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Articles by Merrill Perlman | Email the Author

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Old rivalries, old words

The reappearance of “caliphate” and “the Levant”

From a language point of view, what's happening in Iraq, Syria, and environs has revived words that have not been... More

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How to tell if you’re using ‘irony’ or ‘sarcasm’

It’s a fine line

A father and daughter were deep in discussion over breakfast at a diner. "That's not irony, that's sarcasm," the father... More

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‘Civil’ versus ‘sectarian’ conflicts

How to pick the most accurate war word

Iraq is now faced with an escalation of "sectarian violence," and Syria is still ensnared in its "civil war." Those... More

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Accentuate the positive

When to use diacritics

English has no accents, formally known as diacritical marks, or diacritics. But many words that arrived from other languages do... More

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Words associated with weddings

Inspiration hat-tip to Kim and Kanye

The recent wedding of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West presents an opportunity to discuss the snarky "announcement" that ran in... More

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Squirreling away the eggcorns

A collection of misleading phrases

We've discussed "eggcorns," phrases so tantalizingly close to idioms or common expressions that they actually make some sense, twisted though... More

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Finishing school

Words associated with graduation

It's graduation season, a good time to look at some of the words and ceremonies associated with this rite of... More

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Effusive suffixes

Adding -age to a word may sound fancy, but it’s usually unnecessary

A marketing website offered a course called "Storytelling Through Reportage Video Production." "Reportage is defined as the act of reporting... More

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Avoid ‘venue’ and ‘facility’

When naming buildings in a story, specificity is key

In the 1964 printing of Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, College Edition, "facility" has four definitions, only... More

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Language Corner

Unbalanced

Not only does grammar like order, it likes balance. And that first sentence is unbalanced. Just as either needs or,... More

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Famous lost words

Misplaced phrases or modifiers

Word people love to have fun with misplaced modifiers. The most recognized of these are dangling participles, where a phrase... More

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Ker-choo!

To catch a sneeze

In honor of allergy season, here's a riddle: What word's first syllable is pronounced differently than the way it is... More

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Pretentious, or quaint?

Amongst, amidst, whilst

The headline on a recent article in a Tennessee newspaper said the local teachers were "among best-paid" in the state.... More

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Wal-Mart. Walmart. wal*mart.

The company is inconsistent, but the AP isn’t

One style change the Associated Press has made recently is to decide that the giant discount chain based in Bentonville,... More

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Closer than it appears

Farther vs. further

Now that The Associated Press has dropped the distinction between "over" and "more than" for quantities, perhaps it's time to... More

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So over it

The reaction to a rule change

Far too much has already been written about The Associated Press's announcement last week that it would begin allowing the... More

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That tricky ‘e’

Making verbs out of nouns

We have occasionally invoked Tom Lehrer when discussing how the simple letter "e" can change the meaning of many words,... More

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Spellbound

Grammatically incorrect pop culture

In between National Grammar Day and the national conference of the American Copy Editors Society, let us lament that "popular... More

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What’s mine is yours

Joint possession

Happy National Grammar Day! The silence in the place of cheers is deafening. Grammar is a boring, regimented set of... More

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Language Corner

Naming rights

What do you call a revue of dancing soldiers? A "troupe" of "troops," of course. That was kind of a... More

The ethics of The Guardian’s Whisper bombshell - It would have been a journalistic lapse not to have told readers

Gawker: The internet bully - Nick Denton’s media empire is an intellectual online fraternity that invites people to their parties only to make them buy the booze

The Washington Post short-sells a reporter’s integrity - Steven Pearlstein smears TheStreet’s Adam Feuerstein for criticizing a biotech firm

Former Sun-Times staffers react to top reporter’s resignation - “Whereas we don’t have all the answers, we have way too many questions about what happened here”

Stop trolling your readers - We know you’re only doing it for clicks


John Oliver video sweepstakes (The Awl)

“We may update this list next week to reflect Facebook shares gathered by The Awl as the result of this post, which is ultimately an elaborate excuse to embed a John Oliver video on our website”

Which news org is the most trusted? (Pew)

The answer is complicated

‘My Captivity’ (NYT Mag)

An American journalist on his two-year kidnapping in Syria

FBI faked an AP story, in Seattle Times style, to catch a suspect (Seattle Times)

“‘We are outraged that the FBI, with the apparent assistance of the US Attorney’s Office, misappropriated the name of The Seattle Times to secretly install spyware on the computer of a crime suspect,’ said Seattle Times Editor Kathy Best”

Bloggingheads

Greg Marx discusses democracy and news with Tom Rosenstiel of the American Press Institute

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