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Discussion Forum

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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When including a complete sentence in parentheses, what are the rules? For example, someone just sent me this in an email:

“I always change some of the readings from semester to semester (for example, I am trying out the book on migration for the first time this semester and am not sure if I will keep it in the Fall).”

But I could just as easily see it written this way:

“I always change some of the readings from semester to semester. (For example, I am trying out the book on migration for the first time this semester and am not sure if I will keep it in the Fall.)”

Are both acceptable? Is one preferred? 

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When making a list of the very same name of something, is it proper english to use one quotation mark in place of the same name or word after writing it a couple of times down the list? I can’t seem to find anything on it.

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Which ending punctuation sequence is correct for a question dialogue sentence containing a quotation within it?

a. ”Does the menu say, ‘no substitutions?’” asked Jo.

or

b. ”Does the menu say, ‘no substitutions’?” asked Jo.

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My friend is sending an invitation, and she is using the date of:

January, 16th 2016

Is this technically correct, or at a minimum not considered barbaric? Where should the comma be?

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In a sentence, there is the name of a company followed by an abbreviation, the initials of the company, in parentheses. The company name is a possessive in this sentence. Where does the apostrophe go? I want to know how this would work, as I am having trouble finding anything but advice to restructure the sentence, and I would like an answer that gives me what to do with the sentence as it stands.

Example: This policy sets a standard for determining access to Introspective Illusions (II) resources.

Would it be Introspective Illusions’ (II’s) or  Introspective Illusions’ (II) or some other construction?

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Should a rhetorical question end with a question mark?

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I have a question about “;” and “—” as used in sentence structure. I prefer using — i.e. “He did not expect to meet anyone—the house had been empty for years—and was surprised to hear whistling from the upper floor.”

Now, as I wrote a line in my story, as sentence ran away from me and I ended up using a ; at the end, as well as the — and I got the feeling that maybe it had to be one or the other all the way through and not a mix. Anyway, the sentence (racial slur warning)

Rod had not let her buy the beer herself at first—not until father had gone down there and cleared up some misconceptions from that sneaky pool-digger—and hadn’t that been a fun day to be alive; now he just gave her sympathetic looks whenever she came to get beer for her father.

So, in such a sentence, is it right to use both the “—” and the “;”? I can always rebuild it, but it felt right to me somehow, even though I got uncertain about if it would sting in the eyes of others.

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Could I use both a colon and semicolon in a sentence?

A college will provide help for students who are struggling in homework; the resources are: study skills that help students to be on top of coursework, counselors will give advices dealing with the workload, and the option to drop a class early.

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For example, “Every morning, I wake up at 6:00 am and then I make a cup of coffee.”

As a writing teacher for international students, I see this kind of sentence all the time. I know it is technically correct to use a comma before a coordinating conjunction, but I have found that so many Americans omit this comma that it has become extremely commonplace even among native English speakers. Is it socially acceptable in writing to omit the comma? How serious is it to mandate that my international include this comma?

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I imagine everyone uses an apostrophe with expressions of distance or time when the number is one:

It’s only an hour’s drive from here.
They live a mile’s walk away.
A stone’s throw away.

It follows that an apostrophe should also be used in the plural version, as stipulated by, amongst others, The Guardian and Economist style guides:

It’s three hours’ drive from here.
They live two miles’ walk away.

I notice the apostrophe is often dropped here, so my question is this - do you think the apostrophe:

is always optional?
is only necessary in formal writing?
is always necessary?

or that there is some other grammatical explanation that makes the apostrophe unnecessary?

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Latest Comments

“Me neither.” or “Me either”

  • osbert
  • February 22, 2018, 2:02pm

"Me either" makes as much sense as "I could care less", I think both are dull-brained mistakes, possibly originally by a non-native English speaker, then subsequently accepted as good English. "Me neither" is rough, but at least logical: "nor I, either" just isn't heard these days, but "neither am/have I" is commonly heard and logical. Grammar: descriptive rather than prescriptive, but some howlers ought to be laughed out of court.

“Me neither.” or “Me either”

  • osbert
  • February 22, 2018, 2:01pm

"Me either" makes as much sense as "I could care less", I think both are dull-brained mistakes, possibly originally by a non-native English speaker, then subsequently accepted as good English. "Me neither" is rough, but at least logical: "nor I, either" just isn't heard these days, but "neither am/have I" is commonly heard and logical. Grammar: descriptive rather than prescriptive, but some howlers ought to be laughed out of court.

LEGO does not refer to the bricks, but to the brand. Therefore, it is incorrect to say LEGOs, as you would be referring to multiple LEGO companies. The only correct way to refer to them is "LEGO bricks."

The name "LEGO" is not derived from English language, and therefore it cannot be stated that the very English method of adding an 's' for a plural is definitively correct. In this case I would suggest LEGO pieces (as the company itself requests), especially now that the LEGO brand has diversified into films, video games, and even cake tins. It is worth noting, however, that throughout most of the world the plural of LEGO has always been simply LEGO.

Neither is or neither are

  • jayles
  • February 20, 2018, 10:18pm

On google books "neither are to blame" shows up just nineteen times, whereas "neither is to blame" has over five thousand results.

https://www.google.com/search?biw=1432&bih=...

Neither is or neither are

  • jayles
  • February 19, 2018, 4:54am

" neither were significant predictors of the outcome measures"
"they were not working mischief, neither were they doing any great good; "
"neither were most of their members prepared to take part as citizens."
"Things are either what they appear to be: or they neither are, nor appear to be"
"And if the fountains are not gods, neither are the rivers,"
"Neither are we truly portraying what Christ's disciple means. "

Both are possible, depending on the context:

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=n...

https://www.google.com/search?q=%22neither%20we...

Neither is or neither are

  • Edinrin
  • February 17, 2018, 10:42am

'Neither are' is correct
For example: neither are to blame for the damage done.

well, actually, grammar rules themselves don't exist. there has never been any set rules, because the "rules" depend on how a majority decides to speak, and they change as the years go by. "ain't" used to be considered grammatically correct and was used by rich English folk, but when "commoners" started using it, they decided it wasn't proper English. this fact won't change how society treats grammar (like it's friggin LAW), but I feel like we should all be more lax and just use whatever feels right to us. I mean, soon, "I did good on my test" will be considered proper grammar.

On Tomorrow

It’s a church thing. I’m willing to bet that the people heard saying “on tomorrow” are heavily influenced by the church. Church folk are the people I’ve ever heard say it.

There is a male coworker that when ever he speaks to the females in our office always starts with "Heyyy name, how's it going?" Is it just me, i feel it is so disrespectful and annoying. What are your thoughts?