QUESTION Regarding comma splices. How do I know when to make a phrase into two sentences or separate by using a semi-colon?
Thanks for your help.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Atlanta, Georgia Thu, Nov 16, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE That's not always easy to say. When you use a semicolon, the two parts of your sentence (joined at the semicolon) need to be very closely related and (usually) nicely balanced. You have to make a judgment call on whether your two clauses are closely related enough that the two ought to live in the same sentence. See the material on semicolons and take some of the punctuation quizzes from the quiz list. That should help.
QUESTION When describing graphs in technical reports, does one write
- the variable varies in time
- the variable varies with time ?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Braunschweig, Germany Thu, Nov 16, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE If there's much difference here, I don't see it. I think that the "in time" could imply that after a period of time, the variable will vary, whereas the "with time" will more accurately suggest that the variable varies in the process of time passing. But to make your point more clearly, you probably need to expand on what you mean.
QUESTION What are the rules (or tendencies) for the use of -ic and -ical adjectives, such as aesthetic/aesthetical, rhythmic/rhythmical? I remember having read that there are some general guidelines, but that the difference between the two for ms (or which form is the only correct one) must be learned in each case. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Uppsala, Sweden Thu, Nov 16, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE This dilemma has apparently bothered the head of Burchfield a great deal. He writes that of the words that end in -ic or -ical, approximately one-fifth can end in either, with very little difference in meaning. He adds that -ical seems to be preferred in England and -ic in the U.S. On the other hand, for many common pairs such as comic/comical, ironic/ironical, symmetric/symmetrical the distribution has nothing to do with geography and is based simply on the rhythms of the sentence. That probably doesn't help at all, does it? There are some words, though, for which there is a difference in meaning historic/historical, economic/economical and for those, unfortunately, you must use a dictionary. It's one of those situations in which teachers of English must apologize for the language.
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. (under "-ical")
QUESTION Can "total" be a collective noun? Can it take a plural verb?e.g., There are a total of 80.../? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Monterey, California Thu, Nov 16, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE If it means "sum," the word total will always be singular. It can be used, however, to mean "a number," and then it will take a plural verb: "A total of eighty people are in the lobby."
QUESTION Hello, I'm a proofreader at _____ in ______ and have run into a problem with our contracts. Hopefully you can help! When using paranthetical plurals, what is the correct formal for making them possessive?e.g, country (ies) markets would it be, country (ies)' markets?we are trying to keep the actual format of the document as true to form as possible, without losing meaning. Thanks for your help in advance.
or ____'s product (s) scripts. or something else?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Unknown Fri, Nov 17, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE In anything other than informal text, I would try to avoid a construction like country(ies) or country's(ies') as best I could. Can't you rewrite the language so that you use either the singular or plural consistently? If not, I would write it country or countries and country's or countries'. Otherwise, this thing is going to become difficult to read and your document will dissolve in a flurry of contracted words and misunderstood apostrophes (a sad animal, indeed).
QUESTION What is the correct verb use in the following sentence: (How does adding "who" to the sentence affect the verb use?)During the meeting, the director made it clear that it is I who (is/am) responsible for the budget cuts.Thanks! SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Los Angeles, California Sat, Nov 18, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The subject of the clause is "who," which refers to "I," so the verb has to be "am." If that sounds odd to you, you can try to avoid the "It is I who" construction and write something like "the director made it clear that I would be responsible. . . ." The meaning has changed slightly, but it's easier to listen to.
QUESTION I would like to know about how the word "enable" is used.
In the operating manual of a new software I have purchased recently, the word is frequently in such way as:
It sounds like to me, something called "Selecting" or "Closing" is enabled to do something instead of "Selecting or closing is possible."
- "Selecting the button is enabled" to mean " The user is able to select the button" or
- "Closing the message panel is enabled" to mean "The user is able to close the message panel."
Am I wrong?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Somewhere, Japan Sat, Nov 18, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I suppose that as a technology of any kind develops especially one that develops across cultures and so very rapidly, as software development has done words are bound to creep into its vocabulary in odd ways. I have to agree that it would be more clear to say that doing something makes it possible for something else to happen. I have often read, in such manuals, that a certain step (pressing a certain key, clicking a button) will enable some other device, enable some new process. But using it in the passive mode that you describe seems particularly confusing.
David Easons writes:
In software documentation, "enable" means to activate or turn on a function, to make a function available, and to make it possible for someone or something to do something, but in a very limited sense.
For example: In a dialog box, the Distribution button is grayed out--inactive. So a command and response could be1. Click OKThe Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications says, "But avoid anthropomorphism." At Qwest, we do not use "enable" or its opposite "disable." We use active/inactive, activate, deactivate, and allow. Political Correctness is everywhere!
The Distribution button is enabled.
Or, clicking OK enables the Distribution button.
QUESTION In the following sentenceThe plastic-encased butterflies that are used to decorate ornamental objects such as trays, tabletops, and screens are usually common varieties, most of which come from Taiwan, Korea, and Malaysia.what is "most of which come from Taiwan, Korea, and Malaysia"?
Is it a) an adjective clause modifying "varieties," or is "of which . . ." an adjective clause modifying "most"? Is it b) a noun clause, appositive to "varieties"?
Finally, is "most" the subject of "come"?
These are questions my 11th grade grammar class are discussing and they relate to an exercise question on p. 71 of Warriner's High School Handbook, 1992 ed.
Thanks very much!
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Madison, Wisconsin Sat, Nov 18, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE This is what comes of allowing eleventh-graders to think too much! I'm going to guess that the clause "most of which come from Taiwan, Korea, and Malaysia" is a dependent, adjectival clause modifying "varieties." Think of it this way: what if we got rid of "most of"? The relative clause "which come from. . ." then would clearly modify "varieties," and we have no question about what is the subject of "come" (the word which, which refers to "varieties"). I think what happens here is that the phrase "most of which" simply takes over the subject position. What this means is that "most of" is modifying "which," the subject of the clause. I can't find anything in my reference manuals that explains this any better, but I will leave an e-mail icon here in case someone has a better idea.
QUESTION Which of the following two sentences is more grammatically correct, and why?
- The firm has put together a collection of experts in economic-financial studies, in artificial intelligence and in financial engineering.
- The firm has put together a collection of experts in economic-financial studies, artificial intelligence and financial engineering.
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Taipei, Taiwan Fri, Nov 24, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE In a series like that, you don't need to repeat the preposition ("in," in this case) to create proper parallel form. I'd use the second option (but I'd probably put a serial comma after "intelligence"). You would need to use additional preposition only if the preposition changes from phrase to phrase.
QUESTION Is it OK to use "albeit" with people, or only objects: "John Lydon, albeit rude and annoying, is one of the great modern day philosophers." SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Seattle, Washington Fri, Nov 24, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE There's no reason why you can't use that archaic conjunction with people as well as with objects. But there's also no reason to use it. "Although" or "however" will work nicely in its place.
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