Recently in an online forum for editors, someone balked at then being used as a coordinating conjunction, as in: "I went to high school, then I went to college." Coordinating conjunctions, you'll recall, join two items of equal status: two words of the same parts of speech, two phrases of the same type, or two clauses.  Continue reading...
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Grammar lovers, it's your time to shine! Write a haiku for National Grammar Day, March 4th ("march forth") and tweet it to #grammarday. Or just enjoy these winning haiku from last year.  Continue reading...
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I would like to consider myself among the modern vanguard, letting language take its natural course and evolve as its owners — that is to say, its speakers — allow it to. But at the same time, I spend hours every week at the rock face of language change — that is to say, in classrooms full of young people — and while there, I cannot but lament the passing of some niceties of English.  Continue reading...
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In January, I took part in an interesting discussion on Twitter. Washington Post copyeditor Bill Walsh posted a headline: "Hole-in-the-walls: East, west, and downtown, 19 named." He asked, "Would you take your sister-in-laws to such a place?"  Continue reading...
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The story of Steve Henderson — a software engineer bent on single-handedly fixing every use of the word comprise in Wikipedia entries where compose would be more appropriate — has captured the popular imagination. Yesterday, Southern California Public Radio invited our own Ben Zimmer to explain the difference and weigh in on the wisdom of Henderson's quest.  Continue reading...
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Last year for Thanksgiving, I did something gastronomically delicious but linguistically impossible: I dry-brined my turkey. The very word brine implies water. Tons of sea-faring stories reference the briny deep as a euphemism for the salty sea. So what could a dry-brine possibly be?  Continue reading...
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Parallelism is something copyeditors obsess about and writers take little notice of. If we could meet in the middle, our sentences would be a lot happier. Parallelism is no more than matching parts of a sentence or multiple sentences grammatically. It creates balance and rhythm in the sentence and brings order and clarity to meaning.  Continue reading...
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