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

Author Archive

Articles by Merrill Perlman | Email the Author

Bodily Functions

The scent of a language

The scene may have been a long coach ride or a London park bench on a hot day, but the... More

Talking Back

‘Revert’ gains a new meaning

The recruiter was pleased that the law firm was interested in one of his clients. “I will revert with candidate... More

Against Semantic Satiation

Some new words to learn after a wild week

After a week in which the East suffered through earthquakes and a hurricane, we could all use a little entertainment.... More

Going Strait

Narrowing down the difference between “strait” and “straight”

When two words sound the same and have similar meanings, you know they’re going to merge eventually. But until they... More

Oral History

Of spoken and written words

It’s a crazy market, the investors were told by the columnist, and they had to protect themselves. So they shouldn’t... More

One Word or Two?

An altogether random list to use every day

English insists on having variations of words, like “every day/everyday” or “any time/any time,” where two words are scrunched together... More

Really?

Literally speaking

Here’s a cover letter cited in a column about what not to write when applying for a job: “I am... More

The Personals

When to use ‘who’ and ‘that’

“We’re the people that are going to say, ‘No,’ to Washington, D.C., taxing and spending,” U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX),... More

Lone Modifications

Adjectives may agitate

Adjectives play many roles. They can tell us which box on the gift table is being discussed—the “blue” box—so we... More

Irony Patch

It’s not a coincidence

It’s “ironic” that many journalists don’t understand when to correctly use “irony.” Here’s an example of how “irony” frequently appears... More

Quotus Interruptus

‘What … did (he) say?’

For weeks before Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees reached 3,000 career hits, he had been saying he didn’t... More

Almost Famous

Confusion over “infamy” and “notoriety” abounds

You probably don’t want to become “infamous.” but you may want to be “notorious.” The adjective “infamous” has traditionally meant... More

Gonna Wanna

When dialects collide

Writing the way people speak is one way to make sure your copy doesn’t become bloviated or stodgy. But journalists... More

Fraught Fest

Can something be ‘fraught’ without ‘with’?

Kirk Arnott, a retired assistant managing editor of the Columbus Dispatch who keeps his hand sharp with part-time copyediting there,... More

Title Search

Descriptions that deserve respect, or not

We love to modify things, to make them as descriptive or as recognizable as possible. It’s not just a house,... More

Call Me ‘Al’

Another confusing suffix

Is an appliance “electric” or “electrical”? Is Sarah Palin visiting “historic” sites or “historical” sites? Is being “politic” the same... More

Appositive Negatives

Some things are not unique

Last week, we talked about setting a parenthetical description off with commas in the grammatical phenomenon known as an “appositive.”... More

Negative Appositives

Phrases set off by commas

Commas are wonderful tools. They tell a reader to pause, as this one did. They can also tell a reader... More

Name-Calling

Why descriptions are better than labels

Arnold Schwarzenegger had sex with a woman who was not his wife, and that woman gave birth to their child.... More

Out of the Museum

“Curate” gets a new life

Thirty years ago, the only people who were “curators” worked in galleries or museums, deciding what pieces from the presumably... 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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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.