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]
posted by daisyk
on Dec 14, 2013 -
I learned English as a second language (native is Finnish). The emphasis in school was on vocabulary and very basic grammar; we did not to my recollection deal with stuff like passive voice etc. So in terms of writing in English, much of my "voice" has developed simply from what sounds right inside my head. However, I've been told that the way I write is overly complicated. Is this so? [more inside]
posted by Unhyper
on May 22, 2013 -
I lead a team of podcasters. They're all great people--intelligent, articulate, and very good speakers. We now wish to translate our spoken success to the page, and our early attempts have shown that despite the successes we have as speakers we're finding our writing skill (specifically in regards to concise, clear, engaging, and personable communication through the written word) is in need of honing. I need suggestions how to do that. [more inside]
posted by arniec
on Feb 4, 2013 -
Sources explaining why you shouldn't put a comma after the year when a date is used as an adjective? [more inside]
posted by flod logic
on May 16, 2012 -
I am currently a student in a graduate program. A very close friend, who is in the same program, has begun sending me essays for school and correspondence related to her job search to proofread. In doing so, I have noticed a pattern: her writing is full of truly awful, egregious run-on sentences. Nearly every sentence is a run-on. My friend is very smart and accomplished, and I'm not quite sure how she's come this far without this issue being brought to her attention. She has been experiencing disappointment in her grades and career search, and I suspect that this problem may be contributing to the situation. (We are in a highly competitive and nitpicky field.) I think that as a friend, I have a responsibility to bring this to her attention, but I have no idea how in the world to do so in a way that's sensitive and doesn't make her feel bad or damage the friendship. Do I need to tell my friend? If yes, how do I bring it up?
posted by anonymous
on Mar 21, 2011 -
I'm teaching a humanities course at an open-admission college. The students are extremely poor writers, and have almost zero knowledge of English grammar. This semester, I want to help them avoid comma splices, since that's one of the top three issues I see in their papers (spelling errors and sentence fragments being the other two). Can you help me design a lesson/activity to help them? [more inside]
posted by philosophygeek
on Jan 11, 2011 -
Tell me everything you know about this sentence construction:
"Are you finished your lunch?" [more inside]
posted by peep
on Oct 22, 2009 -
I'm putting together a writing guide for my undergraduate philosophy course. What information should I put in the guide? [more inside]
posted by philosophygeek
on Apr 1, 2009 -
When I was in high school, we had a writing lab with some type of mainframe-ish type terminals setup, where there was writing software available which would list frequently repeated words, point out large paragraphs, spelling errors, document complexity, punctuation errors, etc. This was awhile ago, is this type of thing freely available anywhere these days? [more inside]
posted by ceberon
on Nov 26, 2008 -
Footnote experts/writers: Please help me decide the best way to use footnotes in my document. [more inside]
posted by Badmichelle
on Sep 17, 2008 -
Looking for recommendations for English grammar workbook(s) designed for adults who did not finish high school years ago. [more inside]
posted by bartinpc
on May 15, 2008 -
Explain tenses to me? Past/present/future, continuous/simple/perfect, and so on, in English. I can use them with fluency, but I need to be able to explain them (when each is used, how to form them). I've tried Fowler's, Chicago Manual of Style, and a number of other resources, but they seem to subtly contradict one another. Is there a simple, go-to reference for this?
posted by sarahkeebs
on Sep 28, 2007 -
is there a grammar checker out there that will check my documents for consistent tense? I have a teacher who's a real stickler, and even if I go over my paper with a fine toothed comb, I always miss one or two. Does anybody have a program I could use to save myself some points in class?
posted by gilsonal
on Dec 8, 2006 -
I'm writing a book. What's the difference between a prologue, a foreword, an introduction, and a preface?
posted by soulbarn
on Nov 29, 2006 -
I am writing a children's book (first time). I can't decide whether to use present or past tense. Here's a sample in present tense:
Bobby walks slowly into the water. The waves rush up over his feet, but he is not afraid because the same thing happened last time. He goes a little farther. And a little farther. The water is up to his knees.
and past tense:
Bobby walked slowly into the water. The waves rushed up over his feet, but he was not afraid because the same thing happened last time. He went a little farther. And a little farther. The water was up to his knees.
The present tense seems a little more "active", but past tense has certain story telling quality. Any comments on why I should use one or the other?
posted by allelopath
on Nov 20, 2006 -
Are there any resources I can recommend to a coworker who has very poor writing skills? [more inside]
posted by alms
on Jul 22, 2005 -
PunctuationFilter: I'm writing the copy for a CD insert booklet in which the title of a book is mentioned. Typically, I'd italicize it, but the entire piece is already in italics. What's the standard here?
posted by plexiwatt
on Dec 6, 2004 -
Is it ever
OK in prose to start a sentence with "and"? The general situation I'm thinking of is when you want to insert a sort of dramatic pause into the middle of a narrative sentence that has "and" (or any conjunction in it). [more inside]
posted by badstone
on Sep 3, 2004 -
I find that I use a lot of semicolons when I write. Is this okay, or frowned upon stylistically? Strunk & White don't say much about the subject; they recommend semicolons when needed to replace awkward commas and the words while
. ("Connecticut has a long shoreline; Wyoming is entirely land-locked.") FWIW, my writing pretty much entirely consists of legal memos and blogging. [more inside]
posted by PrinceValium
on Jun 2, 2004 -
What does "normative" mean? Is it a useful word? I only ever see it used in obscure, academic writing, which makes me suspect it's worthless. How is it different from "normal"? My dictionary says it means, "Of, relating to, or prescribing a norm or standard: normative grammar." That sounds like "normal" to me, so why not just say "normal"? Can someone give me some clear sentences that use the word -- sentences that are not written in post-modern, complit speak? Can one use "normative" meaningfully in a sentence about real-world things, like butter, eggs or bricks?
posted by grumblebee
on May 21, 2004 -