Category Archives: Grammar and the English language

Commas demystified! The top 10 uses for commas—made simple

Commas are the most frequently used—and misused—form of punctuation. Annually, I receive dozens of requests for editing, and one of the biggest concerns for authors is their comma usage. They may not be aware of dozens of larger issues in their writing, but they are almost universally uncertain and worried about their comma placement. Commas are used to indicate pauses and to separate elements in a sentence. Continue reading ➝

Accidental comedy in grammar—dangling and misplaced modifiers

The inspiration for this blog post came a from a juice box. I was standing at the fridge one morning a few weeks ago, getting a drink of Sun-Rype juice—a well-known brand where I live—when I read the following on the side of the box: “Nestled in the heart of British Columbia, Canada lays a lush green valley of orchards renowned for sun-ripened fruit.” Oh dear. Canada lays a lush green valley? Canada is nestled in the heart of British Columbia? Don’t we Canadians have a better reputation than that to uphold? Continue reading ➝

How to recognize and avoid clichés in writing

Cliché. Such an elegant, pretty word. But such a dirty word to writers and editors. “Avoid clichés like the plague” is a clarion call stern instruction to all writers, but many find it difficult to do. In this post, I’ll explore why, as well as what you can do to avoid this writing pitfall and improve your prose at the same time. Continue reading ➝

Are grammar-checking websites worth the bother? By Caroline Kaiser

A client mentioned recently that she has a thirty-dollar monthly subscription to a certain popular website that promises to check your manuscript for spelling, grammar, punctuation, style, and word choice. I should say at the outset that as a freelance editor, I’m biased and tend to turn up my nose at sites like these; I don’t imagine that they have a hope of ever replacing me or my editor colleagues, so I don’t lose any sleep over the fact of their existence. Continue reading ➝

Redundancies and pleonasms

Redundancy is just one of the many problems that fall under the general category of Wordiness. A redundant phrase or expression is called a pleonasm. You may think you know when a redundancy occurs, but some of them can be subtle. The following seems like a simple sentence, but look closer and you'll see all the redundancy. "An unexpected surprise came when a pair of baby twins was born at 12 midnight." What is a surprise if not unexpected? What are twins if not a pair? Who can be born but a baby? When is midnight if not at 12? Continue reading ➝

When to use “that” and “which”

Many people are confused about the exact usage of the relative pronouns "that" and "which" in North American English. Which is correct and in what context? "That" is always used in a restrictive sense; that is, it defines or narrows a category or identifies an item in a group. A clause using the word "that" is necessary to the sentence or restricts the meaning. For example: The picture that has the gilt frame is up for auction. In this example, we're told specifically that it is only the picture with the gilt frame up for auction and presumably no others. The clause "that has the gilt frame" defines which picture is up for auction. Continue reading ➝