Grammar

Why do we need hyphens?

Why do we need hyphens?October 9, 2012 Grammar

The wonderful tweeters at Grammar Monkeys shared this photo, citing it as clear evidence that we do indeed need hyphens to clarify meaning.  I agree. The crawl reads: OBAMA’S NEW ANTI-HUMAN TRAFFICKING PLAN Yikes.  That’s alarming. Here’s the deal: Anti-human trafficking plans are trafficking plans that are anti-human. Anti-human-trafficking plans are plans that are against human trafficking. Let’s hope [...]

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The audacity of punctuation: Word nerds stopped by Obama slogan, ‘Forward.’

The audacity of punctuation: Word nerds stopped by Obama slogan, 'Forward.'August 2, 2012 Grammar

Forget the audacity of hope — Obama’s real audacity is grammatical. Obama has ruffled some feathers recently, but not exactly the same feathers he regularly ruffles. This time it’s the word nerds, and even more specifically, the punctuation nerds, who are displeased with the President. The source of their displeasure? A period. That’s right, a [...]

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Kill the zombies, free the verbs

Kill the zombies, free the verbsJuly 26, 2012 Grammar

Thoughtful legal writers generally do a good job of eliminating unnecessary uses of passive voice. So why is their writing still so abstract and dense? The culprit is nominalizations, or zombie nouns, as the beautifully named Helen Sword calls them in a post at the New York Times Opinionator blog. Just as insidious as passive voice but less [...]

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The generational split on infinitives

The generational split on infinitivesJuly 13, 2012 Grammar

So, lawyers ask me pretty regularly what the deal is with split infinitives. The deal is this: splitting infinitives is perfectly acceptable according to every respected style authority. (Grammar Girl has a nice explanation of what a split infinitive is.) But (yes, there had to be a but) plenty of very, shall we say, senior [...]

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Lake beach bans lifeguards and swimming!

Lake beach bans lifeguards and swimming! July 1, 2012 Grammar

Spent a lovely weekend swimming in a crispy-cold lake in the Poconos and lounging on the lake’s beach.  I just hope we didn’t break any rules.  This sign seems to ban four things. Let’s review: We didn’t bring any glass — I’m a Tupperware lady. No dogs — no problem. I’m allergic. No lifeguards. I [...]

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Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t need to care about grammar

Mark Zuckerberg doesn't need to care about grammarMay 21, 2012 Grammar

Mark Zuckerberg has had a big week, what with the IPO and his surprise backyard wedding. In the midst of all the hooplah, he’s probably barely noticed that his writing style, as revealed in a leaked email, has been critiqued online. (Thanks to @GrammarGirl for tweeting about the now infamous email.) In the email, which [...]

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Pompoms and proofreading: Fifth Circuit rejects cheerleader’s civil rights action.

Pompoms and proofreading: Fifth Circuit rejects cheerleader's civil rights action.July 25, 2011 Grammar

Lots of virtual ink has been spilled in the past week or so about the Fifth Circuit opinion rejecting the lawsuit of a Texas cheerleader who claimed that her civil rights were violated when she didn’t make the varsity squad.  The opening paragraph of the opinion gives a hint as to the court’s view of the merits: [...]

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Every woman for herself: Supreme Court smacks down class action against Wal-Mart

Every woman for herself: Supreme Court smacks down class action against Wal-MartJune 21, 2011 Grammar

Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that the discrimination action brought by female WalMart employees from various states could not proceed as one overarching class action. From the NYTimes.com, here’s an explanation of the challenge the plaintiffs will face in proceeding outside the class action context: In the Wal-Mart case, there is abundant evidence that women [...]

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Grammar humor: Overheard in the Newsroom

Grammar humor: Overheard in the NewsroomJune 3, 2011 Grammar

Copy Editor: Knock knock. Photo Editor: Who’s there? Copy Editor: To. Photo Editor: To who? Copy Editor: “To WHOM!”

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Who or whom? A harrowing story with harrowing pronoun choices

Who or whom? A harrowing story with harrowing pronoun choicesMay 31, 2011 Grammar

I recently read a great profile of Leonard Joy, who was until recently the head of the Federal Defenders of New York, which represents federal criminal defendants who can’t afford to hire attorneys. Over 20 years as head of Federal Defenders, Joy represented notorious defendants in cases involving international intrigue, terrorism plots and arms trafficking — think would-be Times [...]

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