Category: Effective Writing

The Oxymoron: Simply Complicated

Posted on Tuesday, November 10, 2015, at 12:44 pm

An oxymoron is a turn of phrase that contains a contradiction or paradox. Some familiar examples: definite maybe, same difference, poor little rich girl. The word oxymoron derives from Greek: oxus means “sharp; quick,” and moros means “dull; foolish.” Sharply foolish? Eureka! Oxymoron is itself an oxymoron. The plural is traditionally oxymora, but some now …

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Media Watch

Posted on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, at 10:51 pm

What better way to begin a Media Watch column than with headlines? Here are two recent ones that got our attention: • “Bacteria has sickened more than 100.” • “Foreclosure crisis makes taught thriller.” “Bacteria has sickened” is incorrect because has is singular and bacteria is the plural of bacterium. If the headline writer balked …

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When Idioms Become Monsters

Posted on Tuesday, October 20, 2015, at 9:52 am

Close but no cigar, fly off the handle, he is pulling your leg, I was beside myself—we see idioms like these all the time, even though the closer we look, the less sense many of them make. Sometimes two familiar expressions get jumbled. When that happens, the result is what you might call a “Frankenstein …

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Slipshod Extension

Posted on Tuesday, October 13, 2015, at 2:01 pm

Henry W. Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, published in 1926, is still the greatest of all English grammar guides. The first edition or the lightly revised second edition (1965) is highly recommended. Sprinkled among Fowler’s entries are topics that typify the author’s innovative approach to the study of grammar. His titles for these entries …

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Each Other vs. One Another

Posted on Tuesday, September 29, 2015, at 9:31 pm

There are still sticklers among us who see a distinct difference between each other and one another. They use each other when discussing two people or things, and one another when discussing more than two people or things. According to this system, the following sentences would both be correct: The twins told each other everything …

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