GrammarPhile Blog

Terri Porter

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The Great Grammar Debate: Results Are Surprisingly Lopsided

Posted by Terri Porter   Oct 20, 2016 7:00:00 AM


In the aftermath of the final showdown last night between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, we offer a different kind of post-debate coverage — a look into where our readers stand on three grammar, style and usage questions that have long generated controversy … and apparently still do to some extent. Here, we present a summary of the responses from last week’s poll, along with a sampling of the numerous comments we received.

The results for all three questions were heavily skewed to one side, but the arguments for both sides of each issue were reasonable, on point and well-articulated. Most of the 123 respondents staunchly defended their position, but more than a few surprisingly acknowledged they could go either way or that they had changed their views after a longtime adherence to the opposite position.

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Topics: grammar, subjunctive form, spacing, Oxford comma, Comma

The Great Grammar Debate: Where Do YOU Stand?

Posted by Terri Porter   Oct 13, 2016 7:30:00 AM


Given the hullabaloo that marked the first two presidential debates, which undoubtedly will continue through the final face-off next week and beyond, now seems a good time to look at a different kind of debate — those controversial grammar, style and usage questions that can incite even the most reserved among us to dig in, square off and argue our position to the end.

We present three of the many issues that rankle grammar and style arbiters far and wide, along with the primary arguments for each side, then ask you, our audience, to weigh in. In addition to recording your vote on each issue, you’ll have an opportunity to comment on why you prefer one approach over the other (assuming you have a choice and aren’t bound by, say, a company style guide). There are no right or wrong answers — we’re just curious to see where people land on these questions. Post-election results and commentary to follow in next week’s post.

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Topics: grammar, subjunctive form, spacing, Oxford comma, Comma

Who or Whom? Get It Right Every Time with These 3 Tricks

Posted by Terri Porter   Sep 15, 2016 7:30:00 AM

Whether to use who or whom confounds a lot of people. The basic rule is easy enough, but even the most seasoned editors and writers can stumble over sentences like the following:

Think about who you want to cover and who is eligible for coverage.

Part of the problem is that the sentence sounds perfectly natural. And in fact, in everyday conversation, it’s fine. But in more formal contexts and to be grammatically correct, that first who should be whom.

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Topics: who, whom

Release Your Inner Grammar Demons

Posted by Terri Porter   Aug 31, 2016 7:30:00 AM

In our last post , we suggested that correcting others’ grammar often isn’t a good idea, especially in casual conversation. That’s not to say you can’t mentally correct mistakes. For me, it happens involuntarily when I hear or see certain errors. You know the ones — those that make the hair on your neck bristle, your jaw tighten, your heart skip a beat.

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Topics: grammatical errors, grammar errors

Should You Correct Others’ Grammar?

Posted by Terri Porter   Aug 18, 2016 7:00:00 AM

The bounds of civility seem to be eroding faster than a sandcastle in a tsunami. Nowhere is this more evident than in social media. Any public forum in which readers can comment on another’s posting has become fertile ground for nit-picking, tongue-lashings, biting sarcasm and just plain rudeness — and more frequently, grammar bashing.

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Topics: grammar, correcting grammar

Hot off the Press: The Answers to Last Week’s Cool Quiz

Posted by Terri Porter   Aug 4, 2016 7:30:00 AM


A big thanks to everyone who took our proofreading quiz last week. Of the 128 respondents, Barb Poole was the only one to answer all 12 questions correctly. For her proofreading prowess, Barb wins a $25 Amazon gift card (and a job with if she wants it).

The correct answer appears below each question, along with a brief explanation.

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Topics: quiz answers, quiz, grammar quiz

Lie or Lay? Get It Right Every Time

Posted by Terri Porter   Jul 6, 2016 7:30:00 AM


The lay vs. lie question frequently generates a lot of fireworks, so it seems an appropriate one to address following the Fourth of July.

Substituting lay (to place or arrange) for lie (to recline or be situated) is undoubtedly one of the most common usage errors in English. Why? Because, for one thing, the past tense of lie is lay. For another, lie can also mean to fib, and using the word correctly might lead to ambiguity in certain instances, as here: Eric is lying about the house.

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Topics: lie, lay, laying, misused words, lying

Resumes That Get You Noticed

Posted by Terri Porter   Jun 22, 2016 9:57:02 AM

Nearly everyone has to write a resume at some point, and our editors tackle a fair number of them on a regular basis. Most of our customers simply want us to check for errors (a good thing!), but we’ve seen more than a few that would benefit from an overhaul. That’s because the majority, by far, are formatted traditionally, listing work experience in reverse chronological order, with an accompanying description of job duties for each position.

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Topics: skills-based resume, resume writing, resume

Internet: Making the Case for Lowercase

Posted by Terri Porter   Jun 8, 2016 7:30:00 AM

The release of the 2016 AP Stylebook on June 1 tolled the blessed end of a style point I’ve never understood: the capitalization of internet (and the related web). It evokes a similar sense of satisfaction as AP’s decisions in 2010 to use website instead of Web site and in 2011 to use email instead of e-mail.

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Topics: capitalization, AP style, AP stylebook

Putting Only in Its Place

Posted by Terri Porter   May 25, 2016 7:30:00 AM

For being such a small word, only wreaks a lot of havoc — largely because it’s probably the most frequently misplaced word in the English language.

Its proper placement is immediately before the word or phrase it modifies. The farther it strays, the more likely ambiguity will result.

Consider these examples:

     Only Sarah sees clients on Mondays and Wednesdays.
     Sarah only sees clients on Mondays and Wednesdays.
     Sarah sees only clients on Mondays and Wednesdays.
     Sarah sees clients only on Mondays and Wednesdays.

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Topics: placement of only

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