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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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If a city and state (and full date) start a sentence in possessive form, would you consider the punctuation correct in the following two examples?

Frankfort, Kentucky’s crime rate has increased.

• Paris, France’s breathtaking sights left us in a state of raptures.

• September 11, 2001’s tragic events will forever be indelibly etched in the minds of everyone.

Please, no recasts. 

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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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Latest Comments

I'm still very weak. I don't know what to so to be better at English.

X and S

What if the 's is not a possessive but an elision, like in the contractions of has and is?
Are the following sentences correct?

Alex's got a cold
Max's doing his homework
the ox's running
the ox's finished the hay

Thank you

Computer mouses or computer mice?

  • robin1
  • April 20, 2018, 1:43am

Microsoft Style Guide is your friend.

mouse devices
OR
mice

How many thats?

  • WR
  • April 19, 2018, 6:58pm

Teacher critiquing an essay: “I think that that “that that” that that student wrote should’ve been a “which that.”

Littler

No you cannot use littler at all. The correct grammar is smaller. As for the comment in regards to your brother, the correct grammar would be my younger brother instead of smaller if you choose. Hope that helps.

If the word OUT in Canada is pronounced OAT (as in Quaker Oats) and the word ABOUT is pronounced A BOAT (the thing that floats) I assume other OU words and OW words have the same sound: clout, doubt, gout, lout, shout, tout and also bound, downed, found, hound, mound, pound, round, sound, wound, count, mount and I am not sure what else. The way Canadians pronounce the words HOUSE and MOUSE rhyme with DOSE. I have this question: does the word BOW (as in bowing one's head) sound the same in Canada as the BOW that shoots arrows or tying a ribbon in a BOW?

What Rhymes?

My son is in the entertainment field/ hip hop being most of it / editing & stuff. But Did u know ~ that Eminem read the dictionary Every Single Day before he made it ~ so tha he could not only find words that rhymed ~ But☝????Words that Rhymed and made total sense in the Rap? And he uses some lOng Ass words!!! I just found that interesting and wanted to share ~ ????????

What Rhymes?

☝????I beg to differ with you @poetess ~ Silver rhymes w/ Bewilder ????

Double Words

How do I locate the "comments" that come back to me? Pain in the English told me that I had three comments, but when I go to your site, there are none. Thanks.

Double Words

I hear people both in person and on television using the alleged word "I's." Is there such a word. For example, people might say, "John, Joe's, and I's baseball ticket got lost in the subway." To me, that is just wrong and there is not such word as I's. Am I right?