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Articles revisited

“What’s missing here?” you’ve heard me demand, tapping my blue felt-tip on a space between words in your copy. Sometimes, the answer is dead silence; sometimes, “Article?” Sometimes you even say the right one. A semester after The articles article, students are still coming to me confused about articles.  That’s OK; as I mentioned in that post, […]

Refresher course

This post was meant to be headlined “End of the Semester,” but final projects and internship applications came first. (You know who you are.) No matter; refining your English was probably the last thing on your mind over the holiday break. Now, back to work. If I didn’t know better, I’d think Phil Corbett down […]

Comma knowledge

The comma, that curved little wisp of a punctuation mark, indicates a pause. It gives readers a chance to catch their breath as they navigate the ideas in a sentence. Commas also help shape sentences, defining which words go together. Commas tend to travel in pairs, especially in sentences containing nonessential clauses and appositives, nouns […]

Tense about tenses?

Just before Election Day, a student asked me why his Craft professor had made the following edit in one of his stories: “The turnout will be seriously affected,” said Russell C. Gallo, the Republican candidate in the 45th district for the State Assembly, who runs is running against veteran Democratic member of the New York […]

Singular or plural?

The most common way to form plurals in English is simply to add -s to a noun: one reporter, two reporters; one desk, two desks; one laptop, two laptops. So does that mean any noun that ends in -s is automatically plural? Not necessarily. Consider two fields that journalists cover regularly: politics and economics. There’s […]

Antecedents in the news!

Right about now, Richard Mourdock is probably wishing he had paid more attention in his eighth-grade English class. Mourdock is, of course, the Republican Senate candidate from Indiana who got into hot water (that’s an idiom, meaning trouble) last week by saying that when rape results in pregnancy, “it is something that God intended.” But what does English have to do […]

That? Which? WHAT?!?!?

Relative clauses — those subordinate clauses that add information to sentences — can be confusing, even to native speakers of English. They can help you avoid monotony in sentence structure and achieve that variety in rhythm prized in English writing. Some relative clauses serve as giant adjectives or adverbs. For example: You’ll find the mailboxes […]