October 15, 2018

Variant Spellings

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"How do you spell that?"

Often, the answer is that you have more than one choice. Here's how to know which spellings are correct and which are more correct than others.

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Yes, Possessives Really Can Be Hard Sometimes
Posted by June on October 15, 2018
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Recently I sat at a traffic light behind a taxi emblazoned with the words “Peoples’ Taxi.”

The message was a powerful one: This taxi isn’t just for people. It’s for all the peoples — the people of the USA and the people of Kyrgyzstan and any people who might consider themselves denizens of the International Space Station.

I kid. I kid the Peoples’ Taxi — and I do so not because they made an unforgivable error but because I’m perennially frustrated by just how hard possessives can be. They should be easy. The rules are simple enough. But in the real world, possessives are a minefield of opportunities to mess up.

That’s true even for people who work with words all day long. Take this sentence I saw recently in a BuzzFeed article: “But most family’s don’t include a member of Congress.”

That one’s pretty bad.

Here’s another I spotted around the same time: “Both mine and my wife’s family are based here in South Florida.”
That’s not bad at all, really. But it’s not quite right, either.

Here's my recent column examining the correct way to handle all three of these tricky possessives.

 

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

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  • '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.)

  • A Not-So-Thrilling Typo

    JR "An" Not-So-Thrilling Typo?