Grammar Giggles – It’s Freesing in Here

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.

3,483 People Say . . . Three Thousand Four Hundred . . . Starting a Sentence With a Number is Incorrect Say Several Thousand People

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.

Things Are Coming to a Head[ing]

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.

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 upinon, 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?


The Word of the Day Is . . .

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 quotedwith 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!

I Am Anxious . . . Eager . . . Ready for Christmas!

Anxious and eager are two words that are easily confused. There is a difference.

The definition of “anxious” is “full of mental distress or uneasiness because of fear of danger or misfortune.” It is derived from the Latin anxius which means “worried, distressed.” Anxious comes from the same root as anxiety. That should help you remember that anxious has a bit of a negative connotation.

Eager, on the other hand, means “keen or ardent in desire or feeling; impatiently longing.” It is something you are looking forward to doing or having. Something that makes you anxious is something you are dreading.

I am anxious for the final exams because I didn’t study and don’t feel that I’ll do well.

I am eager for the final exams because I studied hard and am ready for the semester to be over.

Since I got my shopping done and everything wrapped two days early, this year, for the first time in many years, I am EAGER for Christmas to get here!

If you want more proofreading fun, there is now a Proof That Facebook Page ( where I repost from other grammar and proofreading Facebook Pages and other sites for your entertainment and education. I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas. My best present this year is your continued support of this blog and the articles that I’ve written for the NALS docket. Thank you! 


Grammar Giggles – In Honor of the Season

Even other than the whole bills created by Christmas thing that this picture reminds me of, there are so many other things wrong. Errors include my number one pet peeve–an apostrophe used to make a word plural–and a comma that is not only outside the closing quotation mark, but a comma that would be better as a period inside the quotation mark. Here is wishing you and yours a very Merry (and bill-free) Christmas!