Usage and Grammar

Q. I usually put a comma in the opening salutation of an email—“Hi, Megan”—and this always pleases Megan, a journalist, who believes email salutations should follow the rules of dialogue punctuation. But when I write to Ruth, a physical therapist, I revert to “Hi Ruth,” honoring Ruth’s opinion that a comma after “Hi” in an email looks nerdy. Are Megan and I correct? Is Ruth on to something? Valuing my friendship with each, should I continue to respect the opinions of both?

Q. We are editing a book on global climate change to be published in the United States. What is the convention regarding using metric terms in US books? Should the US equivalents appear along with the metric? Or should all measures be converted to US? If we do convert, should we spell out the English measures?

Q. For more than two decades I have taught and insisted that editors view “on the one hand” as joining with “on the other hand.” Both should be present and what follows each should be parallel. CMOS does not acknowledge that need. In fact, the book constantly uses “on the other hand” without “on the one hand.” How can you have an “other” without the “one”?

Q. I’m troubled by the growing use of syntax such as “The writer William Styron lived in Paris.” My suggestion is that Mr. Styron was likely to have had many roles in life but that the sentence structure indicates him to have been only a writer. This first became noticeable in the New York Times and later in the New Yorker and now elsewhere. I would be comfortable with “William Styron, the writer, went shopping.” To my eyes, that is less restrictive in his lifestyle because, for example, we know that whatever he did, he also shopped.

Q. What is an acceptable way to refer to myself in a Chicago-style paper? I have always been told not to use “I”: “I disagree with Dr. Fream’s conclusion.” In the past I have been told that I should refer to myself as “this author”: “This author disagrees with Dr. Fream’s conclusion.” An English-teacher friend of mine, in checking one of my papers, stated that she believes the use of “this author” is in error.

Q. An author has insisted on placing a “sic” after quoting authors who use “him” or “himself” to refer in general to persons rather than using gender-inclusive language. We think this is a bit pretentious and that the quoted material should stand on its own. Do the wise editors have any advice?

Q. I have learnt that it is wrong to make adjectives out of verbs. Please advise if “increased” is used correctly in the following sentence: Increased competition from international players interested in India is a key downside risk. I refer to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.

Q. How do you handle words that do not appear in the dictionary? Are they considered wrong? Within my documentation the writer uses the word “Typomatic.” This means when you are in our software and start typing a word, the word appears in the field as you type the word. In Merriam-Webster this word does not appear.

Q. OK, this may be silly, but is there a hard and fast rule about verb agreement when the subject and verb are split by an additional subject that is offset by parentheses or em dashes? My thought is that this “extra” subject should be ignored, but I’m guessing, and I can’t find a clear answer. Example: The evolution (and inspiration) is just beginning. Or should it be, The evolution (and inspiration) are just beginning? I feel like the absolutely correct version is the former, not the latter. As always, thanks for your expert recommendation!

Q. Recently my wife corrected my grammar several times in one day, in front of her family, which led me to seek an opportunity to publicly correct her. I contended that she should have said “high quality” instead of simply “quality.” She insisted that I was wrong, and I fear that I may indeed be wrong, but I would like your insight on the off chance that I might be right.