Tag Archives: right vs wrong words

Want to improve your writing and speaking? Start here!

people communicating at workYou’ve been out of the classroom for how long?

Your English teacher’s name was … ?

Why am I asking? I’m starting to think about New Year’s resolutions. (I know, I know, it’s still early December.)

If self-improvement is on your 2019 radar, and if fine-tuning your writing and speaking skills is among your targets, make brushing up on basic grammar your first step.

My definition of grammar: the words we choose, how we string them together, and how we punctuate them to make sense. Continue

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What’s the Difference: Incident and Incidents, Incidence and Incidences

incident_incidence_of_wildfiresAs the United States has struggled with catastrophic hurricanes, wildfires and mass shootings, I’ve heard people stumble over the use and pronunciation of incident and incidents, and of incidence (a valid word) and incidences (not a valid word in plural form).

The following definitions and examples will help you tell the difference.

incident: a noun meaning an event or occurrence; synonyms are episode, happening, escapade, occasion, adventure, proceeding, circumstance, development

These examples show how to use incident and incidents:

Continue

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Sending Holiday Greetings? Ditch the Apostrophe!

sign_holiday_card_no_apostrophe_family_nameIf you send holiday greetings, or if you ever sign a gift card on behalf of your whole family, here’s a tip about writing a family name.

No apostrophes, please!

An apostrophe in a name indicates possession. A signature does not imply possession. When you send a card on behalf of your family unit, use care with how you express your last name — your surname — in plural form.

Here are samples of an assortment of last names and how to make them plural. Continue

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How to Spot Redundancies

I have a thing about redundancies.

They are a grammar pet peeve I’ve blogged about before, but the world apparently hasn’t gotten my message.

I’m not giving up, darn it!

A redundant word is one that could be omitted without loss of meaning; it repeats something already written or said.

We are in communication mode day in, day out. The least we can do in our word-dense world is to avoid extra words that add neither meaning nor clarity to our messages.

My guideline for spotting a redundancy:
Consider what using its opposite would do to the sentence.

Here are my latest real-world examples. The second sentence of each will help you spot the redundancy in the first that should be omitted. Continue

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Have You ‘Pleaded’ or ‘Pled’ in a Court of Law?

If you are puzzled by recent news reports and their use of pleaded or pled, these sources can help you decide which is right — or maybe I should say which is preferred.

If you enter a plea of not guilty today in response to a charge or indictment — in other words, if you plead not guilty — would you say tomorrow that you pleaded not guilty or that you pled not guilty?

Here is information taken directly from five sources: Continue

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The Difference Between Whether, Whether or Not, and If

A blog subscriber wrote to ask about whether, wondering if there is a difference between whether and whether or not.

What a coincidence that I had looked this up not long ago! As I often say, if you have a question about grammar, there probably are others who have the same question.

The answer to this query is not straightforward or absolute. The broader question is when should you use whether, when should you use if, and should you ever use whether or not? Here are explanations and examples. Continue

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News Flash: Yesssss! You MAY Split Your Infinitives!

Knowing how I follow developments in the grammar universe, a colleague sent me a recent article from The Economist, a British publication with international coverage and subscribers.

Started in Scotland in 1843, The Economist now claims a reputation for “a distinctive blend of news based on fact, and analysis incorporating The Economist’s perspective.”

The change in The Economist’s style guide that warranted my colleague’s attention relates to the use of infinitives. The editors have declared — at long last — that infinitives may indeed be split. Continue

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Honoring Barbara Bush: Weigh Every Word for Nuance, Connotation

Wikipedia Commons

A physician advocate for palliative care and dying with dignity posted a blog about Barbara Bush soon after her death. He wrote:

Dignity comes in all shapes and sizes, yet the key to Mrs. Bush’s dying with dignity was her final decision to not return to the hospital.

He also honored the matriarch of the Bush family with these words: Continue

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Grammar: Why You Should Do This, Not That

Grammar Matters!What is grammar? It encompasses the words you choose, how you string them together, and how you punctuate them to give them meaning.

To recognize National Grammar Day, which this year falls on March 4, the following post examines 11 sentences that demonstrate why grammar matters. I point out the grammatical errors in each and offer a suggested rewrite.

Examples are the best teachers. 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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