As an adjective carrot-and-stick refers to the carrot and stick (also known as the carrot or stick) idiom. The phrase means a methodology or system of rules that incorporates reward and punishment to elicit a certain behavior. In order to motivate a donkey to move, there are two methods. Either you strike it with a stick or you urge it along with a carrot. The spelling is uncertain as far as the idiom is concerned, since it is not listed in most dictionaries. The name is carrot and … [Read more...]

Last names (plurals and possessives)

Names are nouns, and they are made plural and possessive like other regular nouns. For instance, four men named John are four Johns, and the hats the Johns are wearing are the four Johns' hats. This is simple enough, yet when it comes to last names, there are several common errors that many people make. Plural last names Making a last name plural should never involve an apostrophe. The members of the Johnson and Smith families, for instance, are the Johnsons and the Smiths, not the Johnson's … [Read more...]

Vice president (capitalization and hyphenation)

Vice President is usually capitalized when it is a title that comes immediately before the name of the vice president of a country—e.g., Vice President Biden. When it is a title that applies to other types of vice presidents (e.g., vice presidents of companies and universities), it is rarely capitalized in edited publications, but it is often capitalized in the official documents of companies, universities, etc. It is also capitalized when it is part of an official job title---e.g., Vice … [Read more...]

A.D., B.C., B.C.E., C.E.

Anno Domini (Latin for in the year of the lord), or A.D., is the period beginning with the year 1. Common Era (C.E.) is an alternative, secular term for this period. B.C., which stands for before christ, covers all time before the year 1 (there is no year 0). Before Common Era (B.C.E.) is an alternative term for this era. Whether to include the periods or to leave them off (e.g., AD, CE, etc.) is a matter of preference. Some publishers use the periods, and some don't. … [Read more...]

Ages (hyphenation)

A 12-year-old child is 12 years old. That is, when the adjectival phrase (12-year-old) comes before the noun it modifies (child), it is hyphenated, and it is unhyphenated when it comes after the noun it modifies. This is the standard practice for phrasal adjectives of all kinds, not just those relating to age. For example, the phrasal adjective is hyphenated in the clause he has a larger-than-life personality, but not in his personality is larger than life. Similar age phrases are also … [Read more...]

Seasons (capitalization)

Most edited publications do not capitalize the seasons of the year, and we know of no major style guide that recommends doing so. Spring, summer, autumn, fall, and winter are common nouns like any other. Think of them as similar to morning, afternoon, and night---terms that denote clearly defined periods of time but are not capitalized because they are not proper nouns. As parts of official names, however, seasons are capitalized---for example, the 2012 Summer Olympics, the Fall 2011 … [Read more...]

E-book, ebook, eBook

As a term for books presented in electronic form, eBook is going out of style, at least in edited publications. As of early 2012, most American, Canadian, and Australian news publications that publish online are using the hyphenated, uncapitalized form, e-book. Meanwhile, most web-friendly British publications are using the one-word ebook. There's a good chance the one-word form will become standard everywhere (if we continue to use a special term for electronic books), as words like email … [Read more...]

Internet (capitalization)

Many American style guides recommend capitalizing the first letter of Internet, and most major American publications (as well as many Canadian ones) do so. Outside North America, internet is rarely capitalized. The non-U.S. approach makes more sense. There is no good reason to capitalize internet. The convention in English is to capitalize the first letters of proper nouns, which are the official names of people, places, objects, or events. The internet is none of these. It was originally … [Read more...]

Earth (capitalization)

When the noun earth refers to our planet, it is capitalized only when it's a proper noun (meaning it acts like a name and is not preceded by the---for example, everything on Earth). The word is not capitalized when it is a common noun (meaning it does not act like a name and is preceded by the---e.g., everything on the earth). And of course, earth is sometimes used to mean the soft part of land (synonymous with dirt or soil), in which case it does not need to be capitalized. It can also mean … [Read more...]

President (capitalization)

President is capitalized when it comes immediately before the name of a president of a country. It is not capitalized when it refers to a president but does not immediately precede the name. For example, note the contrast in these sentences: House Speaker John Boehner criticized President Barack Obama Thursday. [CNN] Maybe people will now believe New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie when he insists he's not running for president. [NPR] Europe tightened the noose on President Bashar al-Assad … [Read more...]

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