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The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Category: Proofreading

Sweating the Small Stuff

Posted on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, at 7:00 am

At a football game a few years ago, the University of Notre Dame sold soda in cups that said, "Figthing Irish." Did no one at this distinguished school have the time or pride to proofread a two-word slogan? Here are a few other items we've seen and now wish we hadn't … Back to Basics  …

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Year-End Quiz 2018

Posted on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Another year of grammatical exploration has concluded with linguistic miles behind us. What we’ve learned and discussed with you along the way has been illuminating, and we are grateful for the thought and insight it has inspired. We hope you gathered even more sharpened tools for communicating in concise and eloquent English. A year-end review …

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Figuring Out the Trick Behind [sic]

Posted on Tuesday, May 29, 2018, at 11:00 pm

We’ve all seen it at some point when reading: a three-letter package in brackets. It follows text to draw attention to or make a point about it. We’re talking about [sic]. What is it—and when do we accurately use it? Fowler’s Modern English Usage explains that sic is Latin for “so, thus.” It is a complete word and …

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The Language of Sports

Posted on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, at 11:00 pm

“I truly don’t know the language,” said the late Sparky Anderson, a Hall of Fame baseball manager, in 1993. At least he had the gumption to admit it. It’s not that they’re lazy—athletes work their tails off. And it’s not that they’re stupid—you try memorizing a football playbook. It’s just that their brand of eloquence is …

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Graphic Ignorance

Posted on Wednesday, August 23, 2017, at 10:17 am

TV networks’ graphics departments have long been out of control with their intrusive cluelessness. After 9/11, many cable channels initiated a constant “crawl” of news at the bottom of the screen. The spellbinding stream of words, slow and endless, is perversely distracting. But if you run a news channel, shouldn’t credibility be a front-burner concern? …

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Attention-Span Blues

Posted on Tuesday, October 11, 2016, at 11:50 pm

Fewer and fewer of us curl up with a good book anymore. Who can read nonstop for more than an hour, if that? I won’t bore you with my deep thoughts on why this is—not when I can bore you with so much other nerdy stuff. But I will say this: American attention spans started …

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What Is-Is Is, Is Exasperating

Posted on Wednesday, September 14, 2016, at 1:15 pm

Leave it to academia to invent lofty labels for obnoxious habits. You might not know the term nonstandard reduplicative copula, but you probably know what it refers to, and chances are it drives you crazy. We call it “the is-is hiccup”: the addition of a redundant second is in sentences like The truth is is …

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Resolutions for Word Nerds

Posted on Tuesday, January 5, 2016, at 11:09 am

Below you’ll find our New Year’s resolutions for self-appointed guardians of the English language. We language cops need our own code of ethics to protect us from ourselves and shield others from our self-righteousness. The Stickler’s Ten Commandments for 2016 1) Thou shalt proofread. Proofreading your work is a dying art—but why is that? Do …

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You Can Look It Up

Posted on Tuesday, September 15, 2015, at 8:59 pm

What happens when you come across a word you don’t know? Do you just keep reading? Most people do. They believe they can figure out a word’s meaning by looking at the sentence and using common sense. Maybe they’re right … but what if they’re wrong? Here is a passage from a profile of a …

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Anachronisms: Time Out!

Posted on Tuesday, August 11, 2015, at 10:15 am

Shakespeare typing Hamlet. JFK on a cellphone. Elvis using Twitter. Each is an anachronism, the technical term for a chronological blunder. Many years ago my family took me to see Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra. As young as I was, I gave up on the movie in utter disgust when Cleopatra winked at Caesar. I didn’t …

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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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Media Watch: Proofreading, Effective Writing

Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014, at 5:41 pm

Recent cringe-inducers from the print media … An upscale music venue ran ads for “An Evening With Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr.” The second line said, “Formally of the 5th Dimension.” It was only after several weeks that someone caught the silly gaffe and sheepishly changed “Formally” to “Formerly.” From an article about a …

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Spell Check Overreach

Posted on Tuesday, September 25, 2012, at 1:42 pm

My spell check has been drinking again. It just told me “déjà vu” should be “deejay.” Everyone who uses Word software probably has some form of spell check. Mine—I call him “SC”—also makes occasionally helpful (but often just surreal) suggestions about grammar and punctuation. To be fair, SC sometimes saves me from my own carelessness. …

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Proofreading Well

Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2012, at 10:04 am

Research shows that written communications full of typos, misspellings, and usage errors leave readers with a poor impression of the writer and the organization. But proofreading well is challenging. Before you begin proofreading, make sure your document is reader-focused—with a clearly stated main point, clear organization, easy-to-read formatting, and concise language. Then follow these guidelines …

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