Per!

rogersgeorge on October 2nd, 2017

I mentioned this solecism (at least) once before, but I found a comic for it, so here’s a repeat.

The rule is that “per” means “according to,” and that’s all you need to say. Don’t use “as per”!!! Ever. Unless you’re telling someone not to use it.

Paul Trap does a good job of making Dad try to be formal, but managing only to be pretentious. Considering that’s he’s talking to an infant, the pretentiousness is even more out of place.

Remember, you want to write so your reader thinks about the subject, not about the writing.

Subscribe to this blog's RSS feed

Bad Apostrophe, Good Apostrophe

rogersgeorge on September 28th, 2017

I was going to post this Mallard Fillmore comic just because the comic’s funny and about grammar, but it reminded me of a rule: Don’t use apostrophes for plurals.

But English has two exceptions that you might get away with: plurals of numerals and plurals of abbreviations. You don’t need to write plurals of numerals very often, but when you do, it’s okay, but not necessary, to use an apostrophe, and the tendency these days is to use the apostrophe less and less.

So, for example, referring to a decade,  write “the 1960s.” If you really want to, you can write 1960’s and you’ll get away with it. Buying house numbers? The neighbor of the Beast bought two 6s and an 8. Or is it two 6’s and an 8?

Moving on to abbreviations; the rule is do what is easier to understand. Walking into the vacant space, she said, “Wow! This office has enough room for three AAAs.” Or three old-fashioned AAA’s.

Usually I leave off the apostrophe, and no one has fired me for it yet.

 

Counting or Measuring?

rogersgeorge on September 26th, 2017
We use “few” for counting, which is a number, and “less” for measuring, which refers to amounts. But you have room for ambiguity sometimes—referring to time, for instance, and distances. Depending on what you’re saying, either way can work.

Here, is Mr. Tinkerson counting the number of sheets or measuring the amount of paper?

Either way makes sense. Same thing when you’re referring to time. Yes, we count the hours, but it took less than three hours to give blood Saturday. Since time is continuous, you can measure it as well as count the units. Same thing for distance.

So be careful, and think about whether you’re measuring or counting.

Maybe He Should Read More

rogersgeorge on September 22nd, 2017

Sometimes we get idiomatic expressions wrong, especially if you don’t read much. These types of mistakes are mainly mondegreens, language that’s misheard, but plenty clear when you read it. I already wrote about this; here’s the link. And here’s today’s example of egregious English, from a strip named Daddy’s Home:

PS—Since I mentioned mondegreens, here’s a completely unrelated comic with a mondegreen that’s new to me. Look at the name of the cheese store. Argyle Sweater. (Check the comments, too.)

 

Getting Figuratively Literally Correct

rogersgeorge on August 30th, 2017

Here’s the comic, Dustin:

Dustin - 08/29/2017

So. A little reminder: Literally means it actually happened; figuratively means it didn’t actually happen, just something like it happened. In informal speech we tend to use “literally” as a way to emphasize what we’re saying. That’s okay, but when you’re writing to explain something, use the correct word.

I suppose in that last panel she could have said, “You both are literally annoying me.”

I must add that I could have left “literally” out of the title of this post, and the title would still be literally correct, and I could have put an “and” between the words and it would also be literally correct. And maybe easier to read, even.

And so we come to the hidden lesson here: if something is so, it is also literally so. Hence the word “literally” is often unnecessary, especially in expository writing.