I got a call recently from the owner of a consulting agency where a former student of mine had applied for a job for which I’d recommended him. My student didn’t get the job, but another student from my college, Davidson, did. The owner of the agency—the young man’s boss—was being driven to distraction by a habit of his new hire: despite the boss’s every effort to block the habit, the young man persisted in using constructions like “me and Jimmy will take care of that matter later today.” [Read more…]
Debate has arisen over whether the plural their is an acceptable pronoun for referring back to a singular subject, as in this example:
Each hairdresser should bring their own supplies.
Here’s my preferred option:
Each hairdresser should bring his or her own supplies.
This one is even better:
All hairdressers should bring their own supplies. [Read more…]
In a recent edition of 60 Minutes, about America’s crumbling bridges, Steve Croft summarized what he thought he heard former U. S. Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood to be saying about the structures in question. “They’re dangerous,” prompted Croft, to see if Lahood would agree with him. “I don’t wanna say they’re unsafe,” responded Lahood. “But they’re dangerous. . . . I would agree with that.”
What did we miss? How can these bridges be “dangerous,” but not “unsafe”? When did those two words come to mean something even slightly different? Was Steve Croft listening? (I won’t ask, though as a Davidson College faculty member I’d like to, why Lahood was interviewed instead of Davidson alumnus and current Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.) [Read more…]
When I teach advanced student writers, I always mention how the best nonfiction prose sticks close to idiomatic language while also avoiding clichés. That’s a tall order, for a number of reasons. For one thing, idioms and clichés sometimes overlap. [Read more…]