Year: 2015

November 30, 2015

How to Use Quotation Marks

In my work as a copyeditor, one of the most common style errors I see is the overuse of quotation marks. Of course quotation marks should be used to set off quotations, but some writers have a rather expansive notion of what quotation marks should be used for, sprinkling them liberally throughout a document on […]

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Punctuation 8 Replies to “How to Use Quotation Marks”
November 4, 2015

The Drunk Australian Accent Theory

Last week a story started making the rounds claiming that the Australian accent is the result of an “alcoholic slur” from heavy-drinking early settlers. Here’s the story from the Telegraph, which is where I first saw it. The story has already been debunked by David Crystal and others, but it’s still going strong. The story […]

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Rants, Sociolinguistics 6 Replies to “The Drunk Australian Accent Theory”
September 14, 2015

Overanxious about Ambiguity

As my last post revealed, a lot of people are concerned—or at least pretend to be concerned—about the use of anxious to mean “eager” or “excited”. They claim that since it has multiple meanings, it’s ambiguous, and thus the disparaged “eager” sense should be avoided. But as I said in my last post, it’s not […]

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Usage, Words 21 Replies to “Overanxious about Ambiguity”
August 28, 2015

New Shirts, Now on Sale

To make up for not posting for a few months, I’ve added a few new shirts to the Arrant Pedantry Store. Take a look! If you see a design you like but want it on a different shirt or other product, you can use the product designer here. And through September 1, you can get […]

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Uncategorized 2 Replies to “New Shirts, Now on Sale”
August 21, 2015

This Is Not the Grammatical Promised Land

I recently became aware of a column in the Chicago Daily Herald by the paper’s managing editor, Jim Baumann, who has taken upon himself the name Grammar Moses. In his debut column, he’s quick to point out that he’s not like the real Moses—“My tablets are not carved in stone. Grammar is a fluid thing.” […]

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Editing, Prescriptivism 30 Replies to “This Is Not the Grammatical Promised Land”
May 18, 2015

You Are Not Dr. Seuss

A couple of weeks ago, Nancy Friedman tweeted a link to an article about Netflix’s forthcoming adaptation of Green Eggs and Ham. And sadly but predictably, whoever wrote the press release about the announcement felt compelled to write in Seussian verse, despite having no idea how to do so. Here’s the official press release, and […]

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Phonology, Poetry 6 Replies to “You Are Not Dr. Seuss”
April 27, 2015

Language, Logic, and Correctness

In “Why Descriptivists Are Usage Liberals”, I said that there some logical problems with declaring something to be right or wrong based on evidence. A while back I explored this problem in a piece titled “What Makes It Right?” over on Visual Thesaurus. The terms prescriptive and descriptive were borrowed from philosophy, where they are […]

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Descriptivism, Prescriptivism 4 Replies to “Language, Logic, and Correctness”
March 5, 2015

No, Online Grammar Errors Have Not Increased by 148%

Yesterday a post appeared on QuickandDirtyTips.com (home of Grammar Girl’s popular podcast) that appears to have been written by a company called Knowingly, which is promoting its Correctica grammar-checking tool. They claim that “online grammar errors have increased by 148% in nine years”. If true, it would be a pretty shocking claim, but the numbers […]

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Grammar, Usage 6 Replies to “No, Online Grammar Errors Have Not Increased by 148%”
March 4, 2015

Why Descriptivists Are Usage Liberals

Outside of linguistics, the people who care most about language tend to be prescriptivists—editors, writers, English teachers, and so on—while linguists and lexicographers are descriptivists. “Descriptive, not prescriptive!” is practically the linguist rallying cry. But we linguists have done a terrible job of explaining just what that means and why it matters. As I tried […]

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Descriptivism, Prescriptivism 11 Replies to “Why Descriptivists Are Usage Liberals”
February 23, 2015

Fifty Shades of Bad Grammar Advice

A few weeks ago, the folks at the grammar-checking website Grammarly wrote a piece about supposed grammar mistakes in Fifty Shades of Grey. Despite being a runaway hit, the book has frequently been criticized for its terrible prose, and Grammarly apparently saw an opportunity to fix some of the book’s problems (and probably sell its […]

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Editing, Grammar, Punctuation, Rants, Usage 18 Replies to “Fifty Shades of Bad Grammar Advice”
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