Category: Effective Writing

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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Might You Mean May?

Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2016, at 4:43 pm

What is the difference between may and might? There may have been a clear difference long ago, and there still might be a difference in some sticklers’ minds, but today the two verbs are, with few exceptions, interchangeable. Grammarians tell us that might is the past tense of may, but that fact, while interesting, does …

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A Couple of Things, and a Couple More

Posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2016, at 9:03 am

The word couple literally means “two,” but it is often used to mean “an indefinite small number.” So if you were to say, “I only have a couple of dollars,” you would probably not be called out if you really had three or four. However, your friend the grammar stickler might take exception if you said you …

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