Tag Archives: Grammar

Cry for Help

Now that it’s on its last legs, isn’t it time to recognise that the apostrophe needs our help?

Eats, Shoots & Leaves Day-to-Day Calendar entry for February 8, by Lynne Truss.



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Clients From Hell

The following entries were found at Clients From Hell, “a collection of anonymously contributed client horror stories from designers”.

Client: You see where you have a full stop at the end of the first sentence?
Me: Yes.
Client: Can you change it to a comma?
Me: Er, well I can, but you should put a full stop at the end of a sentence.
Client: Oh, that grammar stuff is very old fashioned.

So I have this table here in the document, I was hoping you could graphisize it for me.

So it turns out you were right about me wanting a colon instead of a semi-colon. But since we’re on the subject, I’d like you to revisit the copy and include more semi-colons. I want people to think we’re smart.

Please be sure to print the cover and the table of contents at the front of the book, then after the table of contents print the chapters in this order: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16.

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G is for Good

The imminent arrival of the Winter Olympics makes this a perfect time to review the usage of the words good and well because we’ll soon hear countless interviewers and announcers telling us how good our athletes did in their events. In fact, they will have done well, not good, but it’s a common grammatical error and, sadly, I’m confident that we won’t be able to count on the television personalities to get it right.

Here’s the basic rule for determining whether you should use good or well: a thing is good, but you do something well.

Good is an adjective that describes people and things (nouns) so use it when you’re stating how something or someone is.


  1. Good Will Hunting is a good movie.
  2. Martha Stewart says “it’s a good thing”.
  3. Glinda is a good witch.

Well is an adverb that modifies action words (verbs) so use it when describing how something or someone does something.


  1. He did well on the English exam.
  2. She danced well in the recital.
  3. The hockey team played well.

There are exceptions to the rule, of course. For example, you can use good when referring to verbs of the senses. Something can smell goodtaste goodfeel good, or look good.

At this winter’s Games, I hope that our athletes have a good time and ski, snowboard, skate, curl and play hockey well. I hope the weather is good and the bobsleigh, biathlon, luge, and ski jumping events go well. I hope our team members look good in their Olympic outfits and represent Canada well.

And I hope that our announcers do well too.

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Filed under Grammar by the Letter

Sunday Snapshot

Cook’en?  Hmm … the designer was going for cookin’ but wanted to match the spelling of kitchen so she changed the i to an e and moved the  apostrophe to a random position to get it out of the way? …  That’s all I’ve got.

See  A is for Apostrophe for my thoughts on apostrophe  use.

Thanks to Barefootheart for the photo.

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F is for Foliage

If you Google images for the word Foliage, you’ll find thousands of pictures of lovely leaves. If you Google images for Foilage … you’ll find thousands of pictures of lovely leaves.

The correct spelling of the word  used to describe a cluster of  leaves is foliage, from the Latin word for leaf, “folio”. However,  the l and i in foliage are reversed so regularly that the word is on many Top 100 lists of English words most often misspelled and mispronounced. The misspelled version  is used in a myriad of Internet pages.  You can even shop for Foilage T-Shirts, Posters, & Other Gift Ideas at zazzle.com.

There is a definition on urbandictionary.com for foilage that claims it is an expression for bling. Man check out the ride – foilage.”

So according to that definition, this might be considered foilage:


I think this should definitely be designated as [tin] foilage:


The following photos are of autumn foliage in Southern Ontario. Many of the pictures were taken at, or near, the shore of Lake Ontario.









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E is for Effect

If you ask around, I think you’ll find that most people have at least one word that they’re inclined to look up in the dictionary every time they need to use it. For whatever reason, some words just don’t seem to stick in the old noggin, even if their meaning and spelling is really not difficult. I have two of those words: effect and affect.

Whenever I have to decide which one of them to use, I send the request for clarification of their meanings to my brain for processing. Ker-chug, ker-chug, ker-chug – you can practically hear it, like that noise your computer makes when the hard drive is running low on space and it seems to take forever to pull up what you want. Finally my mind spits out the correct word and, just my luck, there are dead pixels in my brain’s monitor right where the first letter should be, so that the answer comes up looking like this

which is not at all helpful because I don’t have any trouble with the other letters in either word.

For anyone else who finds the difference between effect and affect hard to remember, here is the most basic difference between the two words.

Most of the time affect is a verb. It generally means “to influence” or “to change”.

I am adversely affected by snowy weather.

Most of the time effect is a noun. It generally means “a result or consequence”.

The snow had a dangerous effect on the roads.

The information I find most helpful is that effect is used whenever any of these words precede it: a, an, any, the, take, into, no.  These words may be separated from effect by an adjective.

For a more detailed description of the uses of effect and affect, and to try a practice quiz, go to this site:


Since my brain monitor cannot be repaired or replaced, I suspect that I’ll be looking up effect occasionally for the rest of my days. And that’s okay, because sometimes it’s best just to admit that you’re not sure and consult an expert; that’s what dictionaries are for.


Filed under Grammar by the Letter

A Very Scary Halloween tale

A travelling carnival came to town this year for Halloween and set up in the fair grounds. Along with the usual assortment of spinning rides, a haunted house was erected, quite separate from the other attractions, in a quiet corner. The advertisement in the newspaper for the spooky house said:

UntitledHah! As if you’d actually die –they have laws against that kind of thing … right? Still … I vow not to scream, just in case.

My friends have joined me at the entrance now, so I pay the fee and bravely volunteer to be the first to enter the dilapidated looked structure. Jeez, it’s dark. Really dark. What is that glowing ahead of me? Are those words? I inch forward in the blackness and the words suddenly move toward me.

Untitled 2My late what? I snicker, turning to my friends. But no one is there, just a sign directly behind me, less than an arm’s length from my face, that says

Untitled 3How did that get there? And where all the apostrophes? The hair is standing up on the back of my neck. “Guys?” I call out to my friends, but nobody answers, so I back away from the creepy signs into another room. This room appears to be long and narrow – I wish my eyes would adjust to the dark so I could see where I’m going!

I’m edging forward when something brushes against my back and I spin around to face it.

Untitled 4Taut?? They mean taunt! Something drops from the darkness above and I stifle a squeal and duck.

Untitled 5I spin to my left.

Untitled 6I’m starting to perspire. I want to get out of this weird place; it’s scarier than I expected. Okay, there’s the exit from the room. It doesn’t look too far away.

Untitled 7Yes, I am bored with it! Where are these phrases coming from??

Untitled 8I’m scrambling now, and the eerie glowing words just keep coming! Where did the exit sign go? I can’t see it!

Untitled 9Ouch! I tripped over   Untitled 10

and almost tumbled into Untitled 11

Untitled 12I am excited about leaving and I’m almost there, just a few more steps!

Untitled 13No, not that! I clap my hand over my mouth to keep from screaming and leap through the door to the next room. I still can’t see, but at least I’m not being attacked by bad grammar. The exit is straight ahead….

What’s that noise? Yikes, something fluttered right over my head! There’s another one! What ARE those things – are they bats? Yuk, that one was almost stuck in my hair.  Are they…? Could they be… ? They are! They’re apostrophes and they’re dive-bombing me! “Leave me alone! Why don’t you go back to the words you belong with??”  White, shimmering forms are starting to fill the room around me – ghosts – and the one closest to me answers my question:

Untitled 14And it starts laughing; a shrill howl that sends chills down my spine.

Untitled 15

Ahhhhhhhhhhh! I can’t contain my scream any longer! And now I’m running as fast as I can to the exit, beating off apostrophes and screeching ghosts like Buffy in a room full of vampires, until I finally shove the door open and throw myself through it. Phew! Deep breathes. That was horrifying! Deep breathes. It’s okay. I’m all right.

And hey, at least I didn’t literally die screaming.

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