“It seems like people use who and that interchangeably. When I hear people say, ‘You know Bill ... he's the guy that lives down the street,' it makes my ears cry. What's the rule on who vs. that?” — Aaron, Noblesville, Indiana I could spend a whole month on who. Who or whom. Who's vs. whose. Who's on first? Who let the dogs out? Who's the boss? From my best research, I've concluded who is either the name of a band who likes to sing about pinball or the guy who plays first base. Just kidding. As a general rule, use who when you're referring to a person and that when you're referring to an object. Case closed. I wish it were that easy. However, according to style guides, including Chicago Manual of Style and Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage, who and that can indeed be used interchangeably. Additionally, authors, including Shakespeare and Chaucer, and books such as the King James Bible often utilized that to refer to a person. I'm not about to argue with … [Read more...] about Grammar Guy: Who do you think you are?
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Last Updated Mar 5, 2010 2:03 PM EST Today is National Grammar Day. Why should you care about grammar, which seems like such a dusty, musty trifle in this age of texting? As a practical matter, employers care a lot. Grammar could also be standing in your teenager's way of getting into his or her dream school. Grammar accounts for two-thirds of the writing score on the SAT test and more than half on the English ACT score. If you could use a grammar refresher, here are five painless resources to check out on National Grammar Day: Twitter. If you can only handle grammar lessons in small (140-character) doses, check out top grammarians on Twitter: @APstylebook, and @FakeAPStylebook. The fake version is vastly more popular than the real thing. Grammarlogues: This software relies on (or is it upon?) the writings of Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners to teach more than 200 grammar rules. The grammarians pull text excerpts from novels, poems, magazines and newspaper articles. Grammar Girl. … [Read more...] about 5 Ways to Celebrate National Grammar Day
I've mentioned before that I take no joy from parsing sentences. It was a source of night sweats in high school. I find parts of speech and cases more difficult to remember than the proper balance of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in my fertilizer. But every once in a while I discover a rule or a category of words that describes something I couldn't name before.Thanks to Thomas Roth, I'm now obsessed with contronyms.A contronym is a word with two contradictory meanings.A good example is "ravel."To ravel is to thread together, but it also means to disentangle. And, yes, "unravel" can be used interchangeably with "ravel."Contronyms normally don't create confusion -- the context should steer you to the appropriate definition.But they can if you're not careful.If you "trim" a dress, you might be removing fabric from it. Or you might be adding pieces of fabric to it.If you "draw" the curtains, you could be opening them or closing them. If you're drawing them in the morning, the odds … [Read more...] about Grammar Moses: If the copy desk trims this column, will it be adding or taking away?
It seems like yesterday. Four years ago this month, copy editors across the nation had a big shock. The Associated Press Stylebook committee announced that the word "over" was as acceptable as "more than" when comparing numbered items. In the past, those following the stylebook would accept: I had the hiccups for more than 10 minutes. They would automatically change it if they saw this: I had the hiccups for over 10 minutes. Editors follow the AP Stylebook to be consistent on all sorts of word usages. The committee said the rampant use of both "over" and "more than" prompted the change. The Associated Press made the announcement, among others, at that year's conference of copy editors. A witness from the Poynter Institute reported the sound of copy editors gasping at the decision. I will confess that I, too, gasped when I read it. Grammar experts around the country seemed to be doing their best to calm the fretting "more than" camp. A couple said that "more than" has always been more … [Read more...] about It’s more than, but over OK
Morgan Lee, Associated Press Updated 3:21 pm, Wednesday, February 28, 2018 Photo: Jose Luis Magana, AP Image 1of/1 CaptionClose Image 1 of 1 New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, speaks at the National Governor Association 2018 winter meeting, on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, in Washington. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, speaks at the National Governor Association 2018 winter meeting, on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, in Washington. Photo: Jose Luis Magana, AP New Mexico proposes new rules to rein in predatory lending 1 / 1 Back to Gallery SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico has begun rewriting store-front lending regulations under a law designed to bolster consumer protections and cap interest rates for small loans at an annual 175 percent. Consumer groups on Wednesday said the proposed regulations from the New Mexico … [Read more...] about New Mexico proposes new rules to rein in predatory lending
I didn't know what a split infinitive was until my editor pointed it out to me deep into the last century when I was still wearing skinny ties and covering the Streamwood village board. Dolores Zygowicz wrote to say, "I see so many and find them quite jarring. There was one right in your column: "to truly do right by ...' Are they now acceptable?" I've come to appreciate over time that some people's passion for never splitting infinitives is based on the rigid, ruler-thwacking rules of Latin, upon which our language is based. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, an infinitive verb is one preceded by "to": to eat, to mumble, to drive. You get the picture. I'm here to tell all of you who cowered in fear of your English teachers' catching you splitting your verbs that it doesn't even register as a venial sin. People speak in split infinitives all the time. Only in very formal writing is it frowned upon. In some cases, writing around a split infinitive alters the meaning … [Read more...] about Grammar Moses: If I were to intentionally split an infinitive, would you hold it against me?
Decades ago, we had an occasional and unofficial departmental memo titled "Heard around the newsroom" that recounted the most notable quotes of the day uttered by someone on staff. I've seen social media pages devoted to such things, so I'm sure this tradition was not unique to us. This is my version of that. En route to a meeting recently I overheard a conversation in which someone described something unfamiliar to her as being "unchartered waters." It's a wonder people don't run and hide when they see me coming. The term is "uncharted waters," which in its literal sense means an area that has not been mapped and therefore is unfamiliar. I imagine "unchartered waters" would be that which is too choppy for charter boats to sail on. Scattergories I heard a radio weather forecaster predict there would be a "scattering" of rain showers and thought to myself: column item! This is one of those instances in which I thought I knew something but ended up learning something instead. You … [Read more...] about Grammar Moses: Is the president having contractions?
Today's Grammar Police column is brought to you by the letters "E" and "I." Actually, it's not all about E and I, but we'll start there, because I have interesting grammar questions involving those letters. The first was sparked by a reader who criticized this front page headline: "GOP finalizes bill, gaining critical support. Holdout senators say they'll vote for it, likely insuring its passage." He reacted, "I didn't even know companies would insure something like that. Is it possible the headline writers meant 'ensuring?'" The Grammar Girl website explains that the words ensure, insure and assure all spring from the same Latin word "securus," meaning "safe" or "secure." She wrote that all three verbs have the general meaning "to make sure," and that there is a disagreement about whether they are interchangeable. Here is how Grammar Girl broke down the differences: "Assure is something you do to a person, a group of people or an animal to remove doubt or anxiety ... You can remember … [Read more...] about Grammar Police tackle ensure, insure
Is none singular or plural? If any mathletes out there are reading this, they would likely interject, “False! None is zero.” And then they would adjust their adult retainers and get back to discussing their theories on who Rey’s parents really are. By choosing it in the sentence, the math nerds unwittingly made none singular, grammatically speaking. So does that mean zero equals one? No. I’m not about to anger the math community more than I already have. When none means not one or no part, use a singular verb. For example: Because I wanted my body to not hate me, none of McRib was eaten. Similarly, none can be considered singular when part of a mass noun: None of the wine was wasted. Here, wine is a mass noun (as in: I drank the entire massive box of wine all by myself with some help from my trusty twisty straw). The plot now thickens quicker than a malted milkshake. While many believe none is always singular, none also can be plural. When … [Read more...] about Grammar Guy: None is the loneliest number
When you hang your stockings by the chimney with care, do you hang them inside your fireplace, ensuring they’ll achieve flambe status before midnight? I’m guessing you hang stockings outside the fireplace. Only you can prevent stocking fires. This holiday tip hardly seems like a hack to help you remember something that seems so obvious, but I’m about to apply it to punctuation (and there was great rejoicing among the entire host of grammar angels)! In the same way you always hang your Christmas stockings on the outside of your fireplace, in most of your writing, you should always put quotation marks on the outside of your punctuation. This applies to a majority of your writing (not all). For instance, you should always put quotation marks outside commas and periods: “I encouraged Buddy to meet his Etch-a-Sketch quota today,” Ming Ming, the North Pole foreman, reported to Santa. “Alas, he only completed 85.” The … [Read more...] about Grammar Guy: Don’t hang your stockings inside the fireplace