December 5, 2016

'A' vs. 'An'

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The indefinite articles "a" and "an" come pretty easily most of the time. Still, you can get tripped up if you're not mindful. Here's your guide to getting them right every time.

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November 28, 2016

Mama vs. Momma

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Kinship names like "papa" and "mama" are written multiple different ways. Here are some insights to help you decide how you want to write them.

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November 21, 2016

Writing Numbers

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Nine out of 10 6-year-olds do well in first grade.

If you ever tried to make sense of when publishers write numerals and when they spell out numbers, you may have come up empty-handed. Here's an overview to help in your own writing.

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November 14, 2016

Hyphenation: The Big Picture

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There are different rules for hyphenating compound modifiers like well-traveled, compound nouns like self-esteem, compound verbs like second-guess, and prefixes and suffixes like those in anti-immigration. Here's an overview.

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November 7, 2016

Faulty Parallels

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One of the most common errors I see among the professional writers I edit is stuff like this:

Sandwich selections include, ham, tuna, turkey, peanut butter and jelly. 

The store carries apparel, shoes, accessories, housewares, electronics, as well as small appliances. 

Unless someone's serving jelly sandwiches with no peanut butter, both these sentences contain faulty parallels. Here's what you need to know about this common mistake.

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October 31, 2016

'They,' 'Their' and 'Them' to Refer to a Singular

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Is it grammatically correct to say "Everyone should make sure they lock up their belongings" instead of, say, "Everyone should make sure he or she locks up his or her belongings" or possibly "Everyone should make sure he locks up his belongings."

Yes. The traditionally plural "they" is grammatical. But it's also controversial. Here's what you need to know to make a good call.

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October 24, 2016

This Is She?

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Why do we say "This is she" on the phone instead of "This is her"? A quick overview of the predicate nominative.

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October 18, 2016

A Majority Is or a Majority Are?

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Sometimes it's not clear whether a word should be treated as a singular or a plural. Here's how to navigate this issue with "majority."

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October 10, 2016

Where Does the Closing Quote Mark Go?

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One of the biggest tells that a document wasn't professionally edited (a document published in the U.S., at least) is shown in an example like this:

The word "clandestine", which came up three times in the debate, is less popular than the word "covert".

Unlike British punctuation rules, in American English a comma or period always comes before the closing quote. But question marks and exclamation points are a different story. Here's what you need to know.

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October 3, 2016

Among vs. Between

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Here's an old-school point of contention: A lot of people were taught that "between" can only refer to relationships between two people or things. If it's three or more, you want "among." A quick reading of the two words' dictionary definitions proves that's not true. Here's the full story.

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