Welcome to your GrammarBook.com e-newsletter.
I am sincerely grateful to have found The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation and its invaluable learning tools.
The GrammarBook.com website is a feast.
Your e-newsletter stimulates writers to think before they write.
Ain’t That a Shame
We are gratified that our readers are uncompromising about the English language. Over the course of fifty articles annually, we get our share of lectures,
challenges, and rebukes. We welcome all your comments, but before you write, keep in mind the final edict in last week’s Stickler’s Ten Commandments: Be sure you are correct before you cry foul.
• One correspondent admonished us to replace over with more than in sentences like the package weighs over ten pounds.
This myth has been around a long time, but few if any language scholars take it seriously. In an article titled “Non-Errors” the eminent
grammarian Paul Brians says, “ ‘Over’ has been used in the sense of ‘more than’ for over a thousand years.”
• When we wrote “formulas,” a reader said that the correct plural is formulae, and those who write “formulas” are
“the same lazy folk who would use ‘octopuses’ rather than ‘octopi.’ Please, don’t be lazy.”
While it is true that formulae
is preferred in scientific contexts, formulas is most writers’ choice in other applications. The Associated Press Stylebook does
not even acknowledge formulae. As for octopi, it is listed in most dictionaries, but that does not make it correct. In his book What in the Word? Charles Harrington Elster states that octopuses is the right choice: “Because octopus comes from Greek, not Latin, the Latinate variant octopi is inappropriate and is frowned upon by usage authorities.”
• But the biggest tiff of 2015 was over the use of that in sentences like She is a woman that likes to laugh. There is nothing grammatically wrong with a woman that likes.
Oh, but try telling that to all the readers who wrote in insisting that that must never be used to refer to humans. In 2014 we ran two articles
which we hoped would put this dreary matter to rest forever (you can read them here and here). We’ll say it again: The pronoun that applies to
humans as well as nonhumans. You may not care for how it sounds. You may not like how it is used nowadays. But rules of grammar transcend our personal
Most of the correspondence on this topic included some variation on “this is how I was taught.” Well, maybe so, but as the years pass,
sometimes the memory plays tricks. And teachers are not infallible. Even the best ones harbor their own opinions, biases, and delusions, which might slip
out in the classroom and be taken as fact by a callow student.
Too many of us cling to cherished misconceptions out of loyalty, sentiment, nostalgia—or sheer force of habit. If Albert
Einstein’s theory of relativity were disproved tomorrow, would any reputable scientist disregard the overwhelming evidence because of his allegiance
Because of the e-newsletter’s large readership, please submit your English usage questions through GrammarBook.com’s “Grammar Blog.”
Correct any sentences that need fixing.
1. That basketball player is over seven feet tall.
2. I prefer people that don’t tell everything they know.
3. A couple dollars is all that place charges for a great taco.
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Teacher: “Name two pronouns.”
Student: “Who, me?”
Why grammar matters, Chapter 87,492:
Wanted: one nightstand
Wanted: one-night stand
Pop Quiz Answers
1. That basketball player is over seven feet tall. CORRECT
2. I prefer people that don’t tell everything they know. CORRECT
3. A couple of dollars is all that place charges for a great taco.
Learn all about who and whom, affect and effect, subjects and verbs, adjectives and adverbs, commas, semicolons, quotation marks, and much more by just sitting back and enjoying these easy-to-follow lessons. Tell your colleagues (and boss), children, teachers, and friends. Click here to watch.