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Commas with dependent clauses

When starting a sentence with a dependent clause, use a comma after it. Example: If you can’t find what you are looking for, let me know. But a comma is often unnecessary when the sentence starts with an independent clause followed by a dependent clause. Example: Let me know if you can’t find what you … Continue reading

‘well known’ or ‘well-known’? Hyphenate correctly.

Compound adjectives beginning with well are generally written with no hyphen when used alone after a verb, but with hyphen when they come before a noun. She is well dressed. BUT She is a well-dressed woman. He is not that well known. BUT He is a well-known actor.

‘Half past seven’ or ‘7:30 a.m.’? Expressing time

Rule: Spell out the time of day in text even with half and quarter hours. Example: It was almost half past six when she got the first call from the press. Rule: With o’clock, the number is always spelled out. Example: The show begins at seven o’clock in the evening. Rule: Use numerals to express … Continue reading

Say NO to ‘free gifts.’ Avoid redundancy

What’s wrong with the following sentence? ‘She thinks these steps will be adequate enough to ensure security of the students.’ The error lies in using adequate and enough together. This makes it redundant. Redundant means repeating something and therefore making it unnecessary. Here are some examples of redundancy: žfree gift (aren’t gifts always supposed to … Continue reading

percent or per cent?

Percent is one word in American English, while outside the US, most publications prefer the two-word version (per cent). Choosing between them is a matter of preference, but make sure you are consistent in your choice.

When NOT to capitalize names of historical periods/movements

Names of political or cultural periods or events are capitalized in their original connotations but should be in lower case when used in a generic (general) sense. Example: The arts and sciences flourished during the Renaissance. [Referring specifically to the period of cultural movement called Renaissance in Italy, hence capital] BUT There are lots of … Continue reading

‘much-needed’ or ‘much needed’? When to hyphenate adverbs+participle/adjective

When you have an adverb ending in ly, followed by a participle or an adjective, do not hyphenate it, whether you are using it before or after a noun. Example: a highly paid banker he was mildly amusing BUT For adverbs not ending in ly + participle or adjective, use a hyphen before a noun, … Continue reading

Prewriting strategies: how are they helpful?

Most of my students look at me skeptically when I talk about the importance of brainstorming or other prewriting strategies. They nod their head rather patronizingly, and wait for me to move on to the next topic. At times, I have even got remarks like ‘we hardly get enough time to even complete the essay,’ … Continue reading

comma before ‘and’ in a list? The serial comma

The serial comma, or the Oxford comma as it is popularly known, is the comma before the conjunction at the end of a list. In British English, using it is optional. However, most style guidelines mark this as mandatory in the US. It is certainly preferable, especially in academic writing, to use the serial comma … Continue reading

‘Dear,’ no dear, or ‘Hi’? How to address people in formal correspondence

Some of the following points are meant specifically for readers in India, based on my experience of the sort of mistakes they tend to make in choosing salutations. For formal letters (non-electronic) Dear Mr Taylor, or Dear Professor Sen (for someone you don’t know well, have a formal relationship with, or especially if they are your … Continue reading

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