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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On Your Marks — A Grammar Owl Book Recommendation

Have you ever heard an owl chuckle? They do. Well, to be accurate, what sounds like a chuckle usually expresses annoyance, but our Grammar Owl is definitely chuckling with amusement today. (To hear what an owl chuckle sounds like, listen to this.) He’s been reading a delightful book called On Your Marks: A Package of Punctuation by Richard Armour, a poet and humorist. The book is out of print, but it’s worth looking for (I found it in a small town library — I am grateful for our wonderful library system that makes books available all over the province, free of charge.) On Your Marks is a light, poetic look… Read More

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It’s YOUR Responsibility to Make Sure YOU’RE Using the Correct Word — a Grammar Owl post

“Whooooooose responsibility?” asked the Owl. “Yours,” I said, quickly adding, “Not that you’re doing it incorrectly, Owl.” You have likely noticed this before, or puzzled over it. It happens all the time. Your is used when you’re is the correct form, or vice versa. The confusion comes, I think, from the presence of the apostrophe, as well as the fact that both words sound the same. Sometimes apostrophes indicate possession, as in Beth’s pen or Owl’s talon, and other times apostrophes indicate two words contracted into one. Beth can’t find her pen, and Owl won’t let her see what’s clutched in his talons. In the case of your and you’re,… 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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