June 19, 2017

Can 'Apropos' Mean 'Appropriate'?

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Sure, the words are similar. But are they interchangeable? Here's the full story.

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June 12, 2017

Peak vs. Pique

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Never write that something "peaked" your curiosity. That's a job for "piqued." Here's the full story.

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June 5, 2017

Zero Relative Pronoun

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When you drop "that" from a sentence like The car that I was driving is red, there's a term for that. It's called the zero relative pronoun, a reference to the fact that "that" is a relative pronoun, which you're omitting. Here's the full story.

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May 30, 2017

'Different From' or 'Different Than'?

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"Different from" is always a safe construction, but "different than" can get you into trouble with sticklers. And it's true that, grammatically, "different than" is a bit questionable. But idiomatically, it might be fine for some situations.

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May 22, 2017

When to Use a Capital Letter After a Colon

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Sometimes the first word after a colon starts with capital letter. Sometimes it's lowercase. That's because there are two variables to consider: 1. whether the stuff after a colon is a complete sentence, and 2. whether you're using Chicago or Associated Press style. Here's the full story.

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May 15, 2017

Can You Put a Noun in the Middle of a Phrasal Verb?

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A reader once told me she hated hearing structures like "She ran him over." Shouldn't it be, she wondered, "She ran over him"?

No. Phrasal verbs, which are verbs like "run over," "give up," and "take down," derive their meaning from more than one word. But that doesn't mean you can't put an object in the middle. Here's the full story.

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May 8, 2017

Since and Because

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You can, if you want, use since to mean because. But it's not always a good choice. In some sentences more than others, since can set your reader down the wrong path. Here's what you need to know.

 

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May 1, 2017

'The Reason Is Because'

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I've been criticized by readers for using "the reason is because." The reason: it's a bit redundant. But that doesn't mean it's wrong. Here's the full story.

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April 24, 2017

Lighted vs. Lit

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The hardboiled detective lighted the mysterious lady's cigarette? Or he lit it? Her face lighted up? Or her face lit up? Here's how to choose.

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April 17, 2017

What's an Acronym?

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According to some dictionaries, an acronym is exactly what you think it is. According to one very influential dictionary, it's not. Spoiler alert: If you pronounce the initials as a single word, like NAFTA, this dictionary says it's an acronym. If you pronounce each letter individually, like FBI, it's not.

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