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The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Category: Pronouns

Hypercorrection

Posted on Tuesday, March 1, 2016, at 5:39 pm

Trying hard is good, but trying too hard is another matter. Hypercorrection is the technical term for mistakes in grammar, punctuation, or pronunciation that result from trying too hard to be correct. Perhaps the most common hypercorrection involves pronouns. We constantly hear things like Keep this between you and I or The Wilsons invited he …

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Media Watch: Pronouns, Punctuation, Word Choice

Posted on Tuesday, February 9, 2016, at 3:19 pm

Let’s begin this installment of “Media Watch” with a headline we could do without: • “Manning and Co. bring in ’da noise” Did you catch it? Why the apostrophe? It should not be there unless one or more letters are omitted from the front of da (like the missing be in ’cause). That’s not the …

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Media Watch: Subjects and Verbs, Word Choice, Pronouns

Posted on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, at 10:51 pm

What better way to begin a Media Watch column than with headlines? Here are two recent ones that got our attention: • “Bacteria has sickened more than 100.” • “Foreclosure crisis makes taught thriller.” “Bacteria has sickened” is incorrect because has is singular and bacteria is the plural of bacterium. If the headline writer balked …

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Singular They Part II

Posted on Tuesday, June 9, 2015, at 4:12 pm

Despite curmudgeons’ howls, the singular they has become respectable. Many editors at the recent American Copy Editors Society conference declared themselves open to the once-frowned-upon use of they with a singular antecedent. English is an often imperfect language that makes the best of its shortcomings. We say “none are,” despite the prominent one in none, …

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How Can They Be Singular?

Posted on Tuesday, June 2, 2015, at 1:04 pm

Which of the following sentences is incorrect: A) It’s enough to drive anyone out of his senses. B) It’s enough to drive anyone out of his or her senses. C) It’s enough to drive anyone out of their senses. Those who consider themselves “old school” would likely consider C incorrect: their is plural but its antecedent, …

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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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Media Watch: Pronouns, Verbs, Word Choice

Posted on Tuesday, February 17, 2015, at 3:23 pm

Here is another batch of fizzles and fumbles from dailies and periodicals. • Headline for an editorial: “Let he who is without spin.” It’s clever, it’s glib, it’s … a disaster. It’s supposed to be a twist on a well-known biblical verse, but that verse is routinely misquoted. Many people believe it goes like this: …

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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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Rules and Preferences

Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2014, at 1:09 pm

There were fervent protests from readers reacting to “Old Superstitions Die Hard.” The article established that the relative pronoun that refers to people as well as to things and has done so for centuries. Never was an essay more aptly named. “I don’t care what all of your quoted sources say,” wrote a fiery businesswoman. …

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Old Superstitions Die Hard

Posted on Tuesday, September 9, 2014, at 4:15 pm

People that try hard usually succeed. Is that sentence grammatical? Some nitpickers say the relative pronoun that should never refer to humans. Here is an interesting piece of mail that arrived recently: Please review your “rule” about the use of “who” and “that” when referring to persons. The use of “that” when referring to people …

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