Xmas (and Why It’s Not Disrespectful)

Every year, during the holiday season, several people abbreviate Christmas as Xmas. Every year, someone says it’s disrespectful. The first time I heard this was in fourth grade, during my Catholic school days. My music teacher, Mrs. Marcella, claimed that when we replaced Christ with an X, we were crossing out the Lord’s name. The people who say this, including Mrs. … Continue reading Xmas (and Why It’s Not Disrespectful)

Quotation Marks and Other Punctuation (U.S. Edition)

When it comes to quotation marks, it seems the most common confusion people run into involves placement around other punctuation. Here are the rules for several situations. These are according to the Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press Stylebook, which publishers have used for decades. (These rules apply to U.S. English; the U.K. has its own … Continue reading Quotation Marks and Other Punctuation (U.S. Edition)

Farther vs. Further

This one’s pretty simple. Farther denotes physical distance, measurable in inches, feet, yards, miles, centimeters, meters, kilometers, and so on: The fruit stand is just a little farther up the road.Sigmund the turtle made it farther in the race than he’d expected.Minocqua is farther from Milwaukee than Two Rivers is. Further indicates figurative distance or progress and is sometimes used in place of more: We’ve … Continue reading Farther vs. Further

Pluralizing Last Names

’Tis the season for holiday cards! In other words, ’tis the season to open your mailbox and find a photo of your cousin’s family with the following words emblazoned along the bottom: Seasons Greetings from the Johnson’s! Notice the apostrophe in Johnson’s? Maybe that apostrophe upsets you. Maybe it looks perfectly natural. Whatever the case, I’ll say … Continue reading Pluralizing Last Names


An eggcorn is a word or phrase that is invented when people mishear or misinterpret an existing word or phrase. For example, when someone says or writes upmost instead of utmost, upmost is an eggcorn. At some point, people must have misheard utmost, thinking they’d heard upmost, and from there, upmost spread. Another popular example of an eggcorn is “for all intensive purposes” when people … Continue reading Eggcorns