Grammar |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

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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Numbers as Adjectives

Posted on Thursday, March 5, 2009, at 4:07 pm

A subscriber recently wrote in with a question that's a good followup to last week's Tip of the Week, Writing Numbers: "When are hyphens used with numbers? Is it 13 feet or 13-feet; 12 hours or 12-hours?" Rule: Generally, hyphenate between two or more adjectives when they come before a noun and act as a …

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Nouns Can Become Verbs

Posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2009, at 10:11 am

E-Newsletter reader Clifford A. recently wrote: My wife says she texted our daughter. I say, I sent her a text message. Is texted an accepted usage? English allows many nouns to become verbs. We can table a motion, salt our food, and water our plants. Particularly in the realm of developing technology, new usages are …

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Guidelines for Aspiring Writers

Posted on Saturday, February 7, 2009, at 11:42 am

This is a Q & A with Wendy Burt-Thomas, a full-time freelance writer, editor, and copywriter with more than 1,000 published pieces. Her third book, The Writer's Digest Guide to Query Letters hit stores in December 2008. Q: Can you tell us about your book? The book was a great fit for me because I'd …

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Definite Ideas About Definite and Indefinite Articles

Posted on Thursday, February 5, 2009, at 10:13 am

Take a look at this sentence from a restaurant review that was sent in by a reader: The restaurant operates with an efficiency and authority that defy the chaos in the pleasant but cramped room. Is it correct to use the indefinite article an in front of an abstract noun (efficiency)? If so, should we …

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Confusing Possessives

Posted on Thursday, December 11, 2008, at 7:00 pm

The Chicago Manual of Style lists the following holidays as singular possessives: Mother's Day, Father's Day, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day. Plural possessive is used for Presidents' Day. Your guess is as good as anyone's about Secretary's vs. Secretaries' vs. Secretaries Day and Boss's vs. Bosses' vs. Bosses Day. What would you do if …

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Writing Dates and Times

Posted on Sunday, August 24, 2008, at 11:24 pm

Please note: This original post has been updated and replaced by a new version of Writing Dates and Times. Rule: The following examples apply when using dates: The meeting is scheduled for June 30. The meeting is scheduled for the 30th of June. We have had tricks played on us on April 1. The 1st …

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Fractions, Decimals, and Money

Posted on Sunday, August 24, 2008, at 11:22 pm

Rule: Always spell out simple fractions and use hyphens with them. Example: One-half of the pies have been eaten. Rule: A mixed fraction can be expressed in figures unless it is the first word of a sentence. Example: We expect a 5 1/2 percent wage increase. Example: Five and one-half percent was the maximum allowable …

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The Power of Punctuation

Posted on Saturday, August 9, 2008, at 7:59 pm

If you question the necessity of punctuation, here is a story that should illustrate its power. A professor wrote on the chalkboard: A woman without her man is nothing. He asked students to correct any punctuation errors. While most of the male students saw nothing wrong with the sentence, most of the females rewrote the …

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Regardless vs. Irregardless, Sneaked vs. Snuck, Assure vs. Ensure vs. Insure

Posted on Saturday, August 9, 2008, at 6:40 pm

Regardless vs. Irregardless Some words in the English language are so overused that we don’t notice that they are incorrect or don’t even exist. A perfect example is irregardless. Many scholars maintain there is no such word as irregardless because regardless already means "without regard." The -ir prefix is redundant. Sneaked vs. Snuck Both sneaked …

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