Check out this Halloween-related headline from an Oct. 29 HuffPost story:
Before you carve it, might as well use it to mix-up your workout
The story describes how to use a pumpkin as a weight during your exercise routine.
The problem: mix-up is a noun; it’s a state or instance or confusion, or it can be a conflict or fight.
If you want to mix up (add variety to or make lively) your workout by using a pumpkin instead of another kind of weight, you need a verb. The verb mix up — well, it’s actually a verbal phrase — doesn’t need a hyphen.
The Oct. 29 New York Times, on the other hand, included a word in a headline that was correctly written but that has potential for error:
Bearing Gifts, Lobbyists Court State Attorneys General
How many writers (not the careful ones, of course) might have mistakenly used “attorney generals” in this headline?
Plural forms of similar word combinations can be tricky. Here are some common ones:
Rather than add an s at the end, which we normally do to form a plural, the s goes with the principle word. Remember: It’s the mothers, the commanders, the fathers, the ladies who are in multiples.
Just to keep things interesting, it’s cupfuls, not cupful. You could argue, “But it’s cups that are full!” Yes, but it is full cups that are being pluralized, so the entire quantity — cupful — becomes plural: cupfuls.
Aren’t we lucky to have the Internet to help us look good in headlines! We can quickly check what is grammatically correct, saving ourselves time and embarrassment.
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