Grammar Repair Shop

Problem: Writers tend to either overuse dashes or avoid them.
Problem: Whether to use singular or plural verbs and pronouns with collective nouns that represent a group, such as “board,” “jury” and “staff.”
Problem: Writers who never studied Latin often mix up the abbreviations i.e. and e.g.
Problem: A case of “dangling modifier”: when the subject of your sentence doesn’t agree with the description that precedes it.
Problem: “I know to use the article ‘an’ before a vowel,” writes Penny Perkins, Dayton, Ohio. “Do you use ‘an’ before a silent ‘h,’ as in ‘an honor student?'”
Problem: Moni Jackson, Toms River, N.J., takes minutes during a board of directors meeting. “At a recent session, the vice president stated that policies should be reviewed biannually,” Jackson told us. “I found out later that she actually meant once every two years. I believe the word should be ‘biennially.'”
Avoid gender bias with clever writing
Problem: Several readers have asked recently about whether to capitalize particular words, ranging from job titles to seasons.
Problem: Therese Sliwa, Waltham, Mass., wrote about our response in the July “Our Readers Write” column to someone who complained about people writing “could of” for “could’ve” and “should of” for “should’ve.”
Problem: Reader Judy Woodliff asked us whether “elders retreat” should carry an apostrophe after the “s” in “elders” to make it possessive.
Problem: Phyllis Nagy, Orlando, Fla., asked about the spelling of the possessive “boss’s.”
Problem: “When addressing a business letter, is it correct to put a comma or a colon after the addressee’s name?” (From Lynne Nelson, Princeton, N.J.)
Several readers recently asked us about the use of semicolons versus commas in a complex sentence.