Wednesday, July 23, 2014. Last Update: Wed 3:17 PM EST

Author Archive

Articles by Merrill Perlman | Email the Author

Houses of Straw

Flimsy votes and arguments

Though we’re thick in the primary and caucus season, the testing of the political winds actually began months ago, with... More

The Jury is in

On “jury-rigged” and “jerry-built” confusion

An article about a rundown neighborhood said that “most of the buildings are jerry-rigged structures of corrugated aluminum.” Another article... More

Confidence Trick

Scams ‘R’ Us

In an episode of Dragnet from the late nineteen-sixties, Joe Friday is assigned to the “bunco squad,” where he and... More

Intoxicating

Deriving ‘drink’

No one needs to be told that the present tense of the verb “to drink” is “drink.” But what about... More

And the Word of the Year Is…

Words that topped the lists

Lots of people and organizations have issued their “words of the year” lists. Whether some of the words they chose... More

Language, Free

Blogs for grammar geeks

In Miracle on 34th Street, Kris Kringle makes lots of friends—and money for Macy’s—by sending customers elsewhere when Macy’s did... More

Yule Love This

Making a list of holiday expressions

A couple of years ago we discussed some of abuse that poor, misused apostrophes suffer this time of year, in... More

Homegrown

The living language

To look back at the early years of the Columbia Journalism Review is to look at how we used... More

On, Dasher!

A punctuation mark loved too much—or not enough

Many punctuation marks have different uses—think of the comma—but only a few leap off the page to a reader’s eye—as... More

Friendly Fire

Insulting without meaning to

As language and society evolve, words that were once considered merely slang sometimes take on an offensive odor. In the... More

Separation Anxiety

Smoothing comparative phrases

Black Friday is coming! And this one will be as big as, if not more hyped and crowded than, Cyber... More

Taking the Fifth

A dictionary, updated, adds and subtracts

The Fifth Edition of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language is out, cause for celebration for some and... More

Conjunction-itis

What about ifs, ands, or buts?

Many generations of students have had certain grammar “truths” drilled into their little heads. One is the “myth” that infinitives... More

Taking Names in Vain

Why we care, for Pete’s sake

You’re with your five-year-old at the ice cream shop, and she can’t decide which of the dozens of flavors to... More

Fermenting Revolution

Some terms associated with beer

With “Oktoberfests” popping up all over, it seems a good time to grab a “growler” and get “krausened.” The first... More

Making Introductions

Putting the cart before the tumbrel

Writers frequently introduce a topic or unfamiliar phrase, then define it, as in “The condemned rode to the gallows in... More

No Use

The “d” is (usually) not optional

The Northeast has been experiencing a bit of a resurgent summer*, so cool refreshments have been called for. You have... More

Only You Know

Once in a while, placement matters

OK, we’ll admit it: Most of the time you can put “only” anywhere in a sentence and no one will... More

Unequal Rights

All synonyms are not the same

Strunk and White’s Elements of Style counsels to avoid euphemism, and, as we wrote on the book’s fiftieth anniversary,... More

None of the Above

Plural or singular? Yes.

How many of you were taught that “none” stands for “no one,” and must always take a singular verb? Bet... 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


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.”

39 pieces of advice for journalists and writers of color (BuzzFeed)

“Make yourself indispensable. Dispel any rumors, however quiet, that you are just there for a ‘quota’”

Bloggingheads

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

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