Chanukah begins December 24. Christmas follows on December 25. It’s a time for gifting, and we don’t want to be remiss. So here are a few stocking stuffers and a little gelt to add to your growing pile of presents. We’re not sure we saw everyone’s wish list, but we’re pretty sure these are things everyone desperately wants to know at holiday time.Read More
Less or fewer? Number or amount?
Do you care if you get this right? I’ll assume you do; if not, we’ll catch you next time.
Do you feel a little queasy saying “We found fewer negative responses than positive responses”? Think it might sound a little funny, so you fall back on “less responses”? Or maybe you’ve always thought that “few” couldn’t possibly have an “-er” at the end.
And how about conveniently using “amount” to describe things that are counted when, in fact, they are to be numbered? Doesn’t “amount” cover just about everything. Uh uh.Read More
Preserve or Repeal - just say it correctly!
With just few minutes of research you can learn the history of this institution and quickly understand why Democrats want to repeal it and Republicans want to preserve it. What might give you trouble, though, is how to pronounce it. If you, like me, haven't discussed this strange institution of our democracy since eighth grade civics class (because there wasn't a lot about the electoral college to discuss until recently), you might have forgotten the root of the word: "elect." And I think every American has got that word down pat, right? If we can pronounce "elect," we can all pronounce "electoral."Read More
He might! He might!
I’ve gone searching for a word, and instead I found a great candidate for President of the United States! And we’ve still got 24 hours left before we vote. Talk about serendipity!
Do you remember that I asked you in early September whether you thought we “might” have lost the word “might”? It seemed everyone around me was misusing the word “may” to mean possibility or likelihood. Losing a simple, functional word from our language is tantamount to losing a species from our earth. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and there’s really no substitute for it. The fewer words we have at our disposal for clear, correct, finely nuanced communication, the less our communication will be clear, correct and nuanced. Simply, we humans communicate with words. We can’t afford to lose our words any more than we can blissfully lose our teeth or our hair or our children.Read More
These pairs are tricky little devils!
You’ve heard it often. Maybe you’ve said it yourself: That just doesn’t jive with the data we’ve collected. Or how about this one: We should have an answer soon – we’re honing in on the truth. Both incorrect, but in each case, an understandable mistake.Read More
The little one is the better choice.
Everyone should have a friend with whom they can silently roll their eyes, in unison, while politely listening to a speaker who chooses overstuffed words that, one would suppose, are meant to indicate intelligence, sophistication, or such. My friend-in-eye-rolling is Sharon Green, and I’ve got to tell you, Sharon’s got way more English language creds than I do. (That said, I can roll my eyes with the best of them.)Read More
It's also mood!
ou may be forgiven if you no longer remember what Sister Mary Madonna said about “subjunctive mood.” Why, I haven’t had a conversation about subjunctive mood for at least 15 years; I’m pretty sure you haven’t either. But you might sometimes wonder whether your verb should be “was” or “were.” Your first instinct, probably, is to ask whether it’s singular or plural, and that’s smart. (Joe was a baker. His two brothers were bricklayers.) But there’s more to it than that – and it’s a guideline you can learn without using any arcane verbiage.Read More
Punctuation inside or outside the closing quotation marks?
Isn’t that a tough one? You see quotations punctuated every which way, mostly wrong. It’s just not easy, but we do have some helpful rules.Read More
Another good word bites the dust...
Or so it seems. Having been virtually dropped now in modern parlance in favor of a closely related word that does not mean exactly the same thing, we are left again with a little less precision and a little more fog.Read More
It's easy if you can count!
When it comes to correct word usage, the beautiful truth is that a few simple rules can go a long way toward developing your confidence in your writing and speaking. Why? Because if you commit to just a few simple rules, you’ll be right more of the time! Here’s one of those rules:Read More