Posts Tagged: grammar

You’d Prefer Not To

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The Internet has been abuzz with grammatically incorrect chatter since the New York Times recently published an article heralding the end of the period. But Flavorwire’s Jonathon Sturgeon doesn’t expect that little dot to go anywhere anytime soon: Bilefsky’s piece — or any long piece without periods — is like a car without brakes. You […]

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Away We Go

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Over at the New Yorker, Caleb Crain tackles the ambiguity on the use of “farther” and “further” in contemporary writing: Farther or further? I vary them more or less thoughtlessly in my writing, sometimes to the consternation of copy editors, a number of whom abide by the convention that farther is for literal distance and further for metaphoric distance. I don’t think […]

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Stephen Pinker, Deplorer of the Dangling Modifier

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After having written 800 pages on torture, rape, world war, and genocide, it was time to take on some really controversial topics like fused participles, dangling modifiers, and the serial comma. Over at the Guardian, Steven Pinker defends his choice to fight the good fight against solecisms. (Lest you presume he prioritizes syntax over diction, check […]

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The (Im)Purity of Language

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At JSTOR Daily, linguist Chi Luu makes a case for emphasizing grammar rules that follow popular usage, rather than the pedantic standards set by centuries-dead classicists. Here are the plain facts: many of these pop grammar rules… were magically pulled out of thin air by a handful of 18th and 19th century prescriptive grammarians…. Often […]

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The Rumpus Interview with Jay Rubin

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Author and translator Jay Rubin talks about his new novel, The Sun Gods, translating Haruki Murakami into English, and the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II.

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That Sounds About Right

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The Internet loves correcting other people’s grammar. But you’re your grammar mistakes are often the result of how the brain functions rather than ignorance, cognitive scientists have learned. The Washington Post reports that the reason we often end up with homophone errors is that the brain double checks our writing with the way a word […]

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Taylor Swift: Grammar Crusader?

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Proving that the quest for high scores on the SAT is as tragically unhip as ever, The Princeton Review is making headlines for setting off a grammar grudge match with pop sensation Taylor Swift. Swift’s lyrics are not only included in a section on pronoun agreement errors, they’re misquoted (although as Eugene Volokh points out […]

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Serial Commas, Subordinate Clauses, and the New Yorker

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Mary Norris has a gift for your favorite grammarian in this week’s New Yorker: a detailed account of comma policy from a veteran copyeditor. The magazine is notorious for its meticulous house style (where else do you still see a diaeresis over the word coördinate?), which it owes to Mensa-level punctuator Eleanor Gould and her […]

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For the Love of Good Grammar

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Bryan Henderson has made more than 47,000 edits to Wikipedia. This prolific career is not the product of Henderson’s great breath of knowledge, but rather because he has an obsession with fixing a specific grammatical mistake. The mistake he corrects over and over again is composed of two words: “comprised of.” His efforts to remove […]

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Creativity Is Messy

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Technically perfect writing is important when it comes to journalism or nonfiction, and especially helpful when writing with short deadlines. Fiction writing is different though. Nicole Bernier, over at Beyond the Margins, explains why grammatically sloppy writing might be the product of greater creativity: Sometimes when creative writers say they don’t notice their own typos, […]

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The Rules are There

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In his new book The Sense of Style, brain scientist Steven Pinker calls for a relaxation of English grammar rules. While the Daily Beast’s review praises Pinker for rejecting the false dichotomy between prescriptive and descriptive grammar, the New Yorker argues that we need rules to communicate. No word yet on using the wrong version […]

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Grammar As You Like It

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Everybody has that one friend who insists they know good grammar. They’re probably wrong—Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker insists strict rules just don’t matter because language is fluid. Mother Jones explains the grammatically anti-authoritarian position: …language is never set in stone; rather, it is a tool that is constantly evolving and changing, continually adding new […]

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Everything in Its Right Place

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The rules come so naturally to us that we rarely learn about them in school, but over the past few decades language nerds have been monitoring modifiers, grouping them into categories, and straining to find logic in how people instinctively rank those categories. Ever wondered why we order our adjectives the way that we do? […]

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In Defense of Adverbs

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Adverbs are bad, every writer has been told, repeatedly. Use them sparingly, if at all, is the advice commonly given. But adverbs do serve a purpose, and more often it is misuse, not overuse, that unfortunately taints bad writing. Robin Black, writing at Beyond the Margins, defends the adverb: Adverbs are modifiers. They modify – […]

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The Artful Sentence of Denis Johnson

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Sentence construction. That’s all a writer does anyhow, right? Not all sentences are made with great care and hold sentiments like this one: There is something artful and sad in juxtaposing the certainty that something is wrong with the uncertainty over what that thing is. Tin House explores the artistic genius tucked away in the sentences crafted […]

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