What Does vs. What Do

Posted on Friday, March 2, 2007, at 3:10 pm

Should we say, "What does Gloria and I have in common?" or "What do Gloria and I have in common?" If you turn the question around to place the subjects first, you would say, "Gloria and I does/do have what in common." Gloria and I are the subjects so we need a plural verb. Which …

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Some vs. Any

Posted on Saturday, February 24, 2007, at 8:23 pm

Any and some can be synonymous; that is, they may have the same meaning. Both may be used in affirmative or negative questions: Examples: Will you have any? Will you have some? Won't you have any? Won't you have some? Generally, it is better to use some, not any, for affirmative statements and answers. Correct: …

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Can vs. May

Posted on Saturday, February 24, 2007, at 12:07 am

Although, traditionally, can has meant “to be able” and may has meant “to be permitted” or to express possibility, both can and may are commonly used interchangeably in respect to permission. Example: He can hold his breath for 30 seconds. Meaning: He is able to hold his breath for 30 seconds. Example: He may hold …

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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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Quotations Within Quotations

Posted on Friday, January 26, 2007, at 1:18 am

Almost all of us have found ourselves confused with double and single quotation marks. When do we use single quotation marks? Where does the punctuation go with single quotation marks? With just a few rules and examples, you will feel surer about your decisions. Rule: Use single quotation marks inside double quotation marks when you …

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Capitalization of Job Titles

Posted on Thursday, January 25, 2007, at 12:14 am

With capitalization of job titles, there are rules and then there is the “rule.” The rules are based on some precedent while the “rule” is based on ego. Let’s go over the rules that have precedent first. Rule: Capitalize job titles immediately preceding the name when used as part of the name. Example: We asked …

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Continual vs. Continuous

Posted on Thursday, January 25, 2007, at 12:05 am

Continual means repeated but with breaks in between; chronic. Example: The continual problem of our car's not starting forced us to sell it. Continuous means without interruption in an unbroken stream of time or space. Example: The continuous dripping of the faucet drove me crazy.

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In and of Itself

Posted on Friday, January 19, 2007, at 3:16 pm

To many people, the phrase in and of itself sounds clunky and old-fashioned. However, when used sparingly—and correctly—it serves a purpose. Example: The weather was not, in and of itself, the cause of the traffic delays. vs. The weather was not the cause of the traffic delays. In both sentences, we understand not to blame …

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Commas Before and in a Series

Posted on Wednesday, January 17, 2007, at 8:58 pm

In American English usage, many writers and editors feel that a comma should precede and with three or more items in a series. Example: I would like to order a salad, a sandwich, and dessert. Newspapers and magazines do not generally use this rule as print space is too valuable to use on what might …

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Writing Addresses

Posted on Wednesday, January 17, 2007, at 6:42 pm

Please note: This original post from January 2007 has been updated and replaced by a new version of Writing Addresses, published on July 4, 2018. If you are writing an address, whether typed or handwritten, on an envelope to be mailed via the post office, the U.S. Postal Service recommends that you do not use …

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Use of Brackets

Posted on Tuesday, January 16, 2007, at 5:54 pm

Brackets are used for a number of purposes: Use #1: Sometimes, you may wish to clarify or add to an original quote. Put words that are being added to an original quote within brackets. Always put the changes in brackets, not parentheses. This tells your readers exactly how you have altered the original. Example: Original: …

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Effect vs. Affect

Posted on Wednesday, January 10, 2007, at 3:57 pm

Knowing whether to use effect or affect may not qualify you as a genius, but you will be demonstrating an understanding about a grammar issue most people find perplexing. We trust that the strategies offered here will clear up any confusion you have had. Rule: Use the verb effect when you mean bring about or brought …

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Rules Do Change

Posted on Friday, December 1, 2006, at 8:54 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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Apostrophes

Posted on Wednesday, November 1, 2006, at 9:09 pm

When asked what the most common English usage error is, I don’t have to think hard. The "winning" mistake is the misuse of the apostrophe, especially with its/it’s. First, let’s get rid of a myth: There is no such thing as its’. Why? Because its’ would be meaningless. If its' existed, it would be indicating …

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Using Commas, Semicolons, and Colons Within Sentences

Posted on Sunday, October 1, 2006, at 10:15 pm

Punctuation within sentences can be tricky; however, if you know just a few of the following rules, you will be well on your way to becoming a polished writer and proofreader. Rule: Use a comma between two long independent clauses when conjunctions such as and, or, but, for, nor connect them. Example: I have painted …

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