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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308 votes
1 answer
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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 (—)?
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159 votes
16 answers
439k 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.
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148 votes
14 answers
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 ...
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83 votes
6 answers
1.2m views

Is it "Yours faithfully" or "Yours sincerely"?

When should one sign a letter with "Yours faithfully" or "Yours sincerely"?
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71 votes
6 answers
95k 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 ...
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67 votes
4 answers
276k 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.
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60 votes
4 answers
285k views

Do footnoting superscripts go inside or outside punctuation?

When using superscripts to indicate a footnote, do these fall inside or outside adjacent punctuation? If there is an answer, is that answer applicable worldwide, or just to specific regions or ...
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58 votes
8 answers
11k 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”...
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58 votes
9 answers
27k 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 ...
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50 votes
6 answers
14k views

What is the type of English used in the King James Bible called?

In the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, there is a distinct type of English present (this passage from Job 1:7-12): And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the ...
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47 votes
8 answers
21k 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 (...
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45 votes
7 answers
105k 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 ...
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45 votes
3 answers
77k views

Where does "emphasis mine" go in a quotation?

I have often seen the term emphasis mine used whenever an author wishes to denote that emphasis in a given quotation originates from said author rather than from the original source. What is the ...
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43 votes
3 answers
100k 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 “‑...
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41 votes
12 answers
135k 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 ?
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40 votes
3 answers
93k views

Footnote marks at end of a sentence

I find it common in my writing to end up a sentence with a footnote reference mark. Should the footnote mark come before the stop or after it? ... this is some text1. ... this is some text.1
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38 votes
7 answers
82k 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 ...
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38 votes
11 answers
35k 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 ...
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34 votes
3 answers
69k views

Is it recommended to use "we" in research papers?

Is it recommended to use "we" in research papers? If not, should I always use passive voice?
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32 votes
9 answers
51k 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 ...
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  • 1,224
31 votes
7 answers
10k 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 ...
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  • 147k
31 votes
5 answers
774k views

Punctuation for the phrase "including but not limited to"

When using the phrase "including but not limited to", how should it be punctuated? When used in the following (no punctuation): There are many activities including but not limited to ...
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30 votes
5 answers
389k views

"I and someone", "me and someone" or "I and someone we" [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When do I use “I” instead of “me?” A friend of mine asked me for advice about an e-mail he was writing. There was a sentence like this: I and my ...
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  • 599
30 votes
8 answers
87k views

Is it poor form to start too many sentences with I?

I often find myself writing a lot of comments to blog posts and responses on forums, and have noticed a tendency to start a lot of sentences with 'I'. 'I think...', 'I had no idea', 'I used to...' etc....
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  • 2,452
29 votes
1 answer
41k views

Caption text punctuation: Full stops always necessary at the end?

Example caption text for a photo: Little Diane necklace 1a) No full stop is correct, yes? Now a longer example of caption text: Little Diane necklace. The photograph of the young Diane was ...
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  • 462
28 votes
4 answers
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 ...
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  • 291
28 votes
5 answers
41k 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 ...
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  • 395
27 votes
5 answers
18k 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 ...
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26 votes
7 answers
78k 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....
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  • 371
23 votes
4 answers
26k views

Is it ever appropriate to use a space before and after an ampersand?

A colleague and I have a difference of opinion. I believe our department should be abbreviated as "L&D." She believes it should be "L & D," which just looks silly to me. I never see spaces ...
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  • 231
23 votes
4 answers
28k views

Avoiding stuffy language: "Therefore", "Thus"

In my thesis, I'm using "thus" and "therefore" a lot. This is repetitive and it sounds stuffy. Is there any alternative which sounds a bit more relaxed but is acceptable in ...
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23 votes
5 answers
36k views

"not found" or "is not found"

Why there is file not found access denied and so on everywhere, when it should be (as far as I know) the file was not found the access is denied I wonder which is actually correct? Both?
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  • 239
23 votes
6 answers
16k 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 ...
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22 votes
15 answers
57k views

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

What are some examples of awkward sounding but grammatically correct sentences?
21 votes
8 answers
82k views

Are there any differences between "I believe" vs "I think" vs "I reckon"?

These are the three most common ways to say "I think." (At least, I believe so. I mean, I think so. Um...) Are there any subtle differences between them? Are there situations where one of the three ...
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  • 530
20 votes
5 answers
15k 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 ...
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  • 333
19 votes
8 answers
231k 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 > ...
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19 votes
2 answers
21k views

When is it appropriate to use non-breaking spaces? [closed]

I started using non-breaking spaces (represented in the following examples by an underscore) between a number and a unit of measure (10_ft), and within a name (Dr._John_Smith). I like the "look" of ...
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18 votes
4 answers
224k views

Is an indentation needed for a new paragraph?

Is an indentation (Tab button in Word) needed for a new paragraph when you start one? I was told to do that a long time ago but 3 years after I stopped doing it and have done it since. Are you meant ...
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  • 4,757
18 votes
2 answers
237k views

Did I "get" (or "take") my degree "from" (or "in") the University of Somewhere?

I would like to know what is the preferred way to indicate that I took a degree in some subject while also naming the place where I obtained the degree from: I got my master's degree from the ...
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18 votes
2 answers
106k 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 ...
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  • 731
17 votes
5 answers
37k views

The Plural of Email - Emails? [duplicate]

I debated with my peers that we can use the word emails when referring to more than one and it would be grammatically right. But most of them said since we don't say we received mails today, ...
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  • 2,032
17 votes
1 answer
8k views

On the usage of "etcetera"

In Spanish, we use the word etcétera at the end of an enumeration to imply there are more things to mention, which may (or not) be important, but they will be omitted. Thus, I was fairly surprised ...
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  • 273
17 votes
6 answers
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 ...
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  • 21.4k
16 votes
4 answers
8k views

When using the French word "sans" in an English sentence, should I use italics?

In the sentence, below, I am using the French word sans to mean without. Should sans be italicized? Or, should all of "sans human civilization" be italicized? Planet Earth sans human civilization ...
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  • 538
16 votes
4 answers
2k views

Heavy usage of synonyms in English or not?

I am a native German speaker and in German it is considered very bad style to use a word more than once in a sentence or even in close proximity. So you usually have a big list of synonyms in your ...
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16 votes
2 answers
33k 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 ...
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  • 289
16 votes
4 answers
8k views

What did Old English writing (letters and formatting) typically look like?

I am wondering if there is a specific kind of writing that people would typically associate with Old English language. Are there well-known manuscripts that typically represent the kind of writing (...
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  • 38.1k
16 votes
4 answers
418k views

"I would like to ask you a favour" vs. "I would like to ask you for a favour"

Which form is to be preferred? I would like to ask you a favour. I would like to ask you for a favour.
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15 votes
5 answers
3k views

To avoid repeating "one"

In my technical writings, I have a lot of instruction lists that describe how to use "something" under different circumstances. To avoid repetition of the subject, I replace it with "...
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