Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Today's Writing Tip Is When to Omit the Word of

When I grew up, it was considered acceptable to say, "Half of all the people in the room seemed to be asleep." Nowadays, we streamline language. We have removed the "s" from words like towards, backwards, and afterwards. We’ve shortened the word amidst to amid. And we are removing the term of in many phrases.

Get off of my lawn!
All of my children are studious.
Half of the profits are yours.

All those sentences – note that I didn’t say all of those! – can be rewritten without the word of.

This is a hard rule to remember. What I do is write whatever comes into my head and then when I’m rereading and revising my material, I go back and look for the number of times that I used of.

Of course, sometimes of is essential. Here are sentences that wouldn't make any sense without it: "The floor is made of pine wood." "The dog is tired of his regular biscuits." "I'm writing a book composed of grammar tips." Those sentences all require the preposition of. So, use your good judgment and double-check your work to remove filler words like of.

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of three books, including the Amazon bestseller Be Your Own Editor, available on Kindle as well as in print.  She is also the winner of’s Best Grammar Writing Tips Blog of 2011.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

Today's Writing Tip Is the Plural of Flu

Talking about the flu is different from talking about having a cold. One person can have a cold but the whole family may have an immunity to colds in general. That is to say, the plural of cold is colds just as the plural of virus is viruses. But the plural of flu is not flus.

Flu is short for influenza and for some inexplicable reason, the plural and singular form of this word are the same –

"I had the flu in October."
"I like to avoid people with colds and flu."

You’re safe to use the word flu in the plural or you can say influenzas. This is one of those odd grammar rules that we just need to commit to memory, much like the Advil rule. I used to say that I took two Advil but once again the singular and the plural of that word are identical – whether you take one or 100 Advil, you don't want to add that “s” but I wouldn't suggest taking that many no matter how bad your flu is!

Sigrid Macdonald is a manuscript editor and the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor. Buy now on Amazon Kindle for $2.99.

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