Subscribe to Blog via Email
- July 2020
- June 2020
- May 2020
- April 2020
- March 2020
- February 2020
- January 2020
- December 2019
- November 2019
- October 2019
- September 2019
- August 2019
- July 2019
- June 2019
- May 2019
- April 2019
- March 2019
- February 2019
- January 2019
- December 2018
- November 2018
- October 2018
- September 2018
- August 2018
- July 2018
- June 2018
- May 2018
- April 2018
- March 2018
- February 2018
- January 2018
- December 2017
- November 2017
- October 2017
- September 2017
- August 2017
- July 2017
- June 2017
- May 2017
- April 2017
- March 2017
- February 2017
- January 2017
- December 2016
- November 2016
- October 2016
- September 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
- March 2016
- February 2016
- January 2016
- December 2015
- November 2015
- October 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- April 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- December 2014
- November 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- brand names
- confusing words
- double negatives
- Emphasis added
- foreign words
- grammar giggles
- In The News
- legal assistant
- legal proofreading
- legal secretary
- nonessential phrases
- professional titles
- proofreading resources
- question marks
- reflexive pronouns
- search and replace
- Spell check
- style guides
- Words of the Month
- Words of the Week
Who and that are used when referring to people. Who is for a person or the individuality of a group and that is used when you’re talking about a class or type.
Which and that refer to places, objects, and animals. Which introduces nonessential clauses which could be removed from the sentence and not change its basic meaning, and that introduces essential clauses.
Keith’s car, which is a red sports car, was stolen last week.
Keith’s car that was stolen is a red sports car.
For my animal loving friends, you will be happy to note who is now often used when a pet is identified by gender or by name.
It is also now appropriate to use either which or that to introduce an essential clause. Which is preferred when (1) there are two or more parallel essential clauses in the same sentence, (2) thathas already been used in the sentence, or (3) the essential clause is introduced by this . . . which, that . . . which, these . . . which, or those . . . which.
Mary is working in a law office which is what her education has prepared her for and which was her dream job all through high school.
That is a restaurant which you must try.
Time for a few quickies.
- Is Internet Capitalized? I’ve seen it both ways, but Associated Press and the Chicago Manual of Style say that the Internet, as “one big specific network that people visit,” should be capitalized. The Gregg Reference Manual says the capitalized Internet is the “global system of linked computer networks,” while the lowercased internet refers to local area networks linked to each other but not to the Internet. So they all agree that when you are talking about the Internet that is more than linked local area networks, capitalize it.
- What About the Web and Website? The Web is short for the World Wide Web, again a specific thing, so Web would be capitalized–at least for Associated Press. The Chicago Manual of Style disagrees and recently said that the word web standing alone may be lowercased. However, website is a more generic term that can refer to any number of different sites, so it is not capitalized. Just to keep things really confusing, the Gregg Reference Manual says that Web site is commonly two words with Web capitalized and until the World Wide Web loses its capitalization through popular usage, Web site should be capitalized. Since I’m primarily a Gregg user, I guess I will use Web site. Compound words that include web (such as webcam and webinar) are not capitalized.
- How Many Spaces After a Colon? Again, back in the old days, there were always two spaces after a colon. Now that we are using more proportional type and using only one space after a period, one space is more appropriate.
- When is Next Wednesday? Since people understand different words different ways, it is always confusing to use the term next Wednesday. Does that mean the next Wednesday after today or the Wednesday in the next week? As it is so confusing, best practice is not to use next in this context, but to be more specific about what day you are actually talking about. Instead of next Wednesday, it is more clear to say Wednesday, February 13, or Wednesday a week from tomorrow.
- Hint for Possessives. As you may know, misuse of apostrophes to make plural words possessive is my biggest pet peeve. I will admit that sometimes I have issues figuring it out–particularly when the base word is a bit unusual. In those cases, I substitute the problem word for a more generic word. For example, if I’m trying to decide if the name Andrews is plural, I might substitute Smith. So in the sentence I knew the Andrews car was in the neighborhood by the rumble of the stereo, I substitute Andrews with Smith, and I know that the Smith car would not be possessive, so my sentence is fine the way it is. If my example was I knew Mr. Andrews’ car was in the neighborhood . . . and I replaced it with I knew Mr. Smith’s car was in the neighborhood . . . I know that it should be possessive. Make your substitute word something simple to make possessive and it will help you make your word correct.
If you have a quickie question or a tip that helps you remember a grammar rule, send it to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll answer it for you and others who probably have the same questions or share your tip so that we can all learn something.
The word none can be singular or plural, depending on the number of the noun it is referring to. Back in my 4th grade English class, none was always singular. Again, grammar rules have changed and modern thought is that it can be either singular or plural. One way to decide is when you can use not one, then none is singular. If you mean not any, then none is plural.
- None of the directions he gave to get to the grocery store is accurate (meaning that not one of the different directions he gave to get to the grocery store is accurate)
- None of the directions he gave are accurate (meaning that not any of the directions he has ever given are accurate)
Confused yet? How about these:
- None of his electronic devices is set up correctly (not one of his devices)
- Of all his electronic devices, none are using Wi-Fi (not any of his devices)
Whether you use is or are will let your reader know what you mean. By saying “None of his electronic devices is set up correctly,” your reader should understand that you mean that not one of his many devices is set up correctly. When you say “Of all his electronic devices, none are using Wi-Fi,” your reader understands that you mean that not any of his many devices are using Wi-Fi. The difference is relatively minor and regardless of which way you use it, some people (who learned that none was always singular back in 4th grade) will try to correct you. Know that as long as you are comfortable that you are using it correctly for what you mean, you can treat them like your mother-in-law—smile, nod your head, and keep doing it your way.
As some of you know, it has been very cold in Arizona this past week. One of our local news channels (the same one that had trouble with Justin Bieber “loosing” his lunch) is at it again. I don’t watch the news every night, but may have to make it a habit if I can continue to get Grammar Giggles material. Anyway, I digress. It was so cold here that we had a “freeze” watch . . . at least that’s what all the other news stations called it.
A friend recently sent me an article in a recent ABA Journal where a paragraph began with a quotation, which started with a number:
My initial instinct was “There is no way that is correct.” My next thought was “Well, it IS a quotation.” My research indicates, however, that in most cases it is incorrect.
Most sources suggest that if you are going to start a sentence with a number, you spell the number out. However, a reader may lose interest by the time they get to the message if the number is too long. It is better to reword the sentence. For example:
- Twelve thousand four hundred and eight-two people are expected to post something on Facebook in the next half hour.
would be better stated:
- In the next half hour, 12,482 people are expected to post something on Facebook.
Note that the number in the examples above is completely fabricated.
It appears that most style guides and grammar experts suggest never beginning a sentence with a number (although some say you can use a number when you start a sentence with a year—most still disagree). It is better practice just to avoid starting sentences with numbers altogether. In our example from the ABA Journal, it might have been better stated:
Karen A. Overstreet, a judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle, stated that “23,000 people in western Washington declared bankruptcy last year, and I’ve encountered a lot of bankruptcy debtors who have large amounts of student loans.”
It isn’t difficult to make things work so they are generally grammatically correct. It shows that you care about your writing so that people like me (and there are LOTS of us out there) who tend to read with a more “discerning” eye will appreciate your effort to make your work more readable.
I learned more about headings last week than I thought I already knew about headings. Now I get the pleasure of passing all of that new knowledge on to you!
There are two types of headings—a run-in headingand a freestanding heading. A run-in heading is one where the substance of the paragraph starts immediately after the heading. Run-in headings are usually set off by bold font and/or underlining. A freestanding heading is one which is on a line by itself, sometimes as part of an outline in a document.
A run-in heading will always be followed by a form of punctuation depending on the type of heading. If the heading is a question, it will end in a question mark. However, in a freestanding heading, use no punctuation unless you need to use a question mark or an exclamation point because the heading demands it.
As for capitalization, you are supposed to capitalize all words in the heading over four letters and capitalize all words in the heading under four letters EXCEPT:
Of course, as in all things grammar, there are exceptions to that rule. If a word on the “don’t capitalize” list begins or ends the sentence, it should be capitalized. If a word on that list comes after a dash or a colon, it should be capitalized. Capitalize short prepositions like up, in, on, and for when they are used with prepositions having four or more letters.
Rafting Up and Down the Colorado River
Driving In and Around the City
New Store Opening On or About March 1
I have printed this list of words that should not be capitalized except in the special circumstances and taped it to my work computer so that it is easier for me to remember. I honestly think titles look better with each word capitalized, but who am I to argue with Gregg? If that’s the rule and my attorneys don’t have a problem with formatting headings “by the book,” then I will adjust. Will you?
Every year, Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary adds new words. The addition of words starts with reading by the Merriam-Webster editors, who are looking for words in “their natural habitat for real evidence of the language in use.” The new words are selected based on new meanings and on frequency of use. The 2012 words added to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary include (and are quoted—with apologies to those with sensitivities to certain words):
aha moment n (1939) : a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension [Oprah Winfrey’s signature phrase]
brain cramp n (1982) : an instance of temporary mental confusion resulting in an error or lapse of judgment
bucket list n (2006) : a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying [popularized by the movie title]
cloud computing n (2006) : the practice of storing regularly used computer data on multiple servers that can be accessed through the Internet [technology]
copernicium n (2009) : a short-lived artificially produced radioactive element that has 112 protons
craft beer n (1986) : a specialty beer produced in limited quantities : microbrew
earworm n (1802) 1 : corn earworm 2 : a song or melody that keeps repeating in one’s mind [“this summer’s example being the inescapable Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen.”]
energy drink n (1904) : a usually carbonated beverage that typically contains caffeine and other ingredients (as taurine and ginseng) intended to increase the drinker’s energy
e-reader n (1999) : a handheld electronic device designed to be used for reading e-books and similar material
f-bomb n (1988) : the word fuck — used metaphorically as a euphemism
flexitarian n (1998) : one whose normally meatless diet occasionally includes meat or fish
game changer n (1993) : a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way
gassed adj (1919) … 2 slang : drained of energy : spent, exhausted
gastropub n (1996) : a pub, bar, or tavern that also offers meals of high quality
geocaching n (2000) : a game in which players are given the geographical coordinates of a cache of items which they search for with a GPS device
life coach n (1986) : an advisor who helps people make decisions, set and reach goals, or deal with problems
man cave n (1992) : a room or space (as in a basement) designed according to the taste of the man of the house to be used as his personal area for hobbies and leisure activities
mash-up n (1859) : something created by combining elements from two or more sources: as a : a piece of music created by digitally overlaying an instrumental track with a vocal track from a different recording b : a movie or video having characters or situations from other sources c : a Web service or application that integrates data and functionalities from various online sources [“Whether it’s a politician contradicting him or herself with excerpts from different speeches shown in quick succession or Danger Mouse’s Grey Album, mixing Jay-Z with the Beatles, we’ve come to expect combined and rearranged elements that bring new perspectives and new creativity to our culture with mash-ups,” says editor Sokolowski. “It’s a recent phenomenon, made possible with digital editing, and it has a fun and descriptive name.”]
obesogenic adj (1986) : promoting excessive weight gain : producing obesity
sexting n (2007) : the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone
shovel-ready adj (1998) of a construction project or site : ready for the start of work
systemic risk n (1982) : the risk that the failure of one financial institution (as a bank) could cause other interconnected institutions to fail and harm the economy as a whole [the global financial crisis]
tipping point n (1959) : the critical point in a situation, process, or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place
toxic adj (1664) … 4 : relating to or being an asset that has lost so much value that it cannot be sold on the market
underwater adj (1672) … 3 : having, relating to, or being a mortgage loan for which more is owed than the property securing the loan is worth
You will note that many of these are just additional definitions for words that have been used for years (and sometimes centuries). It is comforting to me to know that while our language is constantly changing, Merriam-Webster is making an effort to keep up. Learn them, use them correctly, and prove to everyone just how “current” your language is!