January 7, 2019

Prefixes with Special Hyphenation Rules

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The rules for hyphenating prefixes are different from the rules for hyphenating compound modifiers and nouns. There are a lot of case-specific rules and a lot of disagreement between styles. If you don't need to be exactly in line with a style guide but you just want an easy guideline, omit hyphens with prefixes unless it looks funny. So "nonprofit" but "pre-Columbian." If you want a more thorough explanation, it's in this podcast episode!

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January 1, 2019

Hyphenating Compound Nouns

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Style guides and grammar books have helpful rules for hyphenating compound adjectives. But the guides are mum on compound nouns like market-watcher and six-pack. Here's how to handle these.

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December 24, 2018

Superlatives for Comparing Just Two Things

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If you have two siblings, can you say "Emma is the youngest of the two"? Or must you say "Emma is the younger of the two"? Short answer: You can say either one, though some will thing "youngest" is wrong. Here's what you need to know.

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December 17, 2018

Dummy Operators

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In some languages, you form a question by swapping places of the subject and verb in a statement. But English speakers usually don't have that option. Tom works in an office can't be made into Works Tom in an office? Enter the dummy operator "do."

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December 10, 2018

Well-Paying But Good-Looking?

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Ever wonder why you use "well" in "well-paying" but "good" in "good-looking"? You're not alone. Here are some thoughts.

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December 3, 2018

Forming Plurals of Latin Words

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Octopuses or octopi? Cactuses or cacti? The answers come easy when you know where to look.

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November 26, 2018

How Do You Make a Movie Title Possessive If It's in Quotation Marks?

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Some editing styles use quotation marks instead of italics for movie titles. That works just fine until you have to make the title possessive, for example if talking about "Casablanca's" greatest scene, or plural to talk about all the "Mission Impossibles." It's weird to put the possessive or plural marker inside the quote marks because they're not part of the title. But it's even weirder to put them outside: "Mission Impossible"s? "Casablanca"'s? Style guides and grammar books offer almost no help at all on these situations. Here's how to make good choices for yourself. And here's a spoiler: I put them inside the quote marks.

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November 19, 2018

Why You Should Never Hyphenate Ly Adverbs

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A happily married couple is never a happily-married couple, at least not according to the major editing style guides. Here's why.

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November 12, 2018

The Finer Points of Writing Questions

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Just a few quick tips to make sure the questions you write are punctuated and written well!

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November 5, 2018

When to Write in the Present Tense

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It seems like most writing is done in the past tense. Stories are, after all, things that supposedly already happened. But the present tense has its place. Here are some thoughts on when and how to use it.

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