5 things every editor should remember

  Not an exhaustive list, of course, but some good things to remember: 1. No one will ever complain if something is too clear. 2. It’s not about you. Just because you don’t like the way something’s written doesn’t mean it’s wrong. As I’ve said before, have a good reason for any change you make….

“Playing” English: Grammar rules and when to break them

Writing can be like playing the piano. To get good at the piano, first you need to learn scales and chords and technique. Then you learn how notes fit together and form compositions. Then you can experiment and play and create — and break the rules if you need to in order to get a…

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…

Who gets to decide how language is used?

Recently during a discussion about standard English, usage manuals and stylebooks, I was asked, “Who gets to decide?” My answer was, “We all do.” As users of the language, we are the ones who ultimately determine the direction of our language: the fate of words old and new, changes in meanings, and addition or subtraction…

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…