Category Archives: Grammar Tips

3 Quiz Questions for National Punctuation Day

www.RuthlessEditor.comSunday, Sept. 24, 2017, is National Punctuation Day.

How will you celebrate?

I’ve thought about spending the day as founder Jeff Rubin suggested:

Sleep late. Go out for coffee and a bagel. Read a newspaper and use a red pen to circle all the punctuation errors. Visit a grocery store and make a list of all the “grocer’s apostrophes” you see (apple’s anyone?).

But I’d rather devote my time and this space to something helpful and constructive for you, my valued readers. Continue

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Is ‘Ones’ a Valid Word?

www.RuthlessEditor.comIf one is defined as being or amounting to a single unit, how can the plural form ones be a valid word?

We recognize one when appropriately used as a personal pronoun referring to an individual or people in general:

One never knows how much good comes from a kind deed.

One should not drink and drive.

One also has a possessive form:

One’s home is one’s castle.

One’s health is more important than one’s wealth.

Yet enwiktionary.org defines ones as the plural of one.

Huh?

I’ve noticed ones in a number of online news reports, and I’m puzzled — and discouraged — by its use. Here are examples and my suggestions for rewrites: Continue

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French fries or french fries? How to Capitalize Food Names

www.RuthlessEditor.comI thought the geographic locations of food names such as French (fries), Swiss (cheese) and Russian (dressing) always were capitalized. I just learned that this Ruthless Editor was wrong … sort of.

When searching online for clarification, I found this wonderful post on one of my favorite websites: grammarphobia.com

Hosted by Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman, it provides a comprehensive explanation of what to capitalize when.

The post: How to Capitalize Food Names Continue

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May 3 or May 3rd: Should You Use Superscript Letters With Dates?

www.RuthlessEditor.comDo you sometimes add st, nd, rd and th in their superscript form to numbers: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th? (A superscript is a number, letter or symbol positioned slightly above the normal line of type.)

A blog subscriber questioned whether such a practice conforms to grammar rules related to writing dates. Here’s what I found in my online search.

I’ll start with The Associated Press Stylebook, my primary go-to reference: Continue

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3 Worst Places to Make Grammar Mistake: News Headline, Report Title, Email Subject Line


www.RuthlessEditor.comNews headlines draw us into a story. Report titles summarize what our readers can expect. Email subject lines should do both.

That’s why these are the three worst places to make a grammar error.

Here are four headlines that don’t pass my Ruthless Editor grammar test and how they could be better: Continue

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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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