Category: Prepositions

Media Watch: Verbs, Prepositions, Commas

Posted on Tuesday, May 5, 2015, at 6:29 pm

Here is another bundle of woeful lapses by the print and broadcast media. • Triple trouble from an international news organization: “Garcia graduated law school in California and passed the state’s bar exam, but has been forbidden from practicing law.” Using graduate as a transitive verb here is still frowned on by traditionalists. Make it …

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Capitalizing Composition Titles, Part II

Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015, at 9:53 am

Some may question the need for a two-part series on this esoteric topic. But even those who consider themselves top-notch at identifying parts of speech in a word grouping will find composition-title capitalization a skill worth mastering. Any title of more than two words can be a challenge. How would you capitalize a title such …

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Capitalizing Composition Titles: The Lowdown

Posted on Tuesday, March 3, 2015, at 7:55 pm

Which words should be capitalized in titles of books, plays, films, songs, poems, essays, chapters, and the like? This is a vexing matter, and policies vary. The time-honored advice—capitalize only the “important” words—doesn’t help much. Aren’t all words in a title important? The following rules for capitalizing composition titles are virtually universal. • Capitalize the …

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Nice Publication—Until You Read It

Posted on Tuesday, January 27, 2015, at 5:22 pm

A table by the front door of a hip Northern California restaurant is stacked with complimentary copies of a forty-three-page mini-magazine. This handsome brochure, produced by the company that manages the establishment, is printed on thick, textured paper. It’s full of sumptuous full-color photos depicting the glories of food and drink. Somebody spent a lot …

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Words in Flux (2015)

Posted on Tuesday, January 13, 2015, at 10:28 am

Today we’ll discuss two words whose meanings in casual conversation may vary significantly from their traditional meanings in formal writing. Despise Not so long ago, despise was more than just another word for detest. “Syme despised him and slightly disliked him,” wrote George Orwell in his 1949 novel 1984. Orwell knew that, strictly speaking, despise means “to look down on” but not …

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Resolutions for Word Nerds

Posted on Tuesday, January 6, 2015, at 4:01 pm

Below you’ll find ten New Year’s resolutions for self-appointed guardians of the English language. We are a group that needs its own code of ethics to protect us from ourselves and shield others from our self-righteousness. So let’s get right to … The Stickler’s Ten Commandments 1) No using big words to intimidate. You can’t beat …

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Based Off Is Off Base

Posted on Monday, June 23, 2014, at 4:13 pm

Enough is enough. It’s time to blow the whistle on an obnoxious faux idiom that has the popular culture under its spell. The offending usage is based off and its alternate form, based off of. Both are everywhere. One hears and sees them constantly over the airwaves, in print, and online. A Google search yields …

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More Of

Posted on Wednesday, April 16, 2014, at 3:49 pm

Earlier this month we observed some of the ways that little of can bring big trouble to students of English. Unfortunately, we aren’t done yet. We previously discussed certain sentences in which the verb is derived not from the subject, but from the object of the preposition of. Here’s an example: She is one of …

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The Wicked Of

Posted on Monday, March 31, 2014, at 5:03 pm

What would prompt H.W. Fowler to pick on the word of? Fowler (1858-1933), whom many regard as the dean of English-language scholars, ascribed to of “the evil glory of being accessary to more crimes against grammar than any other.” Do not be fooled by looks. Weighing in at a svelte two letters, this petite preposition …

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Learning From the Masters

Posted on Tuesday, November 19, 2013, at 1:13 pm

There is a universal fellowship of nitpickers and always has been. More than a century ago, the iconoclastic American writer Ambrose Bierce gave the world Write It Right (1909) and The Devil’s Dictionary (1911). George Orwell published his classic essay Politics and the English Language in 1946. In the 1970s and ’80s, former NBC news …

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On to vs. Onto

Posted on Wednesday, January 6, 2010, at 8:53 am

Rule 1: In general, use onto as one word to mean "on top of," "to a position on," "upon." Examples: He climbed onto the roof. Let’s step onto the dance floor. Rule 2: Use onto when you mean "fully aware of," "informed about." Examples: I'm onto your scheme. We canceled Julia's surprise party when we …

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Problems with Prepositions

Posted on Saturday, July 19, 2008, at 12:31 am

Prepositions are certain words that go directly before nouns. They often show direction; for example, below, above, over, under, around, through, in, out, between, among, to, toward(s), etc. Other common prepositions include of, for, from, with, like. Rule: You shouldn’t use or end a sentence with an unnecessary preposition, i.e., when the meaning is clear …

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Different From vs. Different Than

Posted on Friday, July 6, 2007, at 2:46 pm

Different from is the standard phrase. Most scholars obstinately avoid different than, especially in simple comparisons, such as You are different from me. However, some of the experts are more tolerant of different than, pointing out that the phrase has been in use for centuries, and has been written by numerous accomplished authors. These more-liberal …

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You Could Look It Up

Posted on Friday, March 30, 2007, at 2:06 pm

I hope you enjoy this. Thanks to Peter H. for sending it. There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that word is up. It's easy to understand up, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, …

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What Is a Gerund and Why Care?

Posted on Tuesday, February 13, 2007, at 6:00 pm

What is a gerund and why do you need to know? Maybe it would be better to answer the second part of the question first so that you have some motivation to identify gerunds. If you are able to pick the gerund(s) out in your sentence, you will avoid a grammar gaffe that often goes …

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