Category: Effective Writing

Word Nerds: Verbal Custodians Trapped in a Time Warp

Posted on Tuesday, October 9, 2018, at 11:00 pm

A big drawback to a column like this is being perceived as having insufferable attitude: “So, Mr. Expert, I guess you think you’re so superior.” It’s not like that. Word nerds do custodial work. A lot of brilliant people can’t write. Ernest Hemingway was a terrible speller. Word nerds don’t think they’re “better”—do janitors think …

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Still on the Stakeout for Worn-Out Words and Phrases

Posted on Tuesday, September 18, 2018, at 11:00 pm

Last year we waded into the weeds of worn-out words and phrases: the verbal components that appear fresh and assimilate well in language until their nature is revealed. At first they might look just like the grass that surrounds them, but in time they disrupt communication with buzz words and catch phrases that impose on …

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Punctuating Compounds That Precede

Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2018, at 11:00 pm

It's enough to drive even the most exacting writers, proofers, and editors a little batty sometimes: More than one descriptive word precedes a noun, forming what we call a compound modifier. Do we need to hyphenate the words, or are they well enough left alone? What if we have two words modifying another word and all three …

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More Mangled Language and Pompous Usages to Avoid

Posted on Tuesday, August 14, 2018, at 11:00 pm

This column is mostly concerned about the written word, but even so, pronunciation will inevitably enter the picture from time to time. The expressions chomping at the bit and stomping ground are both corruptions of the original champing and stamping. People find this incredible. But, for instance, consult the 1961 cult-favorite western film One-Eyed Jacks, …

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Don’t End a Sentence with a Preposition—Where Did This Myth Come From?

Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2018, at 11:00 pm

We’ve written a newsletter article about it (Problems with Prepositions), and in Rule 1 of Prepositions we state, “One of the undying myths of English grammar is that you may not end a sentence with a preposition.” Yet, we still receive admonitions from well-meaning readers who think we've made an error when ending a sentence with a …

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