Word of the Week

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...

read more

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...

read more

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...

read more

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...

read more

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...

read more

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...

read more

Why you’ll never starve at the beach

Posted by on Feb 27, 2012 in Good Grammar | Comments Off on Why you’ll never starve at the beach

It’s all due to a certain type of adjectival clause, or a clause that modifies a noun, such as “my tanning butter, which has sand in it,” or “the merman that got away.” (If this sounds like a dry topic, well, we are talking about the beach.) Frequently, an adjectival clause begins with either that or which, and quite often, people use which simply because it sounds better. The choice actually depends upon whether the adjectival clause is restrictive or nonrestrictive. A restrictive clause is needed to define the...

read more

“i before e” and “e before g”

Posted by on Feb 14, 2012 in Good Grammar | Comments Off on “i before e” and “e before g”

These handy Latin abbreviations—i.e. and e.g.—are frequently misused. Either the wrong one is chosen, or the right one is used but is not formatted correctly. These guidelines will help you abbreviate with confidence. i.e. is the abbreviation for “id est” or “that is.” e.g. is the abbreviation for “exempli gratia” or “for example.” Use i.e. when you want to define a word or phrase; think of it as a substitute for “in other words.” Use e.g. to give one or more examples of a...

read more

Special effects

Posted by on Jan 15, 2012 in Good Grammar | Comments Off on Special effects

If you are unsure about whether to use affect or effect in a sentence, there’s a simple way to decide. It’s not foolproof, but in most cases, affect is used as a verb (to influence or make a change in), while effect is a noun (a result—think “special effects”). But this being the English language, there are exceptions. Affect (with the accent on the first syllable) can be used as a noun (display of emotion), but this is rare and typically found only in discussions of psychology. More commonly, effect can be used as...

read more

For who the bell tolls

Posted by on Dec 13, 2011 in Good Grammar | Comments Off on For who the bell tolls

For who the bell tolls? It just doesn’t have the right ring to it, does it? And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. John Donne had it right when he wrote these lines in 1624. Today, in everyday conversation, even I often say “who” when I mean “whom:” “Who is this for?” But when you write, you still need to make the distinction between who and whom. The choice comes down to a matter of case, and case is determined by how a word functions in your sentence. Who is in...

read more