GrammarPhile Blog

As You Like It ... or Not

Posted by Terri Porter   Jun 11, 2015 4:30:00 AM

This week we wrap up our three-part miniseries on pronouns by taking on one of the most hotly debated grammar questions — the use of like versus as — and how your choices will dictate which pronouns you use.

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Topics: conjunctions, pronouns, prepositions, like

Pronouns with Comparatives: More than Meets the I

Posted by Terri Porter   Jun 4, 2015 4:30:00 AM

Mark Twain may not have been talking about pronouns when he said “Comparison is the death of joy,” but the sentiment somehow fits. Just ask anyone who struggles with figuring out which pronouns to use with comparatives such as than, as and like.

How can three little words wreak so much havoc with pronouns? The short answer is that all three words can perform multiple functions in a sentence, and when the function isn’t clear, the resulting usage is mixed.

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Topics: conjunctions, pronouns, prepositions, pronouns with than, comparatives

The Return from Neverland

Posted by Terri Porter   May 7, 2015 5:00:00 AM

 

Never start a sentence with a conjunction. Never end a sentence with a preposition. How many times have you heard these and similar refrains?

Some find a certain comfort in such absolutes because correcting the problem is generally easy — they see one of these errors, and they fix it. But rigidity can be stifling, especially when the reasoning behind it is “because that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

Does that mean writers can just make up their own rules as they go along? Of course not. But questioning the basis for rules serves two purposes: (1) It increases understanding of the rules and their application, and (2) it allows for evolution of the language.

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Topics: conjunctions, prepositions, rules for writing

A Semicolon Example: When to Use or Not

Posted by Julie DeSilva   Jun 26, 2012 5:30:00 AM

It's an unusual water ski, no one knows much about it is an example of the so-called comma fault--using a comma to connect two independent clauses. The comma is not a connector; it is a separator. The semicolon, however, can function as both a connector and a separator, and at the same time: It's an unusual water ski; no one knows much about it. If we use a comma, then we have to supply a connector--that is, a conjunction such as and: It's an unusual water ski, and no one knows much about it.

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Topics: parallel structure, parallelism, punctuation, conjunctions

Determining Numbers in a Series

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Jun 13, 2012 5:30:00 AM

We often find mismatched subjects and verbs in even the most smartly edited client documents. But that's why we're here! Check out this week's post on the subject.

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Topics: numbers, plural or singular verb, conjunctions, plural

Headline Style -- Read All About It!

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Aug 24, 2010 4:30:00 AM

If you're in the newspaper business, you know how to properly capitalize headlines. But people writing white papers, press releases, brochures, and even résumés need to know what's right and what's wrong in order to retain the respect and admiration, to say nothing of the trust, of their readers. So take note!

Most style guides call for lower-casing prepositions, articles, and many conjunctions. But there are lots of extenuating circumstances that call for uppercasing those words sometimes. Read on, but first:

- A preposition is a word that could describe your relationship to a cloud: you're in the cloud, under the cloud, above the cloud, around the cloud, by the cloud, before the cloud, after the cloud. These italicized words are prepositions.
- The articles are the, a, and an -- they point out things: the boy, a man.
- Conjunctions join things: and, or, nor, while, etc.

The Chicago Manual of Style says to always capitalize the first and last words of a headline, no matter what. Lowercase prepositions, regardless of length, except when they are stressed (as through in A River Runs Through It), are used adverbially or adjectivally (as up in Look Up, down in Turn Down, on in The On Button, etc.), are used as conjunctions (such as before in Look Before You Leap), or are part of a Latin expression used adjectivally or adverbially (e.g., De Facto, In Vitro, etc.). CMS specifies lowercasing the conjunctions and, but, for, or, nor. Always lowercase to and as.

Examples:

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Topics: capitalization, conjunctions, preposition, style guide, Chicago Manual of Style, Gregg Reference Manual

While - Don't Overuse It!

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Aug 10, 2010 5:00:00 AM

While is a conjunction primarily. It has overflowed its primary meaning, during the time that, into realms that belong to although, whereas, and, and the semicolon without connective.
  • Thirty-five of the fifty female skiers made their way through the course, while only thirty of the fifty male skiers completed it.
  • Sixteen of the female skiers were American, while nine were Australian.
The first while plainly means whereas (= but by contrast); the second means nothing (sixteen were American; nine were Australian).
  • He said his daughter could jump, while (should be "and") his son and nephew could slalom.
    (should be "although") born right-handed, he had learned to ski 'right-footed.' (should be "and") in the next decade this heavy figure is expected to double. (should be "and") two popular prizes will be given on the last day.
  • He recalled that while
  • In the past six years alone college enrollment has jumped 45 percent, while
  • Cash prizes will be presented the first day of the show, while
What is worth noting about these specimens is that the facts linked with while belong to times expressly stated to be different. To write that something happened today while something else happened ten years ago is to work hard at achieving contradiction.

Ideally, the conjunction while should be restricted to the linking of simultaneous occurrences in a situation where simultaneity has a point.
  • Then it is the brave man who chooses, while the coward stands aside.
No writer, surely, can do himself harm by declining to use it otherwise. Yet as things stand, it is impossible to make much headway against such a use as
  • While there have been more than 100 callers soliciting in this area, it has not been possible to call on everyone.
This while is a concessive that means although, and its claim to grudging acceptance is that it entails no temporal clash between facts. To tolerate while as a link between events patently not simultaneous is to misapply tolerance:
  • In the daytime he's star of his own show, while at night he becomes the general announcer on the nationwide talk show.
The mind accustomed to ignoring what while means will soon not respond to its true meaning in One idles while the other works.
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Topics: conjunctions, whereas

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