"Spelling's not for everyone, Mr. Precedent"
Posted by June on February 20, 2017


The Los Angeles Times did a piece on some rather high-profile spelling errors coming out of the White House. Enjoy.

Begging the Question
Posted by June on February 13, 2017
LABELS: , , ,


In his recent New York Times column, Charles Blow uses "begs the question" to mean "raises the question."

This begs the question: “Why do you need someone to push you to do the right thing?” Blow wrote.

Many writers and speakers do the same.  But I was surprised to see this in the New York Times. Traditionalists oppose this use, and newspapers usually take traditional positions on matters like these. And, traditionally, "beg the question" does not mean to raise a question. Instead, it's a term from logic that refers to any of several logical fallacies — stuff like answering a question by posing the same question to the questioner. It's a circular logic, of sorts.

As I've reported many times, when many people use a term "wrong" over a long time, the term becomes "right." That's how the ungrammatical "aren't I" surpassed the grammatical "amn't I." "Beg the question" in the meaning of raising a question has been gaining ground and credibility with experts. Still, I'm surprised the copy editors let this one by.

Why Are Some Adjectives Separated By Commas While Others Aren't?
Posted by June on February 6, 2017
LABELS: , , , ,

The handsome, articulate, intelligent man wore a bright green midriff peasant blouse.

Not really. No intelligent person would do that. But I offer up this sentence not as an example of fashion sense or IQ testing. It's an example of a comma situation that confounds many people yet is surprisingly easy to handle.

Did you notice that, in our sentence, there are commas between some adjectives but not others? How is it possible that some adjectives before a noun are separated with commas and some aren't?

Here's the full academic explanation along with an easy trick you can use to get these commas right.

Oxford Comma Spin
Posted by June on January 30, 2017

There's a cartoon about commas going around on the Internet.

The first panel reads: "With the Oxford comma: We invited the strippers, JFK, and Stalin." The illustration shows four people: two men, one bearing a resemblance to John F. Kennedy and the other to Stalin, and two women in G-strings and high heels.

The second panel reads: "Without the Oxford comma: We invited the strippers, JFK and Stalin" above an illustration of just two people: men resembling JKF and Stalin, who themselves are wearing G-strings and high heels.

If you're looking to pick a side in a silly war, you can stop reading now. That's all the ammo you need to join the legions of people who believe that the Oxford comma is king. But if you want a clear picture of why this just isn't so, here's a column I wrote about it.