Usage and Grammar

Q. When should the written version of a number not be followed by that number in parentheses?

Q. I am writing a nonfiction text in which I refer to the title of a novel written by a character in a novel. The fictitious title happens to be the same as the actual novel’s title. Throughout my nonfiction text I have been italicizing actual book titles. What do I do with the fictitious title? Do I put it in quotes or do I italicize it? Many thanks!

Q. When writing a document (or preparing a PowerPoint presentation), should “e.g.” be spelled out as “for example,” or is leaving it as an abbreviation OK?

Q. I write for an engineering training company. My boss returned from a standards meeting where the members decided that conditional sentences beginning with “when” (e.g., “When the diameter symbol is placed next to a dimension . . .”) are incorrect and should be changed to “where” throughout the standard and our textbooks. I contend that examples like these refer to “if or when” conditions, not place. It’s tantamount to saying, “Where you are in Paris, you must obey the rules.” Is there a rule that covers the correct usage of “where” versus “when”?

Q. I keep encountering authors who insist on using the word “Yay!” It isn’t in the dictionary. What is the best substitute word, besides “Yes!”?

Q. I was recently confronted with the question a versus an. We used a; he insisted it should be an. In the 15th edition, in section 15.9, it shows that “when an abbreviation follows an indefinite article, the choice of a or an is determined by the way the abbreviation would be read aloud.” In the examples used, it shows “an NBA coach.” Why would you not use a there? “An National Basketball Association coach” doesn’t seem correct to me.

Q. Can we now use the pronoun “who” in reference to animals and things? If so, is this black and white or are there guidelines to follow? Surely, we cannot say, “The vase who was given to me by May,” right? In the 15th edition, the rule was clear: “Who refers only to a person.” However, in the 16th edition, it is now rephrased: “Who . . . normally refers to a person.” We checked Merriam-Webster as well, and true enough, they also said that “who” can be used in reference to animals and things.

Q. Does the phrase “all caps” take a singular or plural verb? Is it “All caps aren’t legible” or “All caps isn’t legible”? Does the result change if the phrase is written as “all capital letters” as in “All capital letters aren’t legible” versus “All capital letters isn’t legible”? I realize that the best solution may be to reword the sentence, but I’m also wondering whether you view the phrase as singular or plural.

Q. I am editing online assessment for K–12. Writers keep using “Click OK when you’re done.” It doesn’t sound grammatically correct, but I can’t find any rule to the contrary. I’ve been changing it to “when you finish.” However, writers persist in using “when you’re done.” Is this grammatically correct?

Q. I recently edited a brochure that explained services that are friendly to both individuals and families. There was some debate as to whether the services should be described as “individual-/family-friendly” or as “individual/family-friendly.” Which construction makes more sense?