QUESTION When an author has a hyphenated first name, how should that first name be represented when used in a reference.
- Jean-Luc Poisson as J. Poisson or J-L Poisson, or J.L. Poisson.
- Ming-Lee Chou as M. Chou or M-L Chou or M.L. Chou
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Bound Brook, New Jersey Tue, Jun 27, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE This happens in French more than in other languages. Keep the usual periods and retain the hyphen:
(Make sure that Chou's given name is actually hyphenated.)
- J.-L. Poisson
- M.-L. Chou
Authority: Chicago Manual of Style 14th ed. U of Chicago P: Chicago. 1993. p. 238.
QUESTION My boss wrote this sentence in a letter to our client:I really enjoyed catching up with both Jack and yourself and hearing about the tremendous progress Momentum has made over the past year.I feel leery about this. Please help with explanation! SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Washington, D.C. Wed, Jun 28, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE Generally, you don't use the reflexive or intensive pronoun forms (like "yourself") when the simple objective form of the pronoun ("you") will suffice. We would say "I enjoyed catching up with you," right? If you throw Jack into the mix, don't change the form of you.
QUESTION What are the rules regarding when to use "a" versus when "an" should be used? I believe the general rule is that "an" should be used when being followed by a word that begins with a vowel, but what if the next word is actually a letter? For example, which would be correct: "Should I begin the next word with a 'R'?" or "Should I begin the next word with an 'R'?" SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Oakland, California Wed, Jun 28, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE We would say "an R" because the letter "R" actually begins with a vowel sound, just as if we spelled it "are" (or "arr"). We would say "a T or P or G," but "an F, R, X, etc."
QUESTION Is it still in use to remember the "masculine" and "feminine" identifiers on words? For example when I went to school, "blond" was male and "blonde" was female...
I notice people don't use this rule anymore. Why is that?
SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Chesapeake, Virginia Wed, Jun 28, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You will still run across this distinction, but more and more people are ignoring it and "blonde" has become simply a variant spelling of "blond" (or vice versa). Burchfield calls the distinction "vestigial." There's certainly nothing wrong with keeping the distinction if you wish, but in the current tide of gender-blurring, it's pointless to insist that others should do the same.
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 I am writing a personal ad. Would it be correct to say as a qualification for dating a person : Good teeth 'is' a must or Good teeth 'are' a must. I believe the first one is correct because I am considering "good teeth" as a collection and thinking of "good teeth" as a singular quality or feature of a person, such as "good hair" or "steady feet." I would also say,"steady feet 'is' a must" for instance, if I were going to hire someone for a high-rise construction job. I am thinking of "must" as interchangeable with "a qualification." SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Columbus, Georgia Wed, Jun 28, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE You would say "Good teeth are my best asset," wouldn't you? I can't imagine saying "Good teeth is my best asset." "Teeth" are plural (I hope!), so use the plural verb, "are," even though the predicate ("must") is singular. Do the same with "steady feet." "Good hair," on the other hand, is one thing (because we don't generally regard hair as something countable): "Good hair is a must."
QUESTION I am writing a mathematical paper with a colleague.He has drafted a sentence, "Similar to the previous case, we can show...".I claim that this usage of "Similar" is incorrect, in that it is an adjective being used as an adverb. Therefore, in my view, the sentence should read,"Similarly to the previous case, we can show...".Any advice would be most helpful. Thank you. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Columbus, Ohio Sun, Jul 2, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The problem with that phrase is that it tries desperately to modify the "we" which immediately follows (and not the verb). Even if you change it to an adverb, the adverb is saying that you're showing something in the same way, which is probably not what you mean. I think you're much better off beginning your sentence with the "we" and proceeding to show how something is similar to a previous case, or how something behaves similarly to (or "like") something else.
QUESTION There are some nouns or adjectives that can't be qualified (e.g., satisfactory.i.e., One can't say, "This composition is somewhat satisfactory." ).Is there a rule to know when you are working with one of them or is there just a list of those words? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Prairie Village, Kansas Sun, Jul 2, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE I'm not sure that you can't qualify satisfactory. Surely something can be more or less satisfactory than another thing. "Somewhat satisfactory" is an unhappy combination, however; I'd have to agree with that. In fact, it's practically a self-contradiction. But it's more a matter of logic than anything. People do tend to get excited about certains words, though, complaining that something can't be more unique or even really unique. Unique can mean unusual, however, and then it can be modified a very unique performance. Anyone who argues that a woman cannot be very pregnant has never known a slight woman about to have twins. I've never seen a list like the one you'd like, although it probably exists somewhere. I don't think I'd trust it.
QUESTION Could you please tell me whether the sentence below is grammatically correct? If not, why not? Thank you.In reviewing reasons for not returning, it should not be overlooked that one group of respondents' reasons is related to their having achieved what they intended at the College. SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE Burke, Virginia Sun, Jul 2, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The sentence is not entirely incomprehensible, but the beginning participial phrase doesn't clearly modify anything. What if you began, "In reviewing the reasons that students do not return to _______, we should not overlook that one group of respondents claim that they achieved what they wanted to achieve at _______ ." In any case, the participial phrase at the beginning needs to be followed by something it can modify like we or whoever's doing this study.
QUESTION She was in an euphoric New Year's Eve mood. Use a or an before euphoric? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE New York, New York Sun, Jul 2, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE We'd say "a euphoric mood" because the word actually begins with a consonantal "yoo" sound (in spite of those beginning two vowels). If you can hear the difference between "an ugly uniform" and "a uniform," you'll understand.
QUESTION There is a popular abbreviation used in baseball describing runs batted in, and that is rbi. When a batter has one run batted in (singular) the announcer will say he has "one rbi". When the batter has more than one run batted in, e.g., 2 runs batted in (plural), the announcer will say he has "2 rbi". This sounds so wrong to me. So is it proper to keep the abbreviation singular when it represents a plural description with a number as a descriptor or is it proper to make the abbreviation plural; rbi or rbi's? SOURCE OF QUESTION & DATE OF RESPONSE New Orleans, Louisiana Sun, Jul 2, 2000 GRAMMAR'S RESPONSE The abbreviation or acronym for a thing is not the same thing as the thing it refers to. So we say "runs batted in," but then we say RBIs. If you use lower case for those acronyms, you'd need an apostrophe, rbi's and rpm's. The dictionary, incidentally, does provide for the plural of RBI to be spelled as "RBI" (as a variant of "RBIs"), but I think they're just trying to allow for what some sports announcers are apt to say. It also works as an analogy with "rpm," by which we always understand the plural revolutions per minute (i.e., we don't normally say "rpm's," although I suppose we could). I have heard some announcers actually try to say RBIs, and it comes out something like "ribbies," which makes more sense to me than saying "two RBI."
Authority for this note: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Electronic Edition. 1994. Used with permission.
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