Questions tagged [writing-style]

Questions about the writing style of a particular sentence, phrase or construction in English. Questions asking for advice on writing style are off-topic.

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42
votes
3answers
97k views

Which singular names ending in “s” form possessives with only a bare apostrophe?

Many questions already ask about this topic (What is the correct possessive for nouns ending in "‑s"? , When did it become correct to add an “s” to a singular possessive already ending in “‑...
154
votes
16answers
427k views

Should I put a comma before the last item in a list? [closed]

Should I put a comma before the last item in a list? I would like crackers, cheese and some soda. I would like crackers, cheese, and some soda.
303
votes
1answer
383k views

When should I use an em-dash, an en-dash, and a hyphen?

I generally know how to use a hyphen, but when should I use an en-dash (–) instead of an em-dash, or when should I use a hyphen (-) instead of an em-dash (—)?
14
votes
2answers
32k views

To hyphenate or not?

As a non-native speaker of English and an engineer by training, I always get confused about hyphenation and almost always end up referring to Google every time I need to make that decision. Does ...
147
votes
14answers
9k views

Why do English writers avoid explicit numerals?

The junction has a stop sign on each of the four entrances. The junction has a stop sign on each of the 4 entrances. The first is preferred, for some reason, by many English texts. Why? I haven't ...
37
votes
7answers
77k views

Using “And” at the beginning of a sentence

Since I first learned English, I have been holding this understanding that "and", as a conj. but unlike "but", can only connect two clauses, not two sentences ended with periods. But recently, I ...
22
votes
15answers
55k views

What are some examples of awkward sounding but grammatically correct sentences?

What are some examples of awkward sounding but grammatically correct sentences?
12
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4answers
2k views

Oxford Comma Conventions

According to the Wikipedia page for the Oxford Comma, "Use of the comma is consistent with conventional practice" and "Use of the comma is inconsistent with conventional practice." Did the Oxford ...
44
votes
7answers
101k views

Is using passive voice “bad form”?

Whenever I create a document in Microsoft Word, it complains about a lot of my sentences being in passive voice. But, when I read that sentence aloud, it sounds fine to me. I am not sure if it is just ...
5
votes
3answers
6k views

Why is the present perfect used in headlines? [duplicate]

In news reports, we often read or hear events introduced with the present perfect, and then the past simple like this: The film star Jim Cooper has died of cancer. He was 68 and lived in Texas. ...
1
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2answers
2k views

Is it ok to combine two independent clauses into just one sentence? [closed]

Is this sentence acceptable? You’re welcome, have a nice day ahead.
17
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5answers
14k views

Style Question: Use of “we” vs. “I” vs. passive voice in a dissertation

As I'm not a native speaker and just finishing my dissertation in Computer Science, I wonder what style I should be using. In German (my native tongue) most dissertations, school-books and scientific ...
26
votes
5answers
36k views

Parenthetical pluralization of words ending in '-y'

Sentences constructed with a word written in the singular and parenthetically in the plural are straightforward when that word does not end in -y, e.g.: List all applicable employee(s). How does ...
17
votes
2answers
91k views

“The train will leave” vs. “is going to leave” vs. “leaves” vs. “is leaving”

From the grammatical point of view all are correct, just the meaning are different, please bring your clarification, thank you. The Train will leave at 10:00 tomorrow morning. The Train is ...
10
votes
0answers
8k views

Space before three dots? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What is the proper way of using triple dots and spaces before/after them? Should there be a space before three dots? Examples: I don't know if this is good... I don't know if ...
65
votes
4answers
250k views

When to use & instead of “and”

Are there rules of usage when using the ampersand "&" instead of "and"? Are they completely interchangeable? The ampersand seems more casual, but I'm not sure.
56
votes
9answers
25k views

Why, in old books, are dates often given with the years redacted?

silly question, and I'm not sure this is even necessarily the right forum, but it's the most appropriate on StackExchange, so here we are. Why is it, in older books, that years are sometimes redacted ...
81
votes
6answers
1.1m views

Is it “Yours faithfully” or “Yours sincerely”?

When should one sign a letter with "Yours faithfully" or "Yours sincerely"?
37
votes
11answers
32k views

What is it called when words are deliberately spelled incorrectly but pronunciation is kept unchanged?

For example, Night -> Nite Through -> Thru The -> Da Though -> Tho Nite even appears in some dictionaries as having the same meaning as night. What is it called when words are ...
46
votes
8answers
20k views

Using “utilize” instead of “use”?

My friend has been raising a ruckus about the abuse of the word "utilize" in place of the word "use." He complains that it just makes your sentences sound pretentious. u·ti·lize [yoot-l-ahyz] verb (...
14
votes
2answers
2k views

Ellipsis that results in one word serving as both subject and object

Quoting from Jeff Atwood's blog: [I expanded the team] by adding Kevin, who I didn't know, but had built amazing stuff for us without even being asked to, from Texas. And again by adding Robert, ...
41
votes
12answers
117k views

What is the proper way of using triple dots and spaces before/after them?

...␣part of a sentence␣... ...part of a sentence␣... ...␣part of a sentence... Notice the spaces before/after the dots. Which usage is the correct one ?
25
votes
5answers
16k views

'How to' vs. 'How do I'

This question is inspired by comments on a question on Stack Overflow. The original poster wrote: How to correct this error? And comments say that it's an incorrect question. Better is How do I ...
2
votes
3answers
4k views

Should there be a hyphen in expressions such as “currently-available X”?

My natural instinct is to hyphenate expressions such as "currently-available", "currently-implemented", etc., when they modify a noun. Example: "the currently-available version of X". It seems to me ...
58
votes
8answers
10k views

What’s purportedly wrong with Strunk & White’s “The Elements of Style”?

I was reading the comments on this answer where several users claimed that Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style was “misinformed, hypocritical, and wrong” and “flat-out wrong or totally misleading”...
31
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7answers
9k views

Punctuating question tags: A question mark is always required, isn't it. (Well, isn't it?)

Consider the sentence: You didn't leave the dog in the car, did you? In spoken English, this statement may be given with a rising intonation or a falling one. If the former, it suggests that leaving ...
23
votes
6answers
15k views

Name and origin of writing with period after each word

It may be limited to the web ecosystem, but I've read a lot of those sentences lately, where each word is followed by a period. Examples: Oh. My. God. Best. Job. Ever. No. F***ing. Way. Putting each ...
9
votes
8answers
17k views

Can you explain the sentence structure 'In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit'? Why put the verb before the subject?

The opening sentence to The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien reads, In a hole in the ground there lived [verb] a hobbit [subject]. I wonder if there are accepted stylistic purposes for such a structure. ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

Usage of contractions like “it's” and “that's” in textbooks

Is it considered bad style to use abbreviations contractions like "it's" and "that's" (instead of spelling them out as "it is" and "that is") in a textbook or academic publication?
4
votes
3answers
5k views

First, … Secondly, … &c

Take it for granted that enumerations have secondly, …; thirdly, …; finally, … Is there any reason, except tradition, to prefer the traditional first to firstly?
2
votes
2answers
3k views

Where should the apostrophe go on a possessive abbreviation?

When expanding an abbreviation in parentheses, sometimes the thing that was abbreviate was used in a possessive context. Consider the following example: If the Giant Ostrich Bomb's (GOB) fuse is ...
19
votes
8answers
222k views

How often do people say “gotta”, “wanna” or “gonna” in English speaking countries?

I learned these three words from Collins Cobuild Advanced Learner's English Dictionary. got|ta /g'ɒtə/ Gotta is used in written English to represent the words 'got to' when they are pronounced > ...
25
votes
6answers
72k views

Is an apostrophe with a decade (e.g. 1920’s) generally considered “incorrect”?

I typically don’t use an apostrophe with plurals in any situation, but I always assumed that the use of an apostrophe in constructions like acronyms: Forty BA’s were given out to students this year....
17
votes
6answers
3k views

What are the principles that make certain lists sound euphonious?

Has this ever happened to you: You write a question, include a list or two in the discussion, and then come back to edit that list because the order doesn't sound "right"? Off the top of my head, I ...
12
votes
6answers
6k views

fait accompli – to italicize, or not to italicize

Background I was looking up the rule about italicizing foreign phrases and found an apparent consensus that the criterion is if the phrase is familiar. Well, who gets to decide that? I know perfectly ...
10
votes
6answers
12k views

Using ellipsis to indicate a pause in conversation

Wikipedia has a sentence in its article on ellipsis: In reported speech, the ellipsis is sometimes used to represent an intentional silence, perhaps indicating irritation, dismay, shock or disgust. ...
3
votes
3answers
5k views

Should I use a hyphen after -ly when modifying a verb in the past participle verb?

Which of these are acceptable? Is one preferable over the other? "Chemically-deposited tourmaline is never periwinkle." "Chemically deposited tourmaline is never periwinkle." Also, is the title to ...
8
votes
5answers
24k views

Strunk and White says “Charles's” is correct — is this still the case? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What is the correct possessive for nouns ending in s? When did it become correct to add an 's' to a singular possessive already ending in 's'? I just bought ...
67
votes
6answers
89k views

Use of “I”, “we” and the passive voice in a scientific thesis [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Style Question: Use of “we” vs. “I” vs. passive voice in a dissertation When the first person voice is used in scientific writing it is mostly used in ...
31
votes
9answers
49k views

Is it proper to omit periods after honorifics (Mr, Mrs, Dr)?

I've been reading the Economist lately and they apparently don't punctuate honorifics like "Mr.", "Mrs.", e.g. The popular rejection of Mr Mubarak offers the Middle East’s best chance for reform in ...
28
votes
4answers
4k views

Is there punctuation for words treated as words?

From today's NY Times: Mr. Trump’s critics reach for words like treason and traitor because they, like others, are searching for an explanation for actions that are so different from those of his ...
16
votes
5answers
167k views

“For the time being” vs. “for now”

Consider the following passages: A litter made of two rifles and two field jackets would suffice for now. That was good news; another bit was that the EPW was a lieutenant, a regimental REMF attached ...
12
votes
2answers
3k views

How should lists of questions be punctuated?

If one wishes to pose a series of questions in the form of a list, how would one go about punctuating that list? For example: I write to a colleague asking for an update on a project he is working ...
8
votes
4answers
8k views

“So long as” vs. “as long as”

Which phrase is more formal — "so long as" or "as long as"? Example: So long as Google Voice allows free long distance in North America, I will use it. As long as Google Voice allows free ...
3
votes
5answers
2k views

Is it bad behavior to add filler words such as “so”, “um” in business speak?

Sometimes when I speak with my fellows at work, I start my sentences with "so" or "um". I don't know if this a bad behavior in business speak or not? If so, how can I get rid of those filler words?
12
votes
7answers
70k views

Is using “and/or” recommended for formal writing, or is it frowned upon?

Is using "and/or" allowed in formal writing? If not, is there general way to represent the OR binary operator with as little space as possible in written English?
9
votes
3answers
63k views

“to a degree” vs. “to an extent”

Is there a measurable difference in meaning between the phrases "to a degree" and "to an extent" (or "to some degree" and "to some extent")? Examples: To [some degree / some extent] that is a better ...
8
votes
1answer
3k views

Question mark usage/position when sentence ends with a declarative quotation?

Who said "I am hungry?" The quotation is not a question, but do I put "my" question mark there anyway? This is related to, but not the same as Position of question mark when sentence doesn't end ...
5
votes
3answers
103k views

Can I use “and” many times in one sentence?

I was always under the impression I should not use and more than once. I have this text: I appreciate that all my previous work experience is within office based industries however I am a quick ...
4
votes
1answer
131k views

When quoting a quotation, how do you handle the double quotes?

Assume there is original source text: This restaurant is amazing with "delicious lasagna" and great service. Make sure you go 6-7pm for the quietest times. I want to quote "delicious lasagna" ...