A Guide to In-Line Lists

This post describes how to organize in-line lists, those that occur within a sentence, as compared to vertical lists, those organized by setting the items on the list apart from each other, distinguished by numbers, letters, or other symbols, on consecutive lines. (Vertical lists will be described in a separate post.) An in-line list may […]

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Compounds Based on “Port”

This post lists and defines compound words in which the second element is the word port, derived from the Latin word portare, meaning “carry.” Airport, carport, heliport, and seaport refer to locations where the vehicles and vessels implied by the respective prefixes embark and return (and remain between uses). To apport (literally, “carry to”) is […]

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A Complete Guide to Parentheses and Brackets

This post discusses the functions of parentheses and brackets, which are used to set off portions of text from the whole for various purposes. Parentheses, almost exclusively appearing in pairs, are usually employed in the same manner as a pair of commas or dashes, though they suggest de-emphasis of the content within (as opposed to […]

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Coordination of Conjunctions and Punctuation

When a conjunction is inserted into a sentence to separate two cumulative elements of the sentence, where commas, if any, are correctly positioned depends on the syntactical structure of the sentence regardless of whether a parenthetical phrase complicates the sentence. In each sentence with parenthesis below, the punctuation is not appropriate for the syntax. Discussion […]

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3 Variations of Misplaced Modifiers

When information is added to the main clause of a sentence to provide more detail, whether it is inserted directly or parenthetically, careful placement enhances comprehension. In each of the following sentences, modifying phrases are clumsily included. Discussion after each example explains the problem, and a revision demonstrates a solution. 1. Smith played Bozo the […]

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3 More Types of Hyphenation Errors with Numbers

Confusion about the relationship between hyphens and numbers, whether they appear in numeral or spelled-out form, is rampant. Each of the following examples erroneously employs hyphens; discussion after each sentence explains the error, and a revision corrects it. 1. Because of concussions, he had played just sixty-nine games in two seasons between 2010-2012. Using a […]

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The Many Ways of “Via”

Via, the Latin word for “way,” is also the basis of many words, many of them disguised, that refer to movement or the way things move (or act). This post lists and defines terms derived from via. In English, via itself often replaces “by way of” in writing in reference to traveling, though it is […]

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Grammar Quiz #24: Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers

A participial phrase is said to be “dangling” when the noun it is intended to modify is missing from the sentence. Similarly a modifier is said to be misplaced when it is separated from the word it modifies. Edit the following sentences to eliminate such errors. 1. Looking from my bedroom window, the horses frolicked […]

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Betters and Bettors

Is there a connection between better, which is sometimes employed as a noun, among other parts of speech, and the noun bettor? This post explains their etymological origins and lists and defines related words. Better is primarily an adjective, from Old English bettra (and, previously, betera), meaning “superior.” It can also mean “more advantageous or […]

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Spelling Variations

This post discusses several factors responsible for variations in spelling, with examples. For much of the history of the English language, spelling was more an art than a science; because of lapses in literacy, there was no standard orthography. Even now, well into the twenty-first century, thanks to ignorance and laziness (and some intentional slangy […]

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3 Examples of Interpolated Coordination

When a phrase provides comparative or correlative information to supplement information appearing in the main clause of a sentence, it must be integrated into the sentence without disrupting the syntax. In each of the following sentences, this integration is flawed. Discussions following the examples explain the problem, and revisions demonstrate the solution. 1. Understanding interrelated […]

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Pleonasms

This post pertains to varieties of pleonasms, instances of verbal redundancy, which are usually a sign of careless or lazy writing (though some are employed for rhetorical effect). The word pleonasm stems from the Greek term pleonazein, meaning “to be excessive,” and is related to plenty, plural, and plus. One type of redundancy is onomastic […]

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