That isn’t grammatically correct!

What she said isn't grammatically correct

I have overwhelming respect (and more than a little sympathy) for English teachers. But I do have to say they manage to make being an effective writer more difficult than it should be. Now, I’m not referring to all English teachers. Anyone who’s dedicated their adult lives to convincing bored adolescents to fall in love … Read more

Please bare with us as we uncover common word mistakes

Our ears frequently deceive us. We hear a word or phrase, make assumptions about its spelling, and then find ourselves using it. Sometimes, we use it correctly, but sometimes we’ve confused it with a similar word. There are many that sound identical but actually have vastly different meanings. Think those misuses aren’t a big deal? … Read more

Seven easy ways to improve your writing

improve your writing

Whether you consider yourself to be a skilled writer or you dread reaching for the keyboard, writing probably plays a critical role in your daily work. You may not be authoring articles for professional journals, but you probably have to create emails, memos, reports, and other items that require some writing skill. Following a few … Read more

Writing “rules” are usually just styles

writing rules provoke response

Should you capitalize items in bullet points? Punctuate them? People have strong opinions about matters like these. However, most of the time, what they believe are inviolable rules are actually just styles and personal preferences. People get remarkably worked up about those “rules.” And as someone who creates copy for a living, it’s a constant … Read more

Social media can be like eating salad with your fingers

social media grammar like eating salad with your fingers

“It’s just going on social media, so the usual rules don’t apply, right?” Planning to post a big announcement about his company, he thought there was no need be concerned with grammar and the like. My answer? No, you don’t have to worry about those things … unless you hope to be taken seriously. As … Read more

The number one rule about grammar and usage

People frequently send me questions about specific rules of grammar, syntax, and usage. Sometimes, clients will respond to something I’ve written by asking me if I know about a specific rule of language. Both groups are often surprised by my replies. There really aren’t any rules about writing — just personal preferences that the people … Read more

Beware the dastardly dangling participle

Grammar and syntax can be funny things. You can have two sentences that appear to be identical, aside from some subtle switches in word order, but they may mean very different things. Take this sentence: “Towering above the company’s production facility, our technician inspected the smokestack.” Or this one: “Born in Schenectady, the inventor’s first … Read more

Who really gives a damn about typos?

Maybe you think that those of us who call attention to typos and similar mistakes are being pedantic, or anal-retentive, just plain picky. If the meaning is conveyed, who cares about whether the words are spelled right or sentences are properly structured? Nobody, if it’s a comment about your Saturday night outing at the local … Read more


Ah, there’s a wonderful old word one rarely hears these days. “Fussbudget” dates back to the turn of the century (the previous turn, not the most recent one) and refers to one who gets worked up about small matters that seem to have little importance. Many people would toss matters about grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage into that category, and would brush aside my concerns as annoying at best, “anal” at worst. (And an aside — how many people who bandy “anal” about as a criticism actually grasp the underlying Freudian concept? But I guess that would be fussbudgety of me.)

Those who know me well know that I’m rarely serious. Why then do I have such a concern about the written word and the finer points associated with its use?

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