In Ben Yagoda's The Sound On the Page, p.62, the following is written: "A nonstandard gerund at the end of sentences is an Elmore Leonard trademark. ('Today he watched from the wicker chair, the green shirt on the stick figure walking toward the road in the rain, still in the yard when Terry called to him.') So, what is he referring to as a "nonstandard gerund"? I don't see anything working gerundively.
Angelica Smith has passed away. Albert was her son. You were her niece. You want to write a note to the Smith Family, but what to call aunt Angelica in the letter? "I'm sorry for the loss of your mother/grandmother" doesn't quite convey the love you feel. [more inside]
The school where I work is having "sports day," where everyone is supposed to wear sports jerseys. The question came up - should "sports day" be capitalized? [more inside]
An article came up in my social media feed talking about Anne Frank's stepsister. Is there a journalistic reason for this? [more inside]
Using a semicolon in place of a comma when stringing together lengthy/complex dependent clauses; please advise. [more inside]
I’ve been a lifelong reader and writer. I’m realizing while doing more writing (and in particular editing my own writing) that I need better resources and suggestions for learning English grammar. I've been told by some editors that I make mistakes and I’d love to have a better sense of how to polish what I write and deal with the little bits of grammatical inaccuracies that sprout up in finished pieces. [more inside]
I want to write a program to generate new, realistic-sounding and -looking words. I want to programmatically create strings like 'bik', 'clible', 'aunstic', and 'cranoak', (if these words don't already exist), and avoid strings like 'bblejkm', 'aunstrbl', and other things that don't look pronounceable. Looking for a database of word parts to feed into this program, possibly with a set of accompanying rules. English or any other language (ideally with phonetic representations). [more inside]
Hi, I am working on a story and I have a sentence that says, "Please give them the food packets." Can anyone tell me if that is second person point of view or if it's third person point of view. Thanks in advance.
Explain the nuanced difference in meaning between "also" or "too" in this sentence: "We repair your motorcycle too." vs "We repair your motorcycle also."
My friends are are debating the appropriate use of an apostrophe in light of nouns ending in "s". I am many years away from my grammar classes and a bit unsure. Test sentence inside the fold. [more inside]
It's not important at all, but it bothers me! Yes, I know something's wrong with me. But which is correct? And why? [more inside]
Should a sentence end with a quotation mark or the punctuation mark? [more inside]
"Literary studies are..." or "Literary studies is..."? This is for an academic book written in US English. [more inside]
Please help settle a debate. Is the colon in the following sentence used properly? "Disagreement about climate change is rarely a simple dispute about facts: people’s interpretation of climate change information is influenced by cognitive factors and motivated reasoning." Thank you.
Clearly Weird Al's "Word Crimes" is the ne plus ultra of songs about proper word usage. But that can't be the only one! Can you suggest other songs about grammar, syntax, etc? (Note: Ironic by Alanis Morrisette does not fit the bill, as it is neither an accurate definition of ironic nor a good song.)
I'm curious to hear the experiences of people with good writing skills who were raised in families with poor language usage. [more inside]
Help me remember how to conjugate French properly when I talk. [more inside]
Lately I've started noticing the construction "or no" in places where I would have expected "or not". [more inside]
Is the term "help seeking" one word or two? If it is two words, should it be hyphenated when it's not serving as a compound adjective? [more inside]
So, I was designing rules with some EFL students in class the other day about how to differentiate between countable and uncountable nouns. We agreed that things which are too small to reasonably count are uncountable based on sand and the idea that liquids are uncountable (under the assumption that an individual 'piece' of a liquid would be a molecule and as such very, very small). Then one of the students broke the rule by asking why individual circuits are countable even though they are extremely small. So, is there an explanation for this? Does my rule just suck? [more inside]
My junior college (community college) composition students think I'm nuts because I claim it is not wrong to start a sentence with because. a) Who's right and b) What's the origination of the confusion? [more inside]
I am looking for three things here: 1) Some kind of drill, preferably in game format but anything good will do 2) tools to run my writing through to catch my errors and 3) generic reference materials. Online resources are strongly preferred, in part because I get sick when I handle books and papers too much. [more inside]
I'm interested in learning about the details of English grammar and usage, and also maybe in picking up some prescriptions or guidelines for writing well-styled/balanced prose (a la Strunk & White, though my understanding is that there's potentially a great many schools of thought to look at here). The kicker: my academic background is in math and computer science, including the very formal reaches of things like logic, formal languages, etc. Is there any way that this stuff can help me learn that stuff? [more inside]
Is there a concise term that signifies the difference between phrases such as "not all dogs are brown" and "all dogs are not brown"? [more inside]
That is the truth of the matter. Is the above a complete sentence?
The contraction for "would have" is "would've". And yet, if I am writing that "If I have a doctor's appointment at 3pm, I would have to leave at 2pm to be there on time", I don't think I would write "would've to leave at 2pm". That doesn't feel right, but I don't know why. MeFi grammarians?
I feel like I should be able to find this somehow, but I'm just not having much luck - where do grammar nerds go online? I'd like to find some forums. I've found a few language blogs (and if you can recommend more of those, too, I'd appreciate it) and a couple of grammar forums, but they weren't quite what I'm looking for. I want a place to really geek out on grammar/language - sentence diagramming, obscure grammatical rules, history of the English language, etc.
I'm studying Japanese. I want to tag and track individual words and grammatical structures that I'm learning. What software will help me do this? [more inside]
I'm looking for related resources (online & offline) for improving my writing skills for everyday work. [more inside]
I'm teaching high school-level English next year for students who need a high level of academic support and I want the class to be both highly engaging and content-rich. If you were a kid who LOATHED writing for school, struggled with boring English classes, or can remember what elements you truly enjoyed in your high school English class, what advice would you pass my way? [more inside]
"Can you use the Flesch Reading Ease Formula with a one-word sentence or a phrase that isnt a complete sentence? Such as a multiple choice answer on a test.
The fate of the world depends on finding an answer to this question: Which is more grammatically correct -- I'll meet you at IHOP or I'll meet you at the IHOP? If grammar has no opinion, what is the most common formulation? [more inside]
Hi, As a member of the advisory board of the Butts Institute I've been asked to seek feedback regarding our motto, "recte, rectus, rectum". While I believe the phrase is close to perfect, would any Latin-knowers care to comment on the grammar and rectility of the slogan? Are there any adjustments we can make in order to improve it? Thank you
Tryin' to track down a portfolio of English reading/writing laminated bifold four page workbooks. [more inside]
I’ve noticed that I’m increasingly reading “I’ve not” in place of “I haven’t” and “I’ll not” in place of “I won’t.” When I was growing up (the 70s), these expressions were exceedingly rare. I knew they existed, of course, but to me they seemed redolent of century-old books: “I’ll not brook such behavior in my classroom, Tom Sawyer!” “Fezziwig! I’ve not heard his voice since my youth.” But in the last 15 years or so, I've been seeing these phrasings more and more often in colloquial writing — other blogs, Amazon reviews, internet discussions, MeFi etc. I don’t seem to hear these forms spoken, which adds to their air of formality. [more inside]
I am seeing comma splices used with increasing frequency, both in writing I edit at work and on various websites. They seem particularly common when the second phrase begins with the word "however." I know that some words and constructions become correct by usage over time. Are comma splices becoming acceptable? Editors, do you remove them when you find them, or let them stand? [more inside]
Sometimes, some documents I read are so convoluted that I don't understand what they are telling me. I've found this to be true in for legal documents including terms of agreements and constitutions among others. Is there any kind of program that looks at the syntax of sections of text and converts them into block diagrams showing the relationships between subjects and objects with the verb, adverbs, adjectives, etc. showing how they are connected? For instance, if it was highlighting the sentence, "See Spot run", there would be two boxes, one labeled Spot and one labeled You with an arrow connecting the latter to the former. I'm thinking of something similar to sentence diagramming but graphically represented and not nearly as complicated. It seems to me that if something could lay out all of the relationships within a document, that would make it much easier for someone to understand what it means. Or is that magical thinking on my part?
Is English changing to use simpler past versions of verbs now? Recently I've been seeing a lot of sneaked, dived etc., when back at school I had to learn that irregular verbs have past forms like snuck and dove. (Disclaimer: I'm not a native speaker of English.) [more inside]
I've recently noticed an irritating trend in English-language writing: sections that really should be written in the past perfect tense are instead in the simple past tense. I've seen this more in American English than in British English, but that might just be confirmation bias. Is there a reason for this, for example a new style of teaching in schools or universities? And is it really new, or am I just looking for things to get annoyed about? [more inside]
I just had someone tell me that it is correct to close a letter with “Signed, [Mr. Letter Writer].” It’s the use of the word “Signed” that I find strange and just wrong. I have never in my life seen this and am having a hard time believing it is acceptable. Can anyone enlighten me?
I am required to bring a "word of the day" to my Toastmasters club's next meeting. This word should be an interesting and useful word that will expand everyone's command of the English language and ideally would be fun to use. Twist: I want it to be Thanksgiving or holiday season related if possible. My google-fu is failing me because I keep getting results meant for children's crossword puzzles ("pilgrim", "turkey", etc.). I'm looking for something more along the lines of "puritanical" or something like that. Can be historical, related to feelings or gratitude or even satirical of the holiday.
If I want to say "From experience" in Latin, what's the best way to say it? Right now I'm thinking "Ab expertus." [more inside]
What is the name and/or origin of the meme where intensifers/adverbs are placed before nouns? [more inside]
I am looking for recommendations on two books. I'm looking for a book that will teach me how to write essays and how to essentially write like a college student. I am also looking for a grammar book that will teach me VERY basic and simple grammar rules. For example, the difference between i.e. and e.g., when to use a comma, et cetera. Help is very much appreciated! [more inside]
1)I should be going. 2) I shoud get going. 3)I should go. Please tell me the difference of the nuance between the three. Thank you.
What is best accepted usage for the use of apostrophe in descriptive titles such as for choirs made up only of children or adults. What is better Child Choir or Children's Choir? [more inside]
I am learning French and am struggling with how to relate French grammar to its English equivalent. The problem: I have no general understanding of grammar. Six months ago I didn't even know what an adverb was! [more inside]
What is the origin of ending a sentence with a trailing "so..." ? Who is on record first using it? How did it spread? I am talking about the annoying unfinished sentence word: "We would have gone cycling, but I couldn't find my bike, so..." I am not talking about the legitimate adverb: "I love biking so!"
I'm on a dating site and I've noticed that in the profiles and messages of some non-native English speakers there's a pattern of irregular spacing around commas. I don't believe that it is a random typographical error, as I have seen it repeatedly by different writers. Here's an example: "I like to go to the party ,park,movies ,I like to go hike ,swimming ,travel " The above example is from a native Arabic speaker. Is this related to the grammatical construction of a particular language, differences in keyboards, or something else?
Lately I've been seeing something crop up a fair bit in casual writing where an entire explanatory clause is humorously collapsed to "because X." You've seen it: "And then I ate four of the muffins, because chocolate." Or writer Tabatha Southey tweeting about newborn Prince George: Okay, now I am happy the baby is here and I want to put its tiny baby foot in my mouth, because baby. What's happening, grammatically? How might a linguist describe it?