Category Archives: Grammar

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, borrow lend me your ears”

Borrow Lend me your attention and let me share this gaffe on a newspaper website that my friend Fred pointed out: The day before, his sister Dolly Wambach, of Georgetown, Minn., and family spent about 12 hours loading the tops … Continue reading

Posted in Grammar, Uncategorized, Usage | Tagged | 3 Comments

No such thing as “very imperative”

Can something be “very imperative?” No, it can’t. I’ve already written about the overuse of intensifiers, our habit of tacking adverbs like very, really, and extremely onto words in an attempt to turn up the intensity of our language. While … Continue reading

Posted in Grammar, Usage, Word Choice | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Ask an editor: Contractions in a novel manuscript

Susan writes: I believe if you use contractions in a manuscript, consistency demands using them in both dialog and narrative. A fellow writer was told by an editor to use contractions in dialog but not narrative. I’ve scoured CMS but … Continue reading

Posted in Ask an editor, Grammar | Tagged | 10 Comments

Don’t fear contractions

Are you still fearful of using contractions? Don’t be. They have a long and storied history. For more, see my article “Contractions and how not to abuse ’em.” (Hat tip to Ray Ward.)

Posted in Everyday writing, Grammar, Plain Language, Usage | Tagged | 1 Comment

Hyphenating compound words

Phil W. (of Brandywine Books fame) writes: I have a question about compound words. I understand that using compounds as modifiers requires a hyphen, e.g. our decision-making process, but my organization often uses compounds as nouns, e.g. disciple-maker or “Editing … Continue reading

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What could be simpler than writing?

Rather a lot, apparently, because it’s not being taught in our public school system, judging from this opinion piece in the Boston Globe:

Posted in Grammar, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Elsewhere on the web: “Seriously, What’s So Bad About Adverbs?”

At the science fiction site io9, Charlie Jane Anders has a long post about the dangers of the adverb. Aspiring science-fiction authors receive one piece of advice above all others: Forsake the adverb, the killer of prose. It’s terribly, awfully, … Continue reading

Posted in Elsewhere on the Web, Good advice from here and there, Grammar, Style manual, Word Choice | Leave a comment

Learn the rules. Then you can break them.

"In fact, part of the fun of Standard English is to abuse it in ways that create excitement and aesthetic tension. But first one must master enough Standard English to have a basis for abuse." -Arthur Plotnik, The Elements of … Continue reading

Posted in Grammar, Growing as a writer | 3 Comments

National Grammar Day, March 4, 2009

I’m not sure how I missed this until now, but tomorrow is National Grammar Day. Do you adore clean, correct sentences? Do ungrammatical advertisements make you cringe? We understand completely, and this is why the Society for the Promotion of … Continue reading

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Yes, you can start a sentence with an adverb

Judging from the search strings that show up in my referrer logs, a lot of people come here wondering “Can I start a sentence with an adverb?” Yes, you can. For example, this sentence, beginning with the adverb slowly, is … Continue reading

Posted in Grammar | 5 Comments