July 25, 2016

Paris Is a Place

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When you write a sentence like "Paris is a place that gets many tourists," you've squandered your main clause on a statement that's already comically obvious: Paris is a place. Here's how to get the most out of every main clause.

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July 18, 2016

'Try To' vs. 'Try And'

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Some people have a big problem with "try and." They're wrong, of course, but it's good to know where they're coming from.

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July 11, 2016

Apostrophes in Lets, Whose and Theirs

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Let's and lets can both be correct, depending on what you mean. So can whose and who's. But theirs never takes an apostrophe. To avoid screwing these up, you need a clear understanding of contractions -- and when not to use them. Here's what you need to know.

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July 4, 2016

'For Conscience's Sake' and 'For Goodness' Sake'

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Should terms like "for conscience's sake" and "for goodness' sake" be considered possessive? If so, do you make them possessive by adding an apostrophe alone or apostrophe plus s? The reference guides are all over the map on this question. So here are some good guidelines.

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June 27, 2016

'There's' Plus a Plural

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If there's is a contraction of there and is, wouldn't it be wrong to say "There's a lot people here today"? Well, yes and no. Here's everything you need to know about existential there followed by a plural.

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June 20, 2016

'Myself' and Other Reflexive Pronouns

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If it annoys you when people say, "Joe or myself will lead the meeting," you're not alone. Here's everything you need to know about reflexive pronouns.

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June 13, 2016

Lesser-known Adverbs

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How many adverbs do you see in the following sentence?

Knowing well that I can visit you there soon is not really very helpful, as I am not well and therefore cannot prudently travel tomorrow.

If you didn't find seven, this podcast is for you.

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June 6, 2016

Intrusive 'Of'

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Is it "not too big a deal" or "not too big of a deal"? Some call that second one intrusive "of" and in some circles it's considered bad form. Here's the full explanation.

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May 30, 2016

Possessives of Proper Names With Internal Plural

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Is it "The United States' history" or "The United States's history"? Do you treat States like a plain-old plural possessive, which never takes an extra s after the apostrophe (the three states' primaries), or do you treat it like a proper noun, which in Chicago style does take an extra s after the apostrophe (James's house)? Here's what you need to know.

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May 23, 2016

Commas Between Coordinate Adjectives

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Why are there commas between the adjectives in "a nice, intelligent, kind person" but no commas in "an ugly bright green sweater"? The secret lies in the difference between coordinate adjectives and noncoordinate adjectives. Two easy tests -- putting "and" between the adjectives and rearranging their order -- make it easy to know whether you should use commas. Here's the full story.

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