A grizzled old copy editor once told me to always shorten reason why to reason. If you’re a fellow copy editor or someone who wants to be concise, this is good advice. Does that mean reason why is wrong? No. It’s simply wordier. Think about the following lines: Leonard gave Selma three reasons why they should postpone their trip to Albuquerque.Leonard gave … Continue reading Reason Why
There’s a popular expression in English that usually goes something like this: You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Here’s how the Oxford American Dictionary defines the phrase: “You can’t enjoy both of two desirable but mutually exclusive alternatives.” For example, most of us can’t spend money on expensive cars and fine foods and still … Continue reading Have Your Cake and Eat It Too
Until is a fairly common word in English. You might say, “I can’t wait until summer” or “I’ll give you until sundown to deliver the money.” A popular alternative to until is till. In fact, “I’ll give you till sundown to deliver the money” probably sounds better. But is till the correct way to write this word? Or should it be ’til? … Continue reading Until, Till and ’Til
When you focus your attention on a solution, do you home in on the solution, or do you hone in on the solution? They’re both common expressions, but the preferred choice in standard English choice is home in on. Think of it this way: A homing pigeon is directed home. A homing missile is automatically directed at a target. To … Continue reading Home In vs. Hone In
Parentheses have several uses, but the most common one (for most of us, anyway) is to enclose remarks, clarifications or afterthoughts that are inserted into a sentence or paragraph. A common source of confusion when it comes to parentheses is where to place them relative to other punctuation. Parentheses and Periods If the parentheses (and … Continue reading Parentheses With Other Punctuation
There’s one basic difference between by accident and on accident. By accident is standard English. On accident is nonstandard English. You’ve probably seen and heard “on accident” plenty of times, and perhaps you’ve used it yourself. It’s understandable, because on purpose is common and standard, so on accident seems natural to some people. But, if you forget about “on purpose” for a second, then “on accident” … Continue reading By Accident vs. On Accident
Data is traditionally the plural of datum. However, you might see data treated as a singular noun, and you might have wondered whether that’s correct. The answer is, sure. I mean, sort of. It depends. It depends on the meaning of the sentence, and it depends on whether you’re required to follow a style guide. (In my last post, … Continue reading Data: Singular or Plural?