Making a Mad Dash — or is it a Hyphen? A Grammar Owl Post

Although the difference between dashes and hyphens may not seem to fit neatly under the heading of grammar or word use, the Grammar Owl and I are in agreement that formatting is very important when creating a manuscript, and learning the difference between dashes and hyphens is part of that. They’re just little lines, aren’t they? What’s the diff which is used? They are indeed little lines, but they differ in length and in purpose. Whether you’re submitting your manuscript for consideration by agents and/or publishers, or you’re self/independently publishing, using the appropriate little line at the appropriate time helps to make your manuscript look professional. There are actually three… Read More

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And furthermore, let’s go farther this time — a Grammar Owl post

One of my readers — I should say OUR readers, as I see the Owl flexing his talons — One of our readers asked about the words further and farther, which are so similar that it’s easy to get confused about which to use in which instance. Grammar Owl to the rescue!   Farther refers to physical distance. It’s the comparative form of far. (Farthest is the superlative.) For example: I walked farther today than I did yesterday. Further refers to philosophical/metaphorical distance. It means more, additionally, extra. For example: I thought further, considering my aching legs, and decided to walk a shorter distance tomorrow. Furthermore, I decided to warm… Read More

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Than or Then? A Grammar Owl Post

The Grammar Owl is clicking his beak and flexing his wings. He’s excited to be starting another year of posts about grammar and word usage questions. Something both the Owl and I have noticed is that many people have trouble knowing when to use the word “then” and when to use “than.” It seems as though they see the words as twins, and can’t tell the difference. Which word is which? We often see sentences like “I’d rather have ice cream then sour pickles.” They mean they prefer eating ice cream to eating sour pickles, but by using then, they’re actually (inadvertently) saying, “I’d rather eat ice cream first and… Read More

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Different… To? From? Than? — A Grammar Owl post

The Grammar Owl has been pondering a conundrum. Is the correct way to say something is not like something else “different to” or “different from” or “different than“? In certain instances, any of those possibilities is correct. (Thanks a lot, Beth. That’s really helpful. Not.) Let me explain.   “Different to” is a phrase most often used in Britain, and I’d extrapolate that perhaps also in countries whose use of the language has been influenced strongly by British ways of phrasing. “Different from” is more often American. But it doesn’t stop there. In North America, particularly, we hear “different than” often, particularly in speech. It’s perhaps more colloquial than using… Read More

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Its or It’s — a Grammar Owl post

The Owl has another tricky apostrophe question in the grips of his apostrophe-shaped talons. Is it its or it’s? If you sometimes have trouble answering that question, you are not alone. Knowing when to put in the apostrophe and when to leave it out causes many people to stumble. The problem is, of course, that we’re used to an apostrophe s being added to a word to make the word a possessive. And unfortunately, that’s not true in this case. With its/it’s, the apostrophe s is used ONLY when it’s is standing in for the longer it is or it has. It’s an inflexible rule. It’s been that way for… Read More

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