Good Grammar

Happy National Punctuation Day!

Posted by on Sep 24, 2012 in Good Grammar | Comments Off on Happy National Punctuation Day!

Little did you know when you awoke this morning that today, September 24, is the ninth annual National Punctuation Day. This holiday was founded by Jeff Rubin, a speaker, educator and writer and designer of newsletters. He calls this day “a celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks, and other proper uses of periods, semi-colons, and the ever-mysterious ellipsis.” But how to celebrate? Not only is there a list of suggestions on the official website, but there’s also an Official Meatloaf—to be baked in the shape of your favorite punctuation mark (“A fist-sized period makes one serving”). However you choose to observe it,...

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The case of the pronoun

Posted by on Sep 17, 2012 in Good Grammar | Comments Off on The case of the pronoun

There should be no mystery to choosing the correct pronoun to use in a sentence; it’s all about the case. Case indicates the pronoun’s relationship to the other words in the sentence, and it’s determined by how the pronoun functions in its own clause. There are three cases of pronouns: Nominative (also called subjective): the pronoun is the subject of a verb; it does something (“He suddenly jumped out of his chair.”). I, we, you, he, she, they, who, it. Objective: the pronoun is the object of a preposition or verb; something is done to it (“The detective stared at him.”). Me, us, you, him, her, them, whom, it. Possessive: the...

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The enemy of grammar?

Posted by on Jul 19, 2012 in Good Grammar | Comments Off on The enemy of grammar?

Lynne Truss, author of the punctuation guidebook Eats, Shoots and Leaves, says the em dash is “seen as the enemy of grammar.” Because it is both easy to use and difficult to use incorrectly, she seems to be saying that the em dash’s innate flexibility encourages people to break rules. She is likely referring to the common habit of sticking dashes wherever there’s a pause in thought. Many writers (even myself on occasion) are guilty, especially in informal writing, such as journals or personal emails. So that you’re not a rule-breaker when it comes to the em dash, a closer look is in order. The em dash can indicate an unfinished or...

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Dash away, dash away, dash away all

Posted by on Jun 15, 2012 in Good Grammar | Comments Off on Dash away, dash away, dash away all

Those little horizontal lines between words and numbers—em dashes, en dashes and hyphens—sure can cause a lot of confusion. They come in small (hyphen), medium (en dash) and large (em dash), but they don’t come with instructions. Consider this your cheat sheet. Hyphen joins compound words that act as an adjective before a noun divides words between syllables at the ends of lines connects digits of a telephone or other non-sequential number En dash connects sequential or continuing numbers Em dash sets off a word or phrase that emphasizes or defines a phrase in a sentence’s main clause sets off a series that contains commas shows an abrupt change in...

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Who’s who(se)

Posted by on Apr 20, 2012 in Good Grammar | Comments Off on Who’s who(se)

The apostrophe is a talented little critter. Typically, adding an apostrophe and the letter “s” to a word makes it possessive. But an apostrophe can also indicate that letters have been omitted in a contraction. This dual purpose sometimes leads to confusion, and the who’s/whose conundrum is one example of this. Who’s: “who is,” or occasionally, “who has” Whose: possessive of the pronoun “who” The confusion crops up because we don’t form the possessive of most personal pronouns (such as it, she, they and who) by adding an apostrophe and “s.” Instead, we use its, her, their and whose. The...

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That’s all well and good

Posted by on Mar 18, 2012 in Good Grammar | Comments Off on That’s all well and good

How are you feeling? Good? Or well? Or both? To answer this correctly, you have to know what’s really being asked. Am I interested in your condition or mood? That calls for an adjective, so the answer would be “good.” Am I interested in how you are performing an activity, in this case feeling (an object)? The correct response would be the adverb “well.” This becomes clearer if you substitute another set of words for good and well, for example, happy (adjective) and happily (adverb). Let’s ask the question again: how are you feeling? If you say “happy,” that’s an adjective (like good) and it makes sense. But if you say...

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