March 18, 2019

Appositives

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If you don't know what an appositive is, you should. An appositive is a noun or noun phrase that sits right next to another and restates it, like "a CPA" in, "My boss, a CPA, is a stickler for accuracy." And once you understand that, it makes certain punctuation and sentence structure decisions a lot easier.

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March 11, 2019

Palm Off vs. Pawn Off

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Be careful when using "palm off" and "pawn off." There's a difference!

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March 4, 2019

Action-oriented Verbs Bring Your Writing to Life ...

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... Just don't confuse action verbs with active voice. Here's what you need to know.

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February 25, 2019

'Over' and 'More Than'

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A few years back, the Associated Press Stylebook changed a longstanding practice by deciding to allow "over" to mean "more than," as in "She's worth over a million dollars." Some people may not like it, but that's been a proper usage for a very long time. Here's what you need to know.

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February 18, 2019

The Generic Pronoun 'One'

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"One," as in "One must work hard and play hard," is called a generic pronoun and, though it's sounding more outdated every day, it's still useful in a lot of cases. Here's how it works.

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February 11, 2019

Modal Auxiliaries

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What's the past tense of "must"? Why aren't "may" and "can" conjugated differently for different subjects the way other verbs are? Why is there no "to" in "He should go" when there is a "to" in "He wants to go"? Modal auxiliary verbs have unique properties that make them both useful and interesting.

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February 4, 2019

The Subjunctive Mood

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English has two "moods": subjunctive, which deals with contrary-to-fact situations like "I wish you were here," and indicative, which deals with pretty much every other situation. Here's what you need to know (and why the subjunctive sometimes sounds like pirate talk.)

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January 28, 2019

Have Got

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Is it wrong to say "have got" instead of "have gotten" or just "have"? The answer is complicated, but not difficult: When using a past participle, "gotten" is preferred but "got" is acceptable, too. When using "have got" in place of just "got," as in I have got a lot of work to do," just think of it as an alternative to "have": I have a lot of work to do. Here's the full story.

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January 21, 2019

Who, What, When, Where, Why and How

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One of the most common writing problems editors encounter isn't bad grammar. It's a failure to answer the questions the writer raises in the reader's mind: who, what, when, where, why and how? Here are some thoughts on how to make sure you're giving your reader the answers to all these questions.

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January 14, 2019

How to Write People's Titles

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There are rules for writing people's titles, especially when it comes to capitalization. Here's what you need to know.

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