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I Do Windows

It must be a slow Monday when I decide to scrutinize a Microsoft Word message window. I’ve just noticed a subject-verb disagreement, or at least the appearance of one, in the window I’ve viewed more than any other in my lifetime of Word usage (see above). The window tells us that the spelling and grammar … Continue reading

My First Chief, Lynn Forbish

I’ve just received word that my first copy chief, Lynn Forbish, has died. Lynn was a benevolent enforcer at The Roanoke Times, quick with a story about growing up in Wisconsin during a lull in the worknight and quicker with a shh! when we were on deadline. I learned more about copy editing from Lynn … Continue reading

The Subject Is the Subject

Friend of the blog Kasey recently asked, “How are we supposed to use capitalization in the subject line of an e-mail?” There isn’t a single rule governing subject lines, but there are two commonly accepted ways to capitalize titles (of anything—e-mails, books, memos), and each have their own rules. Sentence-style capitalization, which seems to be … Continue reading

Mind the Till

File this under We Appreciate the Effort. Writers constantly render the alternate form of until as ’til. (Half the time it’s with the wrong apostrophe—‘til—but we’ll leave that for another day.) But in a cruel twist brought to you by the mutative quality of the English language*, the proper form is till. That’s right, no … Continue reading

E-mail Breakdown: A Question of Tone

I received an unsolicited, honest-to-God message from a reader recently about an e-mail conversation he had with a co-worker. My reader said that he and the co-worker saw nothing wrong with the tone of the conversation but that their boss did. The boss, my reader told me, thought the tone turned rude during the end … Continue reading

Call for Submissions

Someone recently asked me to review the tone and content of an e-mail conversation. A recipient of the e-mail misjudged the writer’s tone, and he asked me to tell him why that might be. It was a fascinating project—I’d like to do it more often, and for The Writing Guide. If you’ve recently had an … Continue reading

“Different” Type of Question

At least once a day I fret over different. My knee-jerk reaction is often that it’s unnecessary if it seems apparent that the writer is referring to a list of varied items. But this is a situation where overwhelming usage usually defeats my instincts. And I’m never satisfied with my decision. Some examples: After two … Continue reading

Entirely Unnecessary

Lately I’ve been coming across writers misusing entire and entirely. They include it in a mistaken attempt to add emphasis or distinction to a noun, but it often acts as only an empty modifier. If you write that you could write an entire article about something or that you love an ingredient so much that … Continue reading

Odd Little Morsel

I encountered a rare occurence while editing the other day: a writer misspelled hors d’oeuvre. And, to be more accurate, the writer didn’t misspell it so much as mispunctuate it. She left off the apostrophe. It’s a funny tic of the trade that I come across egregious misspellings of common words every day but a … Continue reading