Don’t sweat it: Serial comma

Want to start an argument in a group of editors? Bring up the serial comma. The serial (also called Oxford) comma is the comma that comes right before the conjunction in a list of items. For some reason, word people tend to get really worked up about this one little mark. (There’s even a song…

Style and grammar, or why lots of things aren’t ‘wrong’

Originally posted on Grammar Monkeys on June 4, 2012. What do we talk about when we talk about grammar? Strictly speaking, grammar is the unique patterns of a language, the system of how speakers can put together words and sentences. Grammar encompasses morphology (how to form words), syntax (how to form sentences) and semantics (what words…

Some questions, some answers

Originally posted on Grammar Monkeys on July 16, 2010. We get lots of questions on Twitter, mostly ones about grammar, spelling and usage (we do answer, and we’re happy to help), but there are some questions we’ve had a few times that we thought we’d answer here on the blog. 1. Do people really mess…

Fussbudgets and freewheelers

Originally posted on Grammar Monkeys on June 18, 2010. In discussions of language and grammar, you may have heard the terms “prescriptivist” and “descriptivist.” These are the two extremes: the fussbudgets and the freewheelers. But a lot of us, even editors, fall somewhere in the middle. Prescriptivists adhere to a rigid standard of language, with…