It's OK to Hate 'Irregardless,' but ...
Posted by June on November 13, 2017


A friend recently sent me a transcript of a delightful Garrison Keillor sketch in which he tries to promote good grammar to a folksy local. Among the gems in this sketch, he says "It's imperative that you learn about the subjunctive." This is especially clever because the subjunctive, for example the "be" in "It's crucial that you be on time," is used in imperatives (commands).

But in the same sketch, Keillor says that "irregardless" is not a word. Actually, it is. It's even sanctioned by dictionaries.

I don't know a single word-savvy person who advocates using "irregardless." All agree that "regardless" is always better. But that doesn't mean "irregardless" isn't a word.

Importantly, Bored Of, the Possessive of Jess and Other Reader Questions
Posted by June on November 6, 2017

I have a secret inquirer. It’s like a secret admirer, but with less admiration and more grammar questions.

A newsprint-shy reader in Burbank had a couple of questions for my eyes only. Not for publication. But he hit on some good topics — ones that perplex lots of people. How to use "importantly," which preposition to use with "bored," and how to form the possessive of Jess are questions readers asked, and I answered, in this recent column.

Should Editors Fuss Over 'Like' and 'Such As'?
Posted by June on October 30, 2017

Here’s a weird quirk a lot of copy editors have: They change “like” to “such as” anytime it’s used to mean “for instance.” Here’s a for-instance: “Joe loves watching old movies like ‘Vertigo’ and ‘The Birds.’”

Most editors I know would reflexively change that “like” to “such as” before sending the article to the copy editor, me. Then I stare at the sentence for 10 minutes wondering whether I can get away with changing it back.

Here’s my recent column on the subject.

When Commas Work in Pairs
Posted by June on October 23, 2017
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A reminder: sometimes commas work in pairs. When you drop the second one, you end up with bad punctuation logic:

The city of Pasadena, California has a playhouse and many museums.

Here we're separating Pasadena from California, but we're not separating California from the verb "has." The result is a sentence that says California has these things while that bit about the Pasadena has no logical attachment to the sentence. The idea is that commas can set off what's called parenthetical information. When you're talking about a city, the state it's in is parenthetical to the city name.

You can see the same logic at work with terms like "Inc." as well as years after dates.

Widgets, Inc., is based in Toronto.

On April 4, 2017, we attended a concert.

Without the second comma, you'd be giving the wrong impression about the relationship between Inc. and the words that follow or between 2017 and the words that follow. So keep an eye out for this one. It's a very common mistake.