Monthly Archives: July 2012

Numbers and dates!

Today’s tip concerns the use of numbers and dates in text.  For numbers, spell out numbers zero through nine in text, except when listing a series of like objects (Garner, Modern American Usage 560), e.g.:

  • The Ducks recruited players from nine states:  12 from Oregon, 10 from California, 8 from Washington, 6 from Idaho, 2 from Montana, 1 from Utah, 1 from Florida, and 1 from Alaska.

All numbers after nine are expressed as numerals, except when they begin a sentence, e.g.:

  • The New York Yankees have won 27 championships.
  • Fourteen teams play in the American League.

NOTE:  This rule can be recited this way:  “If it’s a one-digit number, make it a word.”

All ordinal numbers (i.e., numbers that measure position) are spelled out when used in narrative, e.g.:

  • The Red Sox’s sixth championship was memorable.
  • I chased my cat Vincent off the sofa for the one hundredth time.

NOTE:  (1) Ordinal numbers consisting of more than one word are hyphenated if the corresponding cardinal number is hyphenated, e.g., “seven hundred and twelfth” is not hyphenated, because “seven hundred and twelve” is not hyphenated, but “eighty-second” is hyphenated, because “eighty-two” is hyphenated.  (2) Ordinal numbers are expressed numerically to identify reports and courts in citations, e.g., Boston v. Cream Pie, 283 F.3d 1 (9th Cir. 1999).

For dates, three-part dates are set off in text with a comma between the day and the year and, generally, a comma after the year, e.g.:

  •  Epson appeals from the June 15, 2006, order.

When indicating an inclusive period of time, omit the comma after the first year, e.g.:

  • Gates sold Microsoft stock from June 7, 2003 to December 11, 2004.

When referring to a date by month and day, do not use endings with the day, e.g.:

  • Judge Wilson ruled at the March 23 hearing . . . (Not “March 23rd”)

When indicating time by month and year only, there is no comma before or after the year, unless the sentence structure requires a comma after the year, e.g.:

  • Seven lawyers attended the November 2006 deposition in Wyoming.
  • Everyone was relieved that the trial, which was set for February 2008, was not postponed.

When indicating a period of several years, use “to” or “through,” not a hyphen, e.g.:

  • Sandra Day O’Connor was a Supreme Court Justice from 1981 to 2006.

And finally, an indication of a decade does not take an apostrophe, e.g.:

  • The 1920s.

That is all for now …

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Who do you love (or is it, “whom”)?

This week we discuss the pronouns “who” and “whom.”  We use the pronoun “who” when referring to the subject of a sentence (i.e., the person doing something), and the pronoun “whom” when referring to the object of a sentence (i.e., the person having something done to him).  Sound complicated?  It isn’t—and later I’ll give you a nifty trick that will help you use the words correctly, easily, and with confidence.

But first, let’s consider this television scene in which Agent Maxwell Smart doesn’t seem to understand the difference between “who” and “whom”:

Agent Smart:  OK 99, I think we can start with the interrogation now.

Agent 99:  Check 86!

Agent Smart:  OK [suspected KAOS agent] Ratchett, start talking!

Agent 99:  Who pays you?

Agent Smart:  Who do you report to?

Agent 99:  (Whispering.)  Whom.

Agent Smart:  Whom?

Ratchett:  Look, I’ll tell you everything!

Agent Smart:  Just a minute Ratchett.  (To 99.)  Are you sure it’s whom, 99?

Agent 99:  Yeah, I think so because, um, whom is the objective, you see, in view of a preposition.

Ratchett:  (Impatient.)  I would like to make a statement.

Agent Smart:  Who do you report to?  (Facing the other direction.)  Whom do you report to?

Ratchett:  (Exasperated.)  It’s “whom.”

So, should Agent Smart have used “who” or “whom”?  Remember, we use “whom” when referring to the object of a sentence—but we use “who” when referring to the subject of a sentence.  Confused?  Here is the nifty trick:  if you are uncertain which pronoun is correct, ask yourself if the answer to your question is “he” or “him.”  (Or, alternatively, “she” or “her.”)  If “he” is the answer, then “who” is correct.  If “him” is the answer, then “whom” is correct.  Here are some examples:

  • Who/whom pays you?  Answer:  Since “He pays me” is the right answer, “who” is correct.
  • Who/whom do you love?  Answer:  Since “I love him” is the correct answer, “whom” is correct (with all apologies to Bo Diddley, who sang “Who Do You Love” in the 1950s).
  • Who/whom is the best writer?  Answer:  Since “He is the best writer” is the correct answer, “who” is correct.
  • Who/whom do you report to?  Answer:  Since “I report to him” is the correct answer, “whom” is correct.

See, it’s easy.  Now, whom do you love?


Filed under Troublesome Words