June 24, 2024

Can a Sentence Begin with 'But'?

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A reader was taught in school that "but" can't begin a sentence — that you either have to connect the clause to the previous sentence, preceded by a comma, or you have to use "however" instead. Unlucky for her but luckily for us, she was taught wrong.

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June 17, 2024

Is 'One of the Only' Illogical?

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"The only" seems to refer to just one thing, so "one of the only" would mean "one of the one," which makes no sense. But although one of the definitions of "only" is "alone in a class or category," another of its definitions is "few." So "one of the only" is another, correct way of saying "one of the few."

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June 10, 2024

I Am Good, I Am Well, I'm Doing Well

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In "I'm doing well," "well" is an adverb. But in "I am well," it's an adjective with a slightly different meaning. And while both are more proper than "I am good" when talking about your health, "good" is flexible enough to use here, too.

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June 3, 2024

Does 'Biweekly' Mean Every Two Weeks or Twice a Week?

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The prefix "bi-" to refer to time periods often means "twice." So why do we use it to mean "every two" in "biweekly"? It's complicated. Here's how to navigate "bi-" and "semi-" as they related to time.

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May 27, 2024

For Conscience Sake? For Goodness Sake?

Style guides disagree on whether to make “for conscience’s sake” and similar terms possessive.

The Chicago manual of style considers these “for blank’s sake” expressions to be possessive, so according to Chicago you would put an apostrophe and S after “conscience” in “conscience’s sake.” But the guide makes an exception for expressions like “for goodness’ sake” where the word before sake ends in an S. here, Chicago feels, you should add just an apostrophe but no additional S because otherwise you’d have too many Ss run together.

The “Associated Press Stylebook,” however, says that for these figures of speech, you add just an apostrophe.

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May 20, 2024

10 Ways Strunk and White Will Let You Down

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There's a lot of good advice in "The Elements of Style." Unfortunately, there's a lot of bad information, too. Here are 10 ways Strunk and White's guide will let you down.

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May 13, 2024

Further and Farther

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If you want to follow the examples from professional publishing, use "farther" only for physical distances and "further" for senses that don't refer to physical distances.

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May 6, 2024

'Myself' and Other Reflexives

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Is it wrong to say, "Please get in touch with Mary or myself"? Not exactly, but it's probably not great. Here's how to use reflexives including "myself," "yourself" and "ourselves."

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April 29, 2024

Peruse

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People who use "peruse" to mean "browse" or "skim" don't realize that, in its primary definition, it means to study closely and carefully — the opposite of casual browsing.

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April 21, 2024

A Variety Is or a Variety Are?

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Sometimes, it's hard to know whether a word is plural or singular. Often, the choice is up to you.

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