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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Confessions of a Guerrilla Grammarian

Posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2016, at 10:01 am

I was on a mission. It was dicey. It was bold. It had cloak-and-dagger undertones, although the weather was too balmy for a cloak, and rather than a sharp weapon I was wielding a Sharpie Permanent Marker. Let me set the scene. I live in a charming little tourist trap in Northern California. A couple …

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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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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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