioned base through a soft rubber base pad to prevent slippage.
  • Health-safe materials – BPA/EA-free Tritan Plastic from Eastman.
  • Easy to clean and reusable. Excellent Citrus Infuser

For more substantiation on the health benefits, I’ve included a brief list of articles referencing the advantages. This is by no means exhaustive. As always, check with your doctor before making drastic changes to your diet.

Stratfor Article: “Beyond the Post-Cold War World”

Interesting article by George Friedman, Founder and Chairman of Stratfor, which highlights the importance, and feebleness, of the balance of power:

“The greatest military power in the world has the ability to defeat armies. But it is far more difficult to reshape societies in America’s image. A Great Power manages the routine matters of the world not through military intervention, but through manipulating the balance of power. The issue is not that America is in decline. Rather, it is that even with the power the United States had in 2001, it could not impose its political will — even though it had the power to disrupt and destroy regimes — unless it was prepared to commit all of its power and treasure to transforming a country like Afghanistan. And that is a high price to pay for Afghan democracy.”

“There are new phases in history, but not new world orders. Economies rise and fall, there are limits to the greatest military power and a Great Power needs prudence in both lending and invading.”

Friedman, George. “Beyond the Post-Cold War World.” Stratfor., 02 Apr. 2013. Web. 02 Apr. 2013. <;.
Read more: Beyond the Post-Cold War World | Stratfor Beyond the Post-Cold War World is republished with permission of Stratfor.”