Well, actually … (thoughts on an Oxford comma)

First, here’s a link to the story I’m about to discuss. Read that and come back when you’re finished. I’ll be here.

::goes to get coffee::

Ready? Okay. Here’s the thing. The court claims that without a comma before the coordinating conjunction “or,” the meaning of the wording is ambiguous.

I beg to differ. There’s absolutely no reason to put a comma there, and doing so doesn’t help clarify anything (because it doesn’t belong there in the first place). Continue reading “Well, actually … (thoughts on an Oxford comma)”

A Storify from last year: “Building a Reference Library”

Yes, I know that Grammar Day is coming (March 4!), but a friend and former co-worker sent me this link a little bit ago with the comment that it might be “a good lead-in blog before ACES [national conference] this year.”

And indeed, it is. I won’t summarize here, because this is a Storify and therefore comprises numerous tweets (some from me!), making it already nicely chopped into bite-sized pieces for easy consumption. (That’s consumption as in “eating,” not consumption as in “tuberculosis.” Let’s be clear about that.) I dare not forget to thank Gerri Berendzen for collecting and Storifying the tweets for posterity.

Thank you, Steven, for suggesting  this and providing the link. It’s in my bookmarks, along with dozens of others. I hope some of you will decide it’s worth keeping, too.


Building a Reference Library: An #ACESchat Storify

Hang onto or hang on to? Well …

I’ve been asked this a few times by writers and editors alike, so I’ll see if I can answer it here. Keep in mind, this is my opinion. While it’s grounded in my research, it’s still mine. Yours might differ. That guy over there might have another idea entirely. This is how I handle the situation. Continue reading “Hang onto or hang on to? Well …”

That’s not Shakespearean.

My brain just said those words as I was reading the etymology for “layabout.”

I was sure, in my head, that the word had to be Shakespearean. It sounds Shakespearean. I’m sure I’ve heard or read it in pieces that are set, chronologically, well before 1932.

And yet, there’s the date, in black and gray (that box isn’t white, it’s gray). 1932. American. The word doesn’t even have the courtesy to be British.

The Merriam-Webster Unabridged Online site further explains that “lay” in this sense is the “nonstandard alteration of lie about.” I figured as much, but it’s always comforting to see such a thing in print.

Then there’s the other term, “to lay about,” which means “to strike randomly in all directions.” As in “He laid about with a mace and still managed to strike nothing.” Here’s the link to Etymology Online’s entry, showing the “put down (often by striking)” meaning.

I suppose, then, that a layabout might lay about if awakened suddenly.


Best words, best order

My editing-Twitter colleague @SheckyX gave me the idea for this post earlier this week, when he responded to a tweet of mine. It was a link to an old post here, actually. He commented to me that aside from worries about putting prepositions at the end of sentences, writers might do well to consider other aspects of prepositional placement. For example, moving “on” makes a big difference between “she turned on him” and “she turned him on.” Continue reading “Best words, best order”

Registering register

I’m going to blather a little bit about register.

The fact that I used the word “blather” is a cue that the register of this post is informal. If I wanted to be formal, I’d say “This post is about register in writing.”

See the difference? The latter is stuffier, less conversational, more like what you’d expect to see in an article or a textbook, perhaps.

When I blog, post, or tweet, I get pretty informal. (See? I did it again. “I get pretty informal.”) I use acronyms and abbreviations and IDGAF who gets upset by them. I also curse, obviously. However, I can write in a very formal tone if that’s what’s required of me. Continue reading “Registering register”