Reproducing the precise wording of a saying or the exact words someone has said or someone might say requires adherence to a simple set of rules of punctuation and capitalization, as described and demonstrated in the discussions following each of the examples provided below.
A variety of more or less colorful colloquialisms referring to police officers and similar authority figures have developed in American English, sometimes inspired by other languages. Here is a list of such terms.
Using the right word for the job, or considering whether a word is needed at all, distinguishes careful writing from careless writing. Discussion and revision of the following sentences illustrate various ways in which writing can be improved by word-by-word attention to detail.
Writers are often confused about whether a phrase beginning with an adverb should be hyphenated. The answers to the following three questions explain when hyphenation is required and when it is incorrect.
What is the difference between often and oftentimes, and is oft a word? The short answers are that there is no difference, and yes.
When sentence elements that provide additional, nonessential information are not positioned in proximity to the word or phrase they directly pertain to, the sentence is often awkward at best and confusing at worst. Each example below demonstrates how misplacing a reference to a year or a point in time may muddle the meaning of a sentence; discussion and revision provide a solution to each problem.
All but one of the following sentences demonstrate incorrect style for partial quotations in American English; revise the sentences as necessary: 1. His comment left me wondering whether I’d be “invited to resign”, as he had put it. 2. Although Smith agreed with the assessment, he added, “We resent the tone.” 3. It’s difficult to […]
There are numerous ways to inadvertently derail a sentence by failing to provide consistent structure to parallel elements. The following sentences illustrate various types of pitfalls and how they can be avoided.
This is a case of a smothered verb—a verb converted into noun form, which complicates the sentence because a new verb must be conjured to accompany the newly formed noun. In this case, the simple verb phrase “be able” is sufficient.
Dangling participles are verbs that are intended to refer to a particular noun but that, because of how the main clause of the sentence is crafted, do not support the noun. The main clause, and the subordinate clause (often appearing at the head of the sentence), may in and of themselves be grammatically valid, but they do not match—often with unintentionally humorous results. Here are three sentences that suffer from dangling participles; each is followed by a discussion and a revision.
Ponder and pound respectively pertain figuratively and literally to weighing things, and this commonality isn’t a coincidence: The Latin word pondus, meaning “weight,” is the source of both words.
Each of the sentences below represents a distinct type of careless writing that obfuscates meaning. The statements are followed by discussions and revisions.