of the errors cited here have begun to appear frequently in advertising
copy, bureaucratic writing and even in the writing of many journalists
but have not yet shown up in academic writing enough to attract the
attention of the people who write and edit handbooks of English usage.
The list is repetitious and grows as new examples appear or more errors
are identified. Readers are invited to email comments, questions and
topics for discussion.
Oil is a key ingredient in asphalt. WRONG.
Oil is a key ingredient of asphalt. CORRECT
Oil is a key asphalt ingredient. WEAK but OK when brevity is required
to get extra line on a page.
Ingredient contains the concept of IN.
list includes, in part, birds, bees, trees and flowers. The use
of includes means that the list will be incomplete.
Only a lawyer for a food distributor would write: The list includes
but is not limited to flour, starch, sugar, soybean oil.
Never use the word "includes" to introduce a list you
are confident is complete. If an editor or page designer shortens
the list, that person is responsible for putting in the word "includes"
or using a phrase such as "Among the visitors were Jones, Smith
An exception to this rule is in certain parts of obituaries: Survivors
include his wife, Maude, to whom he was married in 1492; one daughter,
Jane Doe; one son, Fred Doolittle; 30 grandchildren.
Our job is to be accurate and that means not asserting completeness
when we can't swear to it or directly quote someone we reasonably
can trust on the subject. The subject of the obit may have 70 illegitimate
children by nine women who may have never been married to him but
who all deserve to be in the obit, for all we know.
The person who has died may have half-siblings or step-siblings
who haven't kept in touch. We can't assume that Jane Doe, who provided
the information to the funeral home, knows all who survive her father
or that she would choose to list them all. Thus we use "include"
and are always right because inlaws and friends or a loving pet
would willingly be classed as survivors in every case.
resident who lives in Fayetteville. WRONG
A resident of Fayetteville is a person who lives in Fayetteville.
Resident includes the concept PERSON WHO LIVES IN and is followed
by a prepositional phrase naming the place where the person lives.
"The consultants believe the hosipitial can draw a growing
number of patients from the approximately 7,200 residents in the
seven-mile radius which centers around the facility. COUNT ERRORS!
The consultants said the hospital can draw new patients from the
approximately 7,200 people who live within a 7-mile radius of the
facility. IMPROVED and Shorter!
into the allegations. WRONG
Investigation of the allegations.
Investigation means the process of LOOKING INTO.
from the Civil Rights Office. WRONG
Representatives of the Civil Rights Office. A representative is
someone who represents someone or an agency and contains the concept
that FROM would convey. A person from China may be in town next
week to represent the Chinese government at our conference.
window was broken to gain entry into the car. WRONG
window was broken to gain entry to the car.
car was entered after a window was broken.
THE EVENTS ARE NOT CLEARLY connected unless evidence confirms motivation.
To gain entry includes the concept INTO.
nominating committee for the club. WRONG
The nominating committee of the club. OK
The club's nominating committee. BETTER
A committee is PART of the club not a group of employees of the
redundancy: The reason why we did it was because we wanted to.
The reason we did it was we wanted to. WEAK
The reason that we did it was that we wanted to. OK
We did it because we wanted to. GOOD
Why we did it was clear we wanted to. EMPHATIC
We wanted to was why we did it. Awkward
Only one of the words REASON, WHY or BECAUSE need be used in a sentence.
on someone's part
He said he hadn't locked the doors of the car that was broken into.
Most people see the need for improved access to and from the park.
Most people see the need for improved access to the park. Access
says it ALL.
wants to access his account. WRONG, despite the inroads of computer
jargon into the language.
He wants access to his account. OK
He wants to gain access to his account. This is an occasion when
the longer version may be BETTER because it maintains the idiom.
Access has only recently been used as a verb and it adds nothing
to our ability to communicate and may offend some careful readers,
speakers and writers.
people may be from a place or work for a company. Regardless of
where the person is or who employs the person, that person qualifies
for the title used.
She is a teacher from another school. He is a doctor. She is a surgeon.
He is a nurse. She is a stonemason. He is a carpenter. He is a salesman
from another town. He is an engineer for (or from) another town.
He is a firefighter for another town.
seemingly similar titles, however, apply only as long as the person
has that particular job or assignment. He is executive director
of the airport. He is a representative of another town. He is a
clerk at a convenience store. He is a laborer for.... He is the
president of the neighborhood association. Such positions aren't
professions or trades.
are many ways to establish professional status. Having a degree
or certification from a professional group or being licensed by
a public agency or trade organization are among them. Having worked
successfully in a trade may offer similar status. Carey Adams of
Fayetteville was a widely recognized auto mechanic although he displayed
no certificates to that effect on the walls of the Conoco service
station that bore his name in south Fayetteville for many years.
In his obituary he could have been identified as a businessman,
a service-station owner or a mechanic. Had he lived to retire, he
would have been a former businessman or service-station owner but
he would have still been a qualified mechanic even in retirement.
omitting the word "that" results in failure to communicate:
Superintendent Bobby New said last year the district had numerous
possibilities for using the $1,086 it received from the Christmas-card
fund. Fayetteville Superintendent Bobby New said that, last year,
the district had numerous possibilities for using the $1,086 it
received from the Christmas-card fund. Fayetteville Superintendent
Bobby New said last year that the district had numerous possibilities
for using the $1,086 it received from the Christmas-card fund.
was the statement made? The reader deserves to know. The lack of
"that" sometimes suggests that the following noun is the
object of the verb when the following noun actually is the subject
of a subordinate clause.
called the extra time off a "secret killer," and Superintendent
Leroy Ortman promised the district would share the expense.
Fladager called the extra time off a "secret killer,"
and Superintendent Leroy Ortman promised that the district would
share the expense.
Because only two words usually are not surrounded by quotation marks,
the reader must try to guess what is special about these two words:
Is a secret killer something that kills secretly or kills secrets?
before names should be brief and normally used only on second reference:
Coach Nutt said to block and tackle.
first reference, the correct, complete title should follow the name:
Houston Nutt, head coach of the Arkansas Razorback football team,
said his players need practice.
major problem for editors is having to rephrase sentences to move
long titles from the beginning of a sentence. Name the person, then
give his title.
Razorback offensive coordinator John Smith said.... John Jones,
coordinator of the Razorback defense, said.... Coach Jones may be
preferable to Jones for second reference because Jones may be the
coach of a team that includes a player named Jones and some players
may be quoted in such a story.
Fayetteville Parks and Recreation Division Director John Doe said....
John Doe, director of the Fayetteville park and recreation division,
English nouns when used as adjectives to modify another word are
either changed to adjectival form or used in singular form. Exceptions
include media, which is plural but often used as an adjective: Media
outlets demand respect. Police, which is plural, is used as an adjective.
That was police business.
Arkansas State Police may be the name of an agency but the agency
is named for the group of people: The Arkansas State Police are
starting a crackdown. A policeman, policewoman or police officer
is expected to arrest a criminal. The Springdale Police are expected
to make arrests. An Arkansas state trooper also makes arrests.
names of teams that participate in sports often cause trouble in
maintaining correct agreement of subject and verb. Most team names
are plural because a team is a group of people. Subject-verb agreement
should be maintained even when a team's name is singular. But it
isn't always easy. The name of the team is the Razorbacks. A team
is a group of people. He is a Razorback. He is a Razorback player.
He is a Razorback linebacker. He is the Razorback linebacker coach.
He is the Razorback's linebacker coach. The game will be in Razorback
Stadium. That one is easy.
Heat may be a basketball team but what do you call a member of the
team? A Heat player. He is a Heat center or a center for the Heat.
The Forty-Niners are another easy one: Jerry Rice, a 49er (or a
pass receiver for the 49ers), changed teams. Rice has become a Raider.
The Raiders were glad to get him. A Raider fan expressed joy at
seeing Rice catch his first pass as a Raider. Rice may be the Raiders'
best receiver. Rice certainly appears to be the best Raider receiver
to some observers.
team of girls is a girls' team, if it must be shortened. Girls'
basketball is a popular sport. Sandy Smith is the coach of the girls.
She is the girls' coach.
National Park Service when shortened to park service is hyphenated
as a modifier: He is a park-service employee. Usually "the
service" is good enough on second reference. "He is a
park employee" is right if he is mentioned in a story about
the park where he works. "He is an employee of the service"
might be best if the story is about the park service as an agency.
if a noun used as an adjective is plural in an official name, it
isn't plural on subsequent, lower-cased references.
The Fayetteville Parks and Recreation Division on second reference
is just division; or, if more information is needed to avoid confusion,
it is park and recreation division. The Federal Communications Commission
on second reference is commission or if other commissions are mentioned
in the story it is the FCC or communication commission.
all other words with similar endings, communication is a noun of
mass that never needs pluralization.
confusion arises when people try to shorten phrases such as "several
instances of communication" or "several means of communication"
to "several communications." Would you talk about "transportations"?
Before the FCC was created, few careful speakers or writers would
have added an s to communication.
two-word proper name of a thing is not usually hyphenated when used
as an adjective unless the name is officially hyphenated: The Post-Prison
Transfer Board was the name found on the Internet and in official
literature in the early months of the existence of the board. Later,
the hyphen was omitted. What did the legislature intend when creating
High School. The Rogers High School principal is a high-school principal
teacher at Rogers High School is a high-school teacher in Rogers.
Ferguson, coach of the quarterbacks, may be identified as quarterback
coach Joe Ferguson if an editor finds he must shorten the sentence
by the 3 extra character spaces required by the correct prepositional
Wide-receiver coach Terry Edwards would be the abbreviated form
of Terry Edwards, who coaches wide receivers. The noun used as an
adjective (receiver) must be singular. The two words, wide receivers,
must be singular when combined to form an adjective.
absurdity of long titles before a name can be confusing on first
English teacher Mary Smith said.... Is she from England? Does she
teach the language?
Trying to put too much before the name can make it worse, because
the person clearly isn't the focus: Third-year Rogers High School
freshman-English teacher Dr. Mary Smith said.... Dr. Mary Smith,
a third-year teacher of freshman English at Rogers High School,
The title is in apposition with the name: Either could be used without
the other and the second item, the appositive, must be surrounded
by commas. The first version is simply wrong and can't be punctuated
as an appositive unless an article is added.
A third-year Rogers High School freshman-English teacher, Mary Smith,
If the function (in the form of what many textbooks call a false
title) is more important than the name, for instance in introducing
a person testifying in the trial and intending to emphasize credentials
rather than person, then this setting off of the name as an appositive
might have some justification. Otherwise, name the person and then
put the long title or description inside a pair of commas.
titles must not be stacked in front of a name: School superintendent
Dr. Phil Silvers should read Dr. Phil Silvers, superintendent of
schools. Or Dr. William Scholarship, professor of English. Or Assistant
professor Bill Wannabe, M.A., said. Don't write assistant journalism
professor. That sounds like a student helper or graduate assistant.
An assistant professor of journalism is a step above an instructor
and a step lower than an associate professor. A full professor is
just plain professor, although, in casual use, Professor Jones is
acceptable for anyone above the rank of instructor.
using "though" in place of "however" or "although."
While dictionaries may show "though" as a replacement
for these and several other words, the overuse of "though"
makes a writer appear lazy and imprecise:
Though he loved his wife, he didn't stay home very much. He worked
long hours and made a lot of money for her, though.
Although he loved his wife, he didn't stay home very much; however,
his long days at work resulted in big paychecks that provided a
fine lifestyle for the woman. Sometimes, writers use "though"
to replace more than one of these words in a single sentence or
paragraph. This would be stylistically suspect even if the imprecision
of the word choice were not so strongly emphasized by it.
Do not substitute "though" for "although" or
"however." Although ill, he finished the day's work. He
was ill; however, he finished the day's work.
use of "though": "We're not talking about having
a wart removed even though liberals would have us believe
that a fetus is just another growth to be removed like a wart."
is useful as an adjective: The ongoing project is expensive.
on" is useful as a verb: The project is going on despite the
Neither works well in the other function.
use "couple" as an adjective.
A couple more inches.
A couple of inches more. A couple of dogs more won't overfill the
If the figure under discussion is actually two, write "Two
more dogs won't overfill the kennel." That is shorter and exact.
If it isn't two, write "A few more dogs won't overfill the
kennel." That is still shorter and purposely vague but as accurate
as necessary if you don't know the exact capacity of the kennel.
project includes renovations to the school. WRONG
The project includes renovation of the school. Renovation is a PROCESS.
The word is a noun of mass. When you are renovating something, no
matter how many things you repair and replace, the process amounts
to renovation of the named facility.
many cities there is a program for enhancing the value of city property
known in some places as the Capital Improvement Program.
In most references, a lower-cased version of the name is appropriate:
Capital-improvement projects are on the agenda.
Councilwoman Thiel usually votes for capital-improvement projects.
These words refer to groups of people. Individuals are referred
to as members of the faculty or staff or as faculty or staff members
in a shorter form.
According to staff, the work is almost finished. WRONG
According to the staff, the work is almost finished. BETTER The
word THE suggests the possibility that more than one member of the
staff worked on the report or that members of the staff agree to
the assertion and it gets rid of the possibility that the reader
will think that the noun of mass, staff, refers to one person.
Joe Schmoo, a member of the staff (or better, use his exact title),
said the work is almost finished. MUCH BETTER!
injured after accident. WRONG, usually.
Boy injured in accident. MORE LIKELY, although he could have been
injured by tripping while walking home after being hit by but not
injured by a car.
dies after accident. NOT Always correct. Various possibilities are
likely: Accident results in death of boy. Boy dies in accident.
Boy pronounced dead after accident. Boy injured in accident dies
at hospital. Man, injured in accident as a boy in 1923, dies at
idiomatic expressions and logical relationships: Do not omit the
word "that" when it introduces a subordinate clause. There
are far too many occasions when the reader has to read a sentence
twice after being confused by the omission of "that."
Nutt told the crowd he has faith in the Razorback football team.
Before you decide to omit "that" notice what follows "that"
and imagine various momentary misinterpretations if the line should
break where it is omitted.
Nutt told the crowd, which he has faith in, that the Razorback football
team is excellent.
Nutt told the crowd that he has faith in the Razorback football
be certain to place "that" in the right place.
said last year she was in love.
The sentence can mean two things and "that" can show which
She said that, last year, she was in love.
She said, last year, that she was in love.
Coach Nutt said last year the Hogs were slow.
Coach Nutt said that, last year, the Hogs were slow.
Coach Nutt said, last year, that the Hogs were slow.
four-letter word often is essential for clarity and "that"
is one that should always be in the correct place. If an editor
or page designer trying to save a line deems the word "that"
disposable when trying to save a line on a page at the last minute,
that person can remove it. But the writer who uses it properly cannot
be faulted for using "that."
is an engineer with the city. She is the program coordinator for
engineer is always an engineer. A program coordinator carries that
title only when employed in such a position.
Officials or administrators are officials or administrators only
as long as they have their jobs: Jane Smith, an official with the
college, ... WRONG.
Jane Smith, an official at the college, .... OK
Jane Smith, an official of the college, reported that money is scarce.
CORRECT, precise relationship.
Jane Smith, a history professor at the college, said.... GOOD.
Jane Smith, a history professor with the college, said.... WEAK.
Jones was arrested by agents with the task force. WRONG
Jones was arrested by agents of the task force. CORRECT
Jones was arrested by task-force agents. OK and shorter but some
writers want to avoid hyphens and thus should stick to the long
Agent is the name of a job or position, not a profession. A person
functions as an agent of someone or some organization.
there may be various reasons for the existence of tension in a person
or portion of the world and there may an unlimited level of tension,
there is no reason to add s.
Tensions mount WRONG.
Tension mounts CORRECT.
pulled away the 13-year-old from the victim. WRONG.
Teachers pulled the 13-year-old away from the victim.
separating parts of verbs, particularly the sign of the infinitive
(to), is a useful rule for clarity. However, separable-suffix verbs
by definition may be broken by intervening words. In many cases,
traditional idiomatic usage requires the separation. The separable
suffix may appear to be a preposition but its use is as a part of
following punctuation tips follow traditional rules designed to
ensure that major breaks in long sentences may be identified.
Journalists, of course, are encouraged to write short sentences.
At least, however, if the writer punctuates correctly, the editor
can instantly tell by the semicolon where the two independent clauses
should be separated by a period to form two sentences. The semicolon
is required even when a coordinating conjunction makes the transition
to show the meaning relationship between two independent clauses
if there are commas in either of the main clauses: "Our needs
have been greater, and the pool is smaller," said Jane Webb,
Rogers assistant superintendent for personnel. "Teachers in
elementary education, social studies and English were plentiful;
but, in those areas, we're seeing a decreasing applicant pool as
Notice the comma after the coordinating conjunction but.
Such a comma is required only when the conjunction has to be preceded
by a semicolon because the second independent clause is introduced
by a nonrestrictive dependent clause or phrase. If a coordinating
conjunction opens a simple sentence, there is no comma after the
"I love my dog. But I don't like hair on the sofa." Do
not add a comma simply because you might pause there when speaking.
The comma leads a reader to assume that some intervening clause
or phrase will appear before the main clause that follows.
common error is omitting one of the commas in a matched pair. The
introductory adverbial prepositional phrase in those areas must
be surrounded by commas. If the coordinating conjunction did not
introduce the second independent clause, of course, only the second
comma would be needed.
is the final phase of enhancements to the building.
This is the final phase of the enhancement of the building.
The process of enhancing the building is almost complete.
Any work done to improve a building is enhancement of or improvement
of the building. Neither word needs an s when used properly.
religious group requires Saturday be a day of rest. WRONG
One religious group requires that Saturday be a day of rest. BEST
One religious group requires Saturday to be a day of rest. Confusing
because a day can't be required to do anything.
The state Department of Education requires a non-certified ESL teacher
become certified within three years of being hired. FAILS TO MAINTAIN
The state Department of Education requires a non-certified ESL teacher
to become certified within three years of being hired. GOOD
The state Department of Education requires that a non-certified
ESL teacher become certified within three years of being hired.
and, Try to
We will try and win the game. COCKY player or coach. Bulletin board
We will try to win the game. HONEST player or coach.
We will try to consider everyone's point of view.
That is sincere and suggests that the speaker plans to do his best.
Additionally, it maintains the long-standing idiom.
perceived difficulties in getting water service.
The perceived difficulty of getting water service.
Two small corrections also make the sentence shorter.
records clerk is learning to be a crime scene investigator.
The record clerk is learning to be a crime-scene investigator.
A record clerk files records. Nouns used as adjectives are in singular
form; and two nouns combined to form an adjective are hyphenated.
Because he was believed to have been responsible for war crimes,
Hitler would have been brought to trial before a war-crime tribunal.
The terms limits law is too strict, Anonymous may have written.
The term limits law is too strict, Hausam said. STILL BAD
The term-limit law is too strict to be practical, he said. CORRECT
When the nouns term and limits are combined to form an adjective,
a hyphen joins them and neither word needs to be plural. Terms of
comparison such as too strict cry out for completion of the comparison.
Senate passed several rules changes. WRONG
The Senate passed several rule changes. BETTER
The Senate changed several rules. GOOD
because a television broadcaster or weather-service spokesman talks
about "storm events" doesn't mean a writer needs to say
anything more than "storms."
profits rise. WRONG. The noun of mass doesn't need to be in a plural
form. Zerox's profit rises. CORRECT. No matter how much its gross
income is greater than its expenditures, Zerox can make only profit,
There is a reason to put an S on profit when it is used as a verb
following a singular subject.
"It little profits a woman to marry young without discovering
first whether she really loves the guy who proposes to her."
NOUN OF MASS treated as singular. Profit as a verb may need an s:
It little profits a man to beat his dog.
if a word has an adjectival form, it should be used: He is a Democratic
senator, not a Democrat senator.
He is principal at Jones Elementary School. WEAK
He is the principal of Jones Elementary School.
is a shortened phrase for "The principal teacher of the school."
In a similar use, business writers may say that someone is the principal
of a company, suggesting the person is the principal stockholder
or principal manager.
there appears to be a logical reason to use a plural noun as an
adjective, the noun must appear in possessive form. For instance:
James Johnson coaches girls' soccer. The full, correct form would
involve a prepositional phrase: James Johnson coaches soccer for
girls or girls in soccer.
When a prepositional phrase is converted to a one-word adjective
preceding a noun modified by the phrase, the adjectival form must
Razorbacks tight end John Jones is big. WRONG.
Razorback tight end John Jones is big. OK but likely constitutes
a false title, according to Roy Reed!
A Razorback tight end, John Jones, is big. OK, if you need the name
in apposition to the position or title.
The Razorbacks' starting tight end, John Jones, is big. OK
John Jones, the Razorbacks' starting tight end, is big. GOOD
All the Razorbacks tight ends are big. WRONG
All the Razorbacks' tight ends are big. OK
Razorbacks tight ends John Jones and Bill Smith are big. WRONG
Razorback tight ends John Jones and Bill Smith are big.
All the Razorbacks' tight ends Jones, Smith, Hewlett and
Packard are big.
dash is recommended to set off the series of names, which are in
apposition with tight ends, because commas are needed between the
items in the series.
The kids planted flowers at the home of a nearby resident. WORDY,
The kids planted flowers at a nearby residence. GOOD and short,
hitting all bases.
property owners. WRONG
Private-property owners. CORRECT without lengthening phrase.
Owners of private property. BEST CHOICE if it will fit.
cyclists between the ages of 5 and 14 account for about 24 percent
of all bicycle-related deaths in the United States, according to
the National SAFE KIDS Campaign web site. WHY be redundant and do
it with a noun modifying a noun?
Children between the ages of 5 and 14 account for about 24 percent
of all bicycle-related deaths in the United States, according to
the National SAFE KIDS Campaign Web site. It is obvious the kids
were cyclists and the word adding nothing.
The new Gentry board will represent five zones and have two at-large
positions, adding two spots to the school board, but Barrett said
he does not anticipate (to use) using the zones in the upcoming
election. If the economy picks up and revenue(s) improve(s), he
said(,) the projects may be back on the drawing board in two years.
The city's water usage has increased. WRONG
The city's water use has increased. BETTER
The city's use of water has increased. BEST but longer.
Jones, a vice president with McClelland Consulting Engineers, WRONG
Jones, a vice president of McClelland ..., CORRECT
area known as a commons may also be called a common area. It is
obviously a place used in common by everyone. It is an old phrase.
So one can say either "We met on (in) the commons" or
"we met on (in) the common area. Probably, "on the commons"
would be used outdoors and "in the commons" if the area
is indoors. This is one of many examples of the tendency of today's
writers and speakers to needlessly use a plural form of a noun as
an adjective when the singular is correct.
bear was relocated.
The bear was moved.
use relocated instead of moved. Relocated would suggest the bear
was discovered or found again.
matter what bureaucrats and politicians say, when talking about
water or electricity or gas or whatever, the word is "use"
Usage is what instructors try to teach in English class. In relation
to water, it might be logical to utilize the word "usage"
if talking about the correct way to use water; but generally don't
use "usage" where "use" will do, unless it is
in a direct quote that you feel is necessary to a story.
a verb rather than a noun:
$460,000 Needed For Youth Center Furnishings
$460,000 Needed To Furnish Youth Center
the council approves the request, Simmons has asked Ron Blackwell
and Bill Enfield be appointed as the new members.
the council approves the request, Simmons has asked that Ron Blackwell
and Bill Enfield be appointed as new members.
on the phrase apparently developed in the second half of
the 20th century in imitation of "later on," a long-established
phrase. Later on may be understood to mean "later on the program,
later on down the road, later on the agenda." However, the
addition of the word "on" adds little or nothing unless
it actually serves as a preposition that has an object apparent
in the sentence. Early on is absurd in a sentence such as "Early
on, we learn to read." If it means early in life or early in
one's school career or whatever, state that fact clearly.
Be specific. Early on is vague, at best. "Early in life, we
learn to read. Early in school, we learn to read."
Arkansas employers are clamoring for new hires who possess a strong
work ethic and basic job skills, a group of business leaders told
Springdale School District administrators Wednesday."
hires are people who already have been hired, but hired recently.
Companies are clamoring for people to hire. If someone is a new
hire, he may not be available! Hiring NEW people is risky. New people
can't walk, talk or sit at a desk without wearing a diaper. Many
companies want to hire young people, but seldom do they hire new
people. "Northwest Arkansas employers want to hire people who
possess a strong work ethic and basic job skills, a group of business
leaders told Springdale School District administrators Wednesday."
of NOT improvements to
a timelier manner NOT in a more timely manner
prepared children "are placed in remedial classes" NOT
"are placed in remediation classes."
The child was placed in a class for remediation.
Children in such classes are less prepared academically NOT they
are less academically prepared.
display of fireworks is a firework display.
A showing of fireworks is a firework show.
A possible explanation of the recent trend toward using the plural
noun as an adjective is that the phrase "firework show"
sounds as though it is "fireworks show" because many speakers
slur it together on radio or television. An Internet search reveals
that most established manufacturers of fireworks use the word in
its singular form in the corporate name: "Rouse The Rabble
Firework Company Inc."
A writer or editor who doesn't choose to do it right can easily
write around the problem.
property sits on a vacant lot, according to city planner Tim Conklin,
and is zoned thoroughfare commercial.
See anything wrong? Obvious absurdity. It may be that one could
say that "the trees, grass and other valuable wildlife habitat
are on a vacant lot, because vacant usually simply refers to the
fact that no man-made structure is ono the property.
living outside the city limits are rated Class 9. Too obvious, right?
who took the 11th-grade literacy test last spring are now high school
seniors. So where is the news in that sentence? And why not hyphenate
the two-word adjective?
a wastewater plant on the southern side of the city is one of Coberly's
major goals if she is re-elected.
Certainly, the taxpayers hope there is one there for Coberly to
find so that they don't have to pay for a new one!
locate means to find.
writers don't use locate when they mean place or build or situate
or anything except to find.
He located the lost child. The child was in a well. How did it get
there? The child fell into the well or was placed there or put there
or pushed there or thrown there.
types of complaints..... Instead, try these shorter, more accurate
versions: Such complaints...... Complaints of this type.....
a daily basis" Just write "daily."
believes the committee made the right decision electing Glover.
"She'll make a good chair," he said. INSULTING.
If the writer doesn't know whether the person "holding the
chair" is male or female, the solution is to find out and write
chairman or chairwoman. Calling someone the chairperson is almost
as lame as calling someone a chair. If the person refuses to confess
to being either male or female, just create an indirect quote. Jones
is a good choice to take the chair of philosphy at the university,
White said. Smith is a good choice to hold the chair of foreign
languages, Faubus said. Clinton would be perfect to lead the committee,
said in a telephone news conference Tuesday that he wants Arkansas
to move teacher salaries toward the regional average of the Southern
Region Education Board member states in "three to four years."
Huckabee said in a telephone news conference Tuesday that he wants
Arkansas to move teachers' salaries toward the regional average
of states that are members of the Southern Region Education Board
in three to four years.
saving a few words results in disastrously confusing paragraphs.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables WRONG
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables CORRECT Besides being longer
and subject to misreading, pluralizing fruit is just plain wrong!
addition, it would work to make certain services are working. MOMENTARILY
In addition, it would work to make certain that services are working.
EASY TO Follow.
closely related words "regime," "regimen" and
"regiment" are often confused. They should not be
used interchangeably. Open your dictionary to the "regi"
page and compare their definitions to their correct use in the following
According to Saddam's resume, his regime requires its top regiment
to follow a strict regimen.
= are what a judge requires someone to pay when it is determined
that he has damaged another person in some way.
damage = is never plural except in the use above in legal jargon.
The fire did a lot of damage to the possessions of the renter. The
renter sued the owner for damages because the firefighter said that
faulty wiring caused the fire.
could have been resolved in a couple of more days. WRONG It could
have been resolved in a couple of days more. BETTER
classroom sizes help recruit students. CONFUSING
Smaller classes help recruit students. CLEAR
with an income of $30,000 or less may be eligible for the program.
UNCLEAR People with a gross income of $30,000 or less may be eligible
for the program. CLEAR People with a net income of $30,000 or less
may be eligible for the program. CLEAR
rules in AP Style Book for use of numerals such as 1-acre, 7-year-old
child, a 9-year-old, 6 years old.
put quotation marks around only two words directly quoted. Don't
put quotation marks around a word simply because it is the writer's
first time to use it. If the speaker and his audience understand
it, then there is a good chance that readers also will understand.
Check with experienced individuals before deciding.
Experience as an editor or writer doesn't mean a person knows the
terminology of every other profession.
Check with someone in another department or outside the building
if the dictionary doesn't clarify the speaker's intention.
If a word or short phrase is unusual enough to require quotation
marks, it probably requires parenthetical definition in your text.
Putting a word or short phrase in quotation marks often suggests
the following thought to the editor or reader: "I don't know
what the guy meant and was too lazy to ask him. If you know, great.
If not, just ignore it. I will, if you will."
is wrong with the first version below?
George Van-Vliet, 73, told police he looked back to quash a fight
between two students when he lost control of the Siloam Springs
bus May 19.
George Van-Vliet, 73, told police that he lost control of the Siloam
Springs bus when he looked back to quash a fight between two students
home sits on a prairie wetland. My home sits on a wetland prairie.
Either is OK. Both are correct.
In recent times, a lot of scientists and people writing about their
work have used the term wetlands.
There are wet lands on earth, of course, if you are using the word
"lands" as a synonym for nations or countries. Holland,
Indonesia and many other tropical places qualify.
But the type of area defined as wetland by various scientists and
public agencies such as the U.S. Corps of engineers is simply wetland.
A few decades ago, the phrase would have been two words.
"Eastern Arkansas has a lot of forested wet land. Because of
the desire to earn the maximum profit from Mississippi delta and
Grand Prairie farms, many people have filled their wet land. My
friend, Wayne Hampton, owned a lot of wet-land prairie and farmed
much of it."
It made sense to drop the two-word noun and hyphenated adjectival
form and go to one word because for decades millions of pages were
written on the subject.
However, it does not make sense to add an S and create a monstrosity
such as "My neighbors' wetlands will soon be drained and filled
by a developer. He apparently didn't understand the value of a wetlands
area or he wouldn't have allowed its destruction."
No matter how many acres of wetland he owns, he doesn't own any
wetlands unless he has bought Rhode Island and seceded from the
is a noun of mass and need not be put in a plural form. Accountants
and politicians and bureaucrats sometimes use "revenues"
when referring to various sources of revenue and the shorthand may
seem justified. However, the plural form by back-formation becomes
standard in the minds of many.
matter how much money a company or governmental body receives or
collects, it is revenue. The only reason for the appearance of "revenues"
in print would be in a direct quotation of a person who made the
error in speech.
"We received $2 million in revenues in 2000," said Jack
Spratt, mayor of Podunk.
Unless it is important to document his exact words, the way to avoid
reproducing this abomination is to quote the mayor indirectly.
Mayor Jack Spratt said that Podunk took in $2 million in revenue
In either case, an editor trying to tighten a story might question
the need for the word in such a sentence. The definition of revenue
is "income." Revenue is frequently redundant in its use
and may easily be eliminated in indirect quotations.
Jack Spratt said that Podunk received $2 million in 2000.
Dictionaries did not even list "revenues" until the late
1980s. The erroneous pluralization of this and other nouns of mass
is recorded in many dictionaries now. However, inclusion of a word
in a dictionary does not justify writing it.