Born vs. Borne

These often cause confusion because they both come from the word to bear

Born is an adjective (a born actor) or a verb (she was born on December 8th). In this sense, born refers to actual or figurative birth.

Borne is the past participle of to bear (she has borne many sorrows). It can also mean transmitted by when used as a suffix (foodborne).

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Dangling Participle

Hopping on the bus, my keys fell out of my pocket.

That’s a dangling participle.

The participle, “Hopping on the bus,” appears before the main clause, which is often the case with participles. However, in this case, the participle appears to “dangle” because it does not refer to “my keys fell out of my pocket. This is because ” on the bus” is not immediately followed by “I,” but instead by “my keys.”

You may say that no one would read this sentence and think that my keys were hopping on the bus (at least no English-speaking reader would think so), but with language, clarity is important. Even an English speaker might have to read the second twice in order to perceive its meaning.

Dangling participles can be avoided if you carefully read over what you have written, looking for ways in which your meaning might be misinterpreted. Your reader is like an invited guest: you want to make them feel as comfortable as possible so that they will feel at home with your thoughts.

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Grammar Nazis

These are people, usually misinformed, who go about correcting everything, even when they are wrong.

They become especially militant when it comes to social media and email, refusing to acknowledge things like autocorrect, which can make writing on the fly hazardous. In the age of texting, we should be forgiving: texting is an informal thing, after all. It has more in common with note writing than with letter writing. And immediacy is the whole point.

I’ve met people who consider themselves “grammarians” (the word they use). They think that what they learned in grade school still applies, when actually, it often doesn’t. The result is, more often than not, confusion. A true grammarian looks for documentation. Ask these self-proclaimed experts the last time they opened a dictionary. If they haven’t done so within the last week, they probably don’t know what they are talking about.

Good grammar is not a moral issue, although many people think it so. Sometimes, it’s time to lighten up, rather than go to war over unimportant things.

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Correcting People Is Bad Manners

You know what annoys me? People who correct other people’s grammar. Especially since half the time – and I say this as a former professional proofreader who’s had to deal with such issues for a long time – especially since half the time, the people doing the correcting are (dare I say it?) inaccurate. They think that what they were taught in grammar school 50 years ago still goes, which ain’t necessarily so. With language, what used to be bad form may now be acceptable. This is because language usage changes, but you’d never know it to hear these people. For example:

One of the Merriam-Webster’s definitions of the word unique is interesting. Yes, folks, unique doesn’t solely mean one of a kind.

And — get this — the word irregardless is a defined in Merriam-Webster’s.

And it might surprise some people to learn that I’m well is a proper response when someone asks you about your health, but I’m good is acceptable when they are asking about your emotional state of mind.

My real point here is that correcting people’s grammar, especially in front of others, is bad manners. I’m not the only one to say so (check Miss Manners). In fact, correcting people in general is rude.

Take that, you pompous, braggadocio, self-proclaimed “grammarians”!

To those people, I ask, “What’s your source?”

Source?” they say. “Source? Why, I’m the source.”

I see. What have you published?

I once worked with a professional proofreader, to whom I pointed out that bit about unique to her by showing her the dictionary entry. “Well, that’s wrong!” she said.

Truth is, grammar is not a moral issue. Check out Kory Stamper’s Word for Word: the Secret Life of Dictionaries. She’s a dictionary editor. She knows her stuff. You’ll find some wonderful stuff there about things like the history of the pronunciation of the word nuclear.

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Good vs. Well

Below are sources indicating that it is grammatically correct to say “I’m good.”

“Well” describes one’s health. “Good” describes one’s emotional state.

“I’m Good” Versus “I’m Well”

Good vs. Well

An exception, of course, is when someone asks you how you are doing. In that case, the answer should be the adverb form: “well.”

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Capitalization for Emphasis Is a Bad Idea

Capitalization for Emphasis

Capitalization for emphasis is bad form.

We’ve seen random capitalization on the streets. It’s usually a crude attempt to capitalize for emphasis. Not a good idea. Stick with title case or sentence case.

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Hear hear vs. here here


hear hear!

and not

here here!




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The Correct Punctuation of Donald Trump, Jr.,’s Name

The Correct Punctuation of Donald Trump, Jr.,’s Name:


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Please check out a video from Kory Stamper, a lexicographer for Merriam-Webster. This means that she is a writer and editor of dictionaries.

And check out her book, Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries


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Yes and No

People are often confused about how to punctuate occurrences of yes and no.

The answer, according to The Chicago Manual of Style is simple: yes and no

So it is:

She said yes.

and NOT:

She said, “Yes.”

Notice there is no capitalization of the word yes.

The same is true of no.

so was have:

I say no.

and NOT:

I say, “N0.”


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