Parts of Speech Stepping Out
Posted by June on October 16, 2017

This week's podcast talks about how the "ing" form of a verb can be other things, like a noun, known as a gerund. But verbs aren't the only parts of speech that can function as other parts of speech.

Nouns can work as adjectives. Adjectives can work as adverbs. Prepositions can sometimes work as conjunctions. And nouns can work as verbs. Sometimes, they're listed in the dictionary as such: the preposition "like" is also listed as a conjunction. Sometimes they're not: the modifier "paint" in "paint store" is not in the dictionary as an adjective. Here's column I wrote recently covering all of these.

No News Here on Split Infinitives
Posted by June on October 9, 2017


Recent news stories loudly proclaimed that, at long last, it's okay to split infinitives.


There's never been a ban on putting an adverb or other word between the "to" and the infinitive, as in "to boldly go." And even people who don't realize that tend to see the whole matter as a thing of the past: a lost-long-ago grammar crusade.

But apparently, a lot of people have been clinging to the idea much longer than I realized. Here's my recent column on this "news." 

Once Again: Periods and Commas Go Inside the Quote Marks
Posted by June on October 2, 2017
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Consider this a semiannual reminder: In American English, periods and commas always go inside the quotation marks. Colons and semicolons always go outside. And exclamation points and questions can go inside or outside, depending on whether they apply to the whole sentence or just the quoted portion.

When Joe says the word "roof," it sounds like "rough."

Here's how Joe says the word "roof": "rough."

Have you heard how Joe pronounces the word "roof"?

It's a hilarious way to say "roof"!

The American rule on periods and commas is now widely disregarded, with casual posters on the web almost always guessing wrong. Wikipedia's official style does not follow this rule, hastening its death.

But it's not dead yet. For now, remember: A period or comma always comes before the closing quote mark.

Editing Rules I Learned Wrong
Posted by June on September 25, 2017


Once upon a time, I was a brand-new copy editor brimming with enthusiasm for my newly acquired editing knowledge.

Like a lot of brand-new copy editors, I didn’t have much context for understanding the rules. I didn’t realize that most were style conventions and not true grammar rules.

So I applied those style conventions with a passion reminiscent of guards in the Stanford Prison Experiment.

I’ve since learned that some editing rules shouldn’t be taken too seriously. And I’m always amused when I see a piece of writing edited with the same eager-beaver naivete.

Here are some of editing rules I and other editors have taken a bit too seriously.