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Rosie Right

The careful writers who are driven to distraction by the "verbing" of nouns and adjectives would have a nervous attack if they should happen to read a recent interview with Frank Abate, editor in chief of U.S. Dictionaries for Oxford University Press. The newsletter Copy Editor reports that on Dec. 22, Abate appeared on the WNYC radio call-in show. Most of the questions were about the new language that computers have spawned. One query inspired Abate to tell us: "I heard the other day the now familiar dot.com being used as a verb. It was in an ad. The person in the ad said, 'Don't phone us. Dot-com us ...'"

Questioner: "Dot-com as a verb? How do you spell it?"

Abate: "I've seen it frequently now hyphenated dot-com. It's often given with a dot between the dot and the com (dot.com)."

Radio Host: "Which would really be dot-dot-com."

Abate: "Right. But as it seems to be used in a more generic way, the hyphenated way seems to be occurring more frequently.'"

There goes the language ... again!



A reader has asked if it's can be used to mean it has. We have all heard expressions that do just that — expressions like It's been a hard day, but are they correct? Rosie had never thought about this, but according to Fowler's Third Edition, edited by R.W. Burchfield and published in 1996, it's can be used this way:

"its, it's. Just a reminder that its is the [possessive form of it (the cat licked it paws): and that it's is a shortened form of it is (it's raining again) or it has (It's come) shortened form."

Every writer should have this entry posted because, strangely enough, almost all writers err in the use of its and it's at one time or another.



Another problem for writers is the need to take care not to leave a sentence with an ambiguous meaning. Rosie found the following in a Reuters press release:

"Bioactive products that are not in a market dominant position, like garlic, are much less likely to have private sector research investigate the benefits." The wording of this sentence leaves us wondering whether or not the writer thought that garlic is in a market dominant position. If he did, the following would be clearer: "Bioactive products, like garlic, that are now in a dominant position." If he didn't think garlic is dominant, the sentence should read: "Bioactive products, like garlic that are not in a dominant market position ..."

Eternal vigilance is the price of
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