QUESTION What is the latest recommendation for various prefixes such as "mini"? If I wanted to use the term "mini bulleting" should I hyphenate, separate, or write together without a hyphen? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Victoria, Texas Thu, Apr 6, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The best advice is to get out the dictionary. Generally, if the word has been around awhile, the hyphen disappears, as in miniskirt and minibike. If mispronunciation or misunderstanding could occur when the hyphen disappears, it's retained, as in "mini-crisis" (the word is hard to recognize without the hyphen). When the word is newly coined, I'd use the hyphen, as in "mini-bulleting" (whatever that means). I don't know if it can be relied upon as a general principle of spelling, but when that prefix precedes a larger word, it's apt be hyphenated, as in "mini-budget" or "mini-recession."
Authority: The New Fowler's Modern English Usage edited by R.W. Burchfield. Clarendon Press: Oxford, England. 1996. Used with the permission of Oxford University Press.
QUESTION In some brochure copy, we wrote, "Prior to exterior wall insulation, a continuous air barrier is formed behind all areas that will be insulated and drywalled." The comment we received was that "formed" is passive so, instead, we need to use the word "created." Is this comment an absolute? Having used the word formed, were we wrong? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Sun, Apr 9, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The word "created" is just as passive as "formed." If you really must avoid the passive construction there, you could write, "we must create a continuous air barrier behind all areas. . .. " It's not unusual to use the passive construction to good effect, however, in text that gives directions in text in which the action is more important than who's doing the action (and, in fact, the who is quite irrelevant).
QUESTION What is the correct way to pluralize "Assistant Attorney General?" Is it "Assistant Attorney Generals" or "Assistant Attorneys General?" SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Atlanta, Georgia Sun, Apr 9, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE My dictionary lists both as acceptable, but lists "attorneys general" first, which usually means that usage is preferred.
Authority for this note: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Electronic Edition. 1994. Used with permission.
QUESTION What is the difference between few and a few? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Glen Burnie, Maryland Tue, Apr 11, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE If you caught "few fish," that would mean that you came home with practically zero fish. If you caught "a few fish," that could mean that you came home with a small number of fish, but at least some. It could be the difference between a satisfactory number of fish and not having a very good dinner.
QUESTION 1.Is there any difference in the meaning between " forested, mountainous catchments" and "mountainous forest catchments"?
2. Is comma needed between mountainous and forest catchments when we write "mountainous forest catchments" ?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Urawa, Saitama, Japan Tue, Apr 11, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I think you're better off with "mountainous" being the word immediately before "catchment." A catchment is an area that collects water, I believe, but a "forest catchment" sounds like something meant to collect forests. I think your first version, with its two clearly marked modifiers, expresses most clearly what you're describing. If you do choose "mountainous forest catchment," though, you definitely wouldn't want a comma between the modifiers. Those are not coordinated adjectives.
QUESTION The function of a participial phrase is as an ADJECTIVE. Will it ever function as an adverb?EXAMPLE: Running down the hall, Joey got to class on time.BUT: The group of boys and girls went swimming in the Devil's River.What is the function of "swimming in the Devil's River"? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Ozona, Texas Tue, Apr 11, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I don't think "swimming" in your second sentence is actually a modifying participle; I think it's part of your main verb construction, "go swimming." The verb "go" frequently acts as an intensifier to a main verb, as in "Go jump in the lake," but it's still part of the verb.
The participial phrase can act as an adverb, though, as in "Running for president, he admitted to smoking marijuana when he was a youth." Some writers would argue that the participial phrase modifies "he" and is adjectival, but it can also be said to modify (tell when) he admitted to something. (That sentence is OK, but most writers would probably begin with "While," which would make a clipped clause of that first construction ["While he was running. . ."].)
Authority: Analyzing English Grammar by Thomas Klammer & Muriel Schulz. 3rd Edition. Allyn & Bacon: Needham, Massachusetts. 2000. p. 366.
QUESTION I want to ask if i should put anything between side and no.Sentence: As a result, everything has a bad side and a good side ____ no matter what it is.Should I put a semicolon between side and no or a comma between them? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Camden, New Jersey Tue, Apr 11, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE A semicolon doesn't work very well there. A semicolon has a limited number of uses. I think a comma will suffice to set off this little afterthought, but a dash would also work nicely. I hope it's clear how this proposition is a result of something and that "it" refers to "everything."
QUESTION In the sample below, is the 'an M.B.A.' correct grammatical usage? What about capitalizing majors (History, Physics, Finance and Investment Management)?
Education: Mr. Christopher Prus obtained an M.B.A. in Finance from Columbia University in 1986, and a B.A. in Economics from Boston College in 1984.
Thanks for your advice.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Somewhere, New York Wed, Apr 12, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Generally, we don't capitalize the names of majors unless they reflect a proper noun: English, French, East European Studies. The "an MBA" is fine. The Chicago Manual of Style recommends dropping the periods in academic degrees. (I doubt if you'll find that this advice has been consistently followed on this Web site.)
Authority: Chicago Manual of Style 14th ed. U of Chicago P: Chicago. 1993.
Authority: A Guide to Wesleyan Style Wesleyan University: Middletown, CT. 1999.
QUESTION The decorations throughout consisted mostly of tourist type plates that hung on the walls....or should it say....the decorations throughout consisted of mostly tourist type plates that hung on the walls. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Somewhere, Canada Sun, Apr 23, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Try to get that modifier "mosty" (or "primarily") as close as possible to the verb that it modifies, "consisted." Otherwise, it will try to modify "tourist" and "mostly tourist" is not what you mean here. (Can you eliminate the word "type" while you're at it?)
QUESTION When using unfortunately at the beginning of a sentence, is it incorrect if a comma is not used after it? As in the example:"Unfortunately there was no food in the cupboard."Also, is "unfortunately" an interjection in this case? I've got a bet going on this ;)
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Denver, Colorado Sun, Apr 23, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I don't think that word qualifies as an interjection. Interjections can be modifiers of the sentence as a whole, but they're generally more like exclamatory devices, such as "Heavens, there's no food in the cupboard" or "Well, there's no food in here." A single-word sentence modifier (like unfortunately in your sentence) is usually set off by a comma. Sentence modifiers make a comment of some kind about the entire sentence. Sometimes it is difficult to tell whether an adverbial construction is modifying a particular word in a sentence or is acting as a modifier of the whole sentence. It might be helpful to move the word to another location in the sentence to see whether you would set it off (or not): "There was, unfortunately, no food in the cupboard." If you set it off with a pair of commas in this new location, you should probably set it off with a single comma when it appears at the beginning of a sentence.
Authority: Understanding English Grammar by Martha Kolln. 4rth Edition. MacMillan Publishing Company: New York. 1994. p. 219.
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