Behind the Style

When Not to Include

Many of the MLA’s authorities on English usage frown on the use of include to mean are. . . .


Keep an eye out for overhedging. Some writers are timid—or pretend to be—about making a statement, so they hedge: “I believe,” “it seems to me,” “may be,” “suggests that,” et cetera. The problem is that, having hedged, they often worry that they still have been too positive, so they hedge again, often in the same . . .

Former and Latter

There are many stylistic sins worse than using former and latter. But if you’ve ever had to stop and reread a sentence or passage to figure out what former and latter point back to, you know why it’s best to avoid them . . .

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Critique versus Criticize

Claire Kehrwald Cook, in her Line by Line, noted that critique as a verb “has not yet won full acceptance.” That was more than thirty years ago . . .

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Liberate Those Verbs!

Some phrases in English lengthen a sentence while adding nothing to its meaning and diluting its rhetorical force . . .

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