GrammarPhile Blog

Julie DeSilva

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Who and Whom; Whoever and Whomever

Posted by Julie DeSilva   Jan 10, 2012 5:30:00 AM

These pronouns are both interrogative pronouns (used in asking questions) and relative pronouns (used to refer to a noun in the main clause). 

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Topics: who and whoever, whom and whomever, interrogative pronouns, relative pronouns

More Compound Adjectives

Posted by Julie DeSilva   Dec 6, 2011 5:30:00 PM

We began last week's post with "No aspect of style causes greater difficulty than compound adjectives." Some readers took exception to that statement. Okay, it was over the top, perhaps. But you would just not believe the debates these things can cause when a group of strong-willed (strong willed?) grammarians get together and haggle over a client's document! Surely we can all agree that mistakes concerning compound adjectives are at least far too commonplace.

Here are two more rules, with examples, covering some words you may have wondered about:

A number of adjective-noun combinations (such as real estate or social security) and noun-noun combinations (such as life insurance or money market) are actually well-established compound nouns serving as adjectives. Unlike short-term, low-risk, red-carpet, and part-time, these expressions refer to well-known concepts or institutions. Because they are easily grasped as a unit, they do not require a hyphen.

  • accounts payable records
  • branch office reports
  • income tax return
  • life insurance policy
  • public relations adviser
  • word processing center
  • nuclear energy plant
  • social security tax
  • exception: a mail-order business

When a compound adjective consists of a noun plus an adjective, hyphenate this combination whether it appears before or after the noun.

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Topics: hyphenation, adjectives

Compound Adjectives

Posted by Julie DeSilva   Nov 29, 2011 5:30:00 AM

No aspect of style causes greater difficulty than compound adjectives. When a compound adjective is shown hyphenated in the dictionary, you can assume only that the expression is hyphenated when it occurs directly before a noun. When the same combination of words falls elsewhere in the sentence, the use or omission of hyphens depends on how the words are used.

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Topics: hyphenation, adjectives

Highlighting for Attention

Posted by Julie DeSilva   Nov 8, 2011 5:30:00 AM

What writer does not want to grab the attention of his or her readers? Whether your lot in life is writing directions for cashing in winning lottery tickets or box labels for over-the-counter sleeping pills, you need to compel your readers to absorb all of the text (even the part about "may cause drowsiness"). Consider using, but not overusing, some of today's tips in your very next assignment.

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Topics: italicize, quotation marks

Twisted? Misused? How About Just Plain Wrong?

Posted by Julie DeSilva   Oct 25, 2011 5:30:00 AM

pretzelDo you know the origin of the word malapropism? It is taken from the character of Mrs. Malaprop in the 1775 R.B. Sheridan comedy The Rivals.

A malaprop is simply an example of a malapropism, and a malapropism is a usually unintentionally humorous misuse or distortion of a word or phrase; more especially the use of a word sounding somewhat like the one intended but ludicrously wrong in the context. For example, "he always said 'polo bears' and 'Remember Pearl Island' and 'neon stockings.'"

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Topics: malapropism


Posted by Julie DeSilva   Oct 11, 2011 5:30:00 AM

An idiom is an expression, common to a particular language, that often differs from the literal meaning of its parts taken as a whole. "A manifestation of the peculiar" is the closest possible translation of the Greek word.

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Topics: idioms

Do you write really good? Please say it ain't so!

Posted by Julie DeSilva   Sep 27, 2011 5:30:00 AM

Don't "wreck" your writing by misusing adverbs as adjectives, and don't "get lost" misusing adjectives as adverbs.

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Topics: adverbs, adjectives, writing tips

Vocabulary Test - Rate Your Skills

Posted by Julie DeSilva   Apr 27, 2010 5:00:00 AM

Before we take you to our vocabulary quiz, here's something fun to try! This is interesting, and proves that the brain is a marvelous work of creation!

Instructions: Just read the following sentence straight through without really thinking about it:

Acocdrnig to an Elgnsih unviesitry sutdy, the oredr of letetrs in a wrod dosen't mttaer, the olny thnig thta's iopmrantt is that the frsit and lsat ltteer of eevry word is in the crcreot ptoision. The rset can be jmbueld and one is stlil albe to raed the txet wiohtut dclftfuiiy.

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Confused by or and nor?

Posted by Julie DeSilva   Apr 6, 2010 5:00:00 AM

One of the common errors we see in our customers' documents is the misuse of the singular or plural of a verb following or or nor in the subject.

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Topics: plural or singular verb

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