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The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Category: Spelling

Give the Gift of Pedantry

Posted on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, at 6:43 pm

If there is a logophile—word lover—on your holiday gift list, you can’t go wrong with What in the Word? by Charles Harrington Elster. Elster is a formidable scholar, but he has written a book that is fun to read, yet packed with information. Scattered throughout the book’s seven chapters are astute quotations, “fascinating facts,” and …

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What’s That I Spell?

Posted on Tuesday, September 1, 2015, at 7:46 pm

Want to make your Labor Day party the hit of the season? During a lull, pull out this spelling test and challenge your guests. Nothing endears you to your friends and neighbors quite like making them feel foolish in public. You’ll find the answers directly below. 1. Maria looked sharp in those ___ pants. A) …

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Spell Check

Posted on Tuesday, May 26, 2015, at 6:09 pm

You may recall that our inaugural spelling challenge last winter included all right, which has managed to ward off alright for decades now. As we noted at the time, the usage of alright “remains unacceptable across the board in serious writing.” Since then we’ve discovered yet another adversary gunning for all right: films with subtitles. For whatever reason, subtitled films …

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Proper Pronunciation: A Sound Policy

Posted on Tuesday, March 24, 2015, at 7:18 am

Pronouncing words correctly helps convince listeners that you know what you’re talking about. By correct pronunciation, we mean words as you’d hear them enunciated at formal occasions: a lecture by an English scholar, say, or a first-rate production of a play by George Bernard Shaw or Eugene O’Neill. To settle pronunciation disputes, we recommend an …

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Spell Check

Posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2015, at 12:32 pm

Nothing can bring down a beautifully written sentence quite the way a misspelled word can. So today we are presenting the first in a series of intermittent spelling quizzes. True, there are many other spelling tests available online. But can you trust them? The Internet, for all the blessings it bestows, is a compulsive fibber …

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Are Two r‘s One Too Many?

Posted on Tuesday, February 3, 2015, at 3:45 pm

Here we are, in the month that’s hard to spell and harder to pronounce. Every year I grit my teeth listening to the bizarre ways people mangle “February.” The culprit is that first r. Most people just ignore it and say “Feb-yoo-ary.” The 2006 American Heritage dictionary has a “Usage Note” at “February” that made …

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Be Careful with the -a Team

Posted on Tuesday, June 10, 2014, at 5:05 pm

The first letter of the alphabet is also a common English word that is virtually synonymous with one. As a word, a is the very antithesis of plurality. This might help explain why there’s so much confusion about a group of words that I call “the -a team.” Here they are: bacteria, criteria, data, media, …

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The Case of the Missing Hyphen, Part 2

Posted on Monday, March 17, 2014, at 8:08 pm

We thank all of you who took the time to respond to the question we posed two weeks ago: Should it be e-mail or email? There were eloquent arguments for both sides, but email won decisively. “Time to join the 21st century,” wrote one gentleman, who added, “and I’m 61 years old.” Many of you …

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Christmas ’Log Review

Posted on Thursday, December 12, 2013, at 7:12 pm

Every year, for six weeks or so, I get a taste of what it’s like to be a superstar. From late October to early December, I am accosted daily by an aggressive mob of stalkers who know where I live. Their urgent need for my attention seems to be their only reason for being. No, …

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Media Watch: Spelling, Commas, Apostrophes

Posted on Monday, November 25, 2013, at 1:36 pm

Several weeks ago, a Vatican-endorsed medal honoring Pope Francis had to be recalled because Jesus was spelled “Lesus.” Just last week, a political placard at a Washington, D.C., press conference spelled filibuster “fillibuster” and against “againts.” In light of these disgraces, it seems the right time to reopen our Media Malfeasance file… • “They have …

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