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Welcome to My Blog and Website

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.

Please explore the pages in the menu above to learn about me, my copyediting services, and other resources.

I also invite you to become a follower of this blog, to “like” it, to leave comments, and to contact me with English grammar and usage questions or ideas for future blog topics.

If you’re on Facebook, please “like” my The Dean’s English page there, too! (See the link on the right side of this page.)

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.


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Punctuation Problem: Apostrophe Use and Misuse

Avoid apostrophe abuse!

Today’s featured “punctuation problem” is apostrophe use and misuse.

Let’s review the main uses of the apostrophe:

Possessives

  • 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).

Contractions

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 dancinand 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).

Some Plurals

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 AbuseIMG_1818

  • 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.

Short and Sweet

What is your typical communication style?

Groucho Marx 01Effective 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).[1] 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”

From the Wacky-News Desk

RE: Robert Lee, Confederates, and Related Nonsense

Robert Lee

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”

“Everyday” vs. “Every Day”

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.

 

How to Write Academic Degree Titles

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”

What is a style sheet? For people using editors

I’ve been following Liz Dexter’s blog for a while and often appreciate her helpful posts. As a copyeditor who uses style sheets with every project, I’m taking her up on her offer to reblog this informative piece. (Thank you, Liz!)

LibroEditing proofreading, editing, transcription, localisation

DictionariesIf you work with a proofreader or editor on any project, either for a publisher or working independently or as a student, you might receive a Style Sheet from them with your corrected work. This article explains what a style sheet is, the purpose of a style sheet, and what might be included on it. I’ve also written this article to send to my clients so they understand what the document I’ve sent them is – so if you’re one of my clients, hello!

To make this article easier to read, I will refer to the person who has worked on your document as your “editor” – although I might refer to proofreaders in some places, too.

If you’re an editor or proofreader who wants to find out more about style sheets, I’ve written an article just for you, too.

What is a style sheet?

A style sheet is…

View original post 961 more words

Poetic License? But Why?

Bad grammar ruined this popular Christian song (for me).

Standard English took a blow below the belt with the rise of rock ’n’ roll music, and it was only a matter of time before the assault on the mother tongue would be sanctified by Christian artists writing Jesus Music.

I was no grammar snob as a teenager and young adult, and neither was I a grammar slob. But I lived for the rock ’n’ roll music of Randy Stonehill, Daniel Amos, and other pioneers of the Christian rock genre. I slapped on my Pioneer stereo headphones, cranked up the volume, and blew out my eardrums on a regular basis to songs like Continue reading “Poetic License? But Why?”