Warring States Papers
Usage Suggestions

English Usage

Don't let's get carried away by small stuff. But here, for those who want company in indecision, are suggestions about some common English words or word patterns for which variant forms or practices exist. Nobody is in charge of the English language, and all we have as guidelines in difficult cases is an educated preference. We here share some of our own preferences, for consideration by contributors to the Project's journals.

On the whole we prefer single-l to double-l forms when no ambiguity results. We prefer to hyphenate rather than close up compounds whose elements are indistinct or misleading if run together, especially when the second element begins with a vowel (eg, reeducate). We prefer apostrophe-plus-s forms where the base word ends in a sibilant or is the name of a letter. We avoid periods after abbreviations, so as to reserve them for the ends of sentences; in the same spirit, we use the British-style raised period for the decimal point. We deplore the current rage for decapitalization: proper nouns (and their adjectives) have their uses. A few other negative thoughts are highlighted in red in the entries below.

For word division in romanized Chinese, see our Division page.

References to "CM14" have in view the Chicago Manual of Style, 14ed. We are in general sympathy with the judgements of Fowler's Modern English Usage (1926 and reprints), and authors citing Fowler in support will usually find that they have a winning argument.

To skip to a particular alphabetic entry in this list (except for the initial puctuation and numeral sections), use these shortcut links:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Punctuation and Spacing

Numerals

Letters and Words

Calligraphic Separator

These are some editorial preferences and default solutions. Reasoned departures from them are nearly always discussible.

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21 Mar 2014 / Contact The Project / Exit to Project Home Page