Stay for Awhile or A While?
Posted by June on May 21, 2018


"Stay for awhile" is, technically, a grammar mistake. A preposition like "for" takes as its object a noun phrase — a noun or pronoun with or without modifiers. "For" is a preposition, but "awhile" isn't a noun. It's an adverb. So it can't be the object of "for."

"A while," on the other hand, is a noun phrase. It can be the object of the preposition "for." So "Stay for a while" is correct.

But if you take out the preposition, the dynamic changes, which is why both "Stay awhile" and "Stay a while" are correct. Here's a column I wrote a while back explaining why noun phrases like "a while" can function adverbially even though adverbs like "awhile" can't function as nouns.

10 Grammar Issues You Shouldn't Worry About
Posted by June on May 14, 2018

If you're trying to use good grammar, you have enough to worry about already. You don't have time to sweat over can't-go-wrong choices like whether to use "a" or "an" before "historic," "healthy" vs. "healthful," whether to use the serial comma, or whether to put periods in abbreviations like "U.S." Here's my recent column highlighting 10 otherwise-stressful grammar issues you can scratch off your list of things to worry about.

Asked or Said?
Posted by June on May 7, 2018

Readers Bill and Julie noticed a language trend that's rubbing them the wrong way.

"One of our pet peeves is the evolving usage of 'said' instead of 'asked' immediately preceding the utterance of a question." Here's an example they offered: "He said, 'Where are you going?'"

"We are hearing this more and more often in everyday conversations involving questions, in TV advertisements and on social media," Bill and Julie wrote.

"Do you have any idea why? Is it because 'said' is easier to pronounce than the tongue twister 'asked'? We were taught one shouldn't say a question. A question should always be asked," they added.

 It's an interesting observation, and it touches on an important subject for writers: speech tags. Here are some tips from my recent column.


What's with 'Woah'?
Posted by June on April 30, 2018
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Like a lot of little girls, I was obsessed with horses. I found a trove of horse stories in my school library and dived head first into Old Bones the Wonder Horse by Mildred Mastin Pace and The Golden Mare  by William Corbin.

By the time I was 9, I'd seen the word "whoa" in print so many times, it was unfathomable that anyone might spell this horse command differently. Then, about a year ago, I noticed a stranger on social media responding to a news story with "woah."

"Woah"? Really?

Not long after, I saw this spelling again. Then, just a few days before this writing, I saw a tweet from Atlantic magazine editor David Frum responding to a news item with (get this): "whoah."

I assumed that the inability to spell "whoa" was a new phenomenon. It was definitely new to me. Had I come across "woah" or "whoah" in the past, I would have noticed. I'm sure of it.

But a little grown-up research shows that these spellings are not new. Far from it.

Here's my column on all these spellings and which you should choose.