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The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

This/That/These/Those: Demonstrative Adjectives and Pronouns

Posted on Tuesday, March 23, 2010, at 9:09 am

The demonstrative adjectives this/that/these/those, which may also be pronouns, tell us where an object is located and how many objects there are. This and that are used to point to one object. This points to something nearby, while that points to something "over there." Examples: This dog is mine. This is mine. That dog is …

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Hyphens with Common Prefixes

Posted on Tuesday, March 16, 2010, at 9:09 am

Should we use a hyphen with a common prefix such as non or un? For example, is it non-alcoholic beverages or nonalcoholic beverages? Generally, with common prefixes, you do not need to use a hyphen unless it would avoid possible confusion.  Therefore, most writers would write nonalcoholic beverages. Examples: uninviting uninterested noncompetitive preexisting (some writers …

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Writing Elegantly

Posted on Monday, March 1, 2010, at 9:12 am

Most of us know clumsy sentences when we hear or read them, but we don’t always know exactly why they are clumsy or possess the skills to fix them. An E-Newsletter reader heard the awkwardness of the following sentence but was puzzled by how to reword it. The network that this computer is able to …

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Unusual Plurals of Abbreviations

Posted on Tuesday, February 16, 2010, at 9:14 am

Thanks to Lawrence K., who responded to my tip on forming plurals of symbols by pointing out that the plurals of some abbreviations are formed in ways other than by adding an s. Example: pp. = pages Example: sp. = species (singular); spp. = species (plural) Example: cc., c.c., C.C., Cc, or cc = copy/copies …

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Pleaded vs. Pled and Enormity Defined

Posted on Friday, February 5, 2010, at 12:22 pm

Today I will answer a couple of questions I received from radio listeners when I was a guest. Question: Should you say "pleaded guilty" or "pled guilty"? Answer: Either one is considered correct. Question: Does "enormity" mean "something monstrous" or "something huge"? Answer: In formal writing, enormity has nothing to do with something's size. The …

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On to vs. Onto

Posted on Wednesday, January 6, 2010, at 8:53 am

Rule 1: In general, use onto as one word to mean "on top of," "to a position on," "upon." Examples: He climbed onto the roof. Let’s step onto the dance floor. Rule 2: Use onto when you mean "fully aware of," "informed about." Examples: I'm onto your scheme. We canceled Julia's surprise party when we …

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Advice vs. Advise

Posted on Thursday, December 17, 2009, at 10:07 am

The word advice is a noun. It means recommendation. Example: My sister gave me great advice about applying to colleges. The word advise is a verb. It means "to give advice," "to inform," "to recommend." Example: Can you advise me about colleges that offer bioengineering degrees?   Pop Quiz The principal gave the graduating seniors …

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The Apostrophe with Letters, Numbers, and Abbreviations

Posted on Monday, November 9, 2009, at 10:28 am

Questions can often arise about how to make the plural and plural possessive forms of numbers, letters, and abbreviations. The following guidelines will help you apply a consistent style for everyday use. Plural of Letters Rule: The plurals for letters are typically not formed with apostrophes. However, do use an apostrophe and an s for …

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Apostrophes with Names Ending in y

Posted on Thursday, October 22, 2009, at 10:01 am

Question: How do you form the plural of a proper noun that ends in y like Murphy? Should you change the name to Murphies as in I visited the Murphies yesterday? Answer: No. Never change the spelling of a name to show the plural form. Example: I visited the Murphys yesterday. Question: How do you …

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Using Semicolons

Posted on Tuesday, September 29, 2009, at 9:56 am

Do you get confused about the proper way to use a semicolon? Semicolons do not represent a full stop at the end of a sentence, as periods do; rather, they're like the "yellow light" of punctuation marks: they signal a pause between one sentence and the next. You slow down, then stop at the end …

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