Q: I have a question about something that drives me crazy when I hear it. It has to do with the word free. I hear people say for free all the time and I think it is grammatically incorrect, but I cannot cite why it is wrong. Can you shed some light on this issue?
A: This is an example of something you hear in conversation that's not strictly wrong, but isn't considered good usage. It's listed in the dictionary as an "informal" idiom. While you might say for free, you wouldn't want to write it. Even better, don't say it! The word for is unnecessary to convey the meaning.
Q: When using a or an before an acronym such as FDA (Food & Drug Administration), does one write aor an in a sentence?
A: The rule is to us a before a consonant sound and an before a vowel sound. This applies to abbreviations and acronyms as well as to words. So an FDA rule would be correct, since the letter F is pronounced eff.
Q:Is this sentence grammatically correct?
Her background in writing has been valuable in undertakings of issues of journalism/media.
A: The main problem with your sentence is readability -- it's hard to understand what you mean. First, you have too many prepositional phrases (phrases beginning with a preposition): in writing; in undertakings; of issues; of journalism/media. Second, the word undertakings is a poor word choice, especially in connection with issues. What is an undertaking of an issue?
Try simplifying your sentence and using more appropriate words. Depending on what you are trying to say, you might try something like: Her writing background has been valuable in dealing with journalism and media issues or Her writing background has been valuable in handling journalism and media issues.
Q: Are both these sentences grammatically correct?
The tax accounts would like to know if the bond was sold last year at a loss.
The tax accounts would like to know if the bond were sold last year at a loss.
A: Both could be correct, but the meaning is subtly different in each. In the first sentence, the "tax accounts" don't know if the bond was sold at a loss. There is no doubt, speculation, or denial of fact; they just would like to whether it was sold at a loss.
The second sentence implies that in the event the bond were sold at a loss, the "tax accounts" would like to be informed. There is a hint that the bond has not yet been sold, but if it is sold at a loss, the "tax accounts" will want to know.
Q: In writing about the research and development activities of large companies, is it acceptable to spell it out on the first use and use R&D in subsequent references?
A: Yes. The usual way to do this is to spell out the entire phrase on the first reference, followed by the abbreviation or acronym in parentheses: ABC Corporation's research and development (R&D) efforts tripled during the past year. This defines the abbreviation or acronym for the reader. In subsequent references, you can just use the abbreviation or acronym.
Q: Are both of these usages of verbs grammatically correct?
Could you let me know if it was included in the calculation? If it weren't, that would explain a lot.
Could you let me know if it was included in the calculation? If it wasn't, that would explain a lot.
A: The subjunctive indicates urgency, formality, speculation, or something contrary to fact. The opening question in the examples implies that you do not know whether it was included in the calculation. In that case, the subjunctive is the proper form to use. The indicative would be proper when you knew that it wasn't included in the calculation, but were only asking for confirmation that it wasn't. In that case, you would want to frame the question differently; for example, Can you confirm that it wasn't included in the calculation?
Q: I read this and would like you to help with the correct grammar.
Please also note that memorials can be made through the Alliance to benefit Hospice of Wake County, who served he and the family in his final days.
Q: I was taught way back in high school, graduated in 1972, that you did not put a comma before the word and when listing multiple items. Such as: baseball, bat and glove. I am now doing homework with my granddaughter 2nd grade who states you should always use a comma before and. Is this correct and when did it change?
A:This is a matter of style, and you can find it both ways in various books and publications. This disagreement has been around for many years. As noted elsewhere on the YourWritingGuru.com website (www.yourwritingguru.com/commas.html):
"In a series of nouns or phrases used with and, place a comma after each item that occurs before the word and.
Red, white, and blue First, second, and third first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League
(Note: Some style manuals call for no comma before and in such a series. If your office uses one that does, follow that style.)"
In this case, what is "correct" is what the schoolbook says. If you worked in an office that did not use a comma before and, that would be correct in that circumstance.
Q: I'm writing the words million and billion and think that when doing so, the "M" and "B" should be capitalized.For example, "Combined revenues that year approached $1 Billion."
Should the "B" be capitalized in that sentence??
A: No, unless your office has a special style that calls for capitalizing million and billion, you do not generally capitalize them in sentences such as your example.
Q: Is "pointed views" correct grammar?
A: This is a question of word choice and usage rather than grammar. Some of the definitions of pointed in The American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition, include:
"2. Sharp; cutting: pointed criticism.3. Obviously directed at or making reference to a particular person or thing: a pointed comment.4. Clearly evident or conspicuous; marked: a pointed lack of interest."
While it's difficult to answer your question without seeing the full sentence or phrase, it's not clear that a view can be pointed. See if you can find another adjective that better describes what you're trying to say (harsh, narrow, dim, etc.) about the views.
Q: Please tell me if I should capitalize the italicized words below:
The president considers protecting the safety of the American people his absolute highest priority and most sacred duty. OR:
The President considers protecting the safety of the American people his absolute highest priority
The director of Home Land Security came in the door. OR:
The Director of Home Land Security came in the door
The secretary of Home Land Security came in the door. OR:
The Secretary of Home Land Security came in the door.
A: The capitalization of government titles is a matter of style. Most nongovernmental style manuals hold that you only capitalize such a title when it comes directly before the officeholder's name, with no comma in between:
President Kennedy ordered a blockade of Cuba.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with the Israeli prime minister.
In other cases, you would not capitalize the title.
The secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, declared that the US would respect the treaty.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was president when Congress passed the Social Security Act.
The soldiers cheered the commander in chief.
So in this style, the titles in your sample sentences would not be capitalized.
Some government style manuals, however, call for capitalizing government titles in all instances. The first thing you should do is check to see if your office has a style manual, and whether that manual addresses this question. If not, you would be in good company if you followed the nongovernmental custom.
By the way, Homeland Security should be two words, not three.
Q: Can you tell me which is correct:
What is the color of your shoes? or What are the color of your shoes?
A: The subject and verb in a sentence must always agree in number. The subject of both sentences is color, a singular noun. The first sentence is correct because the verb is is also singular and agrees with the subject in number. The second sentence is wrong because the verb are is plural.
If you asked What color are your shoes?, the subject is shoes. The plural verb are would then be correct, because it must agree with the plural subject.
Q: Which is right: "to live a more healthier life," or, "to live a more healthy life?"
A: Healthier is the comparative form of the adjective healthy. You form some comparatives by adding -er to the end of the adjective. You form others by placing more in front of the adjective. To say more healthier is to use two comparatives, more and healthier, which is incorrect. More healthy is acceptable, but to live a healthier life would be the best usage in this case.
Q: Someone told me that one should never use letters after a numeral. The context indicates the pronunciation. For example: One should not use the th, nd, st, etc. .
Examples: The meeting will be held on February 14. (correct form) The meeting will be held on February 14th (incorrect form)
Is this correct?
A: According to most accepted style rules, you do not use letters such at th, st, or nd after a date. The correct form for a date in the US is February 14, Feb. 14, 2007, or February 14, 2007. (Note: Accepted military style is 14 February or 14 February 2007.)
Never say never. Sometimes you can use letters after numerals. For example, the US Air Force's approved abbreviations for first and second lieutenant are 1st Lt and 2nd Lt. But in most cases, you would write out "first," "second," and so forth. Consult your office's style manual for the preferred usage in your organization.
Q: Which sentence is correct? Our committee was comprised of one representative from each of the four language groups. Our committee wascomprisedone representative from each of the four language groups. A: The first sentence, "Our committee was comprised of," is correct (although some authorities would dispute this) but not the best way to say it. The second sentence is incorrect. To comprise means to include. A better sentence would be Our committee comprised one representative from each of the four language groups.
Q: Which is correct, "memoranda" or "memorandums?"
A: Memoranda is the original plural form of the Latin noun memorandum. Memorandums is an anglicized version. According to the best dictionaries, either is correct.
Q: You talk about style manuals. What if my office doesn't have one? Can you recommend one?
A: A classic and simple manual is The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. The Fourth Edition, now in print, is available online and in bookstores. The Chicago Manual of Style is another common reference, as is the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (Fifth Edition). If you're doing work related to journalism or public relations, there's the AP Stylebook. If you work for the federal government, you should be familiar with the US Government Printing Office Style Manual, available online.
Q: Should I use Zip code abbreviations or the longer abbreviations for states? Does it matter?
A: This is the kind of question your company or agency style manual should answer. Of course, you always use the two-letter Zip codes (AL, NY, CO) in addresses, both on envelopes and in letters. But when you're writing about a general location -- such as Kalamazoo, Mich., or Chico, Calif. -- as opposed to a specific address, many style manuals prefer you use the longer abbreviation. A few even insist that you spell out the state name completely. Always follow the style manual your offices uses.
By the way, if you're writing about a location in Canada, most style manuals call for giving the province just as you would give the US state -- Hamilton, Ont., Victoria, B.C., or Winnipeg, Manitoba. Don't write Banff, Canada.
Note that you put a comma between the city and state name, and another after the state name, except at the end of a sentence or before a semicolon or a colon: East Lansing, Mich., is the home of Michigan State University. Michigan State University is located in East Lansing, Mich.
Q: What is the proper plural of Lexus, the automobile name? A: According to the rules of English spelling, it would be Lexuses. Click here for more information.
Q: When do I use "effect" and when do I use "affect"? A: Affect is a verb that means to influence, as in The noise in the office affects my concentration.
Effect is a noun that means result, as in cause and effect or My mistakes are the effect of the noise in the office. On rare occasions, it can also be a verb meaning to accomplish or to bring about, as in to effect a change.