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Frequently Asked Questions

Is it cannot or can not or can't? Here, we look at the proper way to use all three variations. Can't Can't is simply a contraction of cannot, and therefore not always suitable for formal writing. It is often found in everyday speaking and writing: He can't drive until his leg heals.  She can't imagine anyone else...
The subjunctive form often confuses many writers, leaving them thinking: is it if I was or were?  Why don't we take a closer look and clear up any confusion. General Rule: You should use were (in place of was) when the statement is contrary to fact. Statements that are contrary to fact often begin with...
What's the difference between the phrases "Due to" and "because of"? You may have caught yourself using the phrase "due to" rather than "because of." You may have done so because it's simpler and shorter and gives a more formal touch to your writing. However, according to the rules in...
The correct way to fully write out dates using commas, according to the American format, is to write the weekday separate from the month and date, which in turn will be separated from the year using a comma—for example, Friday, April 29, 1993. This is one of the most popular...
Yesterday I went on an urban hike. Climbing stairs among lush greenery, I spotted the sign below. Not again! Someone had once again printed a sign without checking on their use of apostrophes. Don’t do it! Before creating a sign or printing cards that include an apostrophe, read this...
The other day while giving feedback to a client on her customer-service writing, I noticed this sentence: "Once you receive your new card, please contact any merchants with whom you have reoccurring charges." Reoccurring charges? Is that correct? Or should it be “recurring charges”? What do you think?  Before I...
I received a good question by email today. A reader wanted to know my views on capitalizing words that are followed by numbers or letters, for example, Step 1 vs. step 1, Section A vs. section A, and Line 2 vs. line 2. How would you decide whether to...
The other day a friend told me he was concerned about having taken on a copy editing job because he didn't yet feel confident of who/whom and whoever/whomever. How about you? Are you confident about where to use those pronouns? Take the test below to see whether your confidence or...
When a newspaper makes the mistake on the front page of the sports section, you know an error has spread. The writer, copyeditor, and proofreader all missed it. Can you recognize it?  When I saw that error in a Seattle TImes headline, I cringed, but I wasn't surprised. Just a...
While you have been busy working, some of the rules of writing evolved, and the University of Chicago Press released a new Chicago Manual of Style. Take a look at the changes below to determine which ones you need to adopt. Then update your company style guide to be...