Ignore Noun/Pronoun Agreement For Gender Neutrality? Count Me Out!

www.RuthlessEditor.comThe Associated Press Stylebook, my first choice among style guides and grammar reference manuals, rocked the writing world when it announced it was giving the green light to using the plural pronoun “they” with a singular noun.

AP explains:

They, them, their … In stories about people who identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her: Use the person’s name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence, whenever possible. If they/them/their use is essential, explain in the text that the person prefers a gender-neutral pronoun. Be sure that the phrasing does not imply more than one person …


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Watch your ‘Ta ta’s’ in Preventative, Exploitative, Authoritative

www.RuthlessEditor.comI’ve often said that English is a complicated language. It’s no wonder non-native English speakers struggle to learn and understand it. Those of us brought up in English-speaking homes can struggle with it as well.

My last blog covered commentate and orientate: Are they real words? Or should it be comment and orient?

The following words have a questionable extra syllable. Which do you consider grammatically correct? Continue

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Comment or Commentate; Orient or Orientate?

Does a word ever offend your ears and stop your thought process in its tracks?

Language and its usage evolve, but when I heard someone use commentate as a verb, I scrambled to see if any source considers it a valid word.

comment | commentate

comment as a noun: a spoken or written remark expressing an opinion or reaction
comment as a verb: to express an opinion or a reaction
commentate as a verb: to give a commentary on; to comment in a usually expository or interpretive manner; to act as a commentator Continue

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Why Active (vs. Passive) Voice Is More Readable

www.RuthlessEditor.comDid your English teacher make you rewrite passive-voice sentences, converting them to active voice?

Mine did.

In active voice, the subject of the sentence clearly is the doer of the action.
In passive voice, the doer of the action is identified in an indirect way.

Active voice is more lively and easier to read. It helps prevent wordy, convoluted sentences: Continue

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Happy National Grammar Day! (Yes, grammar still matters)

www.RuthlessEditor.comI’m a shameless grammar geek!

I love writing, rewriting, and rewriting a sentence or paragraph until it says exactly what I want it to say in the manner I want to say it — commas, em dashes, capital letters, italics and all.

It’s comforting to know that I’m not alone.

In celebration of March 4 National Grammar Day 2017, I offer this selection of thoughts by like-minded people who agree: Yes, grammar still matters.


“Your grammar is a reflection of your image. Good or bad, you have made an impression. And like all impressions, you are in total control.”
— Jeffrey Gitomer, American author and business trainer Continue

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Comma Confusion Clarified

Grammar encompasses the words we use as well as how we string them together and punctuate them. Confusion about comma use abounds.

My book, Grammar for People Who Hate Rules, addresses four scenarios of this often used — and often misused — punctuation mark: with Latin abbreviations (chapter 29), with academic degrees (chapter 30), with conjunctions (chapter 41), and with but (chapter 42).

This post focuses on commas when they are used to separate clauses, both independent and dependent. Continue

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Should You Avoid Impact And Impactful?

The battle rages! Is impact a noun, a verb … or both?

And what about impactful? Is it even a word?

The American Heritage Dictionary points out that impact as a verb dates to the early 1600s. What happened between then and now?

Language evolves. Because so many among us dislike impact in verb form, instead preferring affect or influence, you as a writer must decide whether using phrases such as “Cutting prices will impact sales,” or “How will regulation impact water quality?” is worth the scrutiny.

In my online research, I discovered a reader who acknowledges that negative feelings about impact as a verb run deep: Continue

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