Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

We have been traveling a lot recently. For some reason, that seems to make us accutely aware of the widespread and interesting usage of the conditional tense. This sparked an idea for a new blog post, so here goes …

conditional: Grammar. (of a sentence, clause, mood, or word) involving or expressing a condition, as the first clause in the sentence If it rains, he won’t go.

We like this explanation from LEO Network:

The conditional tense says that an action is reliant on something else. The two most common conditionals are real and unreal, they are sometimes called if-clauses.

The real conditional (often named 1st Conditional or Conditional Type I) describes situations based on fact.

The unreal conditional (often named 2nd Conditional or Conditional Type II) describes unreal or imaginary situations.

There is also what we call the 3rd conditional (often named Conditional Type III), used to express no possibility of something having happened in the past, and the 0 conditional (often called the zero conditional), used to express absolute certainty.

Unless you are studying English to pass an exam or test don’t try to remember the types, just learn the structure so that you know how to express the meaning conveyed by each type.

Note! If the ‘if’ clause comes first, a comma is usually used. If the “if” clause comes second, there is no need for a comma.”

We mentioned “interesting usage.” Take a look at the following examples and have a chuckle:

In a restaurant, have you ever heard your server say something like this?   
  If you need anything, my name is …That’s great. However, what is your name if I don’t need anything?
  If you’re ready to order, I’ll be over there …So, if I’m not ready to order, where will you be?
When conversing with friends or colleagues …  
  If I don’t see you, have a good trip/holiday/weekend …Alright, if you do see me, do you want me to have a bad time?
On an airplane …  
  If you are unfamiliar with the (insert almost any airport name here) airport, there is a diagram in the in-flight magazine …This one is puzzling … we are very familiar with the mentioned airport. Is there still a diagram in the magazine?

Now, IF you have other examples to share, please feel free to comment!

Sources: Dictionary.com, Learn English, American Airlines Flight Attendant announcements.

Tweet Me from https://grammarcops.wordpress.com

Read Full Post »

When will folks ever learn the “less-on”?? The “less vs. fewer” debate rages on. Case in point:

Citi less is more

Citi is running a promo. It starts out fine, but quickly grates on grammarians with the phrase …

“Less trees being cut down …”

OK, everybody repeat after us …

I will use “less” for amounts that cannot be counted as discrete items, such as water, sunshine, and money.

I will use “fewer” for numbers of items that can be counted as discrete items, such as drops of water, rays of sunshine, dollar bills, and … of course, trees!

Get it? Got it. Good!

See also our previous post: Limit less …

Tweet Me from https://grammarcops.wordpress.com

Read Full Post »

Normally, we don’t cross-post. However, here is an exception.

We poke fun at so many wikiHow entries that we thought it only fair to call upon a well-written and grammar-related post from its:

Home > Categories > Education and Communications > Subjects > English > English Grammar > Punctuation section.

Enjoy the following:

wikiHow

How to Use a Dash in an English Sentence

Source: wikiHow.com

Tweet Me from https://grammarcops.wordpress.com

Read Full Post »

Today there is lots of buzz around usage of use vs. utilize. What fodder for us!

The tweets (from Twitter) that got us started …

@phoefling to @GrammarCops: “*grammar rant* Whatever happened to the word ‘long’? A perfectly good word that’s been replaced by ‘lengthy’. Yuck!”

@Ms_Austen to @GrammarCops: “your description of ‘long’ similar applies to the word use,’ a perfectly good word often replaced by utilize.'”

@mightyredpen to @GrammarCops: “Up there with perfectly good word ‘use‘ being replaced by ‘utilize.’ Ugh.”

@mattimago (a Grammar Police Deputy) to @GrammarCops: “Utilise vs. use: I fully intend (split infinitive!) to utilise any pertinent points you post. I have no use for poor grammar.”

Then, the topic quickly turned to split infinitives … (upon which we shall dutifully follow-up and utilize in a future post). he he

@ChristinaGayle to @GrammarCops: “I like to use split infinitives from time to time. It makes me feel dangerous.”

Although the word utilize has origins as far back as the early 1800s, it seems that the computer age has put this term front and center. And, regardless of its standing as an official word in most dictionaries, it gets some people riled. Consider this usage note from dictionary.com:

Usage Note: A number of critics have remarked that utilize is an unnecessary substitute for use. It is true that many occurrences of utilize could be replaced by use with no loss to anything but pretentiousness, for example, in sentences such as ‘They utilized questionable methods in their analysis’ or ‘We hope that many commuters will continue to utilize mass transit after the bridge has reopened.’ But utilize can mean ‘to find a profitable or practical use for.’ Thus the sentence ‘The teachers were unable to use the new computers’ might mean only that the teachers were unable to operate the computers, whereas ‘The teachers were unable to utilize the new computers’ suggests that the teachers could not find ways to employ the computers in instruction.

use vs utilize

Here’s a simple and functional distinction:

Use is the general word: (What is used often has depreciated or been diminished, sometimes completely consumed: a used automobile; All the butter has been used.) As applied to persons, use implies some selfish or sinister purpose: to use another to advance oneself. Utilize implies practical or profitable use: to utilize the means at hand, a modern system of lighting.

Plus, the dictionary definitions:

use. verb (used with object).

  • to employ for some purpose; put into service; make use of: to use a knife. 
  • to avail oneself of; apply to one’s own purposes: to use the facilities. 
  • to expend or consume in use: We have used the money provided. 
  • to treat or behave toward: He did not use his employees with much consideration. 
  • to take unfair advantage of; exploit: to use people to gain one’s own ends. 
  • to drink, smoke, or ingest habitually: to use drugs. 
  • to habituate or accustom.
  • Archaic. to practice habitually or customarily; make a practice of.

use. verb. (used without object).

  • to be accustomed, wont, or customarily found (used with an infinitive expressed or understood, and, except in archaic use, now only in the past): He used to go every day. 
  • Archaic. to resort, stay, or dwell customarily.

use. noun.

  • the act of employing, using, or putting into service: the use of tools. 
  • the state of being employed or used.
  • an instance or way of employing or using something: proper use of the tool; the painter’s use of color. 
  • a way of being employed or used; a purpose for which something is used: He was of temporary use. The instrument has different uses. 
  • the power, right, or privilege of employing or using something: to lose the use of the right eye; to be denied the use of a library card. 
  • service or advantage in or for being employed or used; utility or usefulness: of no practical use. 
  • help; profit; resulting good: What’s the use of pursuing the matter? 
  • occasion or need, as for something to be employed or used: Would you have any use for another calendar? 
  • continued, habitual, or customary employment or practice; custom: to follow the prevailing use of such occasions. 
  • Law. a. the enjoyment of property, as by the employment, occupation, or exercise of it. b. the benefit or profit of lands and tenements in the possession of another who simply holds them for the beneficiary. c. the equitable ownership of land to which the legal title is in another’s name.
  • Liturgy. the distinctive form of ritual or of any liturgical observance used in a particular church, diocese, community, etc.
  • usual or customary experience.

use. verb phrase.

  • use up, a. to consume entirely. b. to exhaust of vigor or usefulness; finish: By the end of the war he felt used up and sick of life. 

use. Idioms.

  • have no use for, a. to have no occasion or need for: She appears to have no use for the city. b. to refuse to tolerate; discount: He had no use for his brother. c. to have a distaste for; dislike: He has no use for dictators. 
  • make use of, to use for one’s own purposes; employ: Charitable organizations will make use of your old furniture and clothing. 
  • of no use, of no advantage or help: It’s of no use to look for that missing earring. It’s no use asking her to go. Also, no use.
  • put to use, to apply; employ to advantage: What a shame that no one has put that old deserted mansion to use! 

And then there’s …

utilize. verb (used with object). Also, especially British, utilise.

  • to put to use; turn to profitable account: to utilize a stream to power a mill. 

So, our usage recommendation: use use when not useful to utilize :-).

Source: dictionary.com

Tweet Me from https://grammarcops.wordpress.com

Read Full Post »

We have been asked several times where we stand on this controversy … you know, the old rule: “i before e, except after c.”

i before e

Ever since the news came out that Britain would forego teaching this rule … (click here to read the news item) … we’ve been ducking the question.

At first, we thougt, “how could they?” … only because we have quite an affinity for grammar rules and helpful tips. Then, we got to thinking (always a dangerous proposition) … That led us to do some research. 

Our number one self-assigned task was to find the exceptions to this rule, that is, those words that, when spelled correctly, have an i before an e after a c. The results were astonishing …

Our search returned 364 words with a correct “… c-i-e …” sequence. Granted, the list includes multiple tenses of several words, plurals (using “…cies”), past tense (using “…cied”), and some words that we would swear are not real (or English, for that matter), however, here are a few notables:

  • science, society, ancient, species, conscience, glacier, efficient, sufficient, coefficient, deficiency.

Next, we looked back for those words that actually fit the rule, in which, after c, the e comes before the i … and we found this to be even more astonishing–that there are so few. Our search led to only 134 entries, with such standouts as:

  • ceiling, deceive, receive, perceive, conceit

The remainder of this list seemed to be filled out with variations on those few.

So, the position we held before Britain’s choice made the news, is now shattered, but we do like the new rule that we read about … “i before e, except when it isn’t.”

For more, take a gander through the great article about this on the always wonderful World Wide Words.

Therefore, instead of breaking from Britain and establishing our independence on this topic, we do hereby bow.

Happy Independence Day, America!

Tweet Me from https://grammarcops.wordpress.com

Read Full Post »

The past day or two, at least among our followers, there has been a lot of buzz on Twitter about the use of punctuation – inside or outside the quotation marks.

First of all, what are “quotation marks”?

quotation mark. noun. one of the marks used to indicate the beginning and end of a quotation, in English usually shown as at the beginning and at the end.

  QMs2

Or, for a quotation within a quotation, of single marks of this kind, as “He said,I will go.” 

QMsSingle

Here’s some “scoop”:

QUOTATION MARKS – Quotation marks serve to indicate spoken dialog and to acknowledge specifically reproduced material.

a. Quotation marks are used to enclose direct quotations.

The supervisor said, “Come to my desk, young man.”

Note: Single quotation marks ( ‘  ‘ ) are used to enclose a quotation within a quotation.

The student asked, “Who popularized the statement ‘This is the best of all possible worlds’?”

b. Quotation marks should be used to enclose titles of short poems, stories, and articles that are usually printed as a part of a larger work.

She read “Ode on a Grecian Urn” from an anthology.

c. Quotation marks may be used to enclose a word used as a word (rather than for its meaning).

The word “school” brings back pleasant memories. And, do not overuse the word “and” in formal writing.

Now, let’s get to the more immediate question …

here or here with quotes

When other marks of punctuation are used with quotation marks, the following practices should be observed:

(1) A question mark or an exclamation point is placed inside the final quotation mark if it is part of the quotation, outside if it is part of the sentence that includes the quoted material.

part of quote

not part of quote

(2) Commas and periods are always placed inside the closing quotation marks.

periods and commas

(3) Semicolons and colons are always placed outside the closing quotation marks.

colons and semis

Click here to download the complimentary pdf document of these rules.

Sources: dictionary.com; Webster’s New World Secretarial Handbook. New Rev. Ed. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1981.

To keep it fun, we must include the following:

Air quotes, also called fingerquotes or Ersatz quotes (pronounced /ˈɛrzæts/) refers to using one’s fingers to make virtual quotation marks in the air when speaking. This is typically done with both hands held shoulder-width apart and at the eye level of the speaker, with the index and middle fingers on each hand forming a V sign and then flexing at the beginning and end of the phrase being quoted. The air-quoted phrase is generally very short — a few words at most — in common usage, though sometimes much longer phrases may be used for comic effect.

While the term “air quotes” did not appear until 1989, use of similar gestures has been recorded as early as 1927. A single handed quote is an equivalent, though less dramatic variation. This became very popular since the 1990s.

Air quotes are often used to express satire, sarcasm, irony or euphemism. In print, scare quotes fill a similar purpose.

air quotes

Source: Wikipedia

We also recommend visiting our friends over at The “blog” of “unnecessary” quotation marks.

Tweet Me from https://grammarcops.wordpress.com

Read Full Post »

Say what?

We did a little research on apostrophe use in Mother’s Day and Father’s Day messages floating around cyberspace and …

Mom’s win!

By far, there were more mistake’s for Mother’s than there were foul up’s for Father’s … (of course, our apostrophe abuse is intentional here).

We thought you might get a chuckle at some of our findings, so, here you go:

  • Happy Mother’s Day to all the lovely Mom’s!
  • … wishing all the Mommy’s I know a Happy Mothers Day!! (this one could have just moved the mark to Mothers)
  • We have to celebrate our mama’s by the way…
  • … can’t wait to have dinner at moms house. (now, this one needs an apostrophe)

Therefore, today’s punctuation concentration is on avoiding that embarassing apostrophe catastrophe 

To start, let’s define this little character:

apostrophe. noun. a mark of punctuation ( )used to indicate possessive case or omission of one or more letter(s) from a word.

You may see some sources state that the apostrophe is also used for indicating plurals of abbreviations, acronyms and symbols. We heartily disagree with this usage — we feel that this practice is outdated.

We do like Grammar Book’s baker’s dozen of Rules for Apostrophes, so we’ll refer you to their site for the full details and just give you a summary here, with one addition from us:

Our Apostrophe Rule:

0. Do not use an apostrophe to form a plural. This goes for words, symbols, abbreviations, and acronyms. * (This is related to Rules 5. – names, and 11. – CAPS & numbers used as nouns, below, but more encompassing.)

* Here are examples of misuse according to our rule:

CD-s and DVD-s

SUV-s

PC-s

Grammar Book’s Apostrophe Rules:

  1. Use the apostrophe with contractions.
  2. Use the apostrophe to show possession.
  3. Use the apostrophe where the noun that should follow is implied.
  4. Use the apostrophe to show plural possession.
  5. Do not use an apostrophe for the plural of a name. * (We have some people in mind who need to learn this rule!)
  6. Use the apostrophe with a singular compound noun, to show possession.
  7. Use the apostrophe with a plural compound noun, to show possession.
  8. Use the apostrophe and s after the second name only if two people possess the same item.
  9. Never use an apostrophe with possessive pronouns: his, hers, its, theirs, ours, yours, whose.
  10. The only time an apostrophe is used for it’s is when it is a contraction for it is or it has. (Remember, “its” is a possessive pronoun – no apostrophe.) See photo below.
  11. The plurals for capital letters and numbers used as nouns are not formed with apostrophes. *
  12. Use the possessive case in front of a gerund (-ing word).
  13. If the gerund has a pronoun in front of it, use the possessive form of that pronoun. (Refer to Rule 9. re: pronouns.)

Speaking of rules … we like this … from Trevor Coultart:

it's

Should be its.

 Sources: GrammarBook.com, Flickr

Tweet Me from https://grammarcops.wordpress.com

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »