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The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Category: Prefixes and Suffixes

Putting Out the Patrol for Made-Up Words

Posted on Tuesday, August 1, 2017, at 2:15 pm

Estimates of English’s total word count vary, but linguists agree the number ranks near the top of the world’s vocabularies. A May GrammarBook newsletter article cited English as having as many as 300,000 distinctly usable words. With so many residents in a vernacular, impostors posing as real words are bound to slip in. They start as mistakes …

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En Dash: What Is an En Dash?

Posted on Tuesday, April 14, 2015, at 3:40 pm

When a compound adjective precedes a noun it is describing, we often need a hyphen: prize-winning recipe, twentieth-century literature. If a compound adjective comprises more than two words, we use as many hyphens as are needed: a three-day-old newspaper, a long-in-the-tooth baseball manager. Try however to punctuate the compound adjectives including proper nouns in these phrases: a …

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Don’t Dis Disinterested

Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2014, at 1:10 pm

We recently heard from a reader who defended using disinterested to mean “uninterested.” To most language mavens, this amounts to high treason. The sticklers insist that disinterested can only mean “impartial, unbiased”: you’d want a disinterested judge at your trial—an uninterested judge would just want to go home. Our correspondent made two compelling arguments. His first was pragmatic: countless people nowadays …

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Adjectives and Adverbs: When to Use -ly

Posted on Sunday, October 7, 2007, at 11:09 pm

Do you wonder when to add -ly to a word? For example, should you say, “He speaks slow” or “He speaks slowly.” Let’s find out. Adjectives describe nouns and pronouns. They may come before the word they describe: “That is a cute puppy.” Adjectives may also follow the word they describe: “That puppy is cute.” …

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