“10 Easy Secrets of Good Grammar”

10 Easy Secrets of Good Grammar” by Martha Brockenbrough gives useful advice.

Many will be surprised by number 2: ” ‘I’ isn’t always the more educated choice.” But she’s got it right.

I don’t agree that “semicolons are easy to use,” even though I’m getting better at them.

But don’t rely on my comments. Read Brockenbrough’s article now!

"Quiz: Are You a Grammar Geek?"

If you’re reading this, you probably care about grammar.

So test your grammar knowledge with the quiz in “Are You a Grammar Geek? It’s tough.

"Can not" vs. "cannot"

Which is right? “Can not” or “cannot”?

Habit tells me “cannot,” but I can’t find this peculiar spelling in the index of any of my style guides.

However, Wikipedia gives me this quote, in which I’ve added the bolding to “cannot”:
In this regard, the following quotation from The Chicago Manual of Style deserves notice:

Rules and regulations such as these, in the nature of the case, cannotbe endowed with the fixity of rock-ribbed law. They are meant for theaverage case, and must be applied with a certain degree of elasticity.

I haven’t thought about this issue in years. I usually work around it by using “can’t.”

What’s your practice?

This is a reposting of one of the most popular posts on one of my predecessor blogs. I originally posted it in April 2006.

Should you hyphenate “fixed income”?

It depends.

There are two schools of thoughts about whether to hyphenate compound adjectives, which is what “fixed income” becomes when you use it as an adjective. It’s the reader-friendly approach vs. common usage.


Let’s talk about “fixed income investing.” When you combine an adjective and noun and then use them to describe a second noun, you’re creating a compound adjective.

You’re also making it more difficult for your readers to interpret your text. They’re used to thinking of “income” as a noun, so they may struggle for a moment before they realize that “fixed income” serves as an adjective in “fixed income investing.” Following this line of thought, it’s kinder to your reader to write “fixed-income investing.”

Common usage

Opponents of writing “fixed-income investing” say “fixed income” is so commonly used as an adjective that a hyphen is unnecessary.

Your decision

Grammar Girl says that you should always consider whether a hyphen changes your meaning. As she points out:

  • A hot-water bottle is a bottle for holding hot water.
  • A hot water bottle is a water bottle that is hot.

The Wall Street Journal uses a hyphen when fixed-income is an adjective.

What’s your decision? Is it fixed-income investing or fixed income investing?

Whichever approach you adopt, be consistent in your usage. That will help your readers know what to expect.

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