Usage and Grammar

Q. Which one is correct: “alright” or “all right”?

Q. I find that some of my writers start a sentence with the word “Because,” and I am tempted to change it to “Since.” For example, one writes “Because the object is selected, it changes as you move the slider.”

I would prefer to have them use the word “Since”: “Since the object is selected, it changes as you move the slider.”

But, I am not sure of the correct usage  . . . I am only going on gut instinct.

Q. Hello: I am working on writing and editing thank-you letters to faculty and staff participants in a curriculum session for third-year medical students. Should I treat “data” as a singular or a plural noun? I have been looking for a definitive answer to this question in online style manuals and grammar guides. If its answer is already in the CMOS and you could refer me to the appropriate part of the website where this information is posted, that would be excellent.

Q. Several times lately I’ve written or revised copy to change the word in the prepositional phrase following “kinds of” or “types of” to the singular from the plural—from “what kinds of cats?” “three types of errors” to “what kinds of cat,” “three types of error.” And several times a client has treated the resulting phrase like an error. I haven’t found the answer to this usage question in CMOS. What do you think?

Q. I’ve gotten into an argument online with a person who said that The Chicago Manual of Style states that it is okay to use the word, “alot.” I find this hard to believe because, “alot” is not a word, but I was unable to confirm or deny this on your site. Furthermore, he seems to think that all spelling rules are flexible and a matter of personal style, and he again uses The Chicago Manual of Style to back his position up. Could you shed some insight onto this situation?

Q. I’m a bond lawyer, which means that I regularly draft documents that refer to the debt service on bonds. That includes the principal of the bonds, the redemption premium, if any, on the bonds, and the interest on the bonds. Note that the prepositions attached to these categories of debt service differ: Principal “of,” but premium and interest “on.” My problem is that a common—and old—way of describing the debt service on bonds is, “the principal of, redemption premium, if any, and interest on the bonds.” Because the phrase refers to two classes (i.e., terms that take the preposition “of” and terms that take the preposition “on”) as well as two items within one of those classes (i.e., redemption premium and interest), shouldn’t there be TWO conjunctions (i.e., “the principal of, AND redemption premium, if any, AND interest on the bonds”)? Some drafters use the construction that I have suggested is correct, but many others, citing tradition, use the single-conjunction form. Which is correct?

I realize that this could be considered arcane, but the phrase is used constantly in our documents and is therefore a constant source of annoyance to me. We lawyers need more help than most in matters of style, so you would be doing a great service by answering this query.

Q. We have a disagreement in my office as to the usage of “this” as a pronoun. “The cooling holes were originally defined using two points. This was later revised to a start point and compound angles.” My coworker thinks that I need to add “definition” after “this.” While I agree it is a good idea in many cases to eliminate ambiguity, I don’t think it is required in this case. Is he right?

Q. If I’m in the United States and I’m quoting a person in Canada, do I say he is from “city, county,” or “city, Canada?”

Q. What’s the preferred way to use the word “however” when it compares two sentences? I was edited consistently by one editor to move it to the front of the sentence. In the following example, is it better for “however” to start the second sentence, or is it fine as is? Example: Some have used the commandment translated in the King James Version of the Bible “Thou shalt not kill” as a prohibition of capital punishment. The commandment, however, refers to murder and is accurately translated “You shall not murder” in modern translations.

Q. Is it improper to say in a title, “Women Police: Portraits of Success”? My publisher says that it’s grammatically incorrect and that it should read “Female Police Officers: Portraits of Success” instead. I see “women police” in print everywhere, and there’s even a journal titled “Women Police.” I thought usage dictated rules of grammar, not the other way around. Your help, please.