Author: Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.

Today’s topic is whether—not rain or snow, but whether w-h-e-t-h-e-r, as in whether you like it or not, it’s the topic. First, let’s figure out when to use whether and when to use if. If Versus Whether [block:qdt_book=qdt_book] Although in informal writing and speech the two words are often used interchangeably, in formal writing, such as in technical writing at work, it’s a good idea to make a distinction between them because the meaning can sometimes be different depending on which word you use. The formal rule is to use if when you have a conditional sentence and whether when…

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Because it’s graduation season, my inbox is filling up again with complaints about people who say things such as “We’re so proud of Jimmy; he graduated high school this year.” For example, Bill T. wrote, “Do you graduate high school, or do you graduate FROM high school?  I don’t think one can actually graduate a high school.  Some trick to do that! This has really bugged me — please advise.” I covered the topic a few years ago (“Graduated” Versus “Graduated From”), but since then I’ve had a bit of a change of heart, and there are some interesting points…

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Dawn wants to know how to write that someone was awarded a degree. Is it “bachelor’s degree,” “bachelors degree,” or “bachelor degree”? A bachelor is not just a guy who eats out a lot, but also a person of either sex who has earned a type of degree from a university or college. Think of the degree as the property of the bachelor, with the apostrophe-s indicating possession: It is a bachelor’s degree. The same is true for a master: He or she earns a master’s degree. You don’t use capital letters, unless you’re writing the formal name of a particular degree: Aardvark…

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It sounds like a joke, but it’s actually a legitimate question: How do you spell “blond”? ‘Blond’ Versus ‘Blonde’ The word originally came into English from Old French, where it has masculine and feminine forms. As an English noun, it kept those two forms; thus, a blond is a fair-haired male, and a blonde is a fair-haired female. When you’re using the word as an adjective, “blond” is the more common spelling and can be used for men or women, especially in the United States; however, “blonde” can also be used to describe a woman with fair hair, as in…

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Nowadays, “people” is almost always the right choice when you are talking about more than one person. Some dictionaries don’t even include “persons” as the plural of “person” anymore, and the few dictionaries that do include “persons” note that it is uncommon, archaic, or going out of style. Traditionally, “people” was proper when referring to a mass of people (e.g., Squiggly couldn’t believe how many people were at the wrestling match), and “persons” was proper when referring to a distinct number of individuals (e.g., Squiggly noted that eight persons showed up for the book club meeting). Get more tips…

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Believe it or not, in the 1800s and early 1900s, many people objected to the use of “people” as I just used it. You weren’t supposed to write about “many people,” or “100 people” or so on. “Many persons” and “100 persons” was the right way to say it. Or at least there was a big debate at the time, with many people (persons?) arguing that “persons” was better, even though people had been using “people” all the way back in Chaucer’s time. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage doesn’t record any reason for the debate; people just argued and debated…

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I always get a lot of questions about hyphens when I do my AP style webinars, and it’s not surprising because hyphens can be confusing. When does ‘thank-you’ need a hyphen? When “thank” is a verb, you don’t need a hyphen We thank you for inviting us to your holiday Zoom party. Thank you for the gift. But when “thank you” is a modifier or a noun, then it takes a hyphen. I wrote a thank-you note. For example, in “I still need to write a thank-you note,” you use a hyphen in “thank-you” because it’s modifying the noun “note.”…

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[block:qdt_book=qdt_book] Brandon Sanderson is a #1 New York Times bestselling fantasy author with more than 30 books, which have been published in 35 languages. In this interview, we talked about his Newest book, Rhythm of War. Co-hosting of the Writing Excuses podcast. BYU writing class. Book tours. Livestreaming. Views on the interrobang (more than you may imagine!). Process for naming characters and places in his novels (funny stories about names gone wrong!). Special considerations for audiobooks. Orwellian approach to writing and prose, in particular. Struggles with “lay” and “lie” and double words such as “had had.” Plans for the future. You…

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One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is whether it’s acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition. I know many of you were taught that you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition, but that’s a myth. In fact, I consider it one of the top ten grammar myths because so many people believe it’s true, but nearly all grammarians disagree, at least in some cases (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). So before I lose you, let’s back up. What is a preposition? What Is a Preposition? A preposition is a word that creates a relationship between…

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A listener named Barbara wrote in wondering about the phrase “how come.” She wrote: The other day I was formulating a question for a Google search in my mind and started out with the phrase “How come….” I then quickly realized that I should probably use the word “Why” instead. Then I noted to myself that my natural tendency was to say “How come…” instead of “Why…” and this made me wonder how common that is. Is it a regional kind of thing, where people in certain parts of the world would tend to say one more than the other?…

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