March 31, 2014  •  jayles

Which sound “normal” to you?

A) Must we have fish for dinner again? B) Shall we have to have fish for dinner again? C) Will we have to have fish for dinner again? D) Do we have to have fish for dinner again? Accepting that (D) is by far the commonest utterance and would express annoyance or lament. roughly the same as “I wish we weren’t having fish again”, my concern is with the other options, particularly (B) which looks “grammatical” but just sounds odd to me. (A) is less common today but seems to go back a long way whereas “have to” is relatively modern, so which sound “normal” to you?

May 9, 2013  •  Linda Nagy

A quote within a quote within a quote

How do you handle a quote within a quote within a quote in an MLA citation?

April 14, 2013  •  Erin

When “that” is necessary

“She said she...” or “She said that she...” All my life I have received great feedback about my grammar, but these past few years I find myself over thinking it—all the time. It actually causes me to create mistakes where there previously weren’t any. Bizarre?  One such thing that I have thought too much about is the necessity of “that” in phrases like the above. When would you say it’s necessary? Always? Never? Sometimes? Explain! Thanks!

March 31, 2013  •  Ion-Sturm

Adverbs better avoided?

Are adverbs something to be avoided like the plague or an inevitable mutation of the English language that we just have to deal with? I’ve heard it said that they’re the mark of a writer who lacks the vocabulary to use powerful words (for example, “He walked slowly” does not carry the weight of “He plodded” or “He trudged”) and the skill to vary their sentence structure. I’ve seen them used in published in professional work, from George R. R. Martin to J.K. Rowling, so it’s not something authors shy away from and, for the most part, the public accepts it without question.

February 22, 2013  •  Cathie

“gift of” vs. “gift from”

What is a correct... “A gift of John Doe” or “A gift from John Doe” when referring to a large charitable donation? I like the sound of “of” but not sure which one is right.

January 1, 2013  •  Hairy Scot

Preferred forms

What would be the preferred form of each of these:-  a) “in hopes of” or “in the hope of”  b) “a change in plans” or “a change of plan” c) “apprise” or “inform”  d) “envision” or “envisage” I favour the second of each of the above, but no doubt there will be different opinions.

October 10, 2011  •  Greg Allen

attorneys general vs. attorney generals

Why is the term “attorneys general” correct? It used to be “attorney generals” ... There are multiple attorney generals. If I was describing a group of Army generals, I wouldn’t say “Armies General” ... would I?

October 8, 2011  •  AnWulf

What can I do besides...

“What can I do besides complaining” sounds wrong to me but I can’t say why ... I think it should be complain. “What can I do besides complain?” “What can I do but complain?” However, “Besides complaining, what can I do?” sounds ok. Any thoughts? Or am I completely off base here?

September 30, 2011  •  sigurd

Semicolon and omission of repetitive words

If a semicolon is used to contrast two sentences, we can omit repetitive words by using a comma, as in:  “To err is human; to forgive, divine” and “The cat was orange; the dog, brown.” However, if no semicolon is used, can we still do the same? For example: “You’re our son, Heracles, and we, your family.”

September 25, 2011  •  Brus

“If I was” vs. “If I were”

“If I was the Prime Minister. ...” said Ed Miliband, British Labour party leader, today, Sunday 24th September 2011. Is this not how to phrase it if it remains a possibility that he was once Prime Minister, or if he is not sure if he was, or is reluctant to admit it?  “If I were the Prime Minister, ...”, using the subjunctive mood of the verb, would suggest that he is not Prime minister but is about to tell us what he would do if he were the PM. If the subjunctive is now defunct in UK Labour politics, as I suspect, how did he continue to tell us what he would have done, if he were the PM, without using the subjunctive? “if I was the PM, I ~~~~~ ???” It cannot be done.

September 22, 2011  •  Max_Elliott

Just because..., (it) doesn’t mean...

I never know whether to use “it” in the following sentence: “Just because ___, (it) doesn’t mean ____.” In other words, would you say, “Just because I was mean to you, it doesn’t mean you should be mean to me.” OR “Just because I was mean to you, doesn’t mean you should be mean to me.” OR “Just because I was mean to you, that doesn’t mean you should be mean to me.” I hear people using the second variation all the time, but it seems that the third is preferable. Thoughts?

July 22, 2010  •  alant

He and I, me and him

I know that the proper order for a nominative series of nouns including the speaker is “John and I,” but what about for the objective? “Mrs. Smith taught me and John,” or, “Mrs. Smith taught John and me”? The same goes for prepositions, “Mrs. Smith taught chemistry to me and John,” vs. “Mrs. Smith taught chemistry to John and me.” Also, does whether one uses the objective pronoun or the reflexive pronoun affect the order? “I taught John and myself,” vs, “I taught myself and John.”

April 28, 2010  •  jomelfuentes

Victorian Era English

My teen-age daughter wrote a psychological thriller novella, “Keeping Her in the Light” last summer that Canada-based Eternal Press published last November. She wants to finish another psychological thriller that she started writing 2 years ago. The setting is during the Victorian Era. She stopped writing this novella because she feels that the conversations in her novella should be in the style of the Victorian Era. Kindly advise if there is a software or method of converting modern day English to the Victorian Era English. Thank you. Sincerely, Jomel Fuentes Manila, Philippines

March 3, 2010  •  frankie

How do I write out .25% ?

How do I write out .25%

April 29, 2009  •  Dyske

Should the link include the quotes?

When you link something in a quote, should we include the double quotes in the link? For instance: I asked where to look, and John answered, “Wikipedia!” or I asked where to look, and John answered, “Wikipedia!” This is really a matter of style, but I’m wondering if any major sites have a style guide that specifies this.

February 10, 2009  •  alekseyvaneev

Using plural in the title

I’m still undecided on how to spell correctly: “Drum Track Recording Service” or “Drum Tracks Recording Service”. I’m personally voting for the second variant, but as I’m not a native English speaker, I’m not sure.

February 1, 2009  •  mike2

Acronyms, Abbreviations, and BBC News

I’ve noticed in the past that the BBC News Web site seems to be rather hit-or-miss with its use of acronyms and abbreviations. One I see repeatedly is its use of “Nasa” for “NASA,” and another I noticed today is “Farc” instead of “FARC” for the Colombian guerrilla group. At the same time, UK, TV, PM, US, and even BBC are treated as I would expect. Can anyone explain this beyond “the editors are twits”? The abbreviation which prompted me to post this, though, is their habit of abbreviating “Sri Lanka” as “S Lanka.” Why would anyone think it necessary to drop those two characters? By way of introduction, my name is Mike, and I was born and raised in southern California. I’m a survivor of public schools through high school graduation in 1978. I know full well that my command of the English language is far from perfect, and I do not attempt to correct errors in others’ informal writing or speech, but journalists, authors, and others who write for public consumption I hold to a higher standard, and are therefore considered fair game. :-)

April 27, 2008  •  joseph

Reason Why

Isn’t it redundant to say That is the REASON WHY I am here. Isn’t the ‘reason’ the ‘why’ as well? But how come many people use it?

October 25, 2007  •  james

Dictionaries

I’m helping to rewrite my organisation’s style guide. I prefer (and we have always used) Collins but some other colleagues prefer the OED. Does anyone have any strong views on their respective merits? thanks, James

July 6, 2007  •  derek2

double negatives

There wasn’t a clause left in the sole agency contract that wasn’t a source of conflict. The author of a book I am editing refuses to change the above sentence to: Every clause left in the sole agency contract was a source of conflict. His reason is this is “a literary device to accentuate [my point]” . I think it is bad English to use the same word twice in one sentence. Am I being pedantic?

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