Apostrophes: Is It a Possessive or an Attributive Noun?

Apostrophes: Is It a Possessive or an Attributive Noun?

If the dearth of apostrophes in text messages, emails, and social media posts is any indication, we may be witnessing their demise.  But since such changes in usage happen slowly, for now we need to understand the difference between the possessive case and the...
Neither, Either, and Each: Three Tricky Indefinite Pronouns

Neither, Either, and Each: Three Tricky Indefinite Pronouns

In a different post, we discuss using singular personal pronouns to refer to singular indefinite pronouns (e.g., anyone, everyone, someone) and pointed out ways to do so without reinforcing the gender binary. This article focuses on making verbs agree with the...
A and An

A and An

One subscriber wrote to ask how to determine whether to use a or an in front of a noun. Like many of us, he had been taught simply to put a in front of consonants and an in front of vowels, but he realized that this oversimplified rule didn’t work in every case....
Split Infinitives: Are They Really So Bad?

Split Infinitives: Are They Really So Bad?

Most of us were taught never to split infinitives, but writers have been splitting them anyway—even long before Star Trek provided us with perhaps the most famous split infinitive, “to boldly go.” Those of us taught to regard the split infinitive as anathema...
They, Them, and Their Can Sometimes Be Singular

They, Them, and Their Can Sometimes Be Singular

Editors at Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary caused quite a stir when they tweeted on September 17, 2019, that “the nonbinary pronoun ‘they’ has been added to the dictionary.” Their tweet addresses a frequently asked question: can they (or...
Lie or Lay?

Lie or Lay?

This website addresses a number of confusing word pairs, including effect and affect, sit and set, and bad and badly, just to name a few. But none are more confusing than lie and lay. These verbs have traditionally held very different meanings. Simply put, to lie...