Year: 2008

December 23, 2008

Less and Fewer

I know this topic has been addressed in detail elsewhere (see goofy’s post here, for example), but a friend recently asked me about it, so I thought I’d take a crack at it. It’s fairly straightforward: there are the complex, implicit rules that people have been following for over a thousand years, and then there […]

Usage, Words 13 Replies to “Less and Fewer
September 6, 2008


Recently I received an e-mail from my bank informing me that they had experienced some system outages. What struck me was that the e-mail kept referring to “impacted systems,” and it conjured up some strange mental images. A lot of people hate the verb impact because they say that it should only be a noun […]

Usage, Words 6 Replies to “Impacted”
August 26, 2008

New and Improved Shirts

Just a quick update to say that I’ve redone the design for my Better Living Through Syntax shirts. Now it actually looks like a proper X-bar structure instead of a hastily drawn tree-thingy. Check it out! Keep in mind that the shirt colors there are just examples—you can choose your own. And, as always, if […]

Uncategorized 2 Replies to “New and Improved Shirts”
August 7, 2008

The Newest Fangled Backformation

The other day at work I came across a fantastic formation I’d never seen before: “newest fangled.” It was from a speech given back in 1938 by J. Reuben Clark at Brigham Young University, where the law school is named for him. The speech was pretty formal and serious, so I’m not sure if I […]

Words 2 Replies to “The Newest Fangled Backformation”
July 13, 2008


This is a subject I’ve wanted to write about for quite some time, but the recent movie WALL-E has reminded me of the issue once again, and that is this: some people seem to think that logos are the ultimate guide to the orthography of some names. Now, Bill Walsh has already covered this topic […]

Editing 7 Replies to “Logography”
June 2, 2008

Numbers and Hyphens

Recently I got a letter from my phone company informing me that my area code will be switching to 10-digit dialing sometime next year. Several times the letter mentioned that we will have to start dialing “10-digits.” It was very consistent—every time the numeral 10 was followed by the noun “digits,” there was a hyphen […]

Editing 9 Replies to “Numbers and Hyphens”
May 20, 2008

New Store, New Products

First off, let me apologize for not writing anything in a while. I’ve been busy with preparations for grad school and a new baby and haven’t gotten around to working on any of the ideas I’ve got bouncing around. I promise I’ll work on something soon. But for now, you’ll have to be satisfied with […]

Uncategorized 0 Replies to “New Store, New Products”
March 19, 2008

Rules Are Rules

Recently I was involved in an online discussion about the pronunciation of the word the before vowels. Someone wanted to know if it was pronounced /ði/ (“thee”) before vowels only in singing, or if it was a general rule of speech as well. His dad had said it was a rule, but he had never […]

Descriptivism, Language education, Prescriptivism 0 Replies to “Rules Are Rules”
February 4, 2008

How I Became a Descriptivist

Believe it or not, I wasn’t always the grammar free-love hippie that I am now. I actually used to be known as quite a grammar nazi. This was back in my early days as an editor (during my first year or two of college) when I was learning lots of rules about grammar and usage […]

Descriptivism, Editing, Prescriptivism, Usage 7 Replies to “How I Became a Descriptivist”
January 2, 2008

Source Checking

In my current job making day planners, I get to read a lot of quotes. I don’t know who decided that day planners needed cheesy motivational and inspirational quotes in the first place, but that’s just the way it’s done. One of my tasks is to compile databases of quotes and to make sure everything […]

Editing 4 Replies to “Source Checking”
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