Author Archives: Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson

About Kathy Watson

Kathy has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email) Follow Me: LinkedIn  Twitter   G+

‘Icky’ Words — Politics, Ethics, Optics — and Their Verbs

www.RuthlessEditor.comYou’d have a hard time finding a news report these days that doesn’t include the word politics. Ethics and optics often aren’t far behind.

But which is correct:

Politics are in the news every day.

Politics is in the news every day.

Here’s how you determine whether to use the singular verb is or the plural form are with politics and other ics words. Continue

Like it? Share it!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Can, May, Might: How Do They Differ?

www.RuthlessEditor.comMany of us learned either at home or early in our school days that there is a difference between can and may:

Can you (do you have the ability to) have your book report done by noon?

May I (do I have your permission to) read your book report to the class?

According to merriam-webster.com, can still is the verb of choice for ability, but both can and may are acceptable to express permission. Continue

Like it? Share it!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Periods and Commas Are Ultimate Insiders

www.RuthlessEditor.comWhen you start writing, whether an email, a blog, a report or the next chapter of your book, you don’t want to interrupt your flow by stopping to ponder punctuation. It makes sense to get out your words and thoughts first, postponing punctuation decisions until later.

As you begin to fine-tune your copy, you might get stuck trying to remember what goes inside and what goes outside quotation marks. These tips can help.

In American English, commas and periods always go inside quotation marks, even when quotation marks enclose a single word. Continue

Like it? Share it!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Less vs. Fewer with Time, Distance, Money

www.RuthlessEditor.comI’ve written before about the difference between less and fewer:

Grammar Pet Peeves

Misused Words

Bad Grammar in Marketing

Making the right choice continues to be confusing — sometimes even for me!

In a recent editing project, I suggested a change in some copy related to end-of-life care decisions.

Here was the original wording: Continue

Like it? Share it!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Punctuating With the Colon: Do’s and Don’ts

www.RuthlessEditor.comThe two little dots that make up the colon seem pretty simple, but their grammatical use isn’t exactly straightforward.

The colon comes in handy when you want to provide an example or explanation, to cite a quotation, or to introduce a list. A colon implies that what follows it is related to what precedes it.

One of the most-asked questions I get about grammar rules that relate to the colon is whether to capitalize the first word that follows it. Style guides differ, but The Associated Press Stylebook, my preferred source, suggests: Continue

Like it? Share it!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

How ‘In Behalf of’ Differs from ‘On Behalf of’

www.RuthlessEditor.comI’ve wondered from time to time about the difference between in behalf of and on behalf of. This recent post from Daily Writing Tips on GrammarBook.com sheds light on the nuance of difference between them.

In Behalf of vs. on Behalf of
Sometimes in writing and speaking we arrive at a phrase that forms a fork in the road to expression. Ideally, we can distinguish one path from the other, even if by subtlety.

Other forks pose a greater challenge. Each way looks the same, and the sounds from both are familiar. We pick our path and hope for the best, making our choice a 50-50 gamble. Continue

Like it? Share it!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

3 Tips to Solve the Who vs. Whom Dilemma

www.RuthlessEditor.comFewer and fewer people seem to recognize when to use who and when to use whom. Have who and whom become interchangeable? 

It depends on whom you ask.

There still are people who value grammatical correctness, and there still are those who will judge you for not knowing the difference between who and whom.

These three tips will help those who care but get confused:

Continue

Like it? Share it!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Chuck Berry’s Legacy: Enunciation?!

www.RuthlessEditor.comChuck Berry, considered one of the most influential performers in the history of music, died March 18 at age 90.

Some called Berry the father of rock ‘n’ roll, citing the impact he had on Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds, to name a few.

His passing was covered worldwide. In analyzing his style, his enunciation — yes, enunciation — has emerged as part of what set him apart and contributed to his success. Continue

Like it? Share it!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Expanded Use of ‘Concerning’ is Disconcerting

www.RuthlessEditor.comI hate to be considered an inflexible, grumpy grammarian.

That’s why I’m working on controlling my irritation with the expanding use of concerning to mean something that is worrisome or unsettling.

There is so much going on in our country and our world that people are worried about, we hear this is concerning, that is concerning … ad infinitum. Continue

Like it? Share it!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Mind Your Grammar (& Visuals) With New Staff Intros

www.RuthlessEditor.comIt’s good business to introduce new staff members, whether they work directly with customers and clients, or whether they make the business hum behind the scenes.

Don’t underestimate the importance of this first impression. Choose your words and images with care.

Here is an introduction that I consider memorable — but for the wrong reasons. Continue

Like it? Share it!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail