Posts Tagged: grammar

The Decline of Punctuation?!…

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We live in a heyday of punctuation. “Call this what you will—exclamatory excess, punctuation inflation, the result of the Internet’s limitless expanse—it is everywhere,” writes Megan Garber at the Atlantic. But perhaps not for long—with the rise of image-based expression like emoji and gifs, we are finding new ways to express ourselves, and we’re leaving […]

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Go Ahead, Break Some Grammar Rules

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It’s actually the opposite. Most people break grammar rules so they can be more precise. For Full Stop, Catie Disabato writes about prescriptive vs. descriptive grammar, and why “bad” grammar can be a good thing. Her data points include Burger King ads, John Dryden’s seventeenth-century grammar campaigns, and use of the word “because” as a […]

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When Grammar Becomes Dangerous

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Those who are careful about their grammar run the risk of seeming pretentious. Strict adherence to grammar rules is sometimes written off as stuffy and elitist. There is a greater danger, however, in falling into the trap of being careless with language, or so Fiona Maazel writes in a piece called “Commercial Grammar.” Imprecision allows […]

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When Good Grammar Is Actually Bad

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Adverbs acting as manner adjuncts “do not occur between whether and infinitival to,” you guys. Duh. Or, in other words, you can’t say, “…decide whether unconditionally to attend the Geneva talks.” Instead, you should say, “…decide whether to unconditionally attend the Geneva talks,” because that “rule” about split infinitives doesn’t actually exist. Geoffrey Pullum explains […]

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No More Room for “Whom”

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Via The Millions, an Atlantic blog post on the death of “America’s least favorite pronoun”: the dreaded “whom.” It always feels like society is crumbling when big linguistic changes occur, but as Megan Garber points out, even notorious grammar stickler William Safire advised rewriting sentences to avoid using the objective-case equivalent of “who.” If “whom” […]

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Strunk and White Strike Again

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Strunk and White’s Elements of Style has a soft spot in all our hearts, but some of its rules—no adverbs, an incorrect definition of passive voice—are a little…idiosyncratic. If, as Constance Hale says, the point of grammar is to produce better writing, rather than squeezing words into an airtight mathematical equation, Strunk and White aren’t always […]

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Another Reason to Know Your Grammar

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Only a week ago, we blogged about the fluidity of the English language. However, for those of you currently seeking a job, take note: grammar is important. While some of you may scoff or shrug your shoulders, Kyle Wiens, writing for Harvard Business Review, is not messing around: If you think an apostrophe was one […]

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On “Proper” English and Objective Legislation

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It’s no secret that English is a constantly shifting, malleable, many-headed beast of a language, yet, much of the time, writers and speakers insist emphatically on obeying its many ostensibly rigid rules. At The New York Times, linguist John McWhorter writes about the myth of “proper” English: “We are taught that a proper language makes perfect […]

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Writing for the Ear

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“Language can still be an adventure if we remember that words can make a kind of melody. In novels, news stories, memoirs and even to-the-point memos, music is as important as meaning. In fact, music can drive home the meaning of words.” Constance Hale continues her New York Times series with a lesson on the […]

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“You’re vs. Your”

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In a lyrical crusade against grammatical ignorance, super-fast rapper David McCleary “Mac Lethal” Sheldon breaks down the difference between “your” and “you’re”. Video after the jump.

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“Mistakes Were Made”

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At The New York Times, Constance Hale continues her writing lessons series with an exploration of the appropriate uses and pitfalls of the notorious passive voice. “…Some of the worst writing around suffers from inert verbs and the unintended use of the passive voice. Yet the passive voice remains an important arrow in the rhetorical […]

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Make-or-Break

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Constance Hale’s New York Times series of writing lessons continues with wisdom on verbs. “Verbs kick-start sentences: Without them, words would simply cluster together in suspended animation. We often call them action words, but verbs also can carry sentiments (love, fear, lust, disgust), hint at cognition (realize, know, recognize), bend ideas together (falsify, prove, hypothesize), […]

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Goodbye Oxford Comma

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A University of Oxford Style Guide has decided to go minimalist on all the grammarians and drop the oxford comma. They’re making big decisions over there. Watch out: ‘“As a general rule, do not use the serial/Oxford comma: so write ‘a, b and c’ not ‘a, b, and c’. But when a comma would assist […]

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Ari Messer: The Last Book I Loved, Ablutions

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Why is the second person such a natural and addictive tense–perhaps the only honest one–when writing about drug abuse and a foggy recovery? For years, you haven’t been able to stop asking this question. Reading Patrick deWitt’s Ablutions: Notes for a Novel, you are asking it again, vocally (a real dinner-party silencer), by mistake or […]

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FWIW

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“We are living in a moment of seismic linguistic change, and attention should be paid—but not to errors. Our changing language signals evolution, not degradation. ‘OK,’ the most popular American word in the world, was invented during the age of the telegraph, because it was concise.” Anne Trubek asks “Should We Care About Grammar and […]

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Morning Coffee

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Environmental Graffiti takes a look at Germany’s hanging railway. We usually try to stay away from commercial stuff like this, but we think it’s pretty rad that Tropicana literally built a sun to make their point. A very important tutorial: how to use a semicolon. Cleveland mall farm! Nobel laureate Lolcats : the internet is […]

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Monkeys Know Bad Grammar When They Hear It

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It’s not like they’re gonna be writing for The New Yorker anytime soon, but a team of scientists just published a study in the journal Biology Letters saying that monkeys can “recognize bad grammar.” Researchers spent a day familiarizing a group of cotton-top tamarins with a series of two-syllable words that followed a certain pattern. […]

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A Phrase to Watch: ‘Openly Gay’

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“We should take care with this phrase, which is useful in certain limited contexts but unnecessary and potentially offensive in others. For starters, of course, we note someone’s sexual orientation only when it is pertinent and the pertinence is clear to the reader. In those cases, we should describe someone as “openly” gay only to […]

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