#Diagramming challenge No. 1 (sentence and answer)

At the recent ACES: The Society for Editing conference, I gave a session on diagramming sentences. It was during the last session period of the conference, on a sunny Florida afternoon, and more than 100 people packed the room to learn, or refresh their memories, about sentence diagramming. (We’re talking about the classic “Reed-Kellogg” method…

‘Bleaching’ the vibrancy out of words

English has a whole category of words called “contronyms” — words that have opposing definitions, such as “cleave” meaning both join and cut apart,”sanction” meaning both allow and prohibit, and, to the consternation of many of us, “literally” meaning both actually and figuratively. (See more contronyms at Mental Floss and Daily Writing Tips.) But English…

Don’t sweat it: Due to / because of

Earlier this year, I gave a presentation called “Sweat This, Not That: Real Rules vs. Grammar Myths” at the American Copy Editors Society national conference. The point of the presentation was that it’s easy for editors to get hung up on “rules” of language that are nothing more than peeves, shibboleths or outdated rules –…

Comparatives and superlatives

Originally posted on Grammar Monkeys on June 9, 2011. Two recent related questions prompted this post: one on whether “funner” is a word, and one on “stupider” vs. “more stupid.” (Thanks, @kellidubya and @joshwood) These forms are called comparatives: adjectives that, as the name implies, indicate a comparison between two entities, times, states of being,…

Which one? What kind?

Originally posted on Grammar Monkeys on Dec. 6, 2010. Which” and “what” each have more than one function in English, but what we’re talking about in this post is when they’re used as interrogative adjectives, that is, in front of nouns in a question: Which theater did you say that movie was at? What show…