All posts by jbair

Which Windows OS for Grammar Slammer?

Dear Mr. M___:

You wrote:

>>Does your Grammar Slammer with Checkers work with Windows XP?

Yes. It works with all versions of Windows from 95 up. As of this date that includes Windows 7.

>>How does this program compare to checkers in Word or Grammatik?

All use slightly different patterns. The grammar checker in Grammar Slammer gives the user many easy options. Probably the best thing for you to do is download a trial copy from our download site at and see how you like it.

Be sure to read the file that comes with it, “What to Expect from a Grammar Checker.” This will give you an idea of what anyone’s grammar program can and cannot do. You can also read this online at

Delete Key in Grammar Slammer

Dear Mr. T___:

You wrote:

>>I like your software that I’m trying out, except I found that I cannot delete any of the characters. The only way that I can remove a letter is to cursor to the end of the word and then use the back-space key to remove unwanted text. Delete key does not work.
We have been aware of this. This is a “feature” of the Windows system that we can do nothing about without turning the checker into another word processor. We recommend using another text editor or word processor that has more capability and just copying and pasting. We want to keep the actual text box as simple as possible so that it will be compatible with as many Windows programs as possible. That means some extraneous things will be sacrificed.

Having said that, the delete key does work on anything that is highlighted first. So if you highlight any letters or words, you can use the delete key.

Double Negatives

Dear A___:

You wrote:

>a. I didn’t tell it to my mother and neither to my father.
>b. I didn’t tell it to my mother and nor to my father.
>c. I didn’t tell it to my mother, neither to my father.
>d. I didn’t tell it to my mother, nor to my father.

>Which of the above sentences are acceptable?

They all have problems.
B is awful, two conjunctions in a row? (“And nor”)
A is understandable, but a native speaker would say “and not to my father either,” if he used “and.”
C is understandable, but you would seldom hear a native speaker say it because of the double negative.
D is also understandable, but normally one would say “or to my father” since the verb is modified by “not.” It is another double negative.

Better than any of the above:
I didn’t tell it to my mother or my father.
I didn’t tell it to either my mother or my father.
(The second “to” in both sentences is optional.)

It you wanted to use “neither” rather than “not,” you could say:
I told neither my mother nor my father.

Is English German or French in Origin?

Dear A___:

You wrote:

>>Would you write something about the origin of English language?
>>Did it come from French or German?

The English language has a long history, but basically English is one of the Germanic languages. The Angles were a tribe in what is today Northern Germany who settled on the island of Great Britain. Their country the name England comes from the Angles (“Angle-land”).

Even today 39 of the 40 most common words in English come from the language of the Angles and the Saxons.

However, it is very different from modern German even though it shares many roots with German. This is partly because of pronunciation, but mainly because in 1066 England was conquered by the French-speaking Normans. The Normans brought many French words to English and English became distinctly different from the other Germanic languages. Today about 40% of the words in English have a French origin. It was not until nearly 1400, for example, that the English Parliament government quit using French in its deliberations.

English is a Germanic language historically, but it has been largely influenced by French as well.

I hope this helps.

Plural “S” vs. Possessive “S”

Dear Miss W____:

You wrote:

>>I have always believed that the following sentence should be written like this:

>>Lt. Worf, although large, has not got a head like Rikers.

>>However my word processor is telling me it should be as so:

>>Lt. Worf, although large, has not got a head like Riker’s.

>>Could you verify for me which is the correct way of writing this sentence?

>>Thank you!

The second sentence is correct. Adding an -s to most words make them plural. Adding an -‘s to most words makes them possessive. The second sentence tells us that the head belongs to Riker. The first sentence means the head does not look like the head that most Rikers have. That would work, for example, if Rikers were a group instead of an individual. “Seven of Nine does not have head markings like Klingons.” In your example, though, you are speaking of the head that belongs to someone named Riker and there is only one Riker, so this is clearly possessive and not plural.


Dear N___:

You wrote:

>>Are these sentences correct:

>>1-We were dancing as in the Fifties. (restrictive: in the same way they danced in the Fifties)
>>2-We were dancing, as in the Fifties.(non-restrictive: They danced in the Fifties and now we were dancing)

>>Can 2 be used to mean that we were dancing in the same way they danced in the Fifties?
In most speech, the meaning #1 you give would be understood by most people here, with or without the comma. Technically, your parenthetical interpretations are correct, but we do not speak with commas, so most people would understand either sentence to be what the first says. If you wanted to communicate meaning #2, the best solution is to say it differently such as the way you put it in the parentheses.

Colon Setting Off List

Dear J___ C___:

You wrote:

>>Is it ever correct to use a comma preceding a list (series) or must it always be a colon?

>>John and Mary had three children, Ronnie, Jackie, and Joy. OR

>>John and Mary had three children: Ronnie, Jackie, and Joy

If you want to be technical about it, in this case people sometimes use a comma because the list is actually an appositive. That is true in most cases with lists like this–they really are appositives at the end of a sentence.

The problem with such lists is that because there are more than two items in the list, the list itself has commas. Since the list itself uses commas, it can be confusing to the reader to use another comma to set off the list. Using a colon makes it cleaner looking and easier to understand. The purpose of punctuation, after all, is to help us understand what we read. Stick with the colon.

If there were just two items in the list so that you did not need to use any commas, then a comma separating the appositive would work and be clear enough, though a colon is still OK because it is setting off an appositive at the end of a sentence.

John and Mary had two children, Ronnie and Joy. OR
John and Mary had two children: Ronnie and Joy.

I hope this helps.

Modifier Set off by Commas?

Dear N__:

You wrote:

>>Which sentence is correct:
>>1-The silver crown, of great sentimental value to our family, has been stolen.
>>2-The silver crown of great sentimental value to our family has been stolen.

Technically, either could be correct. A nonessential modifier is set off by commas; an essential modifier is not.

#1 means the crown has been stolen. The family has only one silver crown. The speaker also mentions in passing that the crown has sentimental value.

#2 means that a silver crown has been stolen, and that among the silver crowns that the family owns, this is the crown that is known for its sentimental value.

In everyday speech, unless you were talking about a royal family that had a collection of crowns, #1 would be the more likely scenario. How many silver crowns do most people own? 🙂

See “Commas with Nonrestrictive Modifiers” in Grammar Slammer or for more on this.

Delete Key and Error Message

Dear Mr. H___:

You wrote:

>>Just bought your Grammar Slammer Deluxe with Checkers software. Please tell me I did something wrong setting it up. I got problems.
>>1) My Delete key doesn’t do anything.

We recommend that you do most of your editing on the program that you got the text from simply because our edit box does not have many features for serious editing or word processing. Having said that, if you highlight text first, then the delete key works. It will not work if nothing is highlighted. The backspace key will delete without highlighting.

>>2) If I paste the revised text back into the program it came from, all formatting is lost.

This is a Windows issue, but you can work around it. We recommend keeping the text that you copied highlighted on your original document. When you paste back to the highlighted area, it should keep the formatting–pretty closely anyhow.

>>3) My very first sentence was “Neither the Senators nor the President . . . . IT’S TELLING ME THAT “SENATORS” IS NOT A WORD!!!!

We tried the same thing on Windows XP update 2 and had no problem. We tried capitalizing Senators and then putting it inlower case, but the checkers did not say there was anything wrong with either the grammar or the spelling. Senators is in the program dictionary, so it should not have flagged the word in the spell checker.

This is what probably happened. Sometimes the grammar checker may flag a word in a compound subject. If your sentence read “Neither the senators nor the president have done anything about it,” for example, the checker may have taken a look at “president have” and said “president conflicts with auxiliary verb have” because president is singular and have plural. Of course, the sentence is really OK because you also have the word senators making the subject plural. In that case, you can simply ignore the suggestion.

If you want to check this out, note what the error message was. If you reverse the order of the figures in the subject so it reads “president and senators,” I suspect you would get no error message, just as I got no error message with most verbs unless they were present tense or past to be (was/were). I suspect the problem was with the subject-verb agreement and not with the word Senators. If there is no problem, then click the “ignore” button.

Capitalizing “French”

Dear Mr. B___:

You wrote:

>>I’ve read the rule about capitalizing adjectives based upon proper nouns, but what about verbs so constructed?

>>My dictionary has “Anglicizing” capitalized, same for the grotesque “to French-fry”. Are these proper? I am especially concerned with “French kissing”, most notably whether the slang shorthand “Frenching” has any proper form. (Sorry, but that one pays the bills, sad to say.)
The standard in most cases is to keep the capital. I certainly would with “French kissing” and probably “Frenching” as well, though it might be advisable to put that in quotation marks to indicate slang unless you were using it in a quotation.

Having said that, some words which began as proper adjectives or proper nouns sometimes have taken on a special meaning that has so little to do with the origin that they are often no longer capitalized. The best example today is probably “bourbon,” which comes from the name of the French royal family. Occasionally you do see “teddy bear” and “french fries” because some no longer consider these proper names any more; however, most authorities still capitalize them.

I do agree that “French frying” is somewhat grotesque. I would encourage you to come up with a different expression for that one, e.g. “making French fries.” Still, in most places not capitalizing “French” would stand out. Unless you wanted to call attention to your grammar, I would advise sticking with the capital letter.