Tag Archives: grammar

#WordUse Series:
Many Teaspoonsful of Sugar Help the Medicine Go Down …

My Facebook friends and I engaged in an etymological rabbit chase the other day. I do, seriously, get a kick out of this stuff, even if I really should be working instead of hopping around my office pulling reference books off the shelves. One friend wrote: Yesterday, I posted a comment to you in which […]

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Short Saturday: Stammer Verbs

I love it when I find an article that gives me a name for something I’ve noticed in editing, but didn’t know what to call it. Such is the case when I read this article at Jane Friedman’s website: “2 Stammer Verbs to Avoid in Your Fiction.” What the heck is a stammer verb? Here […]

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#WordUse Series:
The Language Metamorphosis

We’ve talked a lot here about how the language we use—the words, the grammar—is a constantly evolving, living, almost breathing thing. (And still, still we want to stop that process! Human nature, I guess.) I’ve written about it in various ways, from evolving spelling and compounds to singular they and even usage problems. We’ve talked about word use, literary devices, and slang too. And—as with the word meme—I’m always a little fascinated when […]

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Short Saturday: What Will the English Language Be Like in the Future?

We’ve talked a lot about how language—words and grammar—changes over time (here’s one of my posts with links to many of the rest: “The Language Metamorphosis”), but this article takes a really long view: What will the English language be like in 100 years? The global role English plays today as a lingua franca—used as […]

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“Hostility Has Always Made Itself Loudly Felt”

In Britain, … [a] more common complaint is that British English is generally being tainted by Americanisms. As I have suggested, outrage at American influence was common among Victorian defenders of British English, and its volume increased as first American silent movies and then ‘talkies’ conquered the British picture palace. In a piece for the […]

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“Reading other people’s raw copy is like looking at your grandmother naked.” When veteran reporter Rafael Alvarez was temporarily assigned to the metro desk, this was his verdict after his first week’s experience, and from this observation several conclusions can be drawn. First, from your editor, as from your butler, there are no secrets. If […]

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Short Saturday: If You Only Read One Thing …

A comma splice is only a little error, easily fixed. If you gave me a manuscript full of run-on sentences caused by them, it would be an easy edit. But—the “world’s top* grammarian,” this short article from Business Insider tells us, “fears that this punctuation error is becoming standard English.” This makes me sad, because—as […]

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It Was Not an Historic Event

I’ve noticed a lot of people of a certain age tend to use the indefinite article an before the word historic (or historical): The radio announcer said, “It was an historic event.” This is actually incorrect usage, y’all, though I think I may have been taught this in school, and you may have been too. […]

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Wordplay: Neglected Positives, Inpeas, and Falsies

Prefixes like “in,” “non,” “un,” “dis,” and “im” make words negative, yes? There may be grammatical particulars I am not addressing here, but generally speaking. So you have a positive word like “restrained,” and you add the prefix “un” to get a negative: unrestrained. Possible. Impossible. Sane. Insane. When there’s a negative word or expression—immaculate, […]

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Proper English: Us Versus Them

A writer friend of mine posted a little meme* on Facebook the other day: Never make fun of someone if they mispronounce a word. It means they learned it by reading. I doubt there’s any data to support this but I feel the truth of it in my bones, having been a child who read […]

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