Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Common Usage Problems (Part 8 of 16)

Do you have options or alternatives? I’m amazed that people have trouble over this one, but they do. Here’s the rule as simply as I know to phrase it.

When you have several ideas on how to do something, that means you have options. If you have only one possibility, it’s an alternative.

One expert says to think of the “o” in options as meaning one of many.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 7 of 16)

What’s the difference between a while (two words) and awhile (one)? Here’s the rule: A while is an article and a noun and normally comes after the preposition for. When you use two words, you’re going to use a noun and refer to a period of time.

Example: It has been a while since I saw you. You could substitute another article-noun, such as a month: It’s been a month since I saw you. If that makes sense, you’ve made the correct choice.

Awhile (one word) is an adverb and means “for a short time.” Go dance for awhile—that is, dance for a few minutes.

This bothered me for years, until I figured out that a while is a noun phrase.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 6 of 16)

A trend today, and I hear newscasters say this regularly, is as to. That’s an awkward expression and it’s better to say, about. Instead of “As to the situation in Central Park,” try, “About the situation in Central Park.”

A friend said, “I have no idea as to where I want to eat.” It would have been better if he had said, “I have no idea about where I want to eat.” (I would have eliminated about.)



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 5 of 16)

Many writers aren’t sure of the difference between among and between. Both are prepositions. Among always implies three or more; between refers to two people or groups.

Another way is to use among when you refer to things that aren’t distinct items or individuals. Mary had to choose between Harvard and Yale; Yves chose among the universities in Massachusetts.