What Contributes to Your Grammar Lapses?


No one is perfect, and I bet that even sticklers for grammar make lapses now and then. The good old principles of the dynamism of language and Mere Exposure Theory are at work here. I have to admit that I can think of some people who won’t want to admit that publicly, though. Over the weekend, I was catching up on some Elementary, a TV series with a modern take on Sherlock Holmes. I was again made aware of how language evolves. In this particular episode, Sherlock is revealed to use text speak when sending text messages. While I make [Read more…]

Common Crutch Words. What’s Yours?


This morning, I just read – again – an old article published by The Atlantic Wire. Titled “A Literal Epidemic of Crutch Words“, the article highlights words and phrases that we tend to use loosely, both in formal and informal conversation. Going through the list, I couldn’t help but think that writers are not exempt from leaning on crutch words and phrases. Here are some of the phrases/words that I see often – and might have a beef with. Exponentially. “How could you leave out exponentially, a crutch word that might be used accurately once in a thousand times? Something grows exponentially when [Read more…]

Mistakes That I Sometimes Make…Do You Make Them, Too?

eraser and word mistakes

To be human is to make mistakes. That’s an undeniable thing, but that does not mean we can always use use the excuse. However, if we are aware of our mistakes, we always have the chance to correct them. For this week’s grammar guide post, I’m going to share some mistakes I sometimes make. Often, I catch those mistakes – thanks to proofreading. Sometimes, carelessness gets in the way, and I just have to take criticism on the chin. Tell me if you make these mistakes, too! Who and Whom It is embarrassing, but I when my fingers are flying [Read more…]

Steven Pinker on What Our Language Habits Reveal


I’ve heard it said more than once that grammar and learning the intricacies of a language can be boring. I guess it’s safe to assume that you don’t think the same way. (At least I hope I am right!) Earlier this week, I was working on another piece about TED talks. I don’t know if you’re familiar with TED, but the premise is to invite select speakers to speak to a limited audience, with the condition that the talk is focused on something inspiring related to the work the speaker has done. Since its inception in 1984, TED has grown [Read more…]

Texting and Grammar: Is There Really a Correlation?

Texting and Grammar

Ever since SMS or texting became commonplace, complaints about its many adverse effects have come up. I am sure you have experienced meeting with people face to face, only to have some (many?) of them stare and fiddle with their phones the entire time. You may have even been guilty of this now and then. There is also the issue of grammar and how it has degraded, thanks to texting. Without putting too much thought into the matter, it is easy enough to understand how texting may have contributed to poor spelling and improper grammar. After all, it can be [Read more…]

Idioms That (Might) Have Been Victimized By Advances in Technology

Idioms lost to tech

I love idioms! I speak only two languages fluently, but I do have a proclivity for learn idioms in other languages. That’s not to say that I remember all of them, but idioms are a wonderful way of gaining insights to a culture as well. We have a lot of English idioms, and many of them are inspired by technology. The thing is, we all know very well that technology advances very quickly. Many things we considered hi-tech as kids may not be “extinct” and unknown to today’s children. What happens to the idioms tied to tech then? Last month, [Read more…]

Practical Tips to Make Sure Your Grammar Skills Stay Sharp

Good grammar

Being a stickler for grammar is not easy. Sure, you may have been that way for as long as you can remember, but I am sure that if you think about it, you will realize that it did take some work to get where you are right now. You started at some point. You learned – formal or not – one way or another. Good grammar may not cost you a thing in terms of money, but you do have to make a little bit of effort – at the very least – to ensure that you stay on top [Read more…]

To OMG or to LOL?


Dear FWJ Friends, Have you heard about the latest updates to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)?  For people in our line of work, this might be old news, but let me share it with you nonetheless. As of March 2011, several new initialisms have been added to the OED, initiliasms being “abbreviations comprised of the initial letters of a name or expression.  If you’re thinking “OMG!” then you are hitting the nail right on the head!  OMG, otherwise known as “Oh my God” is now included in the March release of OED Online.  I suppose my hairdresser was actually correct [Read more…]

Non-Errors in the English Language (Part 2)


If your high school English teach was anything like my teacher, she/he probably always emphasized the “rule” about NOT using conjunctions to begin your sentence.  “You must never begin a sentence with a conjunction” is the mantra of many an English teacher.  Just because “everyone” says it is a rule does not necessarily mean it is true, though.  In fact, many a grammar “expert” will tell you that this arbitrary rule does not hold much sway. I can go on and on and repeat that I believe that using conjunctions such as “but” and “and” to begin a sentence is [Read more…]

A Long Time Ago In a Galaxy Far, Far Away


Some of you may recognize the title of this post as the opening line of Star Wars, but have you ever thought about the grammatical accuracy of the “double use” of the word far? To be honest, I never really paid much attention to the practice of repeating adjectives or adverbs as I have always believed it to be correct. While some purists may disagree, I think that there is a reason for this repetition. Last week, the matter was brought to my attention, courtesy of a bunch of guys at Quora. The question posed was: Star Wars opens with [Read more…]

A Quick Look at the Serial Comma


The comma has always been a bone of contention for many people.  We all use it everyday that we may very well be taking it for granted.  Over the holidays, I found myself in the middle of a very interesting discussion about the use of the serial comma. The serial comma is also called the Oxford comma or the Harvard comma. Sometimes, it is even referred to as the series comma. Whatever name you call it, the serial comma is used in lists – right before the coordinating conjunction. Let’s take a look at an example for the sake of [Read more…]

Happy Holidays – I’m Just Sayin’


No, I’m really wishing you all a great Christmas weekend.  It’s just that I came across an opinion piece over at NPR which deals with that phrase in the title.  I never really paid much attention to it whenever I heard it uttered by friends.  Even though I have somehow earned a reputation for correcting other people’s grammar (or flinching at least), I have been trying to be more tolerant in the past year.  After all, I also believe that language is so dynamic that changes are unavoidable. Scott Simon, however, simply cannot stand it when he hears “I’m just [Read more…]

When Grammar Goes Bad…So Does Romance?

Bad Romance

I have a Facebook friend who, I think, is the head of the Grammar Police in our neck of the woods. He always has these posts that set me off on grammar review sprees. Today, this is his status: The first thing I did was to google (yes, I used that as a verb) the lyrics of Bad Romance.  So why did my friend write that note to Lady Gaga?  Here are some lines from the song: I want your love, and I want your revenge. You and me could write a bad romance. I suppose I can write a [Read more…]

I’m Loving It, Are You?

Lovin ItMcDs_Print

Are you loving McDonald’s popular slogan? “I’m lovin’ it!” became even more popular when the fast food chain launched its first global advertising campaign in 2003.  Suddenly, everywhere you go, you hear people say “I’m lovin’ it.”  What used to be considered incorrect is now being used on a daily basis. But isn’t that what language is all about?  I will always remember what a friend (English professor) told me: “Language is dynamic.  It continuously evolves, and that’s the beauty of it.” While I totally agree with that idea, I sometimes cannot help but flinch when I hear something that [Read more…]

When Punctuation and Law Collide


As freelance writers, we are all very much aware of the importance of grammar and punctuation. We know that all sorts of confusion can arise from improper usage. Sometimes it can be quite hilarious. Check out this incident I read about at The Spokesman-Review: A little punctuation can make a lot of difference. When Bob Strick and Vicki Tomsha had business at the Spokane County Courthouse on June 2, they drove around from parking lot to parking lot, looking for some free public parking. Lot after lot required a permit or some cash. They thought they hit pay dirt in [Read more…]

If You Will, I Will?


Marcy Sheiner asked a question about an English expression “if you will” several weeks ago. So Marcy, this post is for you. Here’s Marcy’s comment/question/pet peeve. Marcy Sheiner says: July 14, 2010 at 12:09 pm This is a pet peeve rather than a question, but maybe you can tell me if there is ever a sane reason to use the phrase “if you will.” I’ve noticed it’s beoming most trendy, in speech more than writing, but sill. And what on earth does it mean????? I have been hearing – and reading – this phrase used for as long as I [Read more…]

Justifying a Comma Splice


In the last post, I talked about a major error in writing – a comma splice. As I mentioned in that post, there are some cases wherein using a comma splice just might be acceptable. In fact, this is in an ongoing debate. So when is a comma splice acceptable? According to Strunk & White, one can use a comma splice “when the clauses are very short and alike in form.” The most commonly cited example for this case is the popular line: I came, I saw, I conquered. Diana Hacker of A Writer’s Reference also gives some examples: Man [Read more…]

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