Category: Effective Writing

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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Clear as Mud

Posted on Wednesday, June 22, 2016, at 10:37 am

In the print and broadcast media, new catchwords appear out of nowhere—and suddenly they’re everywhere. Often these are familiar words that have taken on different meanings which no one ever bothers to explain. Today, let’s discuss a couple of these ubiquitous buzzwords. Optics  This overblown word has become commonplace in news reports. Some random examples: …

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Copy Editors Are People Too

Posted on Wednesday, June 8, 2016, at 9:38 am

There can’t be many books about the life and adventures of a professional word doctor, but one that came out in 2015 is definitely worth a look. It’s Between You and Me, by Mary Norris, a longtime New Yorker copy editor who calls herself a “comma queen.” Norris admits that the book’s very title is a grammar lesson: …

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