I’ve blogged before about when to use “a” and “an” with initialisms. Here’s a real-world example, taken from Huddleston and Pullum’s A Student’s Introduction to English Grammar:
It is typical for the subject of a clause to be an NP.
“But Karen, ‘n’ would take ‘a’ because it’s a consonant!”
Nope. “N” takes “an” when it’s pronounced as itself, the letter “en.” It begins with a vowel sound, which takes “an.”
Clearly, the authors intend for us to say “en pee” rather than “noun phrase.” The indefinite article “an” is the cue.
Lots of folks seem to have gotten the idea that “there are no rules” about English anymore. I have to guess that they’ve seen and heard the articles and discussions about prescriptivism versus descriptivism, and their takeaway has been “Well, so rules can be broken.” That becomes “rules don’t matter,” and from there it’s a short hop to “there are no rules.”
Yes. There are rules. Continue reading “Yes, there are rules.”
Assuming that Burbank, CA counts as “wild.”
Many thanks to June Casagrande for writing about my hashtag #SpellcheckCannotSaveYou in this installment of “A Word, Please,” her regular column for the LA Times.
I’ve been seeing comma issues lately and I need to write about them.
Up there in the title, “long” and “cold” are what’s called “coordinate adjectives.” They modify the same noun (“winter,” in this case), so they’re coordinating their work. (Make sense? Good. Onward.) Continue reading “the long, cold winter (see? only one comma)”
I’ve written before about how I am no longer a teacher. How editors aren’t teachers. Perhaps I was hasty in making that statement (over the years–hasty like a tortoise). Continue reading “The editor as teacher”
Remember in elementary school, maybe even high school, when your teacher gave the “don’t switch tenses” talk about writing?
Have you thought, in the years since then, how utterly ridiculous that statement is? Continue reading “A tense situation”
First, know that it caused me psychological pain to type that title. It’s a run-on sentence, you see. There are two complete thoughts (“Let’s talk about run-on sentences” and “how do you know one when you see one?”), but they run together without any visual cue, without proper mechanics. The grammar is just fine. It’s the mechanics that are missing–except for that question mark at the end, and the apostrophe for the contraction of “let us.” (You knew that’s what “let’s” means, right? Good.)
Second, here’s why I want to talk about them: people don’t understand what they are. Oh, when they’re short, like the one in this title, they get it right. But when a sentence goes on for what the average reader considers “paragraph length,” that reader assumes it HAS to be a run-on. And many times, that reader is wrong. Continue reading “Let’s talk about run-on sentences how do you know one when you see one?”