Talking Tip Ten Things You Don’t Want to Say! By Arlene Miller, The Grammar Diva

Many times we talk about grammar  in terms of writing. This blog post is about speaking. We don’t need to worry about punctuation when we speak, but we do have to worry about

grammar—and pronunciation (which we don’t have to worry about when we write). 

Here are ten of the most common speaking gaffes:

  • Using a pronoun directly after the noun it refers to: My brother he is visiting from Boston. Please take out My brother is visiting from Boston.
  • I don’t is correct. But he don’t, she don’t, and it don’t are not!  It’s doesn’t.
  • Please don’t get your past participles wrong. The English language is tricky, with so many irregular verbs, but please try to learn them. It isn’t have/has went. Ever!!! It is has/have gone. Likewise, it is have written (not wrote), have eaten (not ate), have spoken (not spoke), have fallen (not fell), have rung (not rang), have swum (not swam)….and there are others. 
  • Mischievous is spelled that way because that is the way it is pronounced. It is not spelled mischeevious, and it is not pronounced that way either. The accent is on the first syllable, and there is no i in the final syllable.
  • Width ends in a -th. Height ends in a -t. It is not
  • Oh, please don’t say ain’t. Yes, it is in the dictionary, but so is
  • This is probably a dialect issue, but please don’t drop your -ing endings to be -in I am going, not goin’. 
  • Many of the grocery stores have now gotten less and fewer correct, so you should too. Less is used for singular nouns and things that cannot be counted. Fewer is used for plurals and things that can be counted: Less money. Fewer pennies. Less salt. Fewer teaspoons of salt. Less stuff. Fewer than 12 items. The same is true of number and amount.  Number is used with plurals. Amount is used for singulars and things that can’t be counted. Number of pennies. Amount of money. Number of doughnuts. Amount of pastry.
  • Avoid using double negatives. Most of us avoid things like I don’t have no money, but remember that barely, scarcelyand hardly are also negatives. I don’t barely have enough money is a double negative.  I can’t hardly stand it is a double negative. You haven’t scarcely eaten a thing is a double negative.
  • Realtor and jewelry are often mispronounced. They are usually pronounced with three syllables, but they each have only two. It is not jew-la-ry. It is jewel-ry. It is not re-la-tor. It is real-tor.

And while we are on the subject, please put that first R in February!


Ten Rules for Writing Numbers by Arlene Miller, Grammar Diva

Ten Rules for Writing Numbers



Which numbers are spelled out and which are written as numerals? It depends on the type of writing you are doing.  Here are some basic rules for writing numbers: 

1.In scientific or technical writing, spell out numbers one through nine, and use numerals for numbers 10 and higher. However, in literary writing — or writing in the humanities — spell out numbers through ninety-nine. And remember that twenty-one through ninety-nine are hyphenated when they are two words.

  1. In charts, figures, and tables, it if fine to use numerals for all your numbers. In fact, it is preferable and looks much better.
  2. Never begin a sentence with a numeral. Write out the number or rewrite the sentence so the number doesn’t appear at the beginning.
  • One hundred members of the band marched down the street.
  • We watched as 100 members of the band marched down the street.
  1. If you have a sentence with two numbers that refer to similar things, or the same thing, either write them both out or use numerals for both. It doesn’t matter what the numbers are.
  • We counted 9 boys and 112 girls at the girls’ softball game.
  • I made 6 dozen cookies and 150 cupcakes.
  1. Spell out very large numbers instead of using a series of zeroes — even in a chart or table.
  • The population of my city is nearly 2 million now OR
  • The population of my city is nearly two million now. 
  1. Dimensions, sizes and exact temperatures should be expressed in numerals.
  • The weather forecast calls for a high of 20 degrees tonight.
  • She wears a size 10 dress.
  1. Always use numerals along with a.m. or p.m.
  • Let’s meet at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow.
  1. With the word o’clock you can use either numerals or words.
  • The meeting is at two o’clock.
  • The meeting is at 2 o’clock.
  1. Hyphenate fractions like two-thirds when spelling them out. Apply the same usage rules to fractions as other numbers.
  2. Do not use firstly, secondly, and thirdly as transition words. Use first, second, and third.


A Little Quiz to Begin 2018

A Little Quiz to Begin 2018

Happy New Year, Grammar Lovers!

We all like taking quizzes, right? Especially when there is no one there to correct them for us. (sentence fragment)

Here is a grammar quiz to start the new year. After you finish, scroll way down to see the answers. For more detailed explanations of the answers, stay tuned for next week’s post. Here we go . . .

1. Is this book title capitalized correctly?  And We are Happy Again

 2. My mom gave snacks to my friend and (me, myself, I). 

3. Is something wrong with this sentence? If so, what? I heard about the meeting at the zoo.

4. Is something wrong with this sentence? If so, what? Topics covered during the seminar will include ordering new equipment, training employees on the new software, who will be the system administrator, and assigning tasks for maintaining the new lab.

5. Is this sentence okay? And we will have all the new furniture in time for our open house!

6. Is this sentence OK? The teacher told us we couldn’t leave our desks until the bell had rang.

7. (Who, whom) did you invite to the movies?

8. This is the closing of a letter: Sincerely (Yours, yours)

9. Is this sentence okay? I don’t know whom I am going with.

10. Can you identify the grammar issue in this sentence? He told me to carefully tear the coupons. 

11. Is this sentence okay? Why or why not? Joe and his friend tried to climb Mt. Whitney, but he was too out of shape.

12. What is the problem with this sentence? The meeting is at 8 a.m. in the morning.

 13. How would you fix this sentence? The coat, that has a blue hood, is mine.

 14. Between you and (I, me), I think he gave the tickets to (he, him) and Joe.

15.  Neither Carrie nor Katrina (are, is) playing in the concert.

16. I feel really (bad, badly) about missing the meeting.

17. Everyone who is going to the concert needs to bring (his or her, their) ticket.

18. My cat is (laying, lying) in the sun.

19. My sister, along with her friends, (are, is) coming with us.

20. If I (was, were) taller, I could reach that bookshelf.

21. Is this sentence correct? The class consists of nine boys and 16 girls.

22, Is this sentence correct? Drive slow through the fog.

23. She likes chocolate better than (I, me).

24. Is this sentence correct? Sitting on a bed of rice, the chicken looked delicious.

25. It is (they, them) knocking at the door.

Scroll down for the answers.


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One more time.




  1. No. Capitalize Are.
  2. me
  3. Confusing. Was the meeting at the zoo, or did you hear about it while you were at the zoo?
  4. Not parallel. Add the word deciding before who, and it will be fixed!
  5. Yes. It is okay to start a sentence with a conjunction in most cases. I don’t like it in formal writing, though.
  6. had rung
  7. whom
  8. yours
  9. Yes. It is okay to end a sentence with a preposition in most cases. (Where are you at? is still wrong.)
  10. Split infinitive
  11. No. Confusing. To whom does he refer?
  12. Redundancy. if you write a.m., you don’t need to write morning.
  13. Take out both commas.
  14. me, him
  15. is
  16. bad
  17. either one is now fine.
  18. lying
  19. is
  20. were
  21. No. Write either 9 boys and 16 girls or nine boys and sixteen girls.
  22. Slowly is better than slow, but slow is acceptable.
  23. I
  24. yes
  25. They is technically correct.



Where Does the Word “Yule” Come from, Anyway? By Arlene Miller, The Grammar Diva

The Best of The Grammar Diva

Originally Published December 6, 2013 

In the spirit of the holiday season, I thought you might like to know where some of the common holiday words come from.  Here are the etymologies (origins) of some common holiday words:

Christmas (noun or adjective) – From the late Old English Cristes maesse, Christ and mass. Christmas was written as one word beginning in the mid 1300s.  Christmas cards were first designed in 1843 and became popular by the 1860s. 


Hanukkah (noun) – also spelled Chanukah and Hanukah (and other less common ways), it is from the Hebrew meaning to dedicate or consecrate.


Advent (noun) – Means important arrival, first used in 1742 to indicate an extended  “season before Christmas” (Old English), from the Latin advent (a coming, approach, arrival).


Carol (noun) – Used from  around 1300, carol means “a joyful song”and also to “dance in a ring” from the Old French carole. It is perhaps also related to the Latin choraula, meaning a dance to the flute. Before that, from the Greek Khoraules, the flute player who accompanies the choral dance. Khoraules is from khoros (chorus) and aulein (to play the flute).


Dreidel (noun)  – The four-sided top bearing the Hebrew letters nun, gimel, he,  and shin, one on each side, is from the Yiddish dreydl. In Middle High German, drey means “to rotate or turn.”


Grinch (noun) – Meaning “spoilsport,” all uses of this word trace to Dr. Seuss’s 1957 book How the Grinch Stole Christmas.


Latke (noun) – The pancakes, traditionally eaten on Chanukah and generally made from potatoes, have  their origins from the East Slavic latka, a dialectical from of aladka, which is a kind of pancake. It goes further back to the Old Russian oladiya, a derivative of the Greek word for oil. If you have ever eaten latkes, you will understand the reference to oil!


Mistletoe (noun)  – From the Old English mistiltan, from mistel  and tan (“twig)”  Also from the Old Norse mistilteinn, Norwegian misteltein, and Danish mistelten. Venerated by the Druids, the custom of hanging it at Christmas and kissing under it is mentioned by Washington Irving.


Noel (noun) – From the late 14th century nowel (feast of Christmas), from Old French noel (the Christmas season), a variant of nael, from Latin natalis (birth).  As a masculine proper name, from Old French, probably literally “of or born on Christmas.”


Scrooge (noun) – Generic for miser, 1940, from the character in Dicken’s 1843 story A Christmas Carol.  It does not appear to be a genuine English surname.


Wassail – Mid 12th century  Old Norse ves heill (be healthy) a salutation, from ves, (to be) and heill (healthy). Use as a drinking phrase appears to have arisen among Danes in England and spread to native inhabitants. A similar formation appears in Old English (wes þu hal), but this is not recorded as a drinking salutation. The meaning extended in the 13th century to “liquor in which healths were drunk,” especially spiced ale used in Christmas Eve celebrations. Used to mean “a carousal, reveling” first around the 16th century.Wassailing as the “custom of going caroling house to house at Christmas time” is recorded from 1742.


Yule (noun or adjective ) – From Old English geol, geola (Christmas Day, Christmastide) from Old Norse jul  (a heathen feast), later taken over by Christianity, of unknown origin. The Old English cognate giuli was the Anglo-Saxons’ name for a two-month midwinter season corresponding to Roman December and January, a time of important feasts but not itself a festival. After conversion to Christianity, it narrowed to mean “the 12-day feast of the Nativity” (which began Dec. 25), but was replaced by Christmas by the 11th century, except in the northeast (areas of Danish settlement), where it remained the usual word. It was revived in the 19th century by writers to mean “the Christmas of ‘Merrie England.’ The first direct reference to the Yule log is in the 17th century. Old Norse jol seems to have been borrowed from Old French asjolif, hence Modern French joli, meaning “pretty, nice,” and originally “festive.” 



So whether you go wassailing, carrying Yuletide carols to all the neighbors, or you have been called Scrooge or Grinch, enjoy your holiday season—-and eat lots of latkes!











Remember: Books make great gifts!

Happy Holidays from The Grammar Diva!

Sometimes, Sometime, and Some Time by Arlene Miller, Grammar Diva!

Sometimes, sometime, and some time may look very similar, but each has a different meaning. You probably haven’t thought about it much (or at all), and you have likely used them correctly, but they can cause confusion. 

Sometimes indicates a certain frequency with which something happens. It really means some of the time. For example:

Sometimes we go to the movies on Saturdays. (Some of the time we go to the movies on Saturday, and other times we don’t.)

Sometime, without the s, is different. It means at some certain point in time. For example:

Please come visit me sometime after I move .

I will be moving out of state sometime in September.

Some time is obviously two separate words and different from the other two. You pause between the two words when you correctly use some time. Some time means exactly that — a certain amount of time. For example:

Do you have some time to help me with my move?

I will have some time next week to meet with you.

To sum up:

Sometimes indicates frequency.

Sometime indicates a certain point in time.

Some time indicates an amount of time.

Sometimes I think that I might have some time to have fun sometime in the future when I don’t have a blog post to write!

(But, of course, I love writing these blog posts, so that was just an example!)