Contact the Grammar Anarchist with your questions about grammar and language at
Get a personal reply at

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Till the end of time...

Or is it: ’til the end of time? Another conundrum, oh my! (I always considered “till” as pertaining to what one did with soil.)

The word we’re searching for is until. As in “Until you tell me differently, I’ll till the soil with my trusty spade.”

Which is correct? Oh, Anarchist of the Grammar, please till… oops!… tell me!

Both — or rather, all — are correct, if you mean acceptable. Editors agree with all three: until, till, and ’til, as long as only one is used consistently. C-O-N-S-I-S-T-E-N-C-Y is the GA’s byword.

Till (’till, until) next time: be consistent.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

You’d think NPR would know better!

Yes, I heard it on NPR this morning: “There is dozens of opportunities....” My-oh-my, the day is ruined for the Grammar Anarchist. Bad enough to begin a sentence with “there is”, but to follow it with a plural subject… oh, the pain, the pain!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Jonesing the Joneses on Apostrophe Day

When you have a name that ends in “s” (like Jones), and you want to write that it owns something, use the apostrophe-s: Mike Jones’ new book. And when you want to show the whole Jones family as owning something, you have a choice: 1) add apostrophe-s to all the Joneses (plural) — as in Joneses’s — or 2) simply add the apostrophe (Joneses’). I like the simple things in life.

What to do with a name that ends in two esses? Now there’s a problem! Or is it? Same advice as above:
The iPad belonging to Tess is Tess’s iPad.
or The iPad belonging to Tess is Tess’ iPad. 
 If you’re talking about the entire John Tess family car, you may get hissed to pieces… or not. Try:  
The Tesses’ family car. Simple and sweet.
The Tesses’s family car. Not incorrect, but it hisses so!
Just don’t call it the Tess guyses’ car!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Who walked into a bar?

 Two adverbs walked into a bar too slowly.
 An anagram walked into a bra.
A simile walked into a bar like a lion.
A reflexive pronoun walked itself into a bar.

Fun, huh! Find more of these with the Grammar Geeks group on LinkedIn (you have to be a member of both LinkedIn and the group). Buat thet oh the laughs we geeks have in that bar!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Grammar: Scary? Hmmmm!

I think I scared a writers’ magazine editor today with my talk about anarchy in the world of grammar. Sensing that I may be ready to destroy the publication’s office, he backed down from a request for me to write a column for the magazine.

C’mon! Grammar is not dangerous — unless it’s handled by an amateur writer. In fact, grammar may improve the amateur’s standing in the world of words. Consider how many bookstores shy away from “self published” books because they have seen a few books which are 1) badly written, 2) ungrammatical, 3) terribly punctuated, and 4) unstructured. Now, many book buyers paint all independently published writers with the same brush. A pity!

Everyone has a story (my long-standing belief). And now “everyone” is writing their story — many without any idea at all about the nuances of writing. “Put it on paper and it’s a book!” Not necessarily true. But hold onto your seats, fellow writers, “everyone-writing” is the way of the future. I say, “Great!” Perhaps the trend will lead us to become more discerning readers.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sorry, Alex

When you use a trademarked or copyrighted name or logo, you have to use it as written — not the way you think it should be written. My newspaper printed an article today using the name of Alex Trebek’s “Jeopardy!” — without the exclamation point. Ooo! Not good. You’ll never get on as a contestant if you can’t spell it right. How do you feel when someone misspells your name?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fun With Numbers / Writing Dates

This dated holiday offers a good opportunity to talk about writing dates. Notice in the title, the addition of “th” to the number. That’s because the day number precedes the month. If you want the number to follow, omit the “th” — as in July 4, 2012. While we pronounce this as July “fourth”, it isn’t written that way.

Now, if you belong to the military or are European, you’ll reverse the process. Make that 5 July 2012. Note: the military even repeat the words that way — five July twenty-twelve. HooAh!