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By June Casagrande | May 3, 2013
Pop quiz. Which is correct? "The dogs are outside" or "The dogs is outside. " I don't even have to hear your answer to give you an A. Anyone reading an English-language newspaper surely knows that "dogs are" is grammatical and "dogs is" is ungrammatical. Many even know why. Plural subjects take plural verbs like "are. " Singular subjects take singular verbs like "is. " We call this subject-verb agreement, and it's often so obvious that there's no need to worry about it. But just when I think subject-verb agreement is too easy for words, someone shows me different.
NEWS
By June Casagrande | April 23, 2014
A user on Twitter asked me recently about the difference between "affect" and "effect. " Specifically, she wanted to know which to use in the phrase "the affect/effect of celebrity endorsements. " The difference between "affect" and "effect" is Grammar 101. It's one of the first things any aspiring copy editor is sure to note. And it's something I've written about so many times that I'm always surprised when people ask about it. So, naturally, I answered the question wrong. In a moment of haste, I glossed right over the words "the" and "of," instead reading the example as something like "Such and such will affect celebrity endorsements.
NEWS
By June Casagrande and By June Casagrande | July 31, 2013
Which is right: a backup plan, a back-up plan or a back up plan? How about a cutoff date, a cut-off date or a cut off date? A takeout menu, a take-out menu or a take out menu? The answer: There is no answer. Technically, you could choose any of these forms and be correct. That's not to say that they're all equally good, obviously. But they're equally legitimate due to a weird little quirk of the language that occurs at the intersection of hyphenation rules and modifier rules. Here's the basic idea.
NEWS
By June Casagrande | October 19, 2012
Grammar jargon can be pretty off-putting. Try dropping a term like dangling participle or object predicative at your next office party and you'll see what I mean. That's why I avoid the stuffy-sounding terms whenever possible. But the truth is I kind of like them — and not just for their power to clear a room. I like them because they represent language concepts that, though seemingly just silly bits of arcana, are actually very practical. One of my favorite terms is nominalization.
NEWS
By June Casagrande | November 2, 2012
There aren't many issues in grammar or usage that scare me much anymore. After years of writing about language, I've learned that the things I don't know — and there are still many — I'm probably not expected to know. Over the years, that panicky feeling that I'm going to be exposed as a fraud the minute someone asks a question I can't answer has faded away almost completely. But one issue that can still set my pulse racing is the difference between "anymore" and "any more.
NEWS
By June Casagrande | February 22, 2013
There are a lot of people out there who will think less of you if you use "impact" as a verb: A longer storm season will negatively impact tourism. Failure to study will negatively impact your grades. Technology will impact higher education. Those are wrong, wrong and wrong, according to certain people. Because they only recognize impact as a noun, some people would require you to say instead that a longer storm season will have a negative impact on tourism, failure to study will have a negative impact on your grades, technology will have an impact on higher education.
NEWS
By June Casagrande | November 23, 2012
You know how grammar buffs can be a little, well, difficult to be around? Judgmental? Quick to correct? And you know how even when they're being quiet you can almost hear the unspoken criticisms seeping through their pores? Well, this grammar buff is about to take that dynamic to new heights, making the leap from simply abrasive to utterly insufferable. That's because I, an already-devout smartypants, recently outsmarted one of the most authoritative sources in language: I found a mistake — or at the very least some fuzzy thinking — in the Associated Press Stylebook.
NEWS
By June Casagrande | March 30, 2012
A reader named Jerry wrote to ask about "that" and "who. " Like a lot of people, Jerry had been taught that "that" is for things and "who" is for people, yet his reading materials didn't seem to agree. "I am beginning to think I am wrong in the use of 'who' and 'that.' I see now in all newspapers quite regularly the term 'people that' instead of 'people who.' Is the word 'that' now an acceptable replacement when talking about people or persons? It just doesn't sound right to me. " Jerry isn't alone, as I would soon find out. In this column a few weeks ago, I offered readers a little catch-the-error test.
NEWS
October 4, 2004
JUNE CASAGRANDE Dear June, Attached is a copy of the e-mail I sent you concerning your incorrect use of "wrong" in your March 15, 2004 article. It seems that you do not agree that only adverbs can modify verbs (hence the name "adverb"), because you are making the same mistake in your recent article. In the sentence " ... makes you sound like a snob at best or, if you use it wrong, like a fool at worst." One cannot use anything "wrong," only "wrongly."
NEWS
By June Casagrande | May 31, 2013
The handsome, articulate, intelligent man wore a bright green midriff peasant blouse. Not really. No intelligent person would do that. But I offer up this sentence not as an example of fashion sense or IQ testing. It's an example of a comma situation that confounds many people yet is surprisingly easy to handle. Did you notice that, in our sentence, there are commas between some adjectives but not others? If not, it could be a good thing: It means that the punctuation didn't leap out at you, which means it seems natural, which means you already have a sense of how to use commas between adjectives.
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NEWS
By June Casagrande | April 23, 2014
A user on Twitter asked me recently about the difference between "affect" and "effect. " Specifically, she wanted to know which to use in the phrase "the affect/effect of celebrity endorsements. " The difference between "affect" and "effect" is Grammar 101. It's one of the first things any aspiring copy editor is sure to note. And it's something I've written about so many times that I'm always surprised when people ask about it. So, naturally, I answered the question wrong. In a moment of haste, I glossed right over the words "the" and "of," instead reading the example as something like "Such and such will affect celebrity endorsements.
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NEWS
By June Casagrande and By June Casagrande | July 31, 2013
Which is right: a backup plan, a back-up plan or a back up plan? How about a cutoff date, a cut-off date or a cut off date? A takeout menu, a take-out menu or a take out menu? The answer: There is no answer. Technically, you could choose any of these forms and be correct. That's not to say that they're all equally good, obviously. But they're equally legitimate due to a weird little quirk of the language that occurs at the intersection of hyphenation rules and modifier rules. Here's the basic idea.
NEWS
By June Casagrande | July 11, 2013
I grew up in a family of people who had a lot to feel bad about. As the middle child, it was my job to make them feel better. "Don't feel guilty about feeding us Twinkies for breakfast every day. When you think about it, they're basically rolled pancakes. " You get the idea. Making people feel better about their shortcomings became part of my DNA. That explains a lot about my interest in grammar. Most people I meet feel uniquely inadequate in that arena — as though they happened to miss school on the one day everyone else got a comprehensive grammar education.
NEWS
By June Casagrande | May 31, 2013
The handsome, articulate, intelligent man wore a bright green midriff peasant blouse. Not really. No intelligent person would do that. But I offer up this sentence not as an example of fashion sense or IQ testing. It's an example of a comma situation that confounds many people yet is surprisingly easy to handle. Did you notice that, in our sentence, there are commas between some adjectives but not others? If not, it could be a good thing: It means that the punctuation didn't leap out at you, which means it seems natural, which means you already have a sense of how to use commas between adjectives.
NEWS
By June Casagrande | May 3, 2013
Pop quiz. Which is correct? "The dogs are outside" or "The dogs is outside. " I don't even have to hear your answer to give you an A. Anyone reading an English-language newspaper surely knows that "dogs are" is grammatical and "dogs is" is ungrammatical. Many even know why. Plural subjects take plural verbs like "are. " Singular subjects take singular verbs like "is. " We call this subject-verb agreement, and it's often so obvious that there's no need to worry about it. But just when I think subject-verb agreement is too easy for words, someone shows me different.
NEWS
By June Casagrande | February 22, 2013
There are a lot of people out there who will think less of you if you use "impact" as a verb: A longer storm season will negatively impact tourism. Failure to study will negatively impact your grades. Technology will impact higher education. Those are wrong, wrong and wrong, according to certain people. Because they only recognize impact as a noun, some people would require you to say instead that a longer storm season will have a negative impact on tourism, failure to study will have a negative impact on your grades, technology will have an impact on higher education.
NEWS
By June Casagrande | November 23, 2012
You know how grammar buffs can be a little, well, difficult to be around? Judgmental? Quick to correct? And you know how even when they're being quiet you can almost hear the unspoken criticisms seeping through their pores? Well, this grammar buff is about to take that dynamic to new heights, making the leap from simply abrasive to utterly insufferable. That's because I, an already-devout smartypants, recently outsmarted one of the most authoritative sources in language: I found a mistake — or at the very least some fuzzy thinking — in the Associated Press Stylebook.
NEWS
By June Casagrande | November 2, 2012
There aren't many issues in grammar or usage that scare me much anymore. After years of writing about language, I've learned that the things I don't know — and there are still many — I'm probably not expected to know. Over the years, that panicky feeling that I'm going to be exposed as a fraud the minute someone asks a question I can't answer has faded away almost completely. But one issue that can still set my pulse racing is the difference between "anymore" and "any more.
NEWS
By June Casagrande | October 19, 2012
Grammar jargon can be pretty off-putting. Try dropping a term like dangling participle or object predicative at your next office party and you'll see what I mean. That's why I avoid the stuffy-sounding terms whenever possible. But the truth is I kind of like them — and not just for their power to clear a room. I like them because they represent language concepts that, though seemingly just silly bits of arcana, are actually very practical. One of my favorite terms is nominalization.
NEWS
By June Casagrande | March 30, 2012
A reader named Jerry wrote to ask about "that" and "who. " Like a lot of people, Jerry had been taught that "that" is for things and "who" is for people, yet his reading materials didn't seem to agree. "I am beginning to think I am wrong in the use of 'who' and 'that.' I see now in all newspapers quite regularly the term 'people that' instead of 'people who.' Is the word 'that' now an acceptable replacement when talking about people or persons? It just doesn't sound right to me. " Jerry isn't alone, as I would soon find out. In this column a few weeks ago, I offered readers a little catch-the-error test.
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