Grammar and Spelling Resources

Last time, we looked at the first two parts of PUGS, Punctuation and Usage. Today we’ll look at the others. Grammar In common speech, we often use “grammar” to encompass all parts of writing, including spelling and punctuation. But grammar really refers specifically to the way we assemble words into sentences. English grammar is very …

Beware the nonrules

Last time I noted that there are lots of misconceptions about what constitutes “grammar.” There are also lots of misconceptions about what constitutes “rules” of writing. Adverbs modify verbs is a rule. Don’t use adverbs is a nonrule. You may use adverbs, as long as you do so judiciously.

Get your grammar in line

Most writers are, by nature, very good about their grammar. But there are lots of misconceptions. ☐ Grammatical errors have been eliminated. Grammar, contrary to popular belief, does not include punctuation or spelling, as we often see on lists of “common grammatical errors,” which usually contain things like misplaced commas (punctuation) the confusion of affect …

Can a person be a “that?”

Ever had critique partners question a sentence like this? The waiter that spilled coffee on my new dress offered to pay the dry-cleaning bill. Some will say you shouldn’t use “that” for a person. But Garner’s Modern American Usage and other expert sources say it’s acceptable. Are your critique partners wrong? That depends.

Cheat Sheet: Lay and Lie

Lay, lie, and the other lie seem designed to cause trouble. Two are homonyms, and the present tense of one is the same as the past tense of another. Mix-ups usually come when we mistake the intransitive lie—she was lying on the floor—with the transitive lay. If she was laying on the floor, she needs …

When to use who or whom

English is complicated and can confuse the best of us. Many editors have dog-eared grammar manuals and style books with Post-It notes on the sections we have to double-check every time. One fine point that even experienced editors find hard to memorize is the distinction between who and whom. The short answer to the who …

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