Test Your Vocabulary

Posted on Tuesday, June 14, 2016, at 4:26 pm

“Words have a longer life than deeds.” —Pindar “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.” —Confucius “Proper words in proper places make the true definition of a style.” —Jonathan Swift “The limits of my language are the limits of my mind. All I know is what I have words for.” …

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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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Irregular Verbs: Handle with Care

Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2016, at 4:20 pm

During a recent broadcast of America’s professional-basketball playoffs, a popular commentator said, “I wish he had did it” instead of had done it. A few days later, a longtime Washington insider with his own TV show said “if he had ran” instead of had run. When those who should know better misuse irregular verbs, it is …

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