green_grrl: (SG1_JDWhat)
[personal profile] green_grrl
This Friday editorial is fun, plain and simple. The staff of The Week compiled 14 wonderful words with no English equivalent, and the headline is entirely accurate.

For all that James Nicoll's joke is true—English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary—there are still so many concepts we don't have words for in English. Sometimes these are locally influenced, such as distinct terms for snow in Inuktitut or for sweet potatoes in Hawaiian, but other times there are new ways of looking at life that other languages bring to the fore by naming them. How many of these words do you want to kidnap? )
green_grrl: (SG1_JDWhat)
[personal profile] green_grrl
English is full of phrases that get sprinkled through conversation. We pick them up, use them, and don't think too hard about them until we have to write them down. Then we realize we're not quite sure what the exact phrase is. [personal profile] lauramcewan asked us about one of these: "Is it 'one and the same' or 'one in the same'?" When spoken, the phrase tends to sound like "one 'n' the same," so it is understandably confusing.

Unlike some other usage questions, there is only one right answer here. I'll illustrate with the Avengers. )
green_grrl: (SPN_JAhee)
[personal profile] green_grrl
I, N, and G say that E and D have been known to take action in the past

A Tense Situation by John Atkinson

I can't resist a little verb-al humor. (Personally, I think E and D should be a little more worried about I, N, and G, as they like to be in the middle of the action, right now!)

See Fandom Grammar's parts of speech: verbs: tense tag to learn more about these rascals.
green_grrl: (SG1_JDWhat)
[personal profile] green_grrl
Two characters have sexily stripped off their tops. One is gently laying a line of kisses down the other from neck to … er … is it naval or navel? Using the wrong one is going to generate some confusing mental images.

Let’s look at these two words with some help from the Avengers. )
[identity profile]
One of our readers asks, “How many exclamation marks are too many? What is the standard usage on number of exclamation marks in a sentence or on a page?”

This sounds like a question born in the era of OMG!!!!!1!!1eleventy!, but questions around overuse of exclamation marks—or exclamation points in American English—have been around for much longer. Here is some advice, old and new, with examples from Stargate SG-1. )
[identity profile]
Our question today is from [ profile] ely_baby, who wants to know: When writing mostly in the present tense, what tense should be used for events in the past? 

There are a lot of past tense choices, and all of them can work with a present tense narrative. I will use Daisy, from Agents of SHIELD, to illustrate the options with some present day action and past history. )
[identity profile]
Our question today is when to use hoard versus horde. Both words have to do with a mass quantity, so they are often used interchangeably. But this is an error, as they do have separate, distinct meanings. Here's how to know when to use which, with examples using characters from The Hobbit. )
[identity profile]
Today’s question is why we say “sleep tight” and not “sleep tightly.” After all, “sleep” is a verb, so shouldn’t we use the adverb form “tightly”?

Readers of a certain age might remember a similar issue with Apple’s “Think Different” advertising campaign in the 1990s, which had thousands of people crying, “No, think differently!” More recently, singer and grammar nerd “Weird Al” Yankovic has been seen changing a road sign from “Caution Drive Slow” to “Caution Drive Slowly.”

The good news is that there are readers who recognize that an action verb (like sleep or think or drive) should be modified by an adverb, not an adjective. The bad news for people trying to use correct grammar is that there are times when what looks like an adjective actually is an adverb, called a “plain” or “flat” adverb.

Let’s take a closer look at these little known modifiers with examples from Marvel’s Avengers. )
[identity profile]
The grammarians and readers of [ profile] fandom_grammar know that there are readers who don't notice misspellings, wrong verb tenses, or sentence structure errors—and then there are readers for whom those things are like nails on a chalkboard. Other errors can be just as annoying to people: the policewoman watching a cop show in which the heroes are shooting off several rounds every episode, or the fanfic reader who's thrown out of the story when a character drives from California to New York in a day.

One of the family of errors that gets to me is celestial mechanics—the structure of the earth, moon, sun, and universe as a whole, and how they work together. The day I learned that not everyone grasps basic lunar-planetary astronomy was the day I watched Catwoman, a movie reviled by many, but here is where it lost me. )
[identity profile]
Our question today is how to correctly write dialogue with action/narrative. Here's an example of why this is necessary (with the detectives from Hawaii Five-0):

"Are there any malasadas left? I'm starving." Steve smiled.

"No, but we need to talk to Kamekona. We'll get you some shrimp." Danny grabbed his jacket as they both headed towards the door.

"Shrimp for breakfast?"

Kono and Chin just shook their heads as the sound of bickering faded down the hallway.
Okay, who said what, here? )
[identity profile]
Our question for today is how to punctuate a bulleted list when a statement comes right before the list. I will add numbered lists, as well.

There are actually two parts to this answer: the statement that comes before the list and the list itself. Both have a variety of options, and it seems no two resources agree. Here is a grammarian's advice with some examples from Teen Wolf. )
[identity profile]
[ profile] debirlfan wants to know: What is the difference between "maths" and "math," including British and American usages?

The short answer is, the only difference between the two is British and American usage. Let's take a look, with examples from Teen Wolf and Torchwood. )
[identity profile]

Guaranteed to set the grammar police's collective teeth on edge!

[ profile] fandom_grammar has tackled the their/there/they're issue before, notably here and here.

Image found at and numerous other places across the internet.
[identity profile]
Today we're going to look at which of the following is correct, and why:

"Which one of us has a psych degree?" Dom demanded.
"Which one of us has a psyche degree?" Dom demanded.

The characters from Inception will help us distinguish between these. )
[identity profile]
[ profile] mha_chan wants to know: What are dangling participles, modifiers, etc.?

In short, dangling modifiers (sometimes called misplaced modifiers) are a type of grammatical error that can make your sentences unclear, misleading, or downright silly to the reader. Dangling participles are a subset of dangling modifiers.

Let's find out more about what they are and how to avoid them, with some help from the students and staff at Hogwarts. )
[identity profile]
What is the difference between tenet and tenant?

These two words sound almost the same but have completely different meanings, so you want to make sure you have the correct one. Daniel Jackson from Stargate SG-1 will help demonstrate the difference. )
[identity profile]
Today's question is when to use fewer and when to use less. If you want to talk about more of something, it's always "more." But if you want to talk about less of something.... Why did I just say "less of something" and not "fewer of something"?

Here's the difference, with some help from the characters in Teen Wolf. )
[identity profile]
Want to know why Fandom Grammar is here?

This may seem like one of those apocryphal funnies that gets posted around on Facebook, but I tested it out, and yup, these are pretty much the kind of autocomplete results you get from Google for these phrases. It's not Google or grammarians or any other social arbiters being elitist—these are autocomplete results compiled and run automatically through Google's algorithms. Millions of searches and selections confirm that these are the likely phrases being searched for.

Why should 'u' care? )
[identity profile]
Today's commonly confused words are amount and number. Both refer to quantity, but which should be used when?

For example, should Harry Potter say, "I can't believe the amount of people crammed into the common room for this party" or "I can't believe the number of people crammed into the common room for this party"?

Hermione and Professor Snape can help explain. )
[identity profile]
Reader [ profile] carodee wanted to know: Which is the correct spelling: whoa or woah?

I was pretty firmly in the camp of whoa when I got this question. My New Oxford American Dictionary doesn't list woah at all, and under whoa it says:
used as a command to a horse to make it stop or slow down
[informal] used as a greeting, to express surprise or interest, or to command attention
And the Corpus of Historical American English—which tracks language usage through magazines, newspapers, and fiction and nonfiction books—lists 911 uses of whoa in published sources versus ten of woah.

Seems pretty conclusive, right? Well, it wouldn't be a post if that was the end of the story. )


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