Archive | September 2012

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My Mercenary Side

You may have noticed that I added a button to the sidebar yesterday that takes you to the Zazzle store I just set up. For now, the design at right—a prettied-up version of one of my more popular tweets—is the only one available, but if there’s anything else you’d like to see on a T-shirt […]

Triage

Copy editors’ job description is unusual in that the whole point of the profession is to deliver perfection. But no item of text that has ever gone to print could be called perfect. Something could always be improved—an error could have been cleaned up, an infelicitous phrasing could have been avoided, the perfect word could […]

Insure vs. Ensure

When do I use “insure” and when do I use “ensure”? I can never remember which is which. Well, there’s a pretty good reason that you find them confusing. Technically, they started out as just variant spellings of one another, so they meant the same thing. And some sources will tell you that insure can still mean […]

What Should I Do With the Joneses’ Stuff?

Say you have a name that ends in S, like Millis. If Ms. Millis owns something, like a book, is it Ms. Millis’ book or Ms. Millis’s book? The short answer is “consult your style guide.” Style guides exist precisely to make a ruling on issues like this, where there’s more than one acceptable answer […]

“Dreamt” Philosophy

This seems like a basic question, and easily google’d, but where’s the fun in that? My question is this: if I were to say “I’m going to be ____ at the stake,” which is the proper word to use? “Burnt” at the stake doesn’t sound right, but neither does “burned.” –Anna Well, it might not […]

He or Him?

This morning I wrote this, prompting one of my readers to send me an angry email: “Aramis Ramirez was hit by a pitch yesterday for the 100th time as a major leaguer, making he and Rickie Weeks just the fourth pair of 100 HBP teammates in major league history.” I think their primary concern was […]

What the…?!

When ending a sentence where you want to add a question mark and an exclamation mark at the end, is it “?!” or “!?”? I always use the latter because I feel it looks better, but I see the first version used most of the time. Is the question mark plus exclamation point even acceptable? […]

The Serial Comma

The tag line in the title banner has a comma after “writing.” I thought that last comma before “and” in a list is unnecessary unless “and” is used elsewhere in the list. For instance, I would use that last comma in a list that includes items like “oil and gas, cake and ice cream, and […]

Pesky Prepositions

Why, oh, why did I start this blog out with a post about prepositions when I know full well that those pesky little words are constantly setting traps for the unwary? Hubris, I suppose. Although the point of my last post is still perfectly sound, it appears I goofed with at least one of the sample sentences I […]

Ending a Sentence with a Preposition

What are your feelings on terminal prepositions? Oh, this is an easy one. The “rule” against ending a sentence with a preposition is an age-old bugaboo. Consider these perfectly natural English sentences: “Which pocket did you leave the keys in?” “What exit should I get off at?” “Here’s that store I told you about.”* “Please, […]

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