Some Fourth of July Thoughts

Happy Independence Day!

Flag (American)How to write it: According to commonly accepted style conventions for formal English, official secular and religious holidays are written out and capitalized. Therefore we have Fourth of July, July Fourth, the Fourth, or Independence Day (note the four e’s and no a in Independence). Of course, informally we can (and I do) write it 4th of July or any way that others will understand.

Fascinating coincidence: Our second and third presidents (John Adams and Thomas Jefferson), who were both instrumental in the American Revolution and the founding of our country, died on the same day—July 4, 1826—the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Freedom, like anything else, has a cost. It is not free. It requires sacrifice, vigilance, and a courageous commitment to do what is right, even if what is right isn’t popular.

Happy 240th, America! Have a safe ‘n’ sane Fourth, everyone!

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If You Write for Your Business or Organization, Consider This

Really? Oh, yeah!

pexels-photo-mediumProspective customers, clients, and patrons judge your business or organization by the impression you make in print and web-based materials. It may not be a conscious thing, but they do. Whether you’re part of an information-heavy business with lots of written text or you make your living by the sweat of your brow—people with a good grasp of English will be more impressed with the public image you present if your text is carefully polished, easy to read, and error free. This is true for the yard care specialist or auto shop owner who creates simple advertising flyers, and it is true for the proprietor or professional who produces multiple pages of text, whether for a website or in hard copy.

If you are trying to build your client base or nurture existing clients, you have something important to say. A good copyeditor can help you say it more effectively. So what does a copyeditor do? In short, he or she takes text (i.e., copy) that someone else has written and ensures that it is clear, coherent, consistent, and correct, all for the purpose of effective communication. But not everyone is convinced they need this service. Continue reading “If You Write for Your Business or Organization, Consider This”

Between You and I, We’ve Got a Problem!

Do you make this common grammar error?

Got a Problem
Subject-object confusion.

Today I want to talk about me. No, I don’t mean me, Dean, I mean the objective pronoun me versus the nominative pronoun I. One of the most common errors in speech and writing is to use I where me should be. 

Here’s the general rule in the simplest terms: Use I as the subject of a sentence or clause and me as the object of a sentence or clause.

Let me give some examples of the incorrect use of these pronouns:

  • “People gave my wife and I four toasters for wedding presents.” (incorrect)
  • “One of the best things to happen to Gary and I is that we became best friends.” (incorrect)

Here’s why both are incorrect: the pronoun I is virtually always used in the nominative case, as the subject of a sentence or clause, not the object. The objective pronoun is me. Replace I with me in both sentences: 

  • “People gave my wife and me four toasters for wedding presents.” (correct)
  • “One of the best things to happen to Gary and me is that we became best friends.” (correct)

Here’s an easy test to use when you’re not sure:  Continue reading “Between You and I, We’ve Got a Problem!”

What Is a “Meme”?

Are you sure you know?

Lately, everyone seems to be creating memes, sharing memes, talking about memes, and commenting on memes in social media—but what in the world is a meme?

Meme (pronounced meem), a word that first appeared in the 1970s, is derived from the Greek miméme (“same, alike”). It is defined as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person in a culture.”[1] Meme remained a fairly obscure word until fairly recently, when the internet and social media infused it with new life. According to lexicographer Bryan Garner, a meme is “a humorous video, phrase, illustration, or other symbol or depiction that is suddenly and widely spread by and mimicked or parodied on the Internet.”[2] In popular culture today, however, the scope of its definition has been watered down and stretched thin to mean a digital version of what we used to call a poster or graphic with a caption, often a quotation attributed to a person whose image is a featured part of the graphic.

Meme mocking memesBut note: the thing that makes a meme a true meme, by definition, is that it is rapidly and widely shared via social media (like Facebook) on the internet. Technically, a photo with a caption or quote on it that you post on FB or Instagram is not a meme at all—unless it catches fire and goes viral, circling the globe faster than Superman. Otherwise (sorry to break the news), it’s just an image with writing on it.

Another thing about memes: We need to take them with a grain of salt. More distortions, half-truths, and outright lies are spread by memes on social media today than we can imagine. Don’t be quick to share something that can possibly damage another’s reputation—even if you can verify its accuracy.


[1] Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh ed.

[2] Bryan A. Garner, Garner’s Modern English Usage (2016), 588.


© 2019 by Dean Christensen. (All rights reserved.)

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Use “Very” Sparingly

Only when necessary.

A quick-and-easy way to tighten our writing and make it flow more smoothly is to cut out the “flab.” Adjectives and adverbs* tend to bloat our writing, weighing it down with unneeded verbiage. Using fewer of them will almost always streamline writing and make it more interesting to read.

One flab word that often adds little to descriptive writing is the adverb very. We use very as an intensifier to give more strength to a verb or adjective. For example, “We got up very early this morning to see the sunrise. It was very beautiful.” Now read the same sentences without the verys: “We got up early this morning to see the sunrise. It was beautiful.” Has anything been lost? Not that I can tell.

My point is not that we should never use very to add strength to our writing, but to be aware of the verys and use fewer of them. Will “the woman ran very fast” tell us more than “the woman ran fast”? Very is a vague, subjective word that gives the reader almost no information. Instead of telling, add strength by showing the reader how fast she ran: “The woman sprinted down the field like a cheetah.”

And don’t forget this handy piece of advice attributed to Mark Twain:

Write Damn Instead of Very

*As you will recall, in simplest terms, adjectives describe or limit nouns and pronouns, and adverbs modify or describe verbs and adjectives.


© 2016 by Dean Christensen.

Welcome to The Dean’s English

Often humorous, always educational, this website promotes standard written and spoken American English.

Thanks for stopping by my website! My overarching goal is to celebrate and affirm standard written and spoken English and consequently promote clearer, more effective interpersonal communication. To that end, I’ve written blog posts and included other resources related to writing, language, grammar, words, usage, punctuation, and even pronunciation. For a few chuckles, check out the “Grammar Funnies” tab.

Why do I write this blog and manage this site? I’m an educator by nature and nurture and a lover of the English language. Some folks get a charge out of baking  or fishing or painting wall murals. I get energized by reading English-usage manuals and studying the why-fors and what-have-yous of grammar and punctuation. To use old colloquial expressions, I really dig this stuff. It floats my boat.

Please explore the pages in the menu above to learn about me, my copyediting services, and other resources.

All writers hope that people read and appreciate their writings. So I invite you to become a follower of this blog, to “like” it, to leave comments, and to contact me with English grammar and usage questions or ideas for future blog topics.

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And please share my website and individual blog articles with friends, family, business associates, and schoolmates. It will be the gift that keeps on giving.


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