Left-branching doesn’t work!

Left-branching doesn’t work!

Please read this sentence: ******************** A group representing Washington County residents affected by the city’s plans for a city energy utility, a major mining concern, the University of Washington, and the city’s Chamber of Commerce are among the entities seeking to formally intervene in the city’s municipalization case before the Washington Public Utilities Commission. [I… Continue Reading

Thank you, American Dialect Society

For any editor or language buff who has struggled with sentences like these: Everyone took his or her seat. Your client may want his or her options increased. Rejoice!!! The old rule, much disputed, said: If your antecedent (the word to which your pronoun refers) is singular, you cannot use the word “their” because it… Continue Reading

Left-branching example of the week

A left-branching sentence is one in which the subject and verb do not appear until the sentence has wandered around for quite some time: “Only offering height modifications in certain areas, explicitly describing what the city wants buildings to look like in [City] Junction and charging non-residential developments a fee to pay for affordable housing… Continue Reading

A tale of two (actually three) English grammar texts

I had an interesting conversation with my friend Michael Franklin at the AMWA (American Medical Writers Association) conference in Columbus last month. He told me of a must-read grammar text, Understanding English Grammar by Martha Kolln and Robert Funk, that he had studied in graduate school. I nearly fainted when I saw the price at… Continue Reading

Grammar lesson: When should you use the word “that”?

One of my loyal readers sent me a question about the use of the word “that”; she said, “I am used to seeing the word ‘that ’ in all instances shown below” and provided four examples. Here’s one: COPAS guidelines require that the initial billing of joint account charges occurs within a 24-month period. Her… Continue Reading

How do I know what I know?

Don’t worry. I’m not going all metaphysical on you. But I’ve recently begun to question one of my long-held beliefs about writing, and I feel conflicted. Here’s how it came about: In my last newsletter, I wrote a review of Marcia Riefer Johnston’s new book Word Up! How to Write Powerful Sentences and Paragraphs. I… Continue Reading

Should you use “and” or “but” to start a sentence?

One of my newsletter readers wrote to ask: Hi Bette:  Do you agree with the information below? (I’m from the old school, where I was taught never to begin a sentence with “and” or “but.”) Contrary to what your high school English teacher told you, there’s no reason not to begin a sentence with but… Continue Reading

Free punctuation and grammar lessons

I’m excited about some interesting new projects that I’m working on. I’m especially excited about creating grammar content for a new online grammar class I’m developing. I plan to share some of this content with you, one lesson at a time, with a quiz question to test your learning. Sign up for this free training… Continue Reading