Free the Apostrophe –

May 18, 2012

An infographic about the correct usage of the apostrophe that is more fun than the text link I used the other day.

Free the Apostrophe –


Free the Apostrophe!

May 16, 2012

I have to say, I’m so glad somebody is finally organizing to put an end to apostrophe abuse.

The apostrophe I most want to rescue? The one in the sign for the chain restaurant, “Fryn’ Pan.”


Now, it’s not so much that the apostrophe is being used incorrectly. It’s not. But it ought not be asked to do that job alone — and that’s where the real abuse comes in.

One of the many (legitimate) uses of an apostrophe is to take the place of letters left out of a word. One can assume that “Fryn’ Pan” is short for “Frying Pan.” Do you see the problem here? We’re missing not one, but two letters out of “Frying.” Thus, the Fryn’ Pan sign should read: “Fry’n’ Pan.”

Too many apostrophes? To that, I would simply say, every apostrophe used improperly is too many. But an apostrophe used correctly is never an ugly sight.

(Want to make sure you aren’t guilty of apostrophe abuse? This site might help.)

Are you nauseous?

July 2, 2009

I’m not nauseous, but I am a bit headachy and sneezy. But that’s not what I came here to blog about.

I’m working on a manuscript that takes place within he healthcare field, and I got a little suspicious about whether the word “nauseated” was being used correctly. So I learned the difference between nauseous and nauseated once and for all!

1. Nauseous – is a feeling. “I’m nauseous.”

2. Nauseated – is something that someone or something does to you: “Those pickles nauseate me.”

As for me? I’m glad my cold isn’t making me feel nauseous. I’m also glad the cold doesn’t nauseate me. (How’s that for redundancy?)

And, by the way, it’s a LONG manuscript, so no more blogging from me today.

ETA: Heh, never mind, a commenter and the dictionary set me straight on this one. My next post will be about credible sources. 😉 From a more official source (the Merriam-Webster Dictionary):

Main Entry:
nau·seous           Listen to the pronunciation of nauseous           Listen to the pronunciation of nauseous
\ˈn-shəs, ˈn-zē-əs\
1 : causing nausea or disgust : nauseating 2 : affected with nausea or disgust
nau·seous·ly adverb
nau·seous·ness noun
usage Those who insist that nauseous can properly be used only in sense 1 and that in sense 2 it is an error for nauseated are mistaken. Current evidence shows these facts: nauseous is most frequently used to mean physically affected with nausea, usually after a linking verb such as feel or become; figurative use is quite a bit less frequent. Use of nauseous in sense 1 is much more often figurative than literal, and this use appears to be losing ground to nauseating. Nauseated is used more widely than nauseous in sense 2.

Capitalization Confusion

May 7, 2009

Misunderstanding of or confusion about proper capitalization plagues many writers. Even an accomplished editor can’t often revert to what “looks right” or “feels right” because we as a culture are so confused by capitalization that we often see published work in which the capitalization is wrong. In addition, different publications have different preferences when it comes to capitalization, and many publishers make conscious choices to break the rules for stylistic or political reasons.  So, rather than paging through the whole Chicago Manual of Style or the stylebook of your choice, I’m going to lay out three of the most common capitalization errors, along with the correct style.

  1. Professional Titles – As tempting as it is, your job title does not get capital letters unless your name is attached to it. For example, “Doctor Zhivago” has capitals, but “the doctor” does not. Barack Obama is the president, which means he is President Barack Obama.  I used to be the managing editor of I liked to refer to myself as the Managing Editor, but as such, I wasn’t a great editor, as that capitalization was incorrect. (CMS: 7.22)
  2. Medical Conditions – Medical conditions do not receive capitalization unless they are named after someone, in which case only the name is capitalized and not the whole condition. For example, only the D in Down’s is capitalized when referring to Down syndrome, not the S in syndrome. Specific–but still generic–conditions do not receive capitalization: bipolar disorder, heart disease, alcoholism. (CMS: 7.117)
  3. Terms of Endearment – Most sources will say that terms of endearment, when used in place of someone’s name, do not get capitalized: “Will you get that for me, dear?” This one is easy to mess up because when using a family name, such as mom or dad, in place of a name, it does get capitalized: “Are we there yet, Mom?” This lack of clarity may be why you’ll get an array of answers if you Google “capitalize terms of endearment.” The style guides I have at my disposal don’t mention terms of endearments at all. If you have a definitive source on this rule, please leave a comment and enlighten me!

Due to the vast array of stylistic preferences or the potential difficulty of finding a reliable source for any given capitalization rule, you’ll see lots of items capitalized every which way. In the end, the most important thing is consistency–but consistency is even better when it’s consistently right.

You never know how much you don’t know

January 26, 2009

I’m constantly astounded by the things I don’t know. There’s nothing like being the one who is supposed to know the answers to make you realize everything you don’t know the answer to. This happens with editing a lot; I can probably make 90% of the changes I make without even thinking or consulting a style guide, but there are always a few instances in which I have to stop and say, “hm,” (and consult a style guide or a dictionary). I inevitably end up learning a lot of new stuff with every manuscript I edit. Today is the day when I send back the long manuscript that has buried me these past few weeks, after I spend a few hours putting on the finishing touches. Just for fun, I thought I’d compile a short list of some of the things I learned in the course of this manuscript.

  • When someone gets lucky, she hits the mother lode, not the mother load
  • Weeklong, as in, “I took a weeklong vacation,”  is a real word according to Merriam-Webster (even though Mozilla Firefox just put a squiggly red line under it. But who are you gonna trust when it comes to words? An Internet browser, or the dictionary? Exactly.)
  • A humidor is a case or enclosure in which one keeps cigars properly humidified (not being a cigar-smoker, I’d never come across this word or this knowledge)
  • When you hire someone to kill another, you’re hiring a hit man, not a hit-man or a hitman. (Don’t words like that seem like they should just be compounded already?)
  • Rearing to go and raring to go are both “correct” phrases for being over-eager, although “raring” came from “rearing” (and as a family that owned horses, the “rearing” phrase always made perfect sense to me. “Raring” doesn’t make the same kind of intuitive sense, but I guess it wouldn’t be the first figure of speech that doesn’t make sense at first glance.)

The one I’m still puzzling over? Do you go to the nurse’s station, the nurses station, or the nurses’ station? No one online seems to have the answer to this one, as apparently nurses are not grammarians (I’ve found several official nursing sites that are inconsistent in their usage of this phrase). I decided to play it safe and make it both plural and possessive; there are, after all, usually multiple nurses at the station, and the station does belong to the nurses. If anyone thinks they can convince me otherwise, feel free. 😉