March 27, 2023

When Can a Noun Work Like an Adverb?


In "Tomorrow's a new day," tomorrow is a noun. But in "I'll see you tomorrow," it's an adverb. Monday is not considered an adverb in the dictionary, but it still works like one in "I'll see you Monday." The reason: Even words that aren't categorized as adverbs can function as adverbials.

Click player above to listen to the podcast

One consortium, two ... consortiums?
Posted by June on March 27, 2023

Recently, I was editing an article and came across a reference to a consortium, then to another consortium, then (here it comes) to two consortiums.

I didn’t want to futz with it. I liked it fine. And the tendency I’ve seen in some people to go all Julius Caesar when forming the plural of any Latin noun always struck me as a bit much. I’m talking about the people who lunge at the chance to use “memoranda” without even considering whether it should be “memorandums” because, hey, that’s how you’d do it in ancient Rome.

This may be a good way to justify how they spent a couple precious semesters in high school, but it’s not a good policy for forming plurals. In fact, if you did this with memorandum, you’d be making a bad call.

Webster’s New World College Dictionary allows both “memorandums” and “memoranda” as the plural of “memorandum.” But it prefers “memorandums.” And editing styles usually defer to their dictionaries’ preferred forms, in part because it helps ensure consistency. Otherwise, if editors chose whichever correct form they wanted, some would choose “memorandums” and others would choose “memoranda” and a publication that didn’t watch such things could have all kinds of inconsistencies.

So when I saw “consortiums” I really didn’t want to be that editor who gets all Latin happy on a writer’s word choice. But, of course, it’s not my call anyway. So I had to check.

The dictionary I was editing from, Webster’s New World, says the correct plural is “consortia.” So I had to change it. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, however, allows both plural forms, though it prefers “consortia.”

You can use either one you prefer. Just don’t judge an editor too harshly if she changes it on you.

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

  • Proofreading? Wait a Bit.

    Eli Murphy I'm thrilled with your journey that you have shared. The most basic advice you provided is so appropriate and demonstrates the importance of proof reading before submission. Even though it will take a while and you may feel hopeless at times, it will always be better in the end.

  • Some Common Editing Errors: Altar, Forgo, Palate

    Eli Murphy It's great that you thought of this and pointed out the simple editing mistakes. I can understand that each editor has a particular responsibility; they are not expected to be experts in all facets of language, grammar, copy editing, or word choice. Instead, he or she is in charge of the entire department, choosing the stories, delegating writing to writers, procuring images, etc. I appreciate that you recently talked about errors that even competent editors occasionally make.

  • Subject-verb agreement in the real world

    Meredith MC Shouldn’t the writer have put dashes (or maybe parentheses) before “commonly” and after “owned” ? This would have eliminated the confusion for both writer and reader.

  • Real editing notes I gave to real writers

    Eli Murphy Well, kudos to you for providing the essential elements and imparting your knowledge in the form of notes for novice writers on one of the most crucial components, "editing." I hope it will be helpful to everyone who is looking for a way.

  • The couple is or the couple are?

    E. Raufert It has to be said: You're commenting on a fine point of grammar, but you're conjuring up wrong and bad sentences to try to explain them. First, you open with two sentence fragments.: "The couple is going to purchase the house? Or the couple are going to purchase the house?" No, everyone doesn't do it, yes, you did make a mistake. No, it's not just some question of writing style. Yes, even though you've gotten paid to do editing work. You followed up your opening errors with quotation marks around words that aren't a quotation. Your writing goes on to be consistently vague because you leave words out. I can only guess that you may be a youngster who grew up texting in the pre-speech-recognition era when kids decided it was too much trouble to thumb-type all the words. Most importantly, you wrote your piece for an American website, but you instructed its American readers to choose to use an England-only form of expression four times. It actually is simply wrong here in the U.S. Here are some examples: "The family are all","The staff are experts". No, that's not just my opinion, it's the opinion of countless reference books and textbooks. Thank you for trying, but please do fix those mistakes. They're mistakes. This leaves the question of what to do to fix yourself. You may think that I believe you should beat your brains out hammering away at reference books, but I couldn't possibly disagree with that approach more. It didn't work the first time. You may even be making mistakes because you overstudied. You need a steady diet of professional writers who do speak English correctly, and they have to be very, very good writers, or you won't read 'em. I hate to say it, but you won't find it in the work of The New York Times' new infestation of dopey, cheaper White kids. The Atlantic and The New Yorker aren't usually too bad, but I think you might actually love to read "Depth Takes a Holiday" or anything by Susan Gregory Thomas, esp. her "Broke-Ass Grouch" work. I'm not going to close by saying, "Good luck", I'm going to close by saying,"Get over yourself, even though people have paid you to edit, and get to work!"