Grammar Gifts Rock
Here is what is so great about my anniversary present—I posted on Facebook back in June about how grammar dishes would make a great gift, you know, for anyone looking to buy me something, and what did John give me in celebration of our 18 years married? THESE plates. Also great—they are the perfect size for healthy portions of nutritious foods, or for, say, the chocolate chip cookie cake slathered in fudge icing that I gave John.
Once Upon a Time, There Was You—and a Missing “to”
I keep finding errors in the books of bestselling authors. This boo-boo is from Elizabeth Berg’s “Once Upon a Time, There Was You.” I think the word to is missing between able and focus. Do you agree?
Incidentally, AP Style uses a hyphenated best-selling, but Berg’s book cover reads bestselling, which is why I used this convention above. There is often no one right answer when it comes to the use of the English language—style sometimes dictates what is proper.
The Old Man and the—“he”
My 12-year-old, Joey, is reading Ernest Hemingway’s Nobel-Prize-winning “The Old Man and the Sea” (not by choice, by the way—it’s a school assignment), and I am reading (well, more like editing) a copy of the book, too. I think the word “he” should be “the.” Do you agree?
Everytime vs. Every Time
Everytime — not a word.
Every time — always two words.
Punkass vs. Punk Ass
My college-roommate friend from something like 24 years ago (ouch!) inquired this morning on Facebook about how to properly use the word punkass. The girl has a way with words.
Is it punkass or punk ass?
Based on my research of the word badass, which the dictionary declares is one word, I proclaim punkass to follow suit. I do see a case for two words, though. Let’s say I want a specific troublemaker to approach me. I would say, “Get your punk ass over here!”
Sometimes, two words.
Can’t We All Just Agree?
The following quote has been floating around Facebook, and, against my better judgment, I shared it yesterday on my personal page. I guess the funny factor outweighed my concern about agreement, which really is one of my most favorite grammar conventions.
I want to rewrite this comical quip to read, “When someone is crying, ask if it is because of
their his or her haircut.”
Someone is singular, their is plural—the two words are not in agreement, and this drives me a little bit crazy. I realize his or her is not as flow-y as their, and some folks are OK with this compromise in the spirit of fluid reading. Maybe I’m sorta alright with it, too. I mean, I did share the quote with hundreds of friends. Sometimes, I suppose, I favor funny over function.
Someday vs. Some Day
Just as I was freaking out yesterday about raising teenage boys (my time is rapidly approaching), a friend shared this “Modern Family" quote with me:
"Raising kids is like sending a rocket to the moon. You spend lots of time with it pre-launch, then you let it go. Around the teenage years, it heads to the dark side. But if you wait patiently, your rocket will return to you someday."
This helped. A lot. It also inspired me to impart some wisdom regarding the way in which the word someday is used in the quote.
Someday is used as an adverb to denote an indefinite time in the future, like, “But if you wait patiently, your rocket will return to you someday.”
The indefinite part is what worries me; when exactly will I get my rocket back after he leaves for the dark side?
Some day, as two words, works like this: Some is an adjective indicating a specific day, like, “Some day next week, I will master the art of communicating with my pre-teen.”
Man, that would be really great.
APA-Style Numbers—Q & A
Client Callie asked me, “Do you have some information you can refer me to about listing numbers throughout a thesis, as in when to use digits and when to spell out? I’m familiar with AP style (not APA).”
This is what I told Callie:
In general, spell out numbers less than 10, and use figures for numbers 10 and greater. But (there is always a but, right?), be sure to use figures
- for numbers in a graphical display of a paper;
- for numbers immediately preceding a unit of measurement;
- for statistical and math functions, fractions, decimals, percentages, ratios, percentiles, and quartiles;
- for numbers that represent dates, ages, scores, points on a scale, exact sums of money, and exact representations of time; and
- for numbers that denote a specific place in a numbered series, parts of books and tables, and each number in a list of four or more numbers (e.g., Grade 8, Table 2, row 5).
Use words to express
- numbers at the beginning of a sentence, title, or text heading (reword the sentence to avoid using a number at the beginning, if possible);
- numbers used for common fractions; and
- numbers used with universally accepted usage (e.g., the Twelve Apostles).
American Psychological Association. (2009). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Tiresome vs. Tiring
While he untangled loads of Christmas lights and sorted through piles of outdoor decorations the other day, a neighbor told me, “This is tiresome!” Interesting word choice, I thought—tiresome. I would have probably used the word tiring. Well, at the time, anyway. Now that I’ve done a little digging, I realize tiresome works just fine, and its meaning may have been just what the guy down the street intended. Tiresome, you see, means irritating, annoying, or boring. Perhaps stringing up twinkles and sparkles and snowmen was driving this man bonkers. Now, if he meant just that his task was wearing him out or draining him of patience, tiring should have been his word.
Your turn—do you find holiday decorating tiring, tiresome, or both?
It’s Thanksgiving Day
Thanksgiving, always the fourth Thursday in November, is a holiday (obviously!), and, therefore, the word is capitalized—so is the word day when attached to the word Thanksgiving.
The word night is not capitalized after Thanksgiving.
Have a happy Thanksgiving Day and a happy Thanksgiving night. May family, friends, and food warm your hearts.
The Right Way to Write About the Election
Before you pen your presidential blog posts, your Facebook forecasts, and your Twitter tirades, be sure to check out the AP Stylebook 2012 U.S. Election Guide for instruction on the right way to write about the election.
It’s Election Day but election night.
Are You Using Language Wrong?
I am not sharing this link (see below) to educate you on the topic of pushups (although, apparently, you are probably doing them wrong). I am sharing to educate you on the inconsistent use of language.
See push-ups in the headline and pushups used throughout the story.
See fourth-grader with a hyphen and fourth graders without a hyphen.
AP Style endorses pushups and fourth-grader(s), and I personally stand behind such style; however, consistency is what’s key. If you choose to use push-ups in your writing, no biggie—just use the word in that same exact form throughout your masterpiece. It’s just the right thing to do. It will make you look smarter, too.
Here is the link:
Are you doing push-ups wrong?
Can you find any other inconsistencies?
I’m Good vs. I’m Well
Scenario: You pass a friend in the grocery store. Your friend asks you, “How are you doing?” You pause, wondering whether it’s proper to use the word good or the word well. You throw out well, even though you want to say good, because you’ve heard rumblings that well is the grammatically correct choice.
Yes, well is often the right choice; however, good can be a solid option, too. Here, University of Michigan Professor Anne Curzan explains why you should not be scolded for choosing good.
Hyphenated Modifiers—Before and After the Noun
Typically, when a modifier that is hyphenated before a noun occurs after a noun, it is not hyphenated.
She is a full-time employee.
The employee works full time.
According to AP Style, when the modifier that is hyphenated before a noun occurs after a form of to be, however, the hyphen should be retained.
He is a well-known author.
The author is well-known.