Here's a question I get a lot: Should I capitalize "the" in publication and organization names? And here's my answer: It depends on the official name of the publication or organization. In general, capitalize "The" if the publication or organization does in its official name. (If the name does not start with "the," add a … Continue reading When to capitalize “the” in publication and organization names
Do you know the difference between farther and further? These words are sometimes used interchangeably in spoken conversation, and some dictionaries acknowledge some overlapping of the two. But the Associated Press Stylebook and other style guides draw a distinction: Farther refers to physical or spatial distances. The sun is farther from Earth than the moon is. I ran … Continue reading What’s the difference between “farther” and “further”?
Planning its stealthy attack from afar, a cheetah locks its eyes on its prey before racing toward it at speeds of up to 70 mph. So, is the cheetah honing in on or homing in on its target? You've probably heard both expressions. But which is correct? The right answer is to home in on, … Continue reading Is it “hone in on” or “home in on”?
You've probably heard this advice before, but it bears repeating: Write with stronger verbs (action words), instead of adding adverbs. The right verb can do the job of both the verb and the adverb, making your writing more powerful, engaging, concrete and concise. Adverbs, on the other hand, are often unnecessary. Adverbs describe the way … Continue reading Why most adverbs are unnecessary
A few months ago, I wrote about why you shouldn't follow the made-up rule to never start a sentence with and or but. This week, I'm defying your grade-school teacher again. You've likely heard the old-fashioned maxim to never end a sentence in a preposition (such as after, at, before, for, in or through). Although … Continue reading Can you end a sentence in a preposition?
Through the piercing screech of chalk on the blackboard, you discern a command: "Never start a sentence with 'and' or 'but,'" your school teacher stated. Forget this "rule." It's perfectly fine to begin a sentence with a conjunction, such as or, but, and or so. Most experts think the made-up rule stemmed from an oversimplification; … Continue reading Can you start a sentence with “but” or “and”?
Some people think hyphens are unnecessary; others overuse them. It's a divisive topic even among copy editors. But if you think hyphens don't matter, consider the following examples: People who believe in hate-free speech are quite different from those who hate free speech. You'd likely react differently to a man eating chicken than you would … Continue reading Why hyphens matter
In past tips, I've highlighted the importance of avoiding wordiness. Clear, concise writing conveys your message quickly and directly, and helps us keep readers' attention. One way to do this is to avoid redundancy. We can eliminate adjectives and prepositions that some words' meanings already include. For example, the phrase "tall skyscraper" is redundant because … Continue reading Avoid redundancy
Rivaling the Oxford comma, the so-called singular they is one of the most debated grammar topics. What do I mean by "the singular they"? I'm referring to the use of they as a gender-neutral pronoun to mean he or she (and the use of them in place of him or her, and their instead of … Continue reading The singular “they” and guidance on gender
Ah, the Oxford comma. It's at the center of one of the most contentious copy-editing debates of all time. Today, I'll clear up a long-held misconception about this famous grammar dispute and provide guidance on when to use this infamous punctuation, to ensure your writing conveys the intended meaning. What is the Oxford comma? The … Continue reading When to use the Oxford comma (gasp!)