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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April 8, 2024

Don't Waste a Main Clause on the Obvious

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Think about the sentence: The new healthcare center is a facility where patients can come without an appointment.

What’s wrong with that? Well, technically, nothing. It’s grammatical and logical. But if, like me, you’re in the habit of zeroing in on all the clauses in a sentence, you can see why this could be considered not the best writing.

The core of the main clause, when stripped down to its bones, says little more than “the center is a facility.” And that’s about as sorry a statement as you can squeeze into a main clause.

In the best writing, every word, phrase and clause counts. And if you pay attention to how pros do it, you’ll see they never waste a main clause to state something so painfully obvious. Here's how to write a more engaging main clause instead.

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April 1, 2024

Ensure vs. Insure

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Newspaper style says to assign separate meanings to "insure" and "ensure." "Use ensure to mean guarantee: 'steps were taken to ensure accuracy,'” the Associated Press Stylebook says. “Use 'insure' for references to insurance: 'the policy insures his life.'” But dictionaries aren't as strict.

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