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Last summer I wrote a lot about zombie rules, usage rules that really aren't rules but that we teach, follow, and pass along with little thought anyway. I have two more zombies to share with you, about using the verbs curate and reveal.  Continue reading...
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Recently Lynne Truss, professional pedant, declared in her Telegraph column that English is "doomed."

Her proof? Someone wrote "It maybe time to act on this" in an email to her.  Continue reading...
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English language users have long struggled with lie, meaning "to recline," and lay, meaning "to put down." Many of the traditional English Christmas carols we hear at this time of year were written or translated during the 19th century and use lie and lay distinctly.  Continue reading...
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Noel Anenberg, a regular reader of this column and author of the forthcoming book The Dog Boy, asked me about a usage of have that implies, Anenberg writes, "the speaker's active role in the events." Compare "I had my house cleaned" and "I had my car stolen."  Continue reading...
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Recently a reader of the Copyediting newsletter (which I edit) asked me about the phrase take a decision. Shouldn't it be make a decision? In researching the answer, I learned that make and take were examples of "light verbs." It's a concept that few besides linguists are concerned with, if my research is accurate, but one that if writers were more aware of could have a profound effect on their writing.  Continue reading...
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It's September and students of all ages are heading back to school. But why is it back to school and not back to the school or back to schools? Certainly if I were to write about one specific school, I would write the school. If I were talking about schools as a category, I can say schools.  Continue reading...
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This summer, I've been looking at zombie rules, false grammar rules taught and followed slavishly with little thought. Today, I'll kill three final zombies: the split infinitive, hopefully, and singular they. They're style rules — albeit awkward ones — that are lumbering around as grammar rules.  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 8-14 of 52 Articles