May 10, 2021

Loan and Lend

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Do you loan someone money? Or do you lend it to him? Good news: Either is correct. But lend is considered more proper.

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5 punctuation problems even experts can't agree on
Posted by June on May 10, 2021
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A few years back I set out to write a comprehensive punctuation book — one that laid out the rules for proper punctuation in every situation imaginable.

How naïve I was.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time digging through reference books to know that in some situations, there are no rules. For example, do you put a comma in “What it is is a new house”? Where do you put the apostrophe and S in “Casablanca’s” best scene? How many hyphens do you put in “30-day-dry-aged beef”? Would you hyphenate “You can donate tax-free”?

The Associated Press Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style lay out lots of basic punctuation rules. But in certain gray areas, they’re useless. Lots of academic books and professional style guides have basic rules, but they’re no help in tough punctuation situations.

I had an idea: Why not survey a few working editors to ask what they would do? That way, for situations with no clear rules, readers of “The Best Punctuation Book Period” could benefit from experts’ own best guesses.

The editors who took my punctuation survey disagreed on how to handle some tricky situations. Here's my recent column looking at five punctuation problems my experts couldn’t agree on.

June Casagrande is a writer and journalist whose weekly grammar/humor column, “A Word, Please,” appears in community newspapers in California, Florida, and Texas. more

The Best Punctuation Book, Period

A Comprehensive Guide for Every Writer, Editor, Student, and Businessperson

The most comprehensive punctuation guide ever, “The Best Punctuation Book, Period” doesn’t just cover the basic rules. It delves into gray areas of punctuation left unclear by the other rule books, showing how the rules differ in four different editing styles. There's also an A to Z reference of commonly mispunctuated terms. more

Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies

A Guide to Language for Fun and Spite

What do suicidal pandas, doped-up rock stars, and a naked Pamela Anderson have in common? They’re all a heck of a lot more interesting than reading about predicate nominatives and hyphens. June Casagrande knows this and has invented a whole new twist on the grammar book. more

Mortal Syntax

Mortal Syntax takes on the 101 most frequently attacked usage choices. Dedicating one short chapter to each, Casagrande brings her subject to life, teaching English usage through lively and amusing personal anecdotes. more

It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences

Your story may be brilliant. Your insights may be groundbreaking. Your characters may be so real you can almost touch them. But they're not worth a thing if you can't bring them to life in well-written sentences. more

  • 'Beckon Call,' 'All Tolled' and Other Misheard Terms

    John Robertson Your article on "all-told" seems a bit off in one aspect. Recently, I was reporting the amount of rain that we had received to another family member and I reported "All-tolled, we had over 5 inches." The amount was a sum of several days of continued precipitation. While I agree with your point that in general, all-told should be the correct choice, when you are dealing with numeric values, wouldn't all-tolled be more correct? http://Grammar%20Underground

  • 'Whom' vs. 'Who' at the Beginning of a Sentence

    June A.S.: Everything you said is right, but I'm not sure which comment you're directing it at. Are you getting confused by passive voice as it comes into play in these sentences? "I called him" uses the object pronoun "him" because, as you said, is an object. When you invert that sentence to say "He was called," it's not the same sentence structure. In passive voice, the object of the action (so to speak) is made the grammatical subject of the sentence. So "He was called" does, as you said, required the subject pronoun "he." I don't believe anyone said anything to the contrary.

  • 'Whom' vs. 'Who' at the Beginning of a Sentence

    A.S. WRONG! If "Whom was called into the office" is a question then it's the equivalent of asking "Him was called into the office?" which is obviously wrong. If it's a statement it's still wrong. Look, it's not difficult: Me, him, her, them and whom are objects. I, he, she, they and who are subjects. If the person in the sample sentence is the object (as indicated by "whom") then the office must be the subject but there's no verb for the subject, so the person must be the subject and is therefore who. Understand?

  • E-mail vs. Email

    June Punctuation rules for American English are indeed "always" put the period or comma before the closing quote mark. British style is as you described (that is, it follows a certain logic). But American rules are rooted in a printing convention that originated from aesthetics concerns. I'm quite confident that this American convention will go the way of the dinosaur. Wikipedia is proof: Their style is situational in the way you described. But for now, it's the rule: The comma always goes "inside," as does a "period."

  • A Not-So-Thrilling Typo

    June Oops. Fixing now. (Better late than never.)