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Laura Erickson


Allison M. Dickson

First time at this blog, and I will make it a regular stop. Very well said! As a writer/editor, I seem to find a lot of people who either hold me to standards much higher than they hold themselves or they think I'm watching every single little word they utter aloud or write on Facebook, blogs, or emails, waiting to strike at the first use of "alright." Never mind that the former instance is hypocritical and the latter would make me look like a pretentious jerkoff.

I just want people to relax. Fashion models aren't always runway-ready, and writers and editors aren't always going to be in their grammatical Sunday best when conversing casually. The difference is, when we need to be, we are.

Mary Schneider

AMEN indeed! If I spoke as formally as I need to write for some nonfiction markets, my husband would cock his head to one side and ask "You feelin' ok?"

My family... we won't even go there. Let's just say the next reunion might be my last.

Rejoicing in the day,


This is why I never fail to read your blog.


I have discussed with other writers many times: it is not about being right or wrong. Sometimes sentences seem to flow with a little room for stylistic personality.


You've added another new fan here! I'm constantly fighting to distinguish "proper English" from formal vs informal writing.

Now if only I could teach that to my 6th grader I'd be all set.

Christine Hollinger

Yes, yes, yes! Apart from my "day job" as a writer/editor, I have a personal blog, and frankly, it's FUN to simply write informally to convey thoughts or humor. It's not dumbing down; it's lightening up!

Richard Salvucci

The college teacher-writer is the bane of my existence. Never use first person. Never this. Never that. Now my students are not only illiterate. They are just plan boring, too

Steve Hall

You make an excellent point, Carol, and one I completely overlooked in my initial comment on the earlier article. I wasn't really trying to make a distinction between "formal" and "informal" (or less-formal) writing: I actually thought the use of "me" instead of "I" was incorrect.

As I followed up, though (with CMOS), I came to understand that I'd just tripped over something that was (not-quite-literally) beaten into me many decades ago—those rules that aren't really "rules."

As for "dumbing down"—glad that wasn't my comment, because I didn't think then (or now) that you were in any way simplifying the language.

If anyone's guilty of maintaining an informal tone in his writing, I'm that guy! Thus, I'm all for informality. If that's "dumbing down," well then, I guess I'll just keep on keepin' on. And I sincerely hope you do, as well!

Marie Burke

Go gal!

Charles Butcher

Nicely put. As a writer of marketing gumph as well as an editor, I find the pressure to write in a formal style most painful when company executives are quoted in press releases.

A quotation that starts life sounding like a real person can end up as robot-speak by the time it's been through several layers of management revisions.

As a Brit, I recognise that American English has a long and wonderful tradition of straight talking -- yet the worst examples of robotic press releases seem to be from the US. A big-company combination of political correctness, lack of sense of humour, and too many lawyers?

Angela Walters

I agree, completely.

Michelle Hutchinson

Perhaps the sentence would sound less formal if the verb "am" were inserted after "I," thus having the sentence read, “As for pesky punctuation with quotation marks, parentheses, and brackets, ask the editors at the Q&A—they are smarter than I am.”

Similarly, your later sentence could be written as, "She is a more careful researcher than he is," instead of "She is a more careful researcher than he."


I always taught my TOEFL students that the issue about the pronoun after a comparison is an issue of controversy among grammar nerds, so the best course of action is to take Michelle Hutchinson's advice above and use "than I am" or "than he is" if they use it on a test.

I have never heard anyone use the subject pronoun alone after a comparison outside of the context of consciously attempting an air of formality or correcting another person who used the object pronoun.


Thank you! I was reading those comments on your last post and couldn't help rolling my eyes at some of them.

Jane Steen

"Smarter than I" sounds pretentious and pedantic. In blogging (which is a form of casual writing) we should write the way we speak.

And in answer to all those people who are sighing over "blogs where the so-called writer doesn't even proofread, and then they think they can call themselves writers" and so on, JUST DON'T READ THEM. Don't make me no nevermind.


You go, girl! And please do continue to go on about these issues!

Tammi Kibler

So many good points here. I discussed the topic of pointing out other writers' mistakes in my latest blog post. Before we critique others, we need to consider the context of the conversation, the target audience and the tone that will engage them, and finally our own motives in pointing out others' flaws. And then, as one of my readers pointed out, we still need to be certain we know the rule and all its exceptions.

Thanks for explaining the "than" issue because it has bothered me for some time and now I feel I understand formal and informal usage fully.


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