Grammar grab bag

Throughout the week, bits of sloppy speaking have caught my ear. I thought maybe we’d have a little Friday review to set ourselves straight. We all could use a refresher now and then, right?

The examples that got my attention this week have to do mostly with words or phrases that many believe are interchangeable.

“Imply” versus “infer” – To imply something is to mean something or put a suggestion into a message. To infer is derive a suggestion from a message, often by reasoning or interpretation. A simple way to remember: The speaker implies; the listener infers.

“Due to” versus “because of” – “Due to” means “caused by.” For example, “The snow was due to a cold front moving eastward.” It is not interchangeable with “because of,” which means “by reason of.” For example, “Schools were cancelled because of snow.” It’s not “cancelled due to snow.” Use of “due to” as an introductory clause, such as “Due to circumstances beyond our control,” or “Due to inclement weather,” is also incorrect. The difference is subtle but distinct.

“More than” versus “over” – “More than” refers to a countable number of something. For example, “There are more than 30 children in the class.” McDonald’s should claim “More than 100 billion hamburgers sold” not “Over 100 billion.” “Over” pertains to spatial amounts or volumes. For example, “Over a gallon of water was in the jug.”

“United States” versus “U.S.”  “United States” should always be spelled out or pronounced, except when used as an adjective. When used as a noun, it is always “the United States,” not “the U.S.” The abbreviation is used only when preceding a noun, such as “U.S. residents,” U.S. Secretary of State,” or “U.S. exports.”  “I live in the U.S.” is incorrect. And when we are writing within the United States, periods are used. This differs from how it is done outside our borders, where United States is abbreviated US.

If you’d like to share your own tricks for remembering the rules, or if your stylebook differs, or if you have ideas for future grab bags, the door is always open. 

Otherwise, class dismissed. Thanks for being here.


Filed under All Things Wordish

11 responses to “Grammar grab bag

  1. Sheree Moyer

    Due to/Because of ???
    Due to inclement weather, schools are closed . Right?? Wrong?? Heck with it, I am skipping school today 🙂

  2. Janet

    Thank you! I love this. Now if I can only remember the differences.

  3. Jo

    Dear grammar mother,
    Recently got into a push-pull on an editing job over “more importantly” vs “more important.” Speak!

  4. Deirdre

    “Imply” vs. “Infer”- I have not heard those confused. I must not be listening.
    “Due to” vs. “Because”- I think you have too much time on your hands.
    “More than” vs. “Over”- Thank you. That one always annoys me.
    “United States” vs. “U.S.” – I’ll try not to make that mistake.

  5. Gillian

    Why not capitalize the article in “the United States”?

    • I’ve done a little checking and it appears as though “the” isn’t capitalized except, of course, at the beginning of a sentence. I might be wrong but I think “the” is not part of the country name, even though we often insert the article. It’s the “United States of America” or the “United States.” I do know in county listings in international matters such as trade and diplomacy, there is no “the.”

  6. Dear my new found grammar friend,

    I love this post. Please, can you enlighten me on the difference between “affect” and “effect” – I repeatedly find myself in this sticky situation.

    I appreciate your guidance!


    • Hi Ashley, I had a chance to visit your blog and like it very much. As a chronic list-maker, I really enjoyed today’s post. Affect/effect – I think of it this way. Affect is a verb, meaning to have an effect on, or have an impact on something. Effect is a noun, essentially meaning impact, as in, that song as an effect on me. Effect can also be a verb, meaning to bring about, as in to effect change. So affect, verb; effect, noun, except when meant to bring about. Does that make sense?

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