One of my favorite things about the end of the year is looking back and remembering some of the achievements, firsts, and other high points of the preceding 12 months. At least, I hope there are high points to remember.
We hope that we have offered you some high points in learning, discovery, and professional development during 2017 — perhaps some of these bits of guidance and advice about grammar and usage:
Helping verbs are something we learn about in grade school, but sometimes verbs don’t need so much help. On September 20, in “Clamp Down on Unhelping Verbs,” I wrote about avoiding unnecessarily verbose verb phrases that use make, have, give, and take. Watching out for this type of “verb smothering” can help simplify and streamline your text.
We also offered some guidance for using specific verbs that might slow you down. On July 19, in “To Google: Verbs and Trademarks,” I looked at the dilemma of using a trademarked name as a verb (to google, to photoshop) and the different takes on whether such verbs should be capitalized. And not long ago, back on November 15, I tried to tease out how to use a set of related verbs in “Disentangling Your Morning: Wake, Waken, Awake, and Awaken.”
We’ve written about a number of odd, confusable, or just interesting nouns over the past year, from annus horribilis to plenitude to tyromancy. And on June 16, Erin Brenner answered a reader’s question in “Identifying Nouns of Direct Address,” a subject that is as much about finding verbs and placing commas as it is about identifying nouns.
A common piece of writing advice is to avoid using adverbs, but sometimes an adverb is exactly the right word you need. On June 28, in “On Using and Avoiding Adverbs,” I tried to outline a more useful guideline for both using and avoiding adverbs.
Then, on October 25, I wrote in “Awkward Adverbs Lovelily Written” about how to approach adverbs created from adjectives like friendly, ugly, and lovely that already end in an -ly.
As copyeditors, we are expected to know how to accurately use what Kurt Vonnegut once described as “transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing.” So on July 26, I outlined how to use that most enigmatic of punctuation marks in “The Semicolon: The Chimera of Punctuation.”
On April 26, I took a closer look at an odd punctuational phenomenon in “On Spelling Out Punctuation,” specifically the seemingly increasing occurrence of spelling out “slash” instead actually using a slash (aka virgule) or the academic and somewhat skunked term cum.
On Neutral and Unbiased Language
Copyeditors are often tasked with identifying and eliminating bias from articles and stories. Such bias can be very subtle, so it is a common topic here at Copyediting.com. For example, back on March 29, I wrote that the “Associated Press Accepts Singular They” as a last-resort singular pronoun for when a source’s gender must be shielded or other wordings are overly awkward. And just two weeks ago, in “Let’s Change How We Use ‘Reform,’” Andy Bechtel showed how this common word to describe the recent tax bills might be both inaccurate and biased.
For more on this topic, go to Erin Brenner’s July 21 post, “Copyediting’s Guide to Bias-Free Language.”
Finally, Erin Brenner helped us brush up on our grammar in September 22’s “How to Build Your Grammar Skills.”