Usage

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Confounding Confusables, Part III

Usage

    For centuries, questions of proper usage have provided editorial professionals fodder for debate. Although publishers’ styles are often defined by usage rules, such as never ending a sentence with a preposition, when exposed to a bit of research these rules are often revealed as illogical modern constraints placed on the historically flexible English language. That said, there are some usage rules that even staunch descriptivists must respect when...

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The Nuts and Bolts of Strong Prose: Semicolons, Colons, and Dashes

Usage

    Punctuation marks are the signposts of prose. They indicate what’s important and where to pause. They add rhythm to your sentences. They help your readers follow the twists and turns of your thoughts.   But there are so many different kinds of punctuation marks that it can be tricky to decide which one to choose. Periods and commas are the most common, but trying to write with...

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Commas: Curiosity and Concern

Usage

Commas, for any copy editor—or, for that matter, any copy writer—are a most familiar tool, as well as a potential source of frustration. Correcting punctuation for grammar and clarity is a key part of any copy editor’s job, but commas also play a role in shaping elements of writing that aren’t as simple as “correct” and “incorrect” usage. The comma, we’re often told, corresponds to a “slight pause”...

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Subject-Verb Agreement with Collective Nouns: Take 2

Usage

Back in September 2017, The Editing Company's own Barbara Kamienski wrote a great blog post about the linguistic challenges presented by subject-verb agreement. As Barbara points out, there are certain subjects that, especially when used in the same sentence, can make it difficult to determine whether verbs in any given construction should be plural or singular. One of Barbara's examples draws particular attention to this difficulty: None of the...

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4 Tips for Using the Em-dash and En-dash and Finding Them on Your Keyboard

Usage

As a keen-eyed reader, you have no doubt noticed that those little horizontal lines between words and numbers come in varying lengths. As a keen-eyed typist, you'll also have noticed that your keyboard is equipped with only one key: the hyphen/minus key. And you may have observed that sometimes when you type in two hyphens to set off an interjection -- because you just know that a simple hyphen isn't up to...

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Stumped by the Subjunctive

Usage

I recently subscribed to the Globe and Mail for the Friday and Saturday editions. Friday's paper includes the Report on Business the last Friday of each month, and is a magazine I want to read more regularly. The first issue I received wasn't a disappointment (June 2017). The cover story took an inside look at the changeover of CEOs at Rogers and made for a compelling read....

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A Little Punctuation Goes a Long Way: Managing Your Commas

Usage

    Few punctuation marks are misused as often as the comma. Sadly, many semi-professional or hobby writers of today seem to think that the comma is meant to signify vocal pauses. But, like any punctuation, the comma has specific uses: none of them involve noting vocal pauses.   In The Editorial Eye Vol. 25, No. 11, I saw a comma usage aptitude test entitled, “Be Conservative but Canny...

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Confounding Confusables, Part II

Usage

  It sometimes seems like there is a never-ending supply of words that are confusing in one way or another! There are homonyms, synonyms, words that are one letter off in spelling but couldn't be more different, and words that many people argue are not words at all. Every time I look up a new set of "confusables," I learn something new and interesting. I hope that you have...

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All Right, All Right, Alright: How to Use Three More Confusing Word Pairings

Usage

  In the TEC office this month, we have been discussing a number of words and phrases that are easily confused and/or misused. So, for our blog this week, we thought we would explain three tricky word pairings, and we hope you find them helpful. For yet another explanation of two word pairings, check out our October newsletter.   Better than / more than / over This set of words is...

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4 Tips for Using the Em-dash and En-dash and Finding Them on Your Keyboard

Usage

  As a keen-eyed reader, you have no doubt noticed that those little horizontal lines between words and numbers come in varying lengths. As a keen-eyed typist, you'll also have noticed that your keyboard is equipped with only one key: the hyphen/minus key. And you may have observed that sometimes when you type in two hyphens to set off an interjection -- because you just know that a simple hyphen isn't up to...

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The Language of the Olympics

Usage

Even the most sports-illiterate word nerds (I include myself in this category) will have been paying some attention to this month's Olympic Games — even if only because of some interesting linguistic phenomena. For instance, you may have heard the word "podium" used as a verb, or wondered if "Olympics" takes a singular or a plural verb.   Let's take a look at some Olympic terminology, where it came...

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Double Quotations vs. Single Quotations: What’s the Difference?

Usage

Double quotations vs. single quotations --  figuring out how to properly use both of these types of punctuation can be confusing, especially depending on where the text originated from. TEC editor Amy has a primer that can help you figure out, once and for all, when to use double quotations and when to use single quotations.   “Double Quotations”   In Canada and the United States, double quotation marks are...

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Editing & Hyphens: Tips on Hyphenating Your Writing

Usage

We have been absolutely inundated with work this week at TEC! Because of our crazy schedules, we're re-posting one of our most useful blogs. Barbara wrote this blog over a year ago, but it's still just as applicable today as it was last year! Hyphens can be confusing and tough to work with, even for more practiced writers. We hope you'll be able to refer back to this...

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4 Handy Tips: A Punctuation Primer

Usage

  Below are a few of the most common punctuation-related errors or inconsistencies that we see here at TEC. Here is what you need to keep in mind to help keep your prose correct and consistent!                 . ...

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4 Small Misses: Error Spotting on the Subway Ride to Work

Usage

Ever wonder what editors do while they ride the subway on their way to work? One engaging pastime is to read subway posters for minor errors. The other morning I spotted these four. See if you can identify them. “A simple solution to a sophisticated look. ”                –An Outdoor Deck Company “Paying more for less...

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4 (More) Commonly Misused Words

Usage

Studying philosophy has given me a special appreciation for logical words and the work they do. Some of these words, however, are commonly misused. (I already touched on a few of them in my last blog post. ) Here are some more pointers!  “Infer” and “Imply” The confusion between the verbs “infer” and “imply” is widespread. You might see something like this, for example, and think nothing of it:  “Her...

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The Apostrophe Rules: A Raging Debate

Usage

At a recent social gathering, a woman I had just met cornered me. So, I was an editor? Where, she demanded to know, did I stand on the possible abolition of the apostrophe? The debate currently raging had left her uncertain, and she wanted to hear an expert opinion from the horse’s mouth. (Thanks. ) Or might that soon be horses mouth? I mumbled something about how, yeah, a...

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Alternate Spellings and Heart-Stopping Moments

Usage

Every editor’s nightmare is this: finding a spelling error in the printed publication of the manuscript you just edited after the fact. It is devastating. Finding an error at this point in the process can undermine your self-worth to the nth degree.   I know this is an occupational hazard: missing things. I know we need to "step away from the book” at some point and accept the inevitable...

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The "Is, Is" Phenomenon

Usage

For a while I thought I was hearing things. The sounds came and went so fast, it was impossible to confirm them with the naked ear. But yes, with closer attention, I proved myself right. A new form of “is, is” has arisen in everyday speech, and it is clearly here to stay.   The new “is, is” is far different from, for example, the grammatical use of...

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Musings on "The Queen's English"

Usage

Greetings from London, everyone! For the past eleven days I have been having quite a time exploring and learning about this amazing, historical, and culture-rich city. I've been all over, from Hyde Park to Greenwich, from Camden Town to Southbank, and so many places in between. It's been a whirlwind of a trip so far. All the while, I've been keeping my ears and eyes open for...

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The Evolution of English and the Joy of Language

Usage

I have a 2-year-old son, and every day I find joy in the way he makes meaning of his world through words. Often I am just so pleased that he’s managed to express himself with words, rather than tantrums, that I don’t bother to try to turn his heartfelt statements into “proper English. ”   I remember quite distinctly one of his first complete sentences. It was a dreary day...

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