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The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Category: Singular vs. Plural

How Did They Get In Here?

Posted on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Writers today have problems keeping their sentences internally consistent. This is especially true of print journalists. Because of staff cutbacks at financially challenged newspapers, many articles are proofread hastily, if at all. Combine that with the shocking decline in Americans’ English language skills over the last fifty years or so and you get sentences unworthy …

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Declining or Just Changing?

Posted on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, at 11:00 pm

If you think you know your English, Ammon Shea’s Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation might make you question your most cherished notions. The book has a lot to offer grammar sticklers with open minds, but it will challenge—and enrage—most traditionalists. People who care about language tend to deplore the slovenly habits of their …

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A Real Feather-Ruffler

Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Up until the late eighteenth century, Brits spoke with an American accent. So says the noted language scholar Patricia T. O’Conner. The “English” accent as we know it didn’t develop until the late 1700s. That’s when British snobs started doing things like dropping r’s, adding and subtracting h’s, saying “pahst” instead of “past,” and “sec-ra-tree” and “mill-a-tree” …

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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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More Mulling Over Miscellany

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

A few weeks ago we explored some English miscellany, linguistic bits perhaps too small for full and separate treatment yet still worthy of a closer look. Much of the miscellany to consider comes from you, our faithful, thoughtful readers. In our last article, we referred to such items as fireflies in a jar. Today we’ll …

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Staying on Target with Ranges

Posted on Tuesday, December 4, 2018, at 11:00 pm

Writing often brings us to spots in sentences where we need to convey the extent of something, such as locations, distances, or durations. Most of these constructions will include between or from. The question then becomes how to be grammatically correct in connecting the range being specified. For example, we wish to communicate where to …

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Clarifying the Conditional Tense

Posted on Tuesday, October 30, 2018, at 11:00 pm

The conditional tense—also sometimes referred to as the conditional mood—communicates what happens, will happen, might have happened, or would have happened if we do, will do, or did do something. The situation described can be real or imaginary; in either case, an action relies on something else (a condition). For that reason, most English sentences …

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Confusing Possessives Revisited

Posted on Tuesday, May 8, 2018, at 11:00 pm

As the second Sunday in May approaches, many of you may be wondering how to write the name of the holiday—is it Mother’s Day, Mothers’ Day, or Mothers Day? We first looked into the topic of where to properly place holiday apostrophes in a 2008 newsletter. Today we provide an update. The Chicago Manual of …

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Rules Do Change

Posted on Tuesday, April 24, 2018, at 11:00 pm

Spacing after periods, colons, question marks, and exclamation marks Originally, typewriters had monospaced fonts (skinny letters and fat letters took up the same amount of space), so two spaces after ending punctuation marks such as the period were used to make the text more legible. However, most computer fonts present no difficulty with proportion or …

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Tackling More Tricky Word Choices: Another Look at Number Is and Number Are

Posted on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, at 8:30 am

Recently we’ve been reviewing word choices with nuances worthy of noting. Understanding subtleties of meaning and usage makes the instruments in our toolboxes even sharper for precise and eloquent writing. Today we’ll look at another English-usage item that can sometimes be tricky even for experienced communicators. When using the word number as a collective noun for countable …

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