Tag Archives: grammar

‘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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Verbal Tic ‘So’ Considered Annoying, Overused

www.RuthlessEditor.comSo, here’s how this blog came to be:

A blog subscriber asked if I had noticed how widely “so” is being used, especially to start a spoken sentence.

When I Googled “overuse of so,” this headline appeared on my screen:

So, let’s bid farewell to 2016’s most annoying and overused word

It was followed by a subhead:

So, we undertook this research and we discovered the following … Continue

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Pre-existing or Preexisting, Health Care or Healthcare: Which Is Right?

www.RuthlessEditor.comPre-existing (or is it preexisting?) conditions and health care (or is it healthcare?) have taken over headlines and are dominating conversations across the country.

What is the grammatically correct way to express these words in writing?

My foremost source, The Associated Press Stylebook, prefers pre-existing with a hyphen, explaining: Continue

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Graduation Grammar: Alumn, Cum Laude, Emeritus … And More

www.RuthlessEditor.comSpring brings graduations, along with confusion about use and misuse of related terms. Let’s clear up a few.

Do you say: “Seth graduated Harvard University last week.”

What about: “Becca will graduate Clemmons High School in May.”

Neither is correct. Why? Continue

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