Questions and Tips from the Hotline

Most of us, even very competent writers, makes occasional errors in English usage. How nice that we avoid common mistakes by following a few rules! Here are a few blunders I’ve noted recently that can be easily corrected:

Punctuation: When two words are used as one adjective before a noun, hyphenation is usually correct (part-time employee, bank-affiliated business, Dallas-based company). Omit the hyphen when the first word ends in the letters -ly (highly rated program, nicely balanced sculpture, happily married couple).

Spelling of like-sounding words: One oft-confused pair is lead (heavy as lead) and led (past tense of the verb to lead). Yes, the past tense of to lead is spelled l-e-d (He led the project. She led a hiking group to the summit.)

Extra syllables: A recent news article referred to the President’s act of “commutating” many prison sentences. Wrong. He commuted those inmates’ sentences – even though it’s correct to say the inmates were granted “commutations.” Likewise, one becomes oriented, not “orientated,” and one takes preventive measures, not “preventative” measures. English usage almost always guides us to cut extra syllables.

For prompt answers to all your questions about grammar and English usage, visit the Grammar Hotline.



Last Updated on Friday, 09 December 2016 15:45

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