Most writers and editors know that it’s OK to (occasionally and judiciously) split an infinitive. We also know that, barring a more graceful alternative, a sentence-ending preposition is nothing to get upset about.
When it comes to putting words together, the difference between correct and incorrect—or standard and nonstandard—can be subtle. For this month’s workout, we dip back into chapter 5, which covers grammar.
A kinship name is a name for a family member, whether close or distant. Such names include mom, dad, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, and so on.
Latin may be a dead language, but many of its words and phrases flourish in modern English. The most common Latin borrowing might be an abbreviation: the all-purpose etc., short for et cetera, “and others of the same kind.”
Coordinating conjunctions join pairs of words, phrases, or clauses, but when such a conjunction is interrupted by an intervening phrase or clause, it can be difficult to know where to put the commas. This is especially true when the conjunction joins the parts of a compound sentence.
If you’ve ever had to learn how to use commas with relative clauses—especially clauses introduced by which or that—you may have also encountered the word restrictive and its opposite, nonrestrictive. What do those two words mean, and what do they have to do with commas?
There’s more to nouns than people, places, and things. Some nouns are countable, and some are not. Most nouns are common, but some are proper. There are mass nouns and collective nouns, attributive nouns and nouns that can function as verbs. Some even take on adverbial roles.
Verb tenses are all about establishing the time that something happened: past, present, or future. They can also specify whether an action has been completed or is ongoing.
Ellen Jovin is a cofounder of Syntaxis, a communication skills training firm based in New York City. The author of several books for business professionals, she has a BA in German studies from Harvard and an MA in comparative literature from UCLA.
Not all fictional characters are meant to be smooth-tongued and lyrical in their speech. Rather, just like us, they sometimes mumble or stumble. Giving a character flawed speech is a way to make dialogue more realistic. And this very human kind of talking often involves the use of interjections.