Grammar |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Clearing Up Confusing Words

Posted on Friday, September 11, 2009, at 9:52 am

Many words in English cause confusion because they sound or look alike. Here are a few rules to help you with some common but tricky words. Rule 1: The word accept means "to agree," "to receive." The word except means "but," "not including." Examples: I accept your apology. I'll eat anything except cottage cheese. Rule …

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Commas with Nonessential Elements

Posted on Tuesday, August 11, 2009, at 9:45 am

Today, we'll examine two more uses for the comma. Rule 1: If something or someone is sufficiently identified, the description following it is considered nonessential and should be surrounded by commas. Examples: Freddy, who has a limp, was in an automobile accident. (Freddy is named, so the description of him that immediately follows is not …

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Apostrophes with Names Ending in s, ch, or z

Posted on Tuesday, July 28, 2009, at 9:17 am

Are you confused about how to show the plural and the possessive of certain names? Maybe you know to write I met the Smiths, I drove Brenda Smith’s Ferrari, and I visited the Smiths’ house. But what if the name is Sanchez or Church or Williams? Rule: To show the plural of a name that …

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Into vs. In to: Should I Use In to or Into?

Posted on Saturday, July 18, 2009, at 10:02 pm

Whether to use the preposition into or the phrase in to can be a source of confusion. We'll take a closer look at both to help clarify which is correct in its context. Into Into Meaning: to the inside of Usage Example: The children jumped into the lake for a swim. Into Meaning: toward or in the …

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None Were vs. None Was

Posted on Sunday, June 14, 2009, at 2:15 pm

Rule: With words that indicate portions—some, all, none, percent, fraction, part, majority, remainder, and so forth —look at the noun in your of phrase (object of the preposition) to determine whether to use a singular or plural verb. If the object of the preposition is singular, use a singular verb. If the object of the …

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I vs. Me (Review)

Posted on Tuesday, June 9, 2009, at 9:30 am

We get more questions about pronoun usage, particularly I vs. me, than any other topic. So, here is a review that should help you feel more secure about your choices. For more on the topic, click here. Should we say, "She and I went to the store"? Or is it correct to say, "She and …

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Dashes vs. Hyphens

Posted on Tuesday, June 2, 2009, at 9:31 am

Sometimes it can be easy to confuse dashes with hyphens when writing or editing content. For example, you might see text such as 9am-5pm in one reference and 9am–5pm in another. Which is correct? The two different marks do not interfere with our understanding of the intended information; however, one mark is more precise than the other. …

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Colons (Continued)

Posted on Wednesday, May 27, 2009, at 7:56 pm

In this blog, I'd like to help you with other uses of the colon. Rule 4: It's often useful to use a colon instead of a semicolon between two sentences when the second sentence explains or illustrates the first sentence and no coordinating conjunction is being used to connect the sentences. If only one sentence …

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How to Reference Books and Articles in Text

Posted on Sunday, May 3, 2009, at 11:41 pm

Before computers, we used typewriters to underline book titles, and we placed quotation marks around article titles. However, many current style manuals recommend italicizing book titles and magazine names (impossible to do on a typewriter) and using quotation marks around articles. Example: I read Lord of the Flies in high school. Example: I enjoyed reading …

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If I Would Have vs. If I Had

Posted on Saturday, April 4, 2009, at 7:25 pm

When talking about something that didn't happen in the past, many English speakers use the conditional perfect (if I would have done) when they should be using the past perfect (if I had done). For example, you find out that your brother saw a movie yesterday. You would have liked to see it too, but …

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