Author Archives: catherinespicer

Grammar Hammer: ICYMI, Catfishing and Brick Have New Definitions

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Oxford Dictionary

The Oxford Dictionary just unveiled the newest additions to their dictionary, and I have to admit that I was caught quite off guard by some of the entries. Apart from some buzz-wordy jargon that I could see in professional writing (pharmacovigilance), most of these words are ones I would only expect to see in more casual styles of writing or slang phrases like “hot diggity” and “spit take,” but I did learn a few interesting new things:

Catfishing- a concept recently made famous by MTV, means “to lure (someone) into a relationship by adopting a fictional online persona.”

Brick- what I originally only thought of as a rectangular block made of clay used to build things is now also a reference to early-model cell phones that were large and heavy or to mobile devices that no longer work and just sits there (like a brick).

I also finally learned the meanings of acronyms typically used in text messaging or social media such as:

SMH – shaking my head

ICYMI – in case you missed it

YOLO – you only live once

What are your thoughts on the recent additions to the Oxford English Dictionary? See Oxford’s list here (http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2014/08/oxford-dictionaries-update-august-2014).

Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at catherine.spicer@prnewswire.com.

Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire.

Grammar Hammer: All Day “Every Day” or “Everyday”?

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everyday vs every day

A suggestion from a loyal reader inspired this week’s Grammar Hammer. Is everyday one word or two words (every day)?

Both variations refer to an activity that occurs on a daily basis. As usual, the best way to determine which version to use depends on the context. If I am discussing the routine activities that comprise my life, I would call those “everyday activities,” because in this instance, “everyday” is used as an adjective to describe those activities.

Examples:

  • I found the best shoes! They are perfect for everyday wear.
  • When it comes to hosting the big holiday meal, I don’t use the everyday dishes, instead I use our finest china.
  • “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” is not a word that you hear in everyday speech.

Remember: when using “everyday,” think of commonplace or ordinary things

If I’m telling you something that I do each day, I would say, “I have to fix my cup of coffee every day before I even think about tackling email.” I’m using “every” as an adjective in this instance to describe the noun “day.”

Examples:

  • One thing that makes my house smell fresh and clean is to scoop the cat’s litter box every day.
  • Every day, I try to walk 10,000 steps.
  • I have an uncontrollable urge to nap every day at 2:41 p.m.

Remember: if your variation of everyday/every day can be replaced with “each day?” you need the adjective + noun formula of “every” and “day.”

Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at catherine.spicer@prnewswire.com.

Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire.

Grammar Hammer: Elicit vs. Illicit

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Elicit v IllicitElicit and illicit might sound similar, but technically they are not homophones and their meanings are vastly different.  The words are occasionally confused due to their similar pronunciation and spelling , which is why they are the focus of today’s Grammar Hammer.

“Elicit” is a verb that means “to obtain.” It can also mean “to draw out, to extract, or to evoke.” For example, “The community advocate elicited hundreds of signatures to prevent the destruction of neighborhood landmarks.”

“Illicit” is an adjective that means “disapproved for moral reasons.” For example, “The IT department scanned all computers for illicit activity.”

To help you remember – use “illicit” if you are describing something that is typically against the rules. Use “elicit” when you are (or aren’t) receiving something (a response, etc.).

Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at catherine.spicer@prnewswire.com.

Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire.

Grammar Hammer: Justice is Served for Common “Word Crimes”

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I would be remiss if I didn’t spotlight Weird Al Yankovic’s latest hit, “Word Crimes” as the star of this week’s Grammar Hammer. Off his newest album, “Mandatory Fun,” the viral sensation tackles the most egregious grammar errors of all time and proves once and for all that you can be a stunningly creative songwriter and still employ the rules of grammar to get your point across.

To my delight, I counted ten grammar topics mentioned in “Word Crimes” that I have also covered via Grammar Hammer:

  • Verb tense
  • Nouns and prepositions
  • Less vs. Fewer
  • I could care less
  • Oxford comma
  • Homophones
  • Who/Whom
  • Quotation Marks
  • Good vs. Well
  • Literally vs. Figuratively

I also gained a few more great suggestions for future posts, which shows that we have a lot of work left to do when it comes to fighting bad grammar. At PR Newswire, the Customer Content Services Team thoroughly reads each press release that crosses our wire and catches around 4,000 errors per month. It’s slightly embarrassing (but more delightful) to think about how often I engage in conversations about grammar with my team.

Tweet your favorite #wordcrimes to me @cathyspicer or drop me a line at catherine.spicer@prnewswire.com.

You might also want to check out Grammarly’s exclusive interview with Yankovic about the song and the challenges of proper grammar in songwriting.

Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire.

Grammar Hammer: Whiling Away the Hours

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While away the hours

While means to “pass the time, especially in some leisurely or pleasant manner”

I often see “wile away the hours” used interchangeably with “while away the hours,” so which is correct?

Technically, they both are, but there are some subtle differences one should consider.

“To while away the hours” means to “pass time idly” or to “pass time, especially in some leisurely or pleasant manner.” For example, “I spent hours whiling away on the beach last Sunday.”

“Wile” is generally used as a noun, meaning “trickery” or “cunning” (who could forget Wile E. Coyote?); “a disarming or seductive manner;” or “a trick intended to deceive.” It can also be used as a verb to mean “influence by wile.” In that context, wiling away the hours on a lazy Sunday afternoon could take on an entirely new meaning.

Therefore, “while away the hours” is the preferred expression. “Wile” exists as a means of poetic license to convey a particular mood or theme. For context, “Wile E. Coyote wiles away his time trying to catch that pesky Road Runner.”

Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at catherine.spicer@prnewswire.com.

Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire.

Grammar Hammer: Then vs. Than

the Grammar HammerThen Vs. ThanI have a tendency to over think certain grammar rules. Then vs. than is one of those grammar rules that I think I’ve nailed down, but always end up double checking after over thinking it for ten minutes. To save you time and confusion, here are a few ways to remember the correct usage:

“Then” is used to describe an element of time and is used mostly as an adverb.

  • Subsequently or afterwards. Example:  “We worked in the yard for a few hours and then went to the movies.”
  • As a consequence or in that case. Example: “If you don’t clean your room, then you can’t go to the movies.”
  • At that time or that time. Example: “We can first take care of mulching the flower beds then we can go to the movies.”

Then is always used in the construction “if … then.” For example, “If he had just listened to me in the first place, then he wouldn’t have tried using that cheap paint on the walls.”

“Than” conveys a comparison and is often used with comparative words and phrases like more, less, and fewer.

Example #1: “He paid more money for his shoes than she did for hers.”

Example #2: “The sunsets in Hawaii are better than sunsets anywhere else in the world.”

Quick tip:

Than = A = Comparison

Then = E = Time

As with any rule, there are exceptions. For example, “I usually need to go to sleep no later than 10 p.m.” I offer this quick tip with its requisite grain of salt.

For other great resources on this grammar rule, I direct you to CM Punk’s Grammar Slam on then vs. than, or my other favorite grammar poster from The Oatmeal, “Ten Words You Need to Stop Misspelling.”

Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at catherine.spicer@prnewswire.com.

Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire.

Grammar Hammer: Punctuation Saves Lives, Part II

Punctuation infographic

via EducatorsTechnology.com

Part-one of our “Punctuation Saves Lives” series covered the heavy hitters of periods, commas, question marks, exclamation points, colons, semicolons, dashes, and hyphens. Wrapping part-two are brackets, parentheses, braces, ellipses, quotation marks, and apostrophes.

Groups – brackets, parentheses, braces

Use parentheses ( ) to contain additional thoughts or qualifying remarks (I consider these to be my “verbal asides”).

Brackets [ ] are most often seen in technical notations or explanations.

Examples:

“Dogs are better then [sic] cats,” said Shannon.   

Eva took [her colleague] Caitlin out to lunch.

Braces { } are used to contain two or more lines of text to show they are part of a unit. You don’t often see braces in writing, but you will see it used in computer programming.

And finally, ones that aren’t related to each other at all – ellipses, quotation marks, apostrophes

Ellipses ( … ) are used to indicate an omission of unnecessary words (for more on this topic, see my previous post “And the Winner Is…”).

Quotation marks ( “ “ ) are used in pairs and mark the beginning and end of a quotation. They can also be used to indicate a “dubious” status of a word. A single quotation mark pair ( ‘ ‘ ) is to be used for quotes within a quote.

Apostrophes ( ‘ ) indicate possession (“That toy is Pip’s favorite.”) or the omission of some letters from a word (“Austin Powers is also known as the int’l man of mystery”).

Almost all of the source material I read in preparation for this series consistently state that there are fourteen different punctuation marks. Where does that leave the simple underscore (_) or the various directions of the slash ( / or \ )? Are they relegated to web code and email addresses? What are your thoughts?

Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at catherine.spicer@prnewswire.com.

Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire.