'In regards to'?
Posted by June on August 23, 2021

 If you’re ever tempted to write “in regards to,” don’t. Ditto that for “with regards to.” It’s too risky. Readers may think less of you if you do.

True, you can’t police everything you write to appease sticklers. After all, they can find fault with almost any arrangement of words. But “in regards to” and “with regards to” are more dangerous than most snob-bait phrases because they don’t seem to have any defenders.

“In regards to” and “with regards to” aren’t wrong, necessarily. Yet everyone with an opinion on the subject thinks “in regard to” and “with regard to” are better.

“The plural form (as in ‘with regards to’ and ‘in regards to’) is, to put it charitably, poor usage,” notes Garner’s Modern American Usage.

“‘In regard to.’ Often wrongly written ‘in regards to,’” notes “The Elements of Style.” Here's more expert advice in my recent column.

Crisphead, buppie, axion and other words that haven't stood the test of time
Posted by June on August 16, 2021

Lexicographers spend all day looking for new words and new ways people are using old words. They search different “corpora,” or language databases, to see how often the terms show up. Then they try to gauge whether the word has become entrenched enough to warrant a spot in the dictionary.

Often, they get it right. Other times, words don’t have quite the staying power lexicographers anticipated. Some dictionary additions that flopped in recent decades: Crisphead, buppie, axion, hahnium and digerati. Here's my recent column tracking the rise and fall of these once-promising dictionary entries.

Should you capitalize 'city' in 'city of Boston'?
Posted by June on August 9, 2021

Does your Bostonian friend hail from the City of Boston or the city of Boston?

Before you answer, here’s a hint: It depends who’s asking.

I flunked this question on an editing quiz recently. I got it wrong even though I’ve spent decades — literal decades — getting paid to change City of Los Angeles to city of Los Angeles and City of Pasadena to city of Pasadena.

So what happened? I was editing according to Associated Press Stylebook rules and the quiz was in Chicago Manual of Style rules.

In AP style, which is followed by many news media and business organizations, the c is lowercase. I like that. After all, “city” isn’t part of the name. If you live in Boston, you don’t write City of Boston on the top left hand corner of envelopes when you send mail. The city name is Boston, period. But the Chicago Manual of Style, which is followed by book and magazine publishers, disagrees. If you’re following their style, City of Boston can be the way to go.

Clearly, capitalization can be confusing — especially if you take your cues from your reading material. Here's my recent column explaining how to navigate these questions.

Predominantly or predominately?
Posted by June on August 2, 2021

A while back I was editing an article and came across a sentence like “The community is predominately white.” It took me till the second read to notice that “predominately” wasn’t “predominantly.” And I was pretty proud of myself when I caught this “error.” But luckily I wasn’t so cocky as to trust my own judgment. I looked them up.

It turns out that “predominately” and “predominantly” are both legitimate. And if there’s a difference between them, it’s very subtle. This is from "Webster's New World College Dictionary":

predominate: 1. to have ascendancy, authority, or dominating influence (over others); hold sway 2. to be dominant in amount, number, etc.; prevail; preponderate. Related forms: predominately: adverb

predominant: 1. having ascendancy, authority, or dominating influence over others; superior 2. most frequent, noticeable, etc.; prevailing; preponderant. Related forms: predominantly: adverb

“Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage” argues that the words are basically synonyms. So how do you know which one to choose?

Well, if you want to follow someone else’s lead, you could do worse than to take the "Associated Press Stylebook’s" advice:

"predominant, predominantly: Use these primary spellings listed in 'Webster's New World' for the adjectival and adverbial forms. Do not use the alternatives it records, 'predominate' and 'predominately.' The verb form, however, is 'predominate.'"

Plus, Merriam-Webster's usage guide calls “predominately” a “less frequently used alternative” to predominantly. So that could be construed as yet another reason to stick with “predominantly.”

Of course, follow their cue only if you want to march in step with the majority. If you march to the beat of your own drummer, “predominately” is valid, too. It's just not predominant.