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Choosing the Right Word

Question:
My question: how to use first or firstly. I’ve seen secondly at times, but it seems odd to me that first is used. Somehow, I feel like firstly matches secondly. But I don’t see people use it this way.

Answer:
The correct form for indicating a list of items: first, second, third. Do not tack on the –ly, even on the word second. It’s simply incorrect. The same is true for last (never lastly) and thus (never thusly).


Question:
Is the following sentence grammatically correct?
Our Surgery Department has got you covered.

Answer:
Most authorities frown on the use of got to mean “have.”
“I’ve got a secret” is better written as “I have a secret.” In your example, it would be better to write: “Our Surgery Department has you covered.” To use got isn’t to commit a gross grammatical error, but it does reflect loose—or colloquial -- use of the language. “Colloquial” suggests that it’s OK to use orally but not in writing.
The word got has legitimate meanings and is fine to use in examples such as the following:
I don’t get it.   Get me out of here!   Try to get him to change his mind.
Avoid the use of gotten.


Question:
When I use an acronym in a sentence, is the use of a or an before the acronym determined by the sound of the letter or the actual word it represents: a MIT graduate or an MIT graduate?

Answer:
Usage is determined by how one expects the sentence to be read. It’s highly likely that one will pronounce the letters em-eye-tee, not Massachusetts Institute of Technology, so logic dictates that an is correct.


Question:
Which is more correct to use?
a. I expect Misters George Brennan and Kevin Foley to be with us beginning on May 11, 2009.
b. I expect Mr. George Brennan and Mr. Kevin Foley to be with us beginning on May 11, 2009

Answer:
Use b because it sounds more contemporary and expected in today’s business environment.
Version a is reserved for very formal use; and the title to be used, from the French, is Messrs. (not Misters).
Question:
Do you refer to a 55-foot diameter tank or a 55-feet diameter tank?
I think the first is correct, but I’m not sure.

Answer:
The first is correct – a 55-foot diameter tank. Of course, you could write it in another way: The tank has a 55-foot diameter. The tank is 55 feet in diameter.

Question:
Reoccurrence and recurrence – are they both words, and is there any difference between them?

Answer:
Yes, both are words. Reoccurrence refers to a one-time repetition: Despite a guarantee that the problem was solved, there was a reoccurrence one week later.
Recurrence refers to more than one repetition: Although the leak has been fixed temporarily, we are prepare for a recurrence of the problem.


Question:
I recently saw a reference to "an historical occasion.” I was always taught to use "a” before a hard h  (a house, a helper) and "an” before an h that isn’t pronounced (an hour, an herb). Has the rule changed?

Answer:
You are correct in your thinking that "a” should be used before "history” or any other derivations of the word.  The popularity of "an” comes from British usage whereby a word beginning with a weakly pronounced h is preceded by an. Thus you might hear "an historian, "an habitual offender,” or  "an heroic ode.” In America today, the use of "a” is widespread and definitely preferred.  




 

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