GrammarPhile Blog

Grammar Rules You Can and Should Break in Your Marketing Copy

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Feb 23, 2017 7:30:00 AM


As a writer and a professional, you should always strive to be grammatically correct. However, there are times when it’s less important to follow strict grammar rules and more important to connect with your audience. Especially when you’re attempting to inform or persuade an audience about an idea or product.

You can’t truly connect with your audience if you aren’t speaking their language. And if you truly want to speak their language, you will be conversational yet professional in your copy. Sometimes this means you’ll have to break some of the rules, like the ones listed below.

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Topics: grammar, grammar rules

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

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

Miscellaneous Items...

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Jan 23, 2013 5:30:00 AM

Here's a small collection of miscellaneous rules for grammar. Perhaps one will be something you can use in the next ten minutes.

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Topics: grammar, verbs

In Grammar, Possession is Less than Nine-Tenths of the Law

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

There are many rules in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It's important that you follow all of them in order to ensure that your documents are acceptable to all readers. We see many documents in which the authors' confusion regarding possessive punctuation is evident. The following list, taken from The Chicago Manual of Style(15th edition), will help clear things up:
  • Kansas's legislature
  • Chicago's lakefront
  • Burns's poems
  • Marx's theories
  • Berlioz's works
  • Strauss's Vienna
  • Dickens's novels
  • the Lincolns' marriage
  • William's reputation
  • the Williamses' new house
  • Malraux's masterpiece
  • Inez's diary
  • the Martinezes' daughter
  • Josquin des Prez's motets
  • dinner at the Browns' (that is, at the Browns' home)
  • FDR's legacy
  • 1999's heaviest snowstorm
  • Yahoo!'s chief executive
    Exceptions (for names of two or more syllables that end in an eez sound):
  • Euripides' tragedies
  • the Ganges' source
  • Xerxes' armies
    and (for words and names ending in unpronounced s)
  • Descartes' three dreams
  • the marquis' mother
  • Francois' efforts to learn English
  • Albert Camus' novels (the s is unpronounced)
  • Raoul Camus's anthology (the s is pronounced)
    Other exceptions:
  • for righteousness' sake
  • for goodness' sake
  • for Jesus' sake
  • Jesus's disciples


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Topics: possessives, punctuation, grammar

Evie eat it my muffin!

Posted by Conni Eversull   Jun 21, 2011 5:30:00 AM

You’re probably thinking “What does that title mean and what does it have to do with grammar and punctuation and writing?” Well, today, I thought I’d take a little break from our standard posts. I don’t know about you, but with summer almost here I know I’m starting to look forward to long hot summer days and some vacation time. So, here’s a post from a lighter side.

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Topics: sentences, documents, punctuation, grammar, pronouns, verbs

Grammar Questions Answered

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Mar 22, 2011 5:30:00 AM

Here are some questions we've received from readers and clients, followed by our answers. Hope you find these helpful!

Question:  Would you hyphenate "we must perform our work with a high-level of technical expertise, professionalism, and integrity"?

Answer:  In this example, there should be no hyphen in "high level" - that's because it is not a compound adjective. "Level" is a noun that is modified by "high."

Now, if you take out the word "of" there, then "high-level" becomes a compound adjective and it IS hyphenated. "We need high-level expertise in order to compete."

More examples:

  • He displayed a high level of intelligence.
  • She is a high-level consultant at Monsanto.
  • They sought higher-level access at the Kennedy Space Center.
  • He showed a high level of interest in our design.

Question:  It is my understanding that abbreviations such as "etc., i.e., and e.g." are only used parenthetically, if at all. Why not simply write "and so forth, that is, and for example"?

Answer:  Yes, why not use "that is" and "for example"? Well, sometimes people want to be quicker with their writing, so abbreviations are brought in. Some clients of ours have in their style guides prohibitions on using these abbreviations, but most people rely on them, we see.

The biggest trouble we see with them is when writers confuse them, using "i.e." when they mean "e.g." And in British form, neither takes a comma, whereas in American form, both take commas.

Style guides say it's a matter of personal preference. We'd never change "for example" to "e.g." in a client document, and we'd only change "e.g." to "for example" if the style guide directed us to.

Question:  What's the rule for writing the name of a newsletter--italicized or underlined?

Answer:  Chicago style (Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition) has this:

CMS8.2: Chicago prefers italics to set off titles of major or freestanding works such as books, journals, movies, and paintings...Quotation marks are usually reserved for the titles of subsections of larger works--including chapter and article titles and the titles of poems that have been collected into a series.

Chicago does not use underlining at all, apparently.

So, we suggest putting a newsletter title in italics.

Do you have any questions you'd like our grammar experts to answer? Click here to submit your question!

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Topics: hyphenation, italicize, adjectives, abbreviations, grammar, Chicago Manual of Style

Try and... or Try to...

Posted by Conni Eversull   Feb 1, 2011 5:30:00 AM

The following guest post was written by one of our former editors, Lynnette Goldy. Here's an example of something that really gets Lynnette steaming!

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Topics: grammar

Mother, May I?

Posted by Kimberly Largent   Nov 16, 2010 4:30:00 AM

Everyone remembers that childhood game, right? The one where you couldn’t take a step forward unless you asked the game leader, “Mother, May I?” Funny how we were grammatical as children, but we lost that ability as we aged.

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Topics: misused words, word usage, grammar

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