Cleft Sentences
Posted by June on May 30, 2017


When you don't know grammar terminology, a term can be off-putting to the point of being intimidating. Luckily, grammar terms are fun to learn. Here's one from the Oxford English Grammar to add to your mental jargon folder.

Cleft sentence: a sentence that is cleft (split) so as to put the focus on one part of it. The cleft sentence is introduced by 'it,' which is followed by a verb phrase whose main verb is generally 'be.' The focused part comes next, and then the rest of the sentence is introduced by a relative pronoun, relative determiner, or relative adverb. If we take the sentence 'Tom felt a sharp pain after lunch,' two possible cleft sentences formed from it are 'It was Tom who felt a sharp pain after lunch' and 'It was after lunch that Tom felt a sharp pain.'

In other words, structures like "It was he who" or "It was the (noun) that" are cleft sentences.

Adviser or Advisor?
Posted by June on May 22, 2017

This question is coming up a lot lately: Is the correct spelling "adviser" or "advisor"? Answer: It's both. The Associated Press is a longtime holdout for the E spelling: adviser. And because it's coming up in the news so often lately, we're seeing the "adviser" spelling more than ever. But "advisor" is just as acceptable for anyone not using AP style.

Report to 'Me and John' or 'John and Me'?
Posted by June on May 15, 2017

I got an email recently from Amy, whose boss had written a memo that seemed odd to her. One sentence in the memo noted that an employee at the company “will have a dual reporting relationship to both me and John."

This wording struck Amy as a potentially bad call. “Is that correct grammar? I was told that you always put the other person first.”

Your Regularly Scheduled Reminder to Place Periods Inside Quotation Marks
Posted by June on May 8, 2017


With each passing day, it gets more acceptable to punctuate sentences like this:

Steve said his necktie was "way ugly".

But acceptability in punctuation isn't the same as acceptability in usage. Unlike words and idioms, punctuation isn't an organic, naturally evolving thing. It's a constructed set of rules. So whereas using the word "friend" as a verb becomes correct when enough people do so, punctuation rules aren't crowdsourced.

American punctuation rules on where to put a period or comma relative to a closing quotation mark have not changed. Unlike in British punctuation, a period or comma always comes before a closing quotation mark. A colon or semicolon always comes after. And a question mark or exclamation point can come before if it applies to the stuff inside the quote, or after it if applies to the whole sentence. Here are correct examples of each.

Steve said his necktie was "way ugly."

The word "totally," as has been mentioned, is overused in this article.

Here's what to do when you encounter a sign that reads "Do not enter": do not enter.

They explained the terms "shooting the pier"; the explanation was confusing.

You sometimes see the company name written "Yahoo!"

That guy is what I call a total "yahoo"!

Alfred E. Neuman's catchphrase is "What, me worry?"

Is it true he called you "dude"?

Is Bart Simpson's catchphrase still "Ay, caramba!"?