Constructive Conjunctions: “As”, “since”, and”because”

grammar-I-and-meToday’s Wednesday email from contained a profitable lesson in the proper use of some familiar conjunctions – “as,” “since,” and “because” – showing the importance of stressing the reason for something and the result of something in our sentence structure.

Here’s today’s grammar lesson (our second this month!) – read and learn!


Tackling More Tricky Word Choices:
As, Because, and Since

American English is a rich, expressive language. At the same time, it includes words that sometimes appear to be alike but have slight distinctions. Without recognizing those subtleties, we might use one word when we mean another.

As, because, and since are three conjunctions that introduce subordinate clauses (those that cannot stand alone in sentences) connecting a result and a reason. A closer understanding of these words helps us write with greater clarity and emphasis in achieving this.

We use because when we want to focus more on the reason. We use as and since when we wish to center on the result.

Most commonly, the because clause emphasizing the reason ends the sentence; the as or since clause stressing the result starts the sentence. 


Result: She got the promotion over four other candidates.
Reason: She knew the system best.

Sentence emphasizing the reason with because clause: She got the promotion over four other candidates because she knew the system best.

Sentence emphasizing the result with as clause: As she knew the system best, she got the promotion over four other candidates.

Sentence emphasizing the result with since clause: Since she knew the system best, she got the promotion over four other candidates.

The placement of the because, as, or since clause can be changed in the sentences above. Some writers might contend that only the shifted because clause maintains effective fluency while the repositioned as and since clauses sound more stilted. Moving the clauses will also change the emphasis by switching the order of the result and the reason.

Because she knew the system best, she got the promotion over four other candidates.

She got the promotion over four other candidates, as she knew the system best.

She got the promotion over four other candidates, since she knew the system best.

Because is more common than as or since in both writing and speaking, suggesting we typically emphasize reasons more than results. As and since also are considered more formal in usage.

Looking at the details of these conjunctions polishes another tool in our quest to be writers of precision and eloquence.

Published in: on February 21, 2018 at 10:31 PM  Leave a Comment  

“Whether you like it or not, you’ve got to punctuate.” ~ Karen E. Gordon

You know my love for words, word books and etymology (the study of word origins and roots). You also know I have to pay attention to proper grammar, and so from time to time we have a grammar lesson together.


Today on this Wednesday we will also start to pay attention to punctuation, using Karen E. Gordon’s fun little book The Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed (New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1983).

Her “Introduction” includes these great lines:

Reader, I have finished with this little farrago which you are only now about to begin. I have lowered the final period and parentheses into place, have dusted and resharpened my claws. What is a comma but a claw rending the sheet, the asthmatic’s gasp? What is a question mark but what’s needed to complete this thought? Punctuation: what is it, after all, but another way of cutting up time, creating or negating relationships, telling words when to take a rest, when to get on with their relentless stories, when to catch their breath? (And you – you are breathing, are you not, in the same rhythm that creates words?)

We don’t really know who invented the comma, but a typical Roman sentence couldn’t make it with fewer that ten of these metrical incursions which are the tics of prose. The Egyptians had no use for commas (or periods, semicolons, or question marks – and exclamation points were the exclusive domain of priests), but they scratched their ideas and drew them and were not too troubled with sound. Hieroglyphics, it is true, are coming back (see your TV screen or any bathroom wall if you doubt it), but words haven’t died out of the language yet; and whether you like it or not, you’ve got to punctuate. Punctuation marks are a part of the vocabulary of civilization; a misunderstanding can be created or erased by them. Be brave: it is less difficult than you might suppose.

Are you ready to pay attention to punctuation? “Be brave: it is less difficult than you might suppose.” 🙂

Published in: on February 7, 2018 at 6:44 AM  Comments (1)  

Grammar Quiz Review – Resolved to Learn More in 2018

hero-blue-bookFor our Wednesday post this week we will return to grammar, compliments of, only this time to take a quiz – a jumbo pop quiz! – to use the words of the website.

They call it a “year-end” quiz, since the 25 questions review various grammar lessons posted last year. But let’s call it our year-beginning quiz, part of our New Year’s resolution to use better grammar in speaking and in writing.

This is how GrammarBook introduces the quiz:

In 2017 we explored an array of ways to enhance your grammar and writing. We hope what you learned follows you well into 2018 as you continue your aim to communicate with even greater precision and eloquence.

The quiz includes twenty-five sentences addressing a range of subjects. Choose your answers and then check them against our answer key that follows the quiz. For your convenience and reference, each answer in the key also includes the title and date of the article that focused on the topic.

OK, now, go ahead and get started! Have fun, do well, and keep learning! You’ll be glad you did. 🙂 You will find that answer key at the link provided above.

Jumbo Pop Quiz: 2017 in Twenty-five Questions

1. Jennifer is still choosing [between / among] three job offers: bank supervisor, financial analyst, or portfolio manager.

2. The principal has [appraised / apprised] us of the changes to school policy.

3. The coach [substituted / replaced] the bigger, slower player [with / for] a smaller, quicker one.

4. My uncle owns a [40-foot / 40-ft.] house boat.

5. The salesperson gave us three [choices / options] of current LED TV models to pick from.

6. My favorite book is [“To Kill a Mockingbird” / To Kill a Mockingbird] by Harper Lee.

7. Robert is an [honest, hard-working / honest hard-working] man.

8. The due date for the invoice is [September 1 / September 1st].

9. When hiring website developers for our company, we always look for [experts / trained experts] in JavaScript and SQL.

10. I [made the decision / decided] to attend grad school after earning my bachelor’s degree.

11. Jason is averse [to / of] doing the military press in the weight room because it’s adverse [against / to] his right shoulder.

12. By holding an auction for rare memorabilia, the VFW raised more than $60,000 [on behalf of / in behalf of] families of deceased or wounded veterans.

13. Between you and [I / me], I think the restaurant is way overpriced.

14. Please return the supplies you don’t use to Mark or [me / myself].

15. [Young people / Youth] today have to contend with more distractions.

16. The review panel found the film to be an [exploitive / exploitative] treatment of postmodern feminism.

17. Crystal composed her essay much (differently from how / differently than) Christian wrote his.

18. The house across the street belongs to the Sanchez family. The SUV in the driveway is the [Sanchez’s / Sanchezes’] car.

19. The lack of voter participation [affected / effected] the outcome of the election.

20. The band eventually left their rented practice space because of the [continual / continuous] drip from the ceiling. It never stopped while they tried to play.

21. The crowd [is / are] so large that the city may need to request extra security from the neighboring town.

22. For the following sentence, identify whether the verb used is a transitive or intransitive verb and whether the pronoun is a direct or indirect object:
Mrs. Johanssen likes to bring [transitive / intransitive] us [indirect / direct] freshly baked cookies every Sunday after church.

23. Peter is always ready to help [whoever / whomever] might be struggling with the assignment.

24. Which salutation punctuation would be appropriate for informal correspondence between good friends?
a) Dear Susan,
b) Dear Susan:

25. [Most importantly / Most important], her credit cards weren’t in her wallet when she lost it.”

Published in: on January 10, 2018 at 10:29 PM  Comments (1)  

Summer Grammar Check! Verb-Car Passengers (Those Important Particles)

hero-blue-bookIn a recent post verbs were featured once again, only this time what are called verbal particles. Or, continuing the car/driving figure, they are referred to as “verb-car passengers.”

So today, as a follow-up to that previous post on verbs, we feature this one. Because, yes, though it is the middle of summer, we must still keep our grammar straight. No grammatical slouching allowed! Buckle-up, here we go!

Understanding Verb Particles

As noted in a recent GrammarBook e-newsletter article, verbs form both the engine and the steering wheel driving our language. They determine the direction and speed of a sentence.

Sometimes, we’ll spot other words riding with them in the passenger seat. They’re not verbs, but they still attach themselves with seat belts secured. We accept and use those words because we know the main verb needs them for where we want to go in expressing ourselves.

These verb-car passengers are referred to as verb particles. Verb particles are the add-ons in verb phrases with idiomatic meanings—i.e., their definition is not obvious from the words creating the phrase.

Consider a sentence such as “She looked up the number in her cell phone’s contact list.” The verb is “looked.” The verb particle is “up.” A literal, non-idiomatic reading of the words alone would lead us to think she was physically looking up, perhaps toward the sky or a ceiling. Idiomatically, however, we understand she is retrieving the number from her phone.

Some other common verb particles are “in,” “off,” “down,” “over,” and “out,” as used in the following examples:

Facing constituent pressure, the governor gave in to the Senate’s proposed legislation.
Would you please break off a piece of that chocolate bar for me?
Analysts agree the company’s bold marketing campaign will beat down the competition.
That’s a tough question. Let me mull over my answer for a while.
Will you be checking out of your room soon?

Here are several more verbs that include particles to achieve their meaning:

bog down shape up
break away single out
burn down sleep in
flip out sum up
head out wind up
hold up wrap up

As shown here, the verb particle is often needed to convey the right idea. At the same time, we need to watch for particles that seem like they belong but make the phrase a tautology—e.g., continue on, close down. These examples would not lose meaning or clarity without the particle and thus are not idiomatic.

In certain other cases, a particle might create a tautology, but we still need it for proper writing and speech. One such instance involves the verb “sit,” which by definition does not need the particle “down” for clarity. However, imagine using “sit” instead of “sit down” when addressing a person instead of a dog.

It’s always easier to use and ride with a particle in your verb car when you know what it is, why it’s there, and, equally important, if it belongs. Just determine if together the verb and particle are idiomatic and not tautological. If so, leave them connected and keep your content cruising along.

If not, pull over, let the passenger out, and wish it the best in finding another good sentence.

Grammar Check! “I” vs. “Me”

Today’s email (June 21, 2017) about writing and proper use of English grammar focuses on the right use of the personal pronouns “I” and “me”, though it includes other pronouns too.

Since this is always a sticking point with writers – and especially speakers (we get even lazier when we speak)! – we should work on getting this right, both in our writing and in our speaking.

I remember my dear mother correcting me over and over on this as a child, until it was drilled into my stubborn Dutch noggin. Today I thank her for those daily grammar lessons. I believe they finally sunk in. Check my grammar in the previous sentences. 🙂

If you visit the blog post on this at the end of this post, you can even take a pop quiz to check yourself.

Source: I vs. Me – Grammar & Punctuation | The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Verbs as Engines and Steering Wheels: How Does Your Car Drive?

hero-blue-bookLast week’s email (May 10, 2017) about writing and proper use of English grammar focused on the healthy use of verbs. Employing the metaphor of a car, the grammar lesson spoke of verbs as the “engine and the steering wheel driving our languages.”

Today as you speak and as you may sit down to write something, think of how you use verbs, and how you can use them better. After reading this “lesson” I am sure we will all think of ways to make our verbal cars run well and steer better.

Tightening Verb Phrases for Making an Engine That Purrs

Imagine the English language as a car that can keep its body and performance pristine if driven and maintained correctly.

Think of nouns as the wheels that keep it rolling; adjectives as the chassis riding the wheels; adverbs as the paint job (some say the less flashy the better); and all other parts of speech (prepositions, conjunctions, etc.) as the vehicle’s other components (e.g., windows, trunk, mirrors, hood).

That leaves us with verbs, which form both the engine and the steering wheel driving our language. Without them, our language, like a car, would sit still and take us nowhere.

For this reason, verbs need tune-ups for optimal function. You can achieve this by tightening verb phrases.

Opportunities to do so appear throughout our writing:

Substitute a single word for “is” phrases that can be instantly shortened  Instead of writing “he is in violation of,” go with “he violates.” Rather than express “the petition is a representation of the community’s wishes,” state “the petition represents…”

Pare verb-object phrases to the core verb   Have you ever written that you “made the decision”? “I decided” is leaner and so will use less gas in taking your sentence further more quickly. Perhaps you’ve expressed in an e-mail that “the meeting came to a close” and “all who attended took the matter into consideration.” If so, next time you can adjust your linguistic belt a notch and write “the meeting ended” and “all who attended considered the matter.”

Delete redundant modifiers   We don’t need to write “hoist up” and “plunge down” when a simple “hoist” and “plunge” will do. Likewise, why use page space to say we “mix together” ingredients and “merge together” documents? The careful writer confesses the two words just don’t belong together. (These verb phrases also can be defined as tautologies; to learn more about this topic, review our recent article (Striking the Surplus from Tautologies.)

Choose the right verb to shorten an idea   Did the book “give the people hope”? You could write that it “inspired” them and buy room you might need elsewhere on your page. Someone sharing a passionate opinion might say a statement “flies in the face of” the facts. He could also state that it “counters,” “contradicts,” “refutes” or “opposes” them and lessen the risk of flying spittle.

Use these techniques as your tools for your tune-ups. If you apply them often, you’ll find out just how far and fast your writing can go.

Published in: on May 17, 2017 at 6:38 AM  Leave a Comment  

Grammar Check – Fine Distinctions

hero-blue-bookThis is this week’s grammar lesson from e-newsletter, which came by email today. It was instructive for me, and I trust it will be for you too.

Such fine distinctions do matter, for both writers and readers. When you read about these examples, no doubt you will say as I did, “I’ve made that mistake.”

Plus, it is a great item for “Word Wednesday,” which I have gotten away from of late.

A Fine Distinction

How valid can a rule be if nobody knows or cares about it anymore?

That all depends on what the definition of “nobody” is. A lot of people I’ve been around seem to feel “nobody” applies to just about everybody 15-plus years younger or older than they are. Generational outcasts—the nerds, wonks, and misfits—also get labeled nobodies, although some of them grow up to be the next Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg.

In many circles, alas, nobody is more of a nobody than a grammar geek—those verbal neat freaks with all their precious little rules. But if those of us who rail against diseased English shut up and went away, we like to believe the world would soon miss us. Amid the rampant demagoguery and disinformation, our guiding principle is sound: clarity and precision are worth the bother.

Here is a short list of increasingly ignored fine distinctions:

Transpire  The errant celebrity issued a statement through his attorney that he was “sorry and saddened over what transpired.” Make it “sorry and saddened over what happened.” Put a big shot together with his lawyer and brace yourself for pompous verbiage. This usage of transpire, though common, is a lethal combination: pretentious and incorrect. The word doesn’t mean occur or happen. Something that transpires is revealed or becomes known over time. It’s not simply what happened so much as what it all means in the bigger picture. The Oxford online dictionary gives this example: “It transpired that millions of dollars of debt had been hidden in a complex web of transactions.”

Condone vs. endorse  “I do not endorse or otherwise condone this,” intoned some anonymous official. Isn’t “condone” redundant in that sentence? Not at all—there’s a substantial difference: When you endorse something, you’re all for it; you’re proud to recommend it. To condone is to pardon, overlook, disregard. When you condone, there’s not much enthusiasm or pride involved. Someone who condones is being tolerant, not enthusiastic.

Persnickety  It’s a colloquial term for “too particular or precise.” (Some would say it describes people who maintain that convince and persuade aren’t synonyms.) How’s this for world-class persnickety: there are nitpickers who reject the word in favor of pernickety, which preceded persnickety by about a century.

Substitute vs. replace  “The chef substituted chocolate with carob in the brownie recipe.” Make that “replaced chocolate with carob” or “substituted carob for chocolate.” Don’t confuse the two or you’ll end up with shaky English to go with those ghastly carob brownies.

—Tom Stern

Published in: on February 8, 2017 at 10:30 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Being one of the editors (managing) for the Standard Bearer magazine, I have to know my rules of English grammar and punctuation.

When I first took over that position from Mr. Don Doezema three years ago, I had to re-learn a lot of rules. I learned much from asking “Mr. D” those first few years too. And, of course, one of the things he advised me to do was to buy the latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style, which sits right at my elbow when I work on the latest issue of the SB. There isn’t an issue that goes by that I don’t have to consult that grammar “Bible”.

But I also look for other quick sources for grammar help. Yesterday I stumbled on the website linked below –, associated with Jane Straus and her Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation.

You can sign up for their newsletter of grammar tips and helps, which I did, and today I received this first one. It points out the number one grammar error, and it may surprise you.

Since we can all use a little help with proper English grammar, I share this first tip with you.

#1 Grammar Error

Would you like to know the #1 Grammar Error?
The word involved is small and it’s contained in this sentence.

That’s right: its vs. it’s
Yet the two rules are actually quite easy to remember.

Rule 1: When you mean it is or it has, use an apostrophe.

It’s a nice day.
It’s your right to refuse the invitation.
It’s been great getting to know you.

Rule 2: When you are using its as a possessive, don’t use the apostrophe.

The cat hurt its paw.
The furniture store celebrated its tenth anniversary.

Note: From what we understand, the possessive was also written it’s until a couple of hundred years ago. While we don’t know for certain, it is possible that the apostrophe was dropped in order to parallel possessive personal pronouns like hers, theirs, yours, ours, etc.

To see more and to sign up for this newsletter, visit the link below.

Source: Grammar and Punctuation | The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation