Rules About Treatment of Numbers

The basic rule about referring to numbers, according to The Chicago Manual of Style, is to spell them out when the total is one hundred or less and use numerals for larger numbers (the Associated Press Stylebook and some other style handbooks set the cut-off point after nine), but there are many exceptions. This post … Read more

Capitalizing and Punctuating Quotations

Quotations consisting of complete sentences should always be capitalized, as explained in the discussions and shown in the revisions to the following examples. (Note, too, that each sentence has a punctuation error.) 1. The pendant around his neck reads “all things are possible.” “All things are possible” is a complete sentence that follows an attribution, … Read more

Still More Words That Turn on the Root “Vert”

Two recent posts (here and here) dealt with many of the English words based on the Latin verb vertere, meaning “turn,” focusing on those based on the root vert. This follow-up post defines some additional words in the vertere family: those with the root vers. Versus (abbreviated vs. or, in legal contexts, v.) comes directly … Read more

Pleasing Words

The Latin verb placere, meaning “be acceptable” or “be liked,” is the source of a number of English words pertaining to agreeability. This post lists and defines these terms. The verb please, meaning “be agreeable,” is from plaisir, the Old French intermediary of placere, which is also the origin of pleasure, meaning “give pleasure to” … Read more

Vocabulary Quiz #3: Commonly Confused Words

In each sentence, choose the correct word from the pair of similar terms. (If both words possibly can be correct, choose the more plausible one.) 1. Any business leader with a ______ of sense would say this is the perfect time to borrow money to rebuild the country. a) whit b) wit 2. In an … Read more

Hyphenation Rules for 35 Prefixes (and 1 Suffix)

There was a time when prefixes were routinely attached to root words with hyphens, but that time has, for the most part, passed. Now, hyphens are the exception, as detailed in the following list, which also provides simple definitions. ante (before): closed anti (against): closed except before a proper noun or a word starting with … Read more

Using Repetition to Produce Parallel Structure

Sentences that fail to observe a sound grammatical structure sometimes do so because a key word or phrase is not repeated (or balanced with a similar word or phrase) as part of an element equivalent to a previous element in the sentence. Each of the sentences below is missing a repeated word or phrase; the … Read more

Saints and Sanctity

The Latin adjective sanctus, meaning “consecrated” or “holy,” is the root of a family of words that sometimes but not always have a religious context. Definitions of those words follow. Saint (from the Anglo-French word seint) originally was simply an adjective applied to the name of a person who had been canonized, or officially designated … Read more

More Words That Turn on the Root “Vert”

A recent post dealt with many of the English words based on the Latin verb vertere, meaning “turn,” focusing on those that precede the root vert with a prefix, and their various grammatical forms. This follow-up post defines some additional words in the vertere family: those beginning with vert. Those with the variant stem vers … Read more

The Meanings and Variations of “Sister”

Sister, from the Old English word sweoster and cognate with the Latin term soror, means not only “a female with one or more parents in common” but has also come, by extension, to refer to a woman with whom one has a bond or a common interest. It also applies to national or racial commonality, … Read more

Grammar Quiz #4: Misplaced Modifiers

Each of the following sentences includes a modifying phrase that is incorrectly or awkwardly placed; revise the sentences as necessary: 1. I told my parents I wanted to transfer many times during that first semester. 2. Schools are wising up to the benefits of integrating technology into classroom instruction, but access still ends with the … Read more

3 Cases of Too Many Commas

This post illustrates several types of sentences that incorporate excessive punctuation. Each example is followed by a discussion and a revision. 1. Much of what happened between the moment Jones sat on a bench to enjoy the view and police opened fire and killed him, has been the subject of contentious debate. A verb is … Read more