20ish years ago there was a one-page essay in the (maybe? Last page?) New Yorker that featured many uses of words that had no such root or form. I can't think of any specific words in the essay, but even what the words or practice are called and a list would be nice. Things like "rambunction" for rambunctious, or "consternating" for consternation. Is this mere coinage, or is there a wider practice at work? [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]
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.
I'm curious to hear the experiences of people with good writing skills who were raised in families with poor language usage. [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]
I'm looking for related resources (online & offline) for improving my writing skills for everyday work. [more inside]
Tryin' to track down a portfolio of English reading/writing laminated bifold four page workbooks. [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 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]
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]
Sources explaining why you shouldn't put a comma after the year when a date is used as an adjective?
Sources explaining why you shouldn't put a comma after the year when a date is used as an adjective? [more inside]
How do I proofread my own work more thoroughly? [more inside]
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?
Can you recommend good books on grammar and writing? [more inside]
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]
What is a good heuristic for the usage of 'that'? [more inside]
Is English much more difficult than most languages to speak and to write? [more inside]
Tell me everything you know about this sentence construction: "Are you finished your lunch?" [more inside]
I'm putting together a writing guide for my undergraduate philosophy course. What information should I put in the guide? [more inside]
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]
Footnote experts/writers: Please help me decide the best way to use footnotes in my document. [more inside]
Looking for recommendations for English grammar workbook(s) designed for adults who did not finish high school years ago. [more inside]
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?
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?
I'm writing a book. What's the difference between a prologue, a foreword, an introduction, and a preface?
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?
Are there any resources I can recommend to a coworker who has very poor writing skills? [more inside]
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?
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]
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 and though. ("Connecticut has a long shoreline; Wyoming is entirely land-locked.") FWIW, my writing pretty much entirely consists of legal memos and blogging. [more inside]
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?