Category Archives: All things having to do with the English language

Who’s or Whose?

People seem to have a love affair for apostrophes. If a family’s name ends in a vowel, an apostrophe will surely appear: the Martino’s. There is no such entity as “the Martino,” so no ownership exists. The family is simply the Martinos. Easy.

It’s and its is a constant problem. It’s means it is or it has. That’s it. Its indicates possession: The dog wagged its tail. Also easy.

And there are who’s and whose. The apostrophe tells you who’s means who is. Whose is a pronoun indicating ownership: Whose shoes are these? Ricardo is one of three people whose paintings were accepted for publication. Again, easy.

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When to Capitalize Titles

 

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If the title comes immediately before or after a person’s name, capitalize it:

former President Barack Obama

Chairman Mao

Mayor Eric Garcetti

Eric Garrett, Mayor of Los Angeles   but   the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garrett

Pope Francis    but    The current pope is Francis

 

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More on Capitalization

 

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Whatever you do, DO NOT study Trump’s tweets for a lesson in capitalization. He seems to have zero idea of when to use capital letters and just does so at will, most often for emphasis. Of course, when you emphasize everything, you end up emphasizing nothing.

Here’s the deal: If you are writing the official name of something, capitalize it:

I went to Hollywood High School.   But I went to high school in Hollywood. My high school was in Hollywood.

She was born in Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. But She was born in a hospital in Philadelphia. The hospital she was born in was in Philadelphia.

If the word you are using is not the official name of the thing you are citing, use lower case. In addition, the word the is rarely part of anything’s official name. It’s not The Statue of Liberty. Use lower case for the word the.

 

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To Capitalize or Not to Capitalize…

 

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Readers of my blog sometimes wonder about whether to capitalize certain words. For the next few entries, I’ll go over some of the trickier uses of capital letters.

What about geographical areas vs. directions? Look at these two sentences:

  1. Despite my New York accent, I was born in the South.
  2. To get to San Diego, I drove south on the dreaded 405 for over two hours.

If it’s a geographical area (the East Coast, the far North, Southern California, the Mid-Atlantic states), you do capitalize. If it’s a general direction, use lower case.

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To Help You Use the Correct Pronoun


This is a post I wrote in December 2014. I realize that many times people are unsure of which pronoun to use. I hope this information will serve as a refresher for you and will clarify the pronoun morass. Be sure to write me if you have questions.

 

So many people think “I” is a classier pronoun than “me.” It isn’t. Both are equally weighted in the World of Pronouns. If you have used a preposition, you need to follow it with an object pronoun, which is what “me” is. (See list above.)

You wouldn’t say or write, “Janie sent an email to I,” would you? See that “to”? It’s a preposition, and therefore needs to be followed by an object pronoun: She sent the email to ME.

“Between” is also a preposition. I cringe when I see or hear “Between you and I.” Again, it’s ME. Here’s a list of some other common prepositions: for, from, above, under, below, beneath, underneath, near, next to, along, about, down, up, across…. You see they indicate location or direction.

Here are other object pronouns: Her, him, us, them. Whenever you use a preposition, you’ll need one of these pronouns. Don’t say or write, “Between Bob and he.” It’s “Between Bob and him.”

If you use “I” or another subject pronoun, such as she, he, we, they, people are going to shudder. You don’t want that to happen. Use your object pronouns proudly.

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Where Are the Editors?

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This morning I read an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times by a man extolling the advantages of couples sleeping in separate bedrooms. Given the situation in his household, he made a convincing personal argument. He ends the essay by writing that the two-bedroom solution might not work for everyone, “but for my wife and I,” it is working well.

OK, so he didn’t know that when deciding between I and me, if you temporarily remove the other person, you’ll immediately know which pronoun to use. He never would have written, “for I, it’s a good solution.” Adding his wife back in changes nothing. It still should be “for my wife and me.”

The author made the error—but where was the editor of the op-ed page of the LA Times? I can come to only two conclusions: either no editor exists for op-ed pieces, or there is an editor but that person also is ignorant about which pronoun to use. Either situation saddens me. You, too?

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Commas for Clarity

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Here are some sentences written without commas. On first reading, you likely will be scratching your head. But read each sentence again and put in a comma; instantly, your confusion will be lifted.

  1. Just as we were ready to leave my brother drove up in his new convertible.
  2. While I watched my uncle assembled the ingredients for a salad.
  3. After he shot the arrow always hit the target.
  4. If you can afford to visit New Orleans at Mardi Gras.
  5. They recognized the document was not complete and announced it could not have been given the situation and time.

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