Tag Archives: writing tip

Today’s Writing Tip: Going to My Parents’ House

sig2010Apostrophes can be tricky and, as a manuscript editor, one of the most common errors I see is the misspelling of the term “my parents’ house.” Most of the writers that I work with are apt to spell the term “my parent’s house.” Why is that usually wrong? And when is it right?

It’s wrong because most of the time, but certainly not always, we have two parents. Therefore the apostrophe goes after the term “parents” because the house belongs to the parents. It’s like saying, “I’m going to the squirrels’ hideout.” If there is only one squirrel, we can say, “the squirrel’s hideout”; otherwise, we use the plural.

Likewise for parents. If our parents are divorced, separated, widowed or otherwise reduced from two to one, it’s appropriate and absolutely correct to write, “I went over to my parent’s house.”

But chances are you’re not going to say that because it’s pretty formal. When you’re referring to both your mother and father, you’re likely to say, “parents” whereas if you’re talking about one parent, you’ll probably say “my mom,” “my stepmom,” or “my dad.” For example, “I went to my mom’s house.”

One way to catch this mistake is to keyword your manuscript or article at the end and look for the word “parent’s.” Then you can tell if the context is correct.

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor (http://tinyurl.com/7wnk5se), and is both a line-by-line and a content editor for books, articles, magazines, and essays. Visit her at http://sigridmacdonald.blogspot.com/

Today’s Writing Tip: “For Whom Are You Voting?”

sig2010 As we start the Republican National Convention and move into the Democratic Convention next week, many people will be asking each other which candidate they prefer.

Technically, the right way to do this is to say, “Whom are you voting for?” because the sentence has a direct object. Or, you can say or write, “For whom are you voting?” This phrasing is correct; however, I don’t like it. I think it sounds stuffy.

Sometimes the only really important thing about grammar is to know the rules so that you can understand when you are breaking them. In conversation, I would opt for the more casual, “Who are you voting for?” And if I were writing a dialogue in a fictional narrative or quoting someone in a blog post, I would still use the informal version.

But if I were writing for a serious website, of course I would choose the official version. We are seeing more of a trend toward casual speech and writing as part of a desire to move forward in the modern world. Just as we wouldn’t say, “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?”, it sounds stilted and uptight to answer the phone by saying, “It is I” or “For whom are you voting?” I’m going to declare this to be a style issue in conversation and when we are quoting dialogue, but I know that many people will disagree.

Of course you can always circumvent the problem, as I did in the beginning of this piece, by saying, “Which candidate do you prefer?” And the answer in this particular election may be “neither.”

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor http://tinyurl.com/7wnk5se and two erotic short stories, which she wrote under the pen name Tiffanie Good. Silver Publishing just released “The Pink Triangle,” a tale of friendship, lust, and betrayal. You can view her story here: http://tinyurl.com/6v65rgr