On this site you will find blog posts I’ve written and other resources related to writing, language, grammar, words, usage, punctuation, and even pronunciation. Occasionally you’ll find an audio podcast because it provides another way to deliver my message. And (coincidentally) I also do occasional freelance voiceover work.
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Why do I do this? Because I’m an educator and a lover of the English language. My goal is to channel that into a celebration of Standard Written English that helps others communicate more effectively.
Do you struggle with any of these?
Whether you’re an employee writing a business letter, report, or memo; a job seeker crafting a cover letter to submit with an application; a student working on a dreaded writing assignment for class; or a social-media poster, you’ll want to avoid these common punctuation errors.
1. Quotation marks inside of punctuation. Ninety-nine percent of quotation marks in American English go outside of adjacent punctuation*—specifically, commas, periods, question marks, and exclamation points. For example, Continue reading “Five Common Punctuation Errors to Avoid”
Today’s featured “punctuation problem” is apostrophe use and misuse.
Let’s review the main uses of the apostrophe:
- Singular nouns are made possessive with an apostrophe-s, even if the noun ends in -s: (ex. the blog’s writer; my boss’s office).
- Plural nouns ending in -s are made possessive with an apostrophe alone (ex. the students’ papers).
- Plural nouns ending in another letter are made possessive with an apostrophe-s (ex. the children’s toys).
Use an apostrophe to form contractions. The apostrophe represents a missing letter or letters and connects (or contracts) two words together into one new word. The first sentence of this article has three contractions:
- it’s (for it is)
- you’d (for you would)
- haven’t (for have not)
Missing Letters or Numbers
Apostrophes may be used to represent or “stand in for” letters or numbers, similar to their use in contractions:
- I love rock ‘n’ roll (note the two apostrophes: one for the a and one for the d).
- I’m dancin‘ and singin‘ in the rain (the apostrophes “stand in” for the missing g’s).
- I graduated from high school in the ‘70s (note: the apostrophe represents the 19, and there is no apostrophe following the number. This is written wrong frequently).
Use an apostrophe, rarely, when needed to avoid confusion:
- Be sure to mind your p’s and q’s.
But Not Most Plurals
Use only an -s (with no apostrophe) to form the plurals of dates, acronyms, and family surnames:
- The Great Depression occurred in the 1930s [not the 1930’s].
- The high school students took their SATs [not SAT’s] on Saturday.
- The Garcias [not the Garcia’s] invited everyone to their home for Thanksgiving.
Avoid Apostrophe Misuse and Abuse
- Do NOT use apostrophe’s to make word’s plural (as in this sentence). We see this form of apostrophe abuse so often at the market that it has its own label: the green grocer’s apostrophe.
- Do NOT use an apostrophe in the pronoun its:
Wrong: The dog is chasing it’s tail.
Correct: The dog is chasing its tail.
Please share your examples of apostrophe misuse and abuse. And feel free to share this article on your social media sites.
© 2017 by Dean Christensen.
What is your typical communication style?
Effective communication is a major challenge for most of us. I’m not talking about simple willingness to speak or write, nor merely to be a good listener, both of which are important aspects of effective communication. As for being willing to speak, we all know people who can talk our ears off—usually about themselves—no matter what the original topic was, at the slightest provocation. They seem neither to notice nor care if we’re tracking with them. There’s a word for this clueless babbling: logorrhea (law-ga-REE-a). Informally, I call it the yada-yadas or the blah-blah-blahs. But logorrhea is descriptive and has a certain ick factor because of the –rrhea suffix it shares with another well-known word. I don’t know of anybody yet who’s called in sick to work because they were up all night with a bad case of logorrhea, but it could happen. Continue reading “Short and Sweet”
RE: Robert Lee, Confederates, and Related Nonsense
ESPN announced yesterday (or the day before—it doesn’t matter) that one of their broadcasters, an Asian American by the name of Robert Lee, who was scheduled to cover a football game in Virginia this weekend, was pulled from the assignment because (are you ready for it?) someone might be offended by the similarity of the man’s name to that of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee, who, as we all know, is offending plenty of folks lately with his frightening statues. What in the world is going on with these pantywaist ESPN execs?
So my question is, where will the insanity end? What’s next in Zanyville, USA? Continue reading “From the Wacky-News Desk”
Here’s an everyday grammar boo-boo we find every day on social media and wall plaques.
It’s easy to forget that “everyday” (one word) is a compound adjective that means “ordinary,” “typical,” “usual,” or “garden variety,” as in “Let me slip on my everyday shoes.”
“Every day,” (two words) on the other hand, means, well, “every day,” as in, “Her husband visits her at the lake every day,” or, “We walk the dog every day.”
The vast majority of the time, we mean “every day,” but every day I see it written incorrectly; it has become an everyday thing on social media and wall plaques. Δ
© Copyright 2017 by Dean Christensen. All rights reserved.
Do you know how to correctly write college degree titles?
The landing gear is down on another academic year as students and faculty make their final approach toward the graduation runway. Many soon-to-be newly minted grads are now wading into the sometimes turbulent, often murky, and always anxiety-producing waters of job hunting.
So let’s think about how to correctly write academic degree titles on résumés, cover letters, celebration invitations, and LinkedIn profiles. This can be confusing, and in my nearly twenty years in higher education—as a counselor, instructor, administrator, and hiring manager—I’ve seen many resumes and applications where the writer apparently didn’t know how to correctly indicate his or her own degree. Stumbling over something so basic may not go over well with prospective employers. It never hurts to get this right. Continue reading “How to Write Academic Degree Titles”