November 16, 2007  •  silver

Skilled or skilful?

What is the difference between ‘skilled’ and ‘skilful’? Is it just a matter of collocation - the skilled craftsmen, the skilful footballer - or is there something more profound to it?

November 1, 2007  •  tessa

Percents or Percentages

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....

October 25, 2007  •  james


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

October 19, 2007  •  goossun

Head shot

As nasty as it sounds, for a translation I just need to know what the word is for the shooting into head of an executed person after being shot by the fire squad. Is it a head shot? Or there is a military jargon for it?

October 18, 2007  •  justine


When I lived in Canada (I’m Australian) I noticed a common phrase used by interviewers and reporters was “could you speak to that” used in the sense of “Prime minister I believe you have discussed changes to the immigration policy... could you speak to that?” I found it a little uncomfortable and wondered if it was a new journalistic lingo phrase or a perfectly correct Canadian expression. Could any Canadians speak to that? : )

October 13, 2007  •  tessajoughin

Nauseous or nauseated

I have always said “I feel nauseous”. My daughter found out that we are supposed to say “nauseated” because nauseous means that we are making others nauseous! I have never heard anyone say they feel nauseated so has the rule changed through common usage?

October 12, 2007  •  goossun


What does “tooing and frowing” mean? And why these words cannot be found in any dictionary (at least in those I looked at?) Is it a corruption of “to and fro?” Is “frowing” a word and could it be used separately and if so would it mean differently than that of the phrase?

October 2, 2007  •  Dyske

First Husband or First Gentleman?

If Hillary Clinton is elected as the president of the US, what should Bill Clinton be called? I’ve seen both “first husband” and “first gentleman.” Wikipedia seems to think that it should be the latter.

September 30, 2007  •  Dyske

Do’s and Don’t's

“Do’s and Don’t's” is a popular phrase, but the punctuation of it seem to vary for “don’t's”. What should it be? Dont’s or Don’t's

September 18, 2007  •  ben

Orally Aural. Oh Really?

I suppose these questions are frequently preceded by an argument between one regarded as a pedant and another who is one secretly. I’m the pedant. Are these words pronounced so similarly as to be only identifiable by their context? For instance ‘a dentist works orally’ or ‘I am to give an oral presentation.’ This can lead to ambiguity (if they are pronounced the same): ‘I can only learn a language aurally/orally.’

September 1, 2007  •  Dyske

What is this triangular symbol?

While waiting for the subway to arrive, I noticed this mysterious symbol between “PRINCE” and “ST.” This is not a mistake of any kind. All of the signs at the station had this little triangle, and whoever created these signs put a significant amount of effort in inserting it. (Just look at how it is tiled.) Obviously this was something important for the artist who created this mosaic sign. What could it mean? It could not be a dash. Firstly, a dash would be inappropriate for this context. Secondly, if it were meant as a dash, it would have been much easier to draw a straight line out of these square tiles (instead of a triangle). (FYI: This is New York City.)

August 13, 2007  •  amandacox


I constantly see apostrophes used in ways I believe are incorrect. I am wondering anyone can confirm for me, though. For example, I often see “Temperatures will reach the high 90′s today...” Aren’t apostrophes only used to show possession or in contractions? For example, “This sweet ride isn’t (cont.) mine; it’s (cont) Jessica’s (poss).” Also, how would I word something to the effect that everyone is coming to the house that my husband, Mike, and I own? “Everyone is coming to Mike’s and my house.”?

August 10, 2007  •  tim2

therefore, thus as conjunctions

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?

July 30, 2007  •  xylo

nowadays business?

Is this correct? As in “in response to some of the most problematic issues of nowadays business”? To me it sounds strange, although it seems to have a couple hundred entries in Google. I’d opt for “today’s business”.

July 26, 2007  •  xiphos

Plurals in titles

I’m crossing my fingers in hopes that this question will be answered without any attacks on a person’s personal beliefs. Can it happen? When carrying more than one book entitled, “Book of Mormon,” do you say you have three “Books of Mormon?” This has been a bit of a joke among people of the LDS faith, as some people are very insistent that “books” must be used. The book is made up of many sections called “books” (similar to how the Bible is set up), and Mormon is said to be the editor who compiled and abrigded the book (hence the title). Based on that, I could see how someone could think of it as a collection of books edited by Mormon, and decide that “books” makes the most sense. Personally, I see “Book of Mormon” as a title that is handled like a complete unit, and so the plural would be Book of Mormons - which still sounds funny. So, is there any set way to pluralize a title with the word book in it? Like “Books of the Dead” compared to “Book of the Deads?”

July 26, 2007  •  goossun

Dick & Bob

Can anyone explain why the short forms or the nicknames for Robert and Richard are Bob and Dick?

July 7, 2007  •  agro

the spinning around machine

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.

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?

July 6, 2007  •  Dyske

Don’t mind if I do

When we say, “Don’t mind if I do,” what is the subject we are omitting? Is it: I don’t mind if I do. or You don’t mind if I do.

July 3, 2007  •  marcelo3

Impose someone to do something

I read this sentence and I felt kind of weird about it: The suppliers imposed us to absorb price increase. I won’t say that it’s wrong to use IMPOSE in that sentence, neither that ABSORB cannot be used like that, but wouldn’t it sound better, and maybe even clearer to use one of the following alternatives? 1. The suppliers forced us to accept price increase. 2. The suppliers made us accept price increase. 3. The suppliers left us no choice but to accept price increase. 4. The suppliers left us no choice but to deal with price increase. 5. The suppliers imposed price increase on us and we were forced to accept it. 6. The suppliers imposed price increase on us and we were forced to deal with it. 7. The suppliers imposed price increase on us and we could do nothing about it. Any opinion appreciated...

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