General

02/05/2013

Fundamental Comma Rules, Part Two

Today, I bring you the long-awaited second installment in the comma rule series: The use of commas in a direct address. This is an easy one. First, understand that “direct address” does not mean “street address.” It means that you are speaking (or writing) directly to a particular person, group of people, or thing. You are addressing him, her, them, or it and using a specific name, identification, term of endearment, insult, and so on.

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01/10/2013

Fundamental Comma Rules, Part One

Many people find the comma to be the most difficult piece of punctuation to master. There are so many rules governing its usage, and many of those rules are somewhat fluid, allowing for writer preference. And sometimes comma rules are deliberately ignored in favor of aesthetics and readability. If you struggle with comma confusion, you can start by focusing a few of the fundamentals. Today I’ll discuss commas and coordinating conjunctions. Hold on to your hats!

The rule: Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction linking two independent clauses.

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10/15/2012

Why Grammar is Important

Let’s face it—grammar can be a drag. Just when you think you’ve mastered a rule, here come four or five exceptions to throw you off all over again. Guidelines seem arbitrary, rules seem inconsistent, and the whole endeavor seems vaguely pretentious.

Nonetheless, it matters. We have agreed as a society that writing and speaking a certain way signifies a level of intelligence and professionalism. People make judgments about us based on our command of the language and its rules. They decide whether to date us, hire us, take us seriously, work with us, and so on.

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09/24/2012

Am I Supposed to Use “Can Not” or “Cannot”?

Many people believe that there are esoteric differences between “can not” and “cannot,” and that you must choose the appropriate form depending on the specific sentence you’re constructing. The truth is, “can not” and “cannot” mean exactly the same thing, and you are free to choose whichever you prefer.

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08/19/2012

Oooooooh, Modifiers!

A modifier is a word or a group of words that affects the meaning of another part of the sentence. They can describe, limit, qualify, and provide additional information. When the modifier is in the right spot, the sentence effectively and correctly communicates the writer’s intended meaning. When it’s in the wrong spot, confusion often abounds.

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07/18/2012

My Kingdom for an Indeterminate Singular Pronoun

Everyone needs to pick up their toys.

If anyone calls, tell them I’ll be back this evening.

I’ve never seen anybody so crazy about their cat.

When somebody has a question, they should raise their hand.

Guess what? All these sentences are technically grammatically incorrect according to Standard American English. Can you spot the problem? It’s that the words “everyone,” “anyone,” “anybody,” and “somebody” are singular, and the pronouns used in each sentence are all plural. There’s so much to be frustrated about here, we don’t even know where to begin.

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06/07/2012

A Somewhat Controlled Rant

From time to time, we check craigslist and the freelance jobs boards to see if there are any writing needs we can cover. Some of these postings do recognize the value of quality writing and pay accordingly, but way too many offer shamefully low wages; we’re talking .01 cent per word and even lower.

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05/15/2012

Fun With Synonyms

Yet another reason writing can be difficult is the challenge involved in choosing just the right word. Suppose you want to describe someone who is above her ideal weight. Is that person plump? Heavy? Flabby? Chunky? Fat, obese, huge, big, bigger, corpulent? Chubby, fleshy, portly, solid, hefty? Zaftig? Rubenesque, voluptuous, full-figured, curvy? You can immediately see that many of these words convey different ideas; some differences are slight, and some are significant.

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05/09/2012

Me, Myself, and I

Why are so many people using “myself” in ways they shouldn’t be? Some examples are, “Call either Marcy or myself if you need anything,” “Bring the document to myself or my secretary when you’re finished,” or “My family and myself will be coming with you.”

This unfortunate usage might be a result of the impulse to sound more impressive in writing. However, these writers end up coming across as trying too hard, as many readers will recognize that this usage is incorrect. If you’re guilty of this, you should feel deep, deep shame at your pomposity.

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04/16/2012

Bad Spellers, Take Heart!

We have always maintained that just because a person has difficulty with spelling, that doesn’t mean he or she is a poor reader, a poor writer, or otherwise intellectually deficient. If you’re a bad speller, so what? No reason to beat yourself up. Today we found this great New York Times article from 1893 to back us up. It’s an enjoyable read, and makes us want to drink a sarsaparilla while playing the pump organ.

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Posted by: ADMIN

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