Category Archives: Punctuation

It’s National Grammar Day: take a short grammar quiz

It’s National Grammar Day! To celebrate the occasion, take Glosso’s short quiz to find out if you know your grammar. Have fun and good luck!

*   *   *

How many of the eleven images below depict a grammatical mistake? Post your number (no spoilers please) in the comments section; the answer, with explanations, will be published tomorrow. Continue reading

An American-British usage experiment: please participate!

circlesquare

Glosso readers: may I ask for your help and input for a little usage exercise? It’s fun, and it shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes. (And I mean that in the British rather than the American sense.) I’m trying to determine whether a certain usage trend is disappearing in the UK while remaining healthy and robust in the U.S.

Please read these four sentences, which are nearly but not quite identical, and then answer the questions that follow (in the comments section below). There’s no “right” or “wrong” here: just answer honestly and without too much thought. Next week we’ll look at the results and what they might suggest.

Many thanks for your participation!

Sentences:

A) “Looking at the three designs, I was most drawn to the round one that bled outside the page border; however, I liked the square one too.”

B) “Looking at the three designs, I was most drawn to the round one which bled outside the page border; however, I liked the square one too.”

C) “Looking at the three designs, I was most drawn to the round one, that bled outside the page border; however, I liked the square one too.”

D) “Looking at the three designs, I was most drawn to the round one, which bled outside the page border; however, I liked the square one too.”

Questions:

Q1: Are you American or British? (Or Australian, Canadian or other English-speaker?)

Q2: Do any of the sentences look strange or “incorrect” to you? (Let’s not give any explanations until we’ve gathered some reactions; we’ll examine the whys and wherefores in a follow-up post.) If so, please specify which sentence(s) you’d be inclined to edit.

Q3: Can you tell from any of the sentences how many of the three designs are round? If so, please identify the sentence and the number of round designs.

*   *   *

In the news … (Jan 9)

noussommes

That Gerund Is Funky: words, grammar, usage and language in the news this month.

*   *   *

As cartoonists and demonstrators around the world raise and wield their pens in protest against the recent atrocities in France, the BBC asks the question: who first wrote or uttered the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword”? Continue reading

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky – Dec 5

WNYC's How To Speak New York screenshot

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky. In grammar and usage news this month: a nationwide pun ban; how to pluralize your last name; grammar in Christmas carols; a new book from Steven Pinker; and how to talk like a New Yorker. Continue reading

‘Strophes: straight or curly, smart or dumb?

strophestraightstrophestrophe

Ah, the apostrophe.

It’s unquestionably the most misused punctuation mark in the English language — so much so that its errant form has its own nickname: “the greengrocer’s apostrophe” (and that’s from widespread abuse on signage by guilty tradesmen). Orange’s and lemon’s: says who?

But it does have a bit of a bad rap, this aerial word-comma: it’s really not as complicated as the world seems to think it is. Except perhaps when it comes to its typography, not to its role in spelling. Continue reading

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (Sep 26)

TGIF. In language and usage news this fortnight: a school that teaches in Manx Gaelic; an emergency poet; costly slips of the tongue; zombie nouns; an ominous auto-correct error; punctuation problems in a pre-K campaign; and can Benedict Cumberbatch not say penguinContinue reading

TGIF : That Gerund Is Funky (Aug 29)

colbore

TGIF. In language and usage news this fortnight: grammar rules that can sometimes be broken; a socialite’s guide to elegant expletives; a mispronunciation leads to the renaming of a TV show (if only briefly); the fading art of diagramming sentences; and a childhood spelling error of adult proportions.

*   *   *

“You shudder at a split infinitive, know when to use ‘that’ or ‘which’ and would never confuse ‘less’ with ‘fewer’ – but are these rules always right, elegant or sensible?” In The Guardian, linguist Steven Pinker identifies 10 ‘grammar rules’ it’s OK to break (sometimes). Continue reading

In the news … (Aug 22)

 

MoS2 Template Master

TGIF. In language, grammar and usage news this week: does how we write tell others how smart we are? Do punctuation and grammar matter when we’re flirting digitally? Does the language of a restaurant’s menu tell us how expensive the restaurant is? Plus some spelling challenges presented to U.S. foreign policy reporters; movie titles that make us cringe; and the Kim Kardashian of punctuation marks …

~~~~

How you write can affect how smart others perceive you to be. According to a piece in the Atlantic, “Typing … in the Comic Sans font … could ruin the whole thing: a Princeton researcher found that a hard-to-read font made an author seem dumber, while a clean, simple typeface (Times New Roman, in the study) made him or her seem more intelligent. The same researcher also looked at how using big words (a classic strategy for impressing others) affects perceived intelligence. Counterintuitively, grandiose vocabulary diminished participants’ impressions of authors’ cerebral capacity. Put another way: simpler writing seems smarter.”

*   *   *

“The dash is the Kim Kardashian of punctuation marks: misplaced, over-exposed, shamelessly self-promoting, always eager to elbow out her jealous sisters the comma, colon, and semicolon.” So Roy Peter Clark maintains on Poynter.

*   *   *

The Huffington Post has identified 18 movies whose titles make every grammar geek cringe. It’s mostly a case of missing hyphens (“40 Year-Old Virgin” has a slightly pedophiliac quality to it) and apostrophes (“Two Weeks Notice” cries out for one); but when it comes to Zach Braff’s new movie, he’s

*   *   *

“Funky or very informal spelling” is the biggest turnoff for both men and women when it comes to digital flirting, according to the results of a digital flirting rules survey done by Omlet, a chat app. …For women, the second biggest turnoff was the lack of punctuation and grammar.” Delaware’s News Journal has the story.

*   *   *

The Hill has published an article on the spelling challenges of U.S. foreign policy. Is it ISIS or ISIL?

*   *   *

Does the language of a restaurant’s menu indicate how expensive it is? Dan Jurafsky has found that it does, as reported in the Atlantic. “Fancy restaurants, not surprisingly, use fancier—and longer—words than cheaper restaurants do (think accompaniments and decaffeinated coffee, not sides and decaf)…. Lower-priced restaurants, meanwhile, rely on “linguistic fillers”: subjective words like deliciousflaky, and fluffy. These are the empty calories of menus, less indicative of flavor than of low prices. Cheaper establishments also use terms like ripe and fresh, which Jurafsky calls “status anxiety” words.” Does that mean I get a bargain when “steak frites” is on the menu?

*   *   *

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (July 25)

Pou2

An appropriate name for this type of doctor ... (seen on Manhattan’s Upper West Side)

TGIF. Language and usage in the news this week: a missing comma in a tweet; how to pronounce a footballer’s name; Zach Braff’s bad grammar; and a different typ(o) of freedom …

*   *   *

AP sent the Twittersphere into a frenzy when it left an important comma out of one its tweets:

APtweet

Yes, we do need commas. Even when we’re tweeting …

*   *   *

Zach Braff used bad grammar on purpose in the title of his new movie, Wish I Was Here. Continue reading