6 Tips for Using Hyphens Like a Professional Editor
Posted by June on September 9, 2019
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Have you noticed that, lately, you’re less inclined to stick a hyphen between words? That is, you’re looking at a term like “a time honored tradition,” realizing you could put a hyphen in “time-honored,” then thinking, “Nah. It’s clear enough as it is.”

You’re not alone. Hyphens, it seems, are becoming a little passe. Even the Associated Press Stylebook is going lighter on the hyphens these days. And if you’re wondering how that’s possible, it’s because hyphenation has always been as much an art as a science.

“Use of the hyphen is far from standardized. It is optional in most cases, a matter of taste, judgment and style sense,” is how a tweet from the AP Stylebook puts it.

That’s great news for people who don’t want to fuss over hyphens. But it can be bad news for folks who do — writers who want their punctuation to look as professional as possible.

So, with those eager-to-please hyphenaters in mind, here's my recent column offering are six tips to let you hyphenate like a professional editor.


Grammar Experts Weigh In on the Tweeter in Chief
Posted by June on September 2, 2019
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On May 25 of this year, Donald Trump took to Twitter to attempt a swipe at Senator Mark Warner of TK: "Their is nothing bipartisan about him," Trump tweeted. It wasn't the first time the man tasked with representing the American people so thoroughly exposed his poor language skills. And heaven knows it won't be the last. But it marked the first time grammar and legal writing expert Bryan Garner, author of Garner's Modern American Usage, could no longer hold his tongue.

"You mean 'There is nothing bipartisan about him.' Not 'their,' which is the possessive form of 'they.' Wouldn’t it be worth $75,000 a year to pay for a Presidential Proofreader so that you’ll have the semblance of literacy?" Garner replied.

Lexicographers, copy editors and grammar experts face an unprecedented dilemma in the tweeter in chief. Do you make an issue of Trump's egregious language gaffes that degrade the office and swipe at the dignity of the United States of America? Or do you let it slide? For most language experts, the latter is often the best course simply because pointing out Trump's shameful gaffes would eat up hours every week. But with just a little prompting, you can get Twitter's greatest language experts—including Mary Norris, Peter Sokolowski, Kory Stamper, Jonathon Owen and Garner—to let loose. The New York Times did just that, and the results are glorious.  Pour yourself a hot cup of covfefe and check it out.

Uncommonly Fussy Writing Rules Now Rule House of Commons
Posted by June on August 26, 2019

If you wanted to put together a list of writing rules for an organization you run, there would be nothing wrong with that.

“OK , team. Let’s make it a policy to always include ‘Inc.’ with our company name. Let’s use serial commas. Let’s make ‘healthcare’ one word, and let’s follow the American punctuation style of always putting a period or comma before a closing quotation mark.” No problem here.

Note that none of these are universal rules. You could pick the opposite in every instance and be just as correct. Either way, it’s perfectly reasonable to lay out guidelines for how your subordinates should write official correspondence. No one will be offended. The odds you’ll make national news headlines are slim to none.

No, if you want your style guide to draw international media attention and tons of scornful commentary, you need to be a real jerk about it.

Pick some just-for-control-freak’s-sake style imperatives, toss in a few throwbacks to another century, then add just a pinch of narrow-minded isolationism and you have the style rules just imposed on the subordinates of Jacob Rees-Mogg, the newly appointed leader of Britain’s House of Commons.

“The Conservative Party politician, who is an Old Etonian and stickler for tradition, has outlined an extensive list of words that his staff are banned from using in correspondences with his constituents and fellow MPs,” writes CNN.

Here are some writing rules the U.K. politician seems to have pulled out of his ear.


We all have our peeves (even when we know we shouldn't)
Posted by June on August 19, 2019
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Early on I got it in my head that you should never use "there's" before a plural. "There's," is a contraction of "there is," which has a singular verb. There is milk in the fridge.

For something plural you'd use "there are": There are strawberries in the fridge.

But does that mean it's wrong to say "there's strawberries"? How about if we put a singular-sounding modifier in there like "a lot": There's a lot of strawberries?

"There's" before a plural isn't wrong. Yet it's one of those peeves that I still can't shake, even though I know it's not an error. Others include "chaise lounge," "chomping at the bit," "beg the question" and "hone in on" — all of which I discuss more fully in this recent column.