Category: Usage

January 28, 2016

Historic, Historical

My brother recently asked me how to use pairs of words like historic/historical, mathematic/mathematical, and problematic/problematical. The typical usage advice is pretty straightforward—use historic to refer to important things from history and historical to refer to anything having to do with past events, important or not—but the reality of usage is a lot more complicated. […]

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Usage 4 Replies to “Historic, Historical”
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”
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%”
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”
February 11, 2015

Why Is It “Woe Is Me”?

I recently received an email asking about the expression woe is me, namely what the plural would be and why it’s not woe am I. Though the phrase may strike modern speakers as bizarre if not downright ungrammatical, there’s actually a fairly straightforward explanation: it’s an archaic dative expression. Strange as it may seem, the […]

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Grammar, Usage 32 Replies to “Why Is It “Woe Is Me”?”
January 7, 2015

On Visual Thesaurus: “Clear and/or Unclear”

And/or is a surprisingly contentious little conjunction. Some lawyers love it, but most editors hate it—and many judges hate it too. Find out what the problem is in my newest post on Visual Thesaurus, “Clear and/or Unclear”.

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Usage 6 Replies to “On Visual Thesaurus: “Clear and/or Unclear””
October 6, 2014

New Post on Visual Thesaurus: Less Usage Problems

I have a new post on Visual Thesaurus, and this one’s open to non-subscribers: The distinction between less and fewer is one of the most popular rules in the peevers’ arsenal. It’s a staple of lists of grammar rules that everyone supposedly gets wrong, and sticklers have pressured stores into changing their signs from “10 […]

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Usage, Words 0 Replies to “New Post on Visual Thesaurus: Less Usage Problems”
June 10, 2014

Do Usage Debates Make You Nauseous?

Several days ago, the Twitter account for the Chicago Manual of Style tweeted, “If you’re feeling sick, use nauseated rather than nauseous. Despite common usage, whatever is nauseous induces nausea.” The relevant entry in Chicago reads, Whatever is nauseous induces a feeling of nausea—it makes us feel sick to our stomachs. To feel sick is […]

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Usage, Words 18 Replies to “Do Usage Debates Make You Nauseous?”
May 11, 2014

Mother’s Day

Today is officially Mother’s Day, and as with other holidays with possessive or plural endings, there’s a lot of confusion about what the correct form of the name is. The creator of Mother’s Day in the United States, Anna Jarvis, specifically stated that it should be a singular possessive to focus on individual mothers rather […]

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Grammar, Usage 2 Replies to “Mother’s Day”
April 24, 2014

Over Has Always Meant More Than. Get Over it.

Last month, at the yearly conference of the American Copy Editors Society, the editors of the AP Stylebook announced that over in the sense of more than was now acceptable. For decades, newspaper copy editors had been changing constructions like over three hundred people to more than three hundred people; now, with a word from […]

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Usage, Words 18 Replies to “Over Has Always Meant More Than. Get Over it.”
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