Your English Teacher Was Wrong: You MAY Start a Sentence with And, But, So

www.RuthlessEditor.comA new academic year begins soon. As students of all ages head back to school, many will work on developing or fine-tuning their writing skills.

Different teachers will have different expectations — and different grammar rules. Some will claim that you shouldn’t start a sentence with And, But or So.

Is that a valid edict? It depends.

And, but and so serve as conjunctions; they’re joiners.

As such, they can be the perfect transition between one thought and another when your writing has an informal tone. Continue

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Confused by Anxious vs Eager, Bad vs Badly, Fewer vs Less, Good vs Well, It vs It’s? Read this post!

www.RuthlessEditor.comIs he anxious, or is he eager?

Does she feel bad, or does she feel badly?

I’ve written many times about misused words, but requests continue from friends, colleagues and blog subscribers to remind people of these common errors.

If you’re one who needs reminding, this post is for you! Continue

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Bespoke: Verb? Adjective? Everyday Word?

www.RuthlessEditor.comYou know as well as I do that English can be an odd — and challenging — language. You’ve probably seen lists of “weird English“: words whose meanings are convoluted from what we might expect:

We take English for granted. But if we export its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, and guinea pigs are neither from Guinea nor are they pigs.

And why is it that writers write, but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce, and hammers don’t ham?

If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, two geese. So one moose, two meese? Is cheese the plural of choose?

One mouse, two mice. One louse, two lice. One house, two hice? Continue

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‘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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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

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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

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