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Serial Commas and Postal Abbreviations Make Sunshine Together

Heigh-ho! It's another newsletter from "A Way with Words," and we've got treats. Climb into our van!

There are two minicasts for you, for one thing. What’s the deal with using the two-letter postal code abbreviations for states, instead of the longer, more formal abbreviations? That is, why write IN for Indiana instead of good old Ind.?


Are serial commas always necessary? An English teacher says she was surprised to learn that she and her husband, who’s also an English teacher, are giving their students conflicting advice.


For another thing, we have a couple of encore episodes you might have missed.

Is it proper to say "going golfing"? What's the story on "roger" and "wilco"? Is there a good rule for "lie" vs. "lay"? And much more, including similes and a word puzzle.


Why do people say "Polly wanna cracker?" when they're talking to parrots? Is it okay to end a sentence with a preposition? And more, including "toward" vs. "towards," riddles, cursing with punctuation, and what to call that mixture of snow and dirt that collects in the wheel wells of cars.


We've been posting a lot of interesting language news to the discussion forums and to our Twitter account, so if you want to keep up with the latest, always try there:



A small sampling:

Michael Lopp of the ‘Rands in Repose’ blog offers an insider’s perspective on trendy (but sometimes misused) jargon in the the technology world. Complaints about jargon are not rare, but usually they’re outsiders complaining about the language of a group they don’t belong to, so Michael’s thoughts as an insider carry more weight. Plus, he’s a great writer who understands how people work well together, or don’t.


A study in the journal NeuroReport finds that using socially unacceptable "swear words" has physical effects that enable the swearer to tolerate pain better.


Cherokee decide on equivalent words for "helicopter," "purse," and more.


The world's biggest thesaurus is born:


For all the talk about declining literacy, we're writing more than we were a generation ago.


Best wishes,

Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett

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