Writing for Business

January 14, 2013  9:26 PM

Wow! That word is older than you’d think.

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

How old would you guess the word “wow” to be?
a. 100 years old
b. 200 years old
c. 300 years old
d. 400 years old
e. 500 years old

Continued »

January 11, 2013  1:24 PM

Calfs vs. calves; wifes vs. wives; roofs vs. rooves

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
Because black absorbs light (which equates to heat) and white reflects it, white is a better option for data center _____.
a. roofs
b. rooves

Answer: Either, depending on where you are.


In the U.S., roofs is the standard plural of roof; elsewhere rooves is fairly common but becoming less so. The same holds true for an increasing number of words ending in “f.”

The standard/traditional rule for words ending in “f”  — the one I grew up with, of course — is that we substitute a “v” for the “f” and add “es” to form the plural:

 Singular  Plural  
calf calves
elf elves
half halves
hoof hooves
knife knives
leaf leaves
life lives
loaf loaves
shelf shelves
thief thieves
wife wives
wolf wolves

The rule on “roofs” has changed so completely in the U.S. that Merriam-Webster no longer even has an entry for “rooves.” Although the standard rule for most words ending in “f” still holds,  in casual speech and writing words like “calfs,” “elfs” and “loafs” are appearing more and more. What that means, in all likelihood, is that more will follow and the old rule will change, so that words ending in “f” just take an “s” for pluralization, like most words ending in a consonant.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, other than that in the transitional period, people who say “calfs,” “elfs” and “loafs” may be ridiculed by those of us clinging to the old rule. That being the case, stick to the standard for formal writing.

Writers on the Net provides resources on irregular plurals.

A tip of the editor’s visor to @Guy_in_PEI for the inspiration for this post. (What, no one’s wearing those green eyeshades any more? Oh, I AM behind the times.)

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

January 10, 2013  8:56 PM

Should you find an alternative to “due to”?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
Most major security breaches ____________ human error.
a. can be attributed to
b. are due to

Continued »

January 9, 2013  9:32 PM

More on positive “anymore”

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Yesterday I was writing about the use of anymore in positive constructions, as in “I write about grammar anymore.” The responses to that post were fairly evenly split between people who were shocked that anyone would use the word that way and people who were surprised that anyone might think that use wrong.

I understood positive anymore to be used as a synonym for “these days” or “nowadays.” It seems that it’s also sometimes used to mean “from now on.” The Wikipedia entry for positive anymore traces that use back to Northern Ireland at the turn of the 20th century:

“A servant being instructed how to act, will answer ‘I will do it any more’.” (Northern Ireland, c. 1898)[6] (From  The English Dialect Dictionary, 1898)

And spots it again, getting on for the turn of the 21st century:

“I’ll be getting six or seven days’ holiday anymore.” (Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1981)[3]

From the Wikipedia entry: “Positive anymore occurs in North American English, especially in the Midlands variety spoken in parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, and Missouri; its usage extends to Utah and some other western US states.” According to some linguists, it came to North America through Scottish/Irish sources.

On his linguistics blog, Ryan Denzer-King writes that “anymore” is what is called a negative polarity item (NPI): “NPIs are words or phrases that have to be scoped under some sort of negation, irrealis, or otherwise nonaffirmative clause.”

So, that’s where we are with that issue anymore … er, that anymore issue.

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

January 8, 2013  9:08 PM

Is it OK to use “anymore” other than in negative constructions? I’m not positive anymore.

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore


Which is correct?
I take pictures with my smartphone more often than my camera _________.
a. these days
b. anymore

Continued »

January 7, 2013  5:35 PM

Is that “brand-new” or “bran-new”? And why do we say it, anyway?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore


Which is correct?
If you’re designing a ________ data center, green tech should be a priority.
a. brand-new
b. bran-new
c. new

Continued »

December 21, 2012  10:33 PM

Is the rule changing on “comprised of”?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore


I had a comment, a while back, on this post about “comprised of.” The correspondent wrote that, contrary to my conclusion, “comprised of” is acceptable in the UK. I know these things differ, so I had a look around.

This Wikipedian, who seems to have a mission, explored the issue deeply and came up with the result that, no “comprised of” is not acceptable grammar, not in North America, the UK, or anywhere else.

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

December 21, 2012  10:27 PM

Have you heard tell of “hear tell”?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Have you heard tell of “heard tell”? “Tell” is an archaic word meaning “news.”

The Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Language offers this example: “Well, my ould man, did’ee see or hear tell of sich a thing as a portmantle?”

My dad used “heard tell” when I was young and it was not uncommon, back in the day, usually in the negative, to say “I’ve never heard tell of it.” You rarely hear it these days but I still like the sound of it.

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

December 21, 2012  10:15 PM

In regard to or in regards to?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore


Which is correct?
In _______ to your meeting request, could we hold off until the first of the year?
a. regard
b. regards

Continued »

December 21, 2012  2:14 PM

Supposed to or suppose to?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore


Which is correct?
I was _______ go to the staff party but, ironically, I had to work late.
a. suppose
b. supposed

Continued »

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