Grammar

Serial Comma

I have a tendency to use a serial comma. I had never heard of it before and in case you haven’t, here is basically what it means.

The serial comma (also known as the Oxford comma or Harvard comma) is the comma used immediately before a coordinating conjunction (usually and or or, and sometimes nor) preceding the final item in a list of three or more items. For example, a list of three countries can be punctuated as either “Portugal, Spain, and France” (with the serial comma) or as “Portugal, Spain and France” (without the serial comma).

Many people seem to disagree on whether it should be used or not, as either way is grammatically correct. So I will check with any editor that I plan to work with to make sure that I write in agreement with their house style.

Which Vs That

I sometimes use these interchangeably in a sentence and this is wrong.

Loving the following explanation:

The usage is intimately tied up with the distinction that grammarians make between two types of clause, which they call restrictive and non-restrictive. A restrictive clause is one that limits, or restricts, the scope of the noun it is referring to. Take these examples:

The house that is painted pink has just been sold.
The house, which is painted pink, has just been sold.

In the first one, the clause “that is painted pink” is a restrictive clause, because it limits the scope of the word “house”, indicating that the writer doesn’t mean any house, only the one that has been painted in that particular colour; if he takes that clause out, all that’s left is The house has just been sold: the reader no longer knows which house is being referred to and the sentence loses some crucial information. In the second example the clause is non-restrictive: the writer is giving additional information about a house he’s describing; the clause which is painted pink is here parenthetical — the writer is saying “by the way, the house is painted pink” as an additional bit of information that’s not essential to the meaning and could be taken out.

This info isn’t my own, for the full explanation please view this excellent article here:

People’s Vs Peoples’

This is a very interesting one. I was trying to write ‘…make an impact on people’s lives’, but wasn’t sure which form of peoples was correct, and more importantly, why it was right.

I have found out the following which answers it nicely.

If you are writing a possessive phrase, then you need to write people’s, as it is an irregular plural (doesn’t end in ‘s’ in its plural form). There is no use for peoples’ – it is a misuse of people’s.

If a word ends in ‘s’ already in its plural form, such as boys, then you would add the apostrophe after the ‘s’ if you were going to write a possessive phrase, such as “the boys’ clothes were filthy.”

What’s the difference between ‘bias’ and ‘biased’?

A bias is a personal judgement and is often characterised by prejudice or otherwise being unreasonable or unfounded.

BIAS is a noun, referring directly to the judgement being made.

Your bias about dark chocolate is inexplicable. [Your judgement/prejudice/personal opinion about dark chocolate is inexplicable.]

I have a bias against cheap wine. [I have a judgement/prejudice/personal opinion against cheap wine.]

BIASED is a verb, referring to being bias or judgemental/prejudiced.

Are you biased when it comes to instant coffee? [Are you judgemental when it comes to instant coffee?]

Fergal is biased against red roses. [Fergal is prejudiced against red roses.]

Fern is BIASED when it comes to choosing a white wine because she has a BIAS against Chardonnay.

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