Feb 11th

Use Amazon.com and the Best-Seller List to Resolve Style Issues

At my critique group meeting the other night, we were going over some pages from a member we’ll call the Divine Miss M. She’s writing an urban fantasy about a straight-up avenging angel, and it is going to be amazing. But as I was critiquing the pages, I found that she was using uppercase for epithets like “Honey” and “Sweetie” and “Babe.” This bugged me, but I couldn’t find any expert resource that addressed this issue. I went to the Chicago Manual of Style and first of all wasn’t sure how to search for such information. I did a Google search and found forums discussing the issue, but again, no definitive answers (mostly a lot of “I think it should be X” and even worse, “I feel it should be Y.”)

So I hit the Amazon bestseller lists and went through the books that have the “Look inside” option.


Searched for “honey” and “sweetie.” In the search box, case doesn’t matter.







Here are the results from Stephen King’s 11/22/63.

So when you can’t find a definitive answer as to whether to use the serial comma or “all right” vs. “alright,” search the bestsellers and/or books produced by your publisher of choice and follow their style rules.

Dec 30th

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!
To toast the old and ring in the new, below are the top ten posts of 2011. Enjoy!


Aug 22nd

Your or You?

Dear Conan:

If I want to express gratitude for someone copying me on an email or such, should I say “I really appreciate your keeping me informed” or “I really appreciate you keeping me informed,” or something else? I suppose I could avoid the problem by saying “Thanks for keeping me informed,” but that would mean I don’t need to consult the grammar guru.

~Mark Continue reading…

Mar 4th

Happy National Grammar Day!

You may correct people with impunity today.


Dec 14th

Qualitative Noun Question Finally Answered

Perhaps you’ve been following the saga of Sushibox and the Case of the Confusing Qualitative Noun in the comments section. I searched high and low, and could find only information on Greek grammar and theological concepts. I finally went to the experts at the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University, and posed Sushibox’s question to them. Below is their answer. Continue reading…

Dec 4th

Fun with Signs #2

This heart-felt yuletide sentiment was spotted in our local King Soopers and falls under the heading of “Let’s try it both ways because one of them’s bound to be right.” I know I don’t have to explain to you the circumstances under which you would use an apostrophe with “lot.” (The list below is for all those others.)

1. To turn the noun possessive, as in “The outhouse belongs on that lot’s northeast corner.”

2. As a contraction of the noun “lot” and the verb “is,” as in “That property lot’s in a bad location.”

3. And finally, when you’re referring to the biblical Abraham’s cousin’s wife, who turned into a salt lick.

And really, King Soopers. Blaming Jill? Bad form.

Nov 18th

Lose vs. Loose

For some reason, people can’t seem to get the difference between lose and loose straight. It’s probably due to the rushed nature of correspondence these days, most notably in the comments section of blogs we virulently disagree with. Why is that? Probably because we want to express our displeasure with immediacy and fervor, because that blogger must be educated about our viewpoint right this instant. And if we stop to think about what we’re writing, we won’t send it at all. Continue reading…

Sep 26th

Hey! My Cable Guy’s a Proofreader Too!

I once edited a charming memoir written by a gentleman whose mother grew up in a North Dakota sod house. He wrote his book as a gift to his brothers and sisters, and he had it professionally published and bound. The final product will look great and is grammatically correct, so his family can concentrate on the content and not on the misuse of commas or the confusion of the words “then” and “than.” Continue reading…

Sep 12th

Proofread Your Resume!

Dear Conan,

I have a job opening and I’m getting flooded with resumés. I am cringing when reading them. Apparently schools don’t teach English class anymore. Continue reading…

Sep 1st

Conan’s Pet Peeves

Say hello to my pet, Peeves

1. Alright. I don’t care what the hip new dictionaries say. It ain’t a word. The term is all right. Two words. Period.

2. The limeys have staged a revolt and are putting periods and commas outside of quotation marks, like so:

The article, entitled “How to Shave Your Cat”, has engendered much controversy.

The sentence read, “Gravel and peanuts for supper”.

“On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero”, says Tyler Durden. Continue reading…