Category: Effective Writing

Attention-Span Blues

Posted on Tuesday, October 11, 2016, at 11:50 pm

Fewer and fewer of us curl up with a good book anymore. Who can read nonstop for more than an hour, if that? I won’t bore you with my deep thoughts on why this is—not when I can bore you with so much other nerdy stuff. But I will say this: American attention spans started …

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What Is-Is Is, Is Exasperating

Posted on Wednesday, September 14, 2016, at 1:15 pm

Leave it to academia to invent lofty labels for obnoxious habits. You might not know the term nonstandard reduplicative copula, but you probably know what it refers to, and chances are it drives you crazy. We call it “the is-is hiccup”: the addition of a redundant second is in sentences like The truth is is …

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Media Watch

Posted on Monday, August 15, 2016, at 5:26 pm

The following are less-than-exemplary snippets from recent newspapers and magazines … • “The suspect was linked to at least nine different bank robberies.” Why not just “nine bank robberies”? It would be interesting to know what compelled the writer to add “different.” However, this sentence is not a total loss; it could be shown to …

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The Haves and the Have Gots

Posted on Tuesday, July 19, 2016, at 11:02 am

In a recent post we bemoaned the widespread overuse of surreal: “Why keep regurgitating surreal when something atypical happens—is that all you’ve got?” A reader found the sentence objectionable: “Really? ‘is that all you’ve got?’ How about ‘all you have’?” His email insinuated that “all you’ve got” is unacceptable English. Many grammar mavens down through …

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Small Dishes

Posted on Tuesday, July 5, 2016, at 1:07 pm

• Here is the type of sentence that makes grammar sticklers crazy: one of the students forgot to bring their lunch. You probably know this old tune: laissez-faire scholars and editors say the sentence is just fine, whereas nitpickers demand a rewrite because one is singular and their is plural. Things took a turn in …

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