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This is a forum to discuss the gray areas of the English language for which you would not find answers easily in dictionaries or other reference books. You can browse through the latest questions and comments below. If you have a question of your own, please submit it here.

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How much space should be given after a period in Word documents and in PDF’s?

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It seems like I’m seeing, more and more, “believe” and similar words being used as nouns. At first I thought that it was an ESL issue; perhaps in other languages, the same word is used for both “believe” and “belief”. But that explanation is looking less and less plausible. Is it just me, or are other people baffled by this? I don’t understand how any native speaker can confuse the two words. Perhaps there are accents in which they are pronounced the same?

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Do we use “shall have done” followed by second and third persons? I understand that if ‘shall’ comes after second and third persons, it is employed to indicate an obligation or a warning, etc. How about ‘shall have done’?

for example: Company A shall have contributed 50 million dollars to the joint venture.

Is such usage correct? I feel somewhat strange. I understand that if we want to use future perfect tense, we will use “will have done” and in case of first persons “shall” could be adopted instead of “will”. If we want to use subjunctive mood, we will use “should have done”.

“[third persons] shall have done” looks neither future perfect nor an indication of obligations. I think it is wrong. Am I right?

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My husband and I disagree on the use of these two words. I say, since we have three children, two girls and a boy, that I can say that “Rebecca is the younger daughter, and the youngest child”. He says that since she is the youngest of all three children, that he can say she is his youngest daughter. I feel that it should be she is the younger daughter since there are only two daughters and of course, she is the youngest child.

HELP!

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Help! I have an annual report ready to go to print....Can someone please tell me which footnote is grammatically correct?

Percents do not add to 100 because members may indicate more than one business activity.

OR

Percentages do not add to 100 because members may indicate....

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What is the consensus on using words like “therefore” and “thus” as conjunctions (i.e. to connect two sentences), such as:

“I ate a burger, therefore/thus I am full.”

Or, can they not be used as conjunctions, and does a “real” conjunction or a semicolon need to be inserted?

“I ate a burger, and therefore/thus I am full.” “I ate a burger; therefore/thus I am full.”

Any thoughts?

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a) a program that is open source b) an open source program

(b) sounds right because “open source” is in fact a whole adjective. It is neither “open” nor “source”. So the construct in (b) is just like “a blue book”.

However,

a) the machine that is spinning around b) the spinning around machine

Somehow, (b) doesn’t look right for me, because the base adjective is only “spinning”. Is it just my feeling, or is it indeed wrong? If wrong, is there a way to somehow “correct” it?

Thanks a lot.

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A coworker and I are arguing over the word “correspondence”. I say it’s already plural, therefore an “s” at the end is unnecessary and incorrect. She says that because she was working on multiple letters, it is “correspondences”.

Who’s right?

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I’m getting married and my fiancee (with a Harvard PhD) says that our vows should end as “until death us do part.” My priest (with a PhD equivalent who studied in Rome under the Pope) says that the traditional language is “until death do us part.”

I’m just a Texas Aggie who thinks that perhaps we should use “for as long as we both shall live.”

But just for grins, which of the “until death . . .” phrases is correct? Or are both correct?

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I have a picture posted on a website and I was wondering if my caption underneath it is grammatically correct. I wrote “Greg and me” and he feels it should be “Greg and I.” Who is right?

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Latest Comments

As of

  • Piper
  • January 22, 2017, 7:17am

Can we say: I'll send the minutes of the meeting as of 5 pm?

First annual vs. second annual

  • Burt
  • January 19, 2017, 11:51pm

If I am correct and an annual event requires 2 years prior to an event for it to be considered an annual event. Then isn't the term "second annual" incorrect as well? Actually it should be referred to as consecutive meaning second? Looking forward to feedback!

I disagree with Dyske's answer.
In the first example, you are saying something that you know is not true.
In the second example, that is a subjective opinion. They can truly believe they have the best pizza, just like you hear people say they have the greatest wife or kids. It's a subjective opinion that they may truly believe in.
In the third example, that would be a lie because once again you are saying something that is not true even though it's hyperbole.
The way I under the definition of "lie" is that it wouldn't be a lie if I say something I BELIEVE to be true, but is factually wrong. If the police ask me to describe a suspect from memory I could truly believe I'm giving the correct description from memory and be factually wrong, but wasn't my INTENT to deceive the police.

Salutations in letters

In email to someone familiar, I open with "Hi" and sign off with "Cheers" or "Slàinte mhath". Otherwise I use "Good day" and "Regards".
In letters it's normally "Dear ......" and "Yours sincerely".
I agree that "Yours truly" and "Yours faithfully" now seem to be considered passé.

How about, "The rent has doubled.", or "The rent is now twice what it was."
Both "two times higher" and "two times as high" sound like phrases used by primary school kids.

Trust me, when you get to my age, mid 60s, you will start complaining when you hear words spoken which you have grown up with all your life, being given totally different meanings and you are supposed to calmly accept these new meanings without having a clue why they have been changed. If someone comes up to me and says hey as a greeting, then for me I am waiting for them to finish. Even when I just hear it in plays or films, it makes me feel very uncomfortable. I'm not writing here to say it's right or wrong just to make folk understand that it can be very unsettling for some of us.

The team has access to multiple sources

On Tomorrow

  • JBS
  • January 16, 2017, 2:22pm

This is an old world English term sometimes trapped in areas of Appalachia, like many other old German, Scottish, Irish and English phrases (or variations thereof). It's commonly used among religious African American folks in Georgia and Alabama from my experience. The reason so many comments have referenced NE Georgia, Kentucky, and North Carolina etc.. is the Appalachian connection.

An extension of solecism?

Actress instead of Actor

I have long found referring to both male and female thespians as "actors" extremely distasteful, as in PC gone amok. When I waited tables, I had no problem with the term "waitress." Then again, I have no problem with the term "comedienne" for a female comedian. The stewardess/steward thing which is now deemed offensive seems patently absurd to me, but well, "flight attendant" it is! However, reading all the comments with historic connotations does help me make a bit more sense of it all. Personally, I have no problem with the masculine and feminine forms of words/professions, and in fact I do buck against changing all of that, but appreciate the perspectives offered. I totally get that a female MD is not called a doctoress in English, but she would be called "la doctora" in Spanish, and a male "el doctor."