Friday, July 25, 2014. Last Update: Thu 3:45 PM EST

Author Archive

Articles by Merrill Perlman | Email the Author

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Don’t tread on me

The difference between “trample” and “trammel”

The requirement of the Affordable Care Act that employers provide access to free contraceptives "trammels the right of free exercise"... More

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Language Corner

Next of kin

We have mothers-in-law, fathers-in-law, sons- and daughters-in-law, sisters- and brothers-in-law. But what should you call the parents of your child's... More

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Aggressive passive

Why active voice is not always better

Strunk & White hated it. George Orwell did, too. Nearly every grammar text and English teacher say it: The passive... More

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Consensus taking

It’s okay to repeat yourself

If you're a journalist, you're often trying to save words, so you should try to eliminate redundancies in phrases like... More

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Coming soon

‘Imminent’ changes are afoot

In "eminent domain," a government can seize property for public use, as long as it compensates the owner. In "imminent... More

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Space age

A discussion of spaceage

A few years ago, a student journalist wrote a profile for a class that recalled how she found her calling:... More

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Place your bets

The difference between “gambling” and “gaming”

You have to be in Vegas for a conference, and you decide to while some time away at the slots.... More

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Sex-isms

Gender politics and their words

Spend time on Twitter or Reddit, or anywhere on the internet for that matter, and you'll learn lots of new... More

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Un-words

Prefixes that make opposites, or not

English has many prefixes that make a word into a negative or opposite: Add "non-" to "profit," for example, and... More

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Un-coordinated

When to use commas between adjectives

Recently, in a column about other things, we asked whether you needed a comma in the phrase "the large blue... More

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Misbegotten

When ‘get’ is in the past

The Revolutionary War split the colonies from England, and with it, American English began to split from British English. We... More

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Language Corner

Nuclear attainment

An editorial discussed Iran's "determined program to attain nuclear-weapons capacity." Later, it cited pressure on Iran "to halt its aggressive... More

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Sincere-ly yours

Hyphenating (some) adverbs

The "rules" under which hyphens are used to connect multiple modifiers, like "well(-)known man," are varied and difficult to remember.... More

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Exit lines

Many ways to describe death

When people die, the words used to describe their passing vary greatly, often depending on how close the writer was... More

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Bizarro world

Opposite idioms

In recent weeks, we talked about idioms that are misheard, and thus miswritten. Now, we'll discuss some idioms that say... More

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Sounds like…

All the ways we misspeak and write

For two weeks we highlighted phrases that are written from what people hear, sometimes with amusing results. A reader asked:... More

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Misbegottens

More twisted idioms

Last week, we talked about some idioms that have been twisted by people who write them as they hear them,... More

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Righting speech

When people misspell while talking

Here's a shocker: People don't talk the way they write, or the way they should write. They have accents; they... More

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Weathering heights

Unusual terms for not-so-unusual phenomena

Had the Weather Channel been around in the 1930s, it's possible that the period of severe drought, crop failure, and... More

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Body parts

Spelling malpractice

At a recent concert in Milwaukee, John Mayer dedicated a song to his girlfriend, Katy Perry, for helping him get... More

How Forbes got to $475 million - That’s what a Hong Kong investor has agreed to pay for a firm that two years ago had trouble paying its rent

Are female journalists up to the job of a Jill Abramson interview? - Reporters avoid unflattering discussion about her firing

How to check if that viral video is true - Journalists don’t always verify user-generated content, so readers need to learn how to verify what they see online

The Grand Dame of Florida reporting has retired twice, but she’s still causing trouble - A conversation with the Tampa Bay Times’ Lucy Morgan

Brick by brick - After years of shrinking ambition at The Washington Post, Jeff Bezos has the paper thinking global domination


The 10 worst New Yorker longreads (Gawker)

“[A]pparently [Adam] Gopnik did not know you could bake fancy breads from France and other cultures. So he got his mom to teach him how to bake them. A fine anecdote, maybe, to tell a friend or a therapist. But in this case he wrote about it for the New Yorker, a magazine.”

Insufferable parenthetical asides, ranked (The Hairpin)

18. (strictly for the mise-en-scene)

You are now entering the demented kingdom of William T. Vollmann (TNR)

“Franzen tells a hilarious story of being a young writer in New York, meeting Vollmann, becoming fast friends, and inaugurating a draft swap. A while later, they exchanged work. Franzen gave Vollmann a dozen chiseled pages. Vollmann gave Franzen an entire novel.”

Bloggingheads

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

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Who Owns What

The Business of Digital Journalism

A report from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Study Guides

Questions and exercises for journalism students.