If Only Writers Would Use ‘Only’ Right

guy sings at partyInaccurate placement of the modifier only continues to abound.

I’ve written about only before, and I’ve continued to save examples. Those with a misplaced only far outweigh those where only is in the right spot: closest to the word it modifies. Because the margin is so great, I’m climbing back onto my soapbox. Continue

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Contemporaneous, Extemporaneous: Huh?

woman_news_reporterTwo words that derive from Latin (Hey — no yawning!) have worked their way into today’s conversations, many times thanks to news reports about U.S. politics:

contemporaneous and extemporaneous

They’re not exactly what most of us consider everyday words, so I’ll share with you what I found in my online search. Continue

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‘As Long As’ or ‘So Long As’ … What’s the Difference?

man presents giftIs there a grammar rule that applies to as long as and so long as?

Which of these do you consider correct?

“He can join us as long as he brings a gift to exchange.”
“He can join us so long as he brings a gift to exchange.”

When using as long as or so long as to imply something conditional — He can join us if he brings a gift to exchange — both are correct.

But the three-word phrases are not interchangeable in all constructions. Here are five ways to use as long as: Continue

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From Memorialize to Curate, Curator, Curation: What Do They Mean?

Have you noticed how often you’ve heard memorialize lately?

It has emerged primarily in the context of former FBI Director James Comey’s having made a written record of — in other words, memorializing — his conversations with President Donald Trump.

Many words in the English language have more than one meaning — or shades of meaning — depending on context.

Continue

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Grammar Rules Worth Breaking? You Decide

couple_disagree_grammarA former colleague sent me a link to Grammar Rules You Should Break in Business by Steve Yastrow. I agree with some of Yastrow’s suggestions and disagree with others.

What do you think?

Where We Agree, Disagree

Yastrow begins, “A language works according to a shared set of understood rules, which change over time as language evolves.” Continue

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The Prince and Ms. Markle: Fiancé or Fiancée?

Prince_Harry_&_FiancéeThe Royals are in the news again, this time with the engagement of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle.

The event is especially newsworthy because, as Tim Teeman writes for The Daily Beast:

“She is mixed-race, a long-overdue first for the royal family in 2017, and also American, which immediately touches a British royalist’s nerve.”

Yet, he adds, “We still love the fairytale — and what gets more fairytale than a royal wedding between handsome prince and American commoner?”

Ms. Markle will be known as the Duchess of Sussex, but for now, she is Harry’s fiancée. And Prince Harry is her fiancé. Why does she get an extra e? Continue

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Grammar with Terms of Laughter—Ho, Ho, Ho!

write & punctuate terms of laughterHo, ho, ho!

How can you not think of Santa Claus when you read or hear that eruption of laughter?!

A recent post by Mark Nichol at Daily Writing Tips suggests that a trio of ho’s represents “full-bodied mirth.”

Santa’s “Ho, ho, ho!” gives rise to thoughts of other ways we express laughter, in both speaking and writing. The amusement that prompts laughter presents a grammatical challenge: When we write about laughter, how do we spell and punctuate it? Continue

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Calling All Weaklings! Avoid Forms of the Verb ‘To Be’!

wear_verb_to_beWas I ever surprised when I hopped online to do some cursory research about the “weak” verb to be. I thought it was a simple and straightforward topic, but I learned otherwise. (I hate it when someone tries to complicate what I think should be simple.)

Some grammarians had delved deeper than I had, providing even more reasons to avoid using to be and its many forms: is, are, was, were, will be, should be, would be, have been, had been, etc.

Here’s what I originally intended to write:

Continue

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Some Fun with UP: A Much-Used Two-Letter Word

UP is much-used and sometimes redundant wordAs we venture into that time of year we refer to as “the holidays,” let’s take a moment to have a little fun with grammar. The tiny word UP has more uses than you might guess. It can be an adverb, a preposition, an adjective, a noun and a verb.

As often as UP appears in this post, this Ruthless Editor must point out that UP often is redundant.

Yet UP is so ingrained in our vernacular that sometimes even I don’t give it a thought. How about you? Are you UP for it? Continue

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