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Comments posted: 30
Votes received: 85

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Recent Comments

If people make mistakes on the Internet, Google will find them.

nigel February 25, 2012, 9:25am

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nigel February 3, 2012, 12:51pm

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I think you have things backwards. The semicolon should only be used to join what could otherwise stand alone as complete sentences. Thus you could write:
“To err is human; to forgive is divine,”
“To err is human, to forgive, divine,”
but NOT what you have
“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”

I think your final sentence is technically correct, but, personally, I would not drop the second "are." “You’re our son, Heracles, and we are your family,” is both clearer and more euphonious, to my ear, than what you have. Rob is right that your version is confusing, but things are NOT improved by dropping the third comma without reinstating the missing "are."

nigel November 11, 2011, 3:12pm

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I think there may be rare (very rare) occasions where a semicolon before a coordinating conjunction might be an appropriate stylistic choice, but the examples given most certainly do not constitute such occasions. Those semicolons are absurd overkill that break up the flow and distract from the understanding of the sentences. Commas should have been used.

Using a semicolon to join sentences is largely an aesthetic choice anyway. You can always write them as two completely separate sentences, ending with periods and starting with capital letters, without changing the meaning.

I wonder (I am not sure) if the rare occasions when it is appropriate to follow a semicolon by "and" are, in fact, the same rare occasions when it would be appropriate to start the second sentence with "And", if one were writing it as two separate sentences.

nigel November 11, 2011, 2:41pm

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Well then, how do you pronounce "chants"? Personally, I pronounce it (and "aunt") with a long A, but I rather think there are those (Geordies, perhaps) who will pronounce "chants" with a short A, to rhyme with "ants".

There is no single right answer here people. Move along.

nigel July 9, 2011, 12:01pm

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I am inclined to agree with you, but this is an issue of etiquette, not grammar (or anything linguistic really).

nigel July 9, 2011, 11:56am

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I think "I graduated high school" is now so widely used as to have become correct idiomatic American English. It may depart from the usual grammatical rules, but English is full of idioms that do that.

nigel June 17, 2011, 1:46pm

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Pablo Diablo: 'the correct pronunciation of "aunt" is /ænt/ , which sounds like "slant" or "rant."'

Huh?! "Slant" and "rant" have completely different vowel sounds: indeed, the very two vowel sounds that most of the people in this thread are arguing over.

Personally, I and the people I grew up amongst pronounce "aunt" to rhyme with "slant". I know, however, that other people, who grew up in different places, pronounce it to rhyme with "rant" (or, in other words, as a homophone for the insect "ant"). Given that both are widespread (even within England, let alone America and other English speaking countries), and that both are, normally, perfectly well understood by all English speakers, even by people who themselves say it the other way, both are correct English. People who assert that someone else's pronunciation is "wrong" or "snobbish" are, in fact, being snobbish themselves.

nigel June 12, 2011, 1:06pm

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"It is what it is" is not slang at all. It consists of perfectly good English words used in their regular senses.

nigel February 22, 2010, 4:02am

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"And yet" is idiomatic. "Yet" on its own (or with a semicolon), as a conjunction, is not incorrect, but it seems a little stilted to me.

nigel February 22, 2010, 3:39am

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I think it does have the connotations of danger and nonconformity that you mention, but surely it is also related the expression "on the cutting edge," which implies both originality and being very up-to-date.

But there is no real right or wrong when you are talking about metaphors and connotations anyway.

nigel February 6, 2010, 3:04am

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According to <a href=" rel="nofollow">this site</a>, capitalization following a colon is considered acceptable in America, but (aside from proper names or the like) not in England. I rather think, though, that even in America it is only OK if the part after the colon is a grammatically complete sentence.

Dresden: Many excellent writers thoroughly despise <i>Strunk & White</i>. They think it is full of horrible advice, and is far too prescriptive, although I doubt that any would claim that every bit of advice therein is bad. Certainly it is sensible to pick and choose.

As for the Chicago Manual, that is not just advice. If you are writing something to be published by University of Chicago Press, or another publisher that uses Chicago style, you <i>have</i> to do things their way. However, it does not follow that their way is better, and other publishers may insist on something different (or may trust the author's judgement).

You are right about the dash, though. It is not a good thing to overuse.

nigel February 6, 2010, 2:57am

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I am not convinced that <i>red herring</i> necessarily implies intention. It is hard to know exactly waht to suggest without knowing the exact nuance that you wish to convey, but you might find something that suits you in the <a href=" rel="nofollow">Thesaurus</a>.

nigel February 6, 2010, 2:29am

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<blockquote>Anna says:
October 1, 2009 at 8:25 am

Gosh – am I the only Brit here?</blockquote>
No, you aren't.

nigel October 2, 2009, 11:51pm

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I think we would need a bit more context to give a definitive answer. "Under the conditions of" and "on the conditions that" could each be right in different contexts.

But of course, Paul is right. You need to do what your senior editor says, even if he or she is wrong!

nigel July 21, 2009, 2:35am

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<i>You people are a sorry bunch! We're talking about a class of 6 year olds who have just learned to write. Get over yourselves, and get a life.</i>

Ah yes, heaven forfend that a teacher should actually make an effort to find out do her job better, or that anyone else should try to help. Why, the next thing you know, kids might actually be <i>learning</i> things in school!

nigel June 21, 2009, 3:09am

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"He needs not wait" does not seem right to me. I would say, "He does not need to wait."

nigel June 21, 2009, 2:47am

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<i>Remember, even if you have every intention of hosting an event annually, you should never refer to the first such event as the "First Annual." Especially if you're sending a press release to a newspaper. I've been, and have known, editors who trashed away PR that used the term "First Annual."</i>

It strikes me that any editor who refuses to report perfectly good, unambiguous information just because of some (highly disputable) linguistic error in the way it was communicated, is behaving both incompetently and unethically. The editor may have to follow the AP Style Book, but that does not mean the whole world has to. There is no reason why anyone communicating with a newspaper should even be expected to know that such a book exists. The editor's job is to edit, which in this case includes changing the wording from "first annual" to "inaugural." Any editor who ignores a communication because he is too lazy to and arrogant to do his job deserves to be fired right away!

nigel June 21, 2009, 2:43am

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"Lineal" is indeed a word, but it does not mean the same thing as "linear." It means "pertaining to a lineage." "Lineal feet" is indeed incorrect (or, at best, unidiomatic).

Mind you, even "linear feet" seems to me like unnecessary redundancy (like "wooden trees"), except, perhaps, in the unlikely event that the context did not make it clear that the reference was to units of length rather than to the things on the ends of legs. All feet, in the sense of units of length, are linear, so why not just say "feet"?

nigel June 21, 2009, 2:03am

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"many early studies were done on a shoestring" - Are you under the impression that this is a relevant example? It is not referring to studies of shoestrings. "Done on a shoestring" is an idiom meaning done cheaply, at low cost.

I am sorry, but porsche's example with book is <em>not</em> a useful analogy. "Book on X" and "book of X" do indeed mean quite different things. The problem here, however, arises because "study of X" and "study on X" do not have significantly different meanings. I am certainly not saying either is outright wrong. Clearly, as Tom's original question shows, some people sometimes do use "study on." The question is, which is better, which sounds more natural to a native English speaker's ear. I agree with Tom in finding "of" distinctly preferable, though perhaps more so in some cases (where X=subject matter) than in others (where X=a piece of writing).

I have tried using HTML tags for emphasis on this site before and it did not work. Perhaps they have been implemented now. Perhaps some are allowed and not others. I need to experiment:

<em>Is this sentence, using the {em} tag, in italics?</em>

<i>How about this one, using {i}?</I>

<b>Is this one bolded (using {b})?</b>

<strong>Or this (using {strong})?</strong>


Hmm, it looks like you get an automatic preview below the box now too. Good.

nigel May 23, 2009, 4:41pm

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