Stop the apostrophe madness

Today’s quick post will, I hope, clear up some common misunderstandings about the correct (and incorrect) uses of the apostrophe. Something I and other grammaristas have been noticing more and more lately is what is often called the “grocer’s apostrophe,” probably because it seems to turn up especially often in signs like “Apple’s,” “Banana’s”, or … Continue reading

In the Subjunctive Mood

Sorry for the long lag between posts! Don’t get pneumonia: you’ll spend a month unable to do anything and another two months unable to motivate yourself to do anything beyond the barest necessities. But I am now fighting fit and ready to begin this long-overdue discussion of the subjunctive mood. The subjunctive mood is one … Continue reading

Me, myself and I

No, I’m not about to spend the next thousand words telling you all about myself, scintillating as that would no doubt be. But this is a post I’ve been wanting to write for some time, as it is all about a grammar issue near and dear to my heart: the use (and misuse) of first-person … Continue reading

The serial comma

Recently, I mentioned in passing that I prefer not to use the serial, or Oxford, comma except in cases where the sentence might be unclear or ambiguous without it. My friend was surprised that I come down on that side of the fence, but really, when all is said and done, the serial comma seems … Continue reading

That’s that

A short and sweet little article today, at the behest of Michelle Franklin: Which and that are two often-confused pronouns, which needn’t be. Both can be used as relative pronouns and there are a couple of main differences. The first (and easiest): “which” refers only to animals and inanimate objects; “that” usually refers to animals … Continue reading

Whom: feared and misunderstood

Very few words in the English language are as under-used, misused, scorned, sneered at and just plain misunderstood as the word “whom”. Seen by many as a mark of pretension, “whom” has come in for a lot of undeserved abuse, but I think most of that is caused by fear. I hope this article will … Continue reading

The Joy of Shall

Shall is a word that is rapidly falling into disuse, particularly in North America, as is the corresponding past and conditional use of should. This is a tragedy. Although the rules governing proper usage of shall/will and should/would may seem a bit complicated to those of us not used to hearing it in everyday speech, … Continue reading