This week in a Better Business Writing class, an attendee named Carmen told me how important it was to her to avoid splitting an infinitive. Why? Because an excellent teacher had drilled into Carmen's head that an infinitive should not be split! Because of Carmen's high regard for this...
This week my 11-year-old daughter had an assignment on writing numbers. One of the rules on her assignment sheet stated, "Numbers that are expressed in fewer than four words are spelled out." That rule sounded like trouble to me. After all, do we really want to write seventeen thousand...
This morning I received an email from a friend who knows a lot about grammar and punctuation. I was surprised that her message included the phrase "a MS word specialist." It should have been "an MS word specialist" because "MS" is pronounced "em ess." Words that begin with a...
"I would feel bad if I treated you badly." That's an illustration of the correct use of the words bad and badly. Bad/badly is a grammar point that trips up many of us. Even people who are very careful about their speech and writing are confused about those two words....
Many visitors to this site have been searching for everyday examples of mistakes in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. I have a Best Pick blog to recommend to you: Grammar Hell. In the spirit of Eats, Shoots & Leaves author Lynne Truss, Grammar Hell's creator, Jack, has been merrily and...
In business writing classes, people often ask about the difference between that and which. Where should each word be used? What's the difference between them? It can be a tricky question, and I don't look forward to talking about it in classes. That's because the distinction between that and which...
In our business writing classes, people often want an answer to this burning question: Is it acceptable to begin a sentence with the word and or but? The answer is yes. It is perfectly acceptable to start sentences with the conjunctions and and but. However, it is slightly informal. If formality...
Here's a test. Which forms of the word pair principal/principle fit in these examples? This dollar figure covers just interest--not interest plus ______. The ______ reason for our visit is to meet the new director. Which ______ did you follow to solve this problem? Easy? Here's the rule--that is, here's the...
In a writing class last week, a participant was surprised to learn of the existence of the word complement. Like many professionals, she had thought compliment was the only form. But often the word we want is complement. Details: Complement and complementary relate to completing. When people or things...
A client wrote recently asking me to explain the difference between lie and lay. The question brought back fond memories. Although those fearsome verbs used to come up often in classes, no one asks about lie and lay anymore. In fact, my client was asking months after the class...