Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.


Dear Richard Lederer: I bought a T-shirt from the Mill Dog Rescue, for which I foster. Emblazoned on the front is the statement “It was us who let the dogs out.” My daughter and I agree that the grammar is wrong because the us doesn’t feel right. However, I don’t know how to correct it and still keep the humor. “It was we who let the dogs out” seems to me to miss the mark. How would you fix it? -Terry Peterson

Puristically the us should be we because the pronoun is the subject of the verb was. But there are times when poetry trumps grammatical purism, especially regarding pronouns. The following examples are grammatically accurate but communication calamities:

• 2-4-6-8! Whom do we appreciate?
• Toys R We.
• We have met the enemy, and he is we. (Walt Kelly)
• I gotta be I. (Sammy Davis, Jr.)

Terry: Your T-shirt avoids such a disaster, so I wouldn’t fix the statement at all.

Dear Richard Lederer: I had two really good grammar teachers in high school and college. We were taught that a gerund should have a possessive pronoun preceding it, but it seems that that rule has gone the way of a lot of proper grammar. (“I hit the ball good today,” etc., etc.) The following in the U-T is just one example of what I consider improper use of a pronoun case: “The irony of him having been elected ….” I would have written it “The irony of his having been elected ….” Am I just old-fashioned? Or is it just that no one knows anymore? -Kitty Willard

A gerund is an -ing form of a verb used as a noun, as in “I would never dream of cheating in solitaire.” You are not out of fashion, Kitty. The possessive forms of the personal pronouns — my, your, his, her, its, our and their — are used before gerunds when the gerund is the true object of the verb or preposition:

• My friends were surprised by my attending the Amazin’ Amazon Mud Wrestle-Off.
• My friends were surprised to see me cheering at the Amazin’ Amazon Mud Wrestle-Off.

Dear Richard Lederer: My husband and I would like you to settle a little dispute. You are dining at a restaurant and the server comes up to you and asks, “Are you done?” Is this really grammatically correct? I was always taught that done was associated with food, as in “the roast done” and the correct question should be “Are you finished?,” indicating, are you finished eating your meal? My husband says since the English language continually evolves, either is correct. I believe allowing inappropriate grammar simply encourages poor language skills. Your thoughts please? -Jeanne Iman

“Meat is done and everything else is finished” is a bogus rule. Either passive verb is acceptable, and done is vastly preferred in the U.S., as in “a woman’s work is never done” and, showing up on your computer screen, “are you done using this program?”

Dear Richard Lederer: I belong to a writers’ group (word nerds) with some authors who have published various fictional works. We are having an ongoing friendly discussion about whether there is one or two spaces after the end punctuation of a sentence. I am firmly on the side of double-spacing after a sentence.

I have recently volunteered to edit some new books for my writing pals, in exchange for a cup of coffee and an autographed book. If there is only a single space after end punctuation, I want to adapt to that so I don’t run out of red ink when proofreading their work. -Anita Downing

While many of us were taught to type two spaces after the concluding punctuation of a sentence, most modern style guides recommend a single space following end-of-sentence periods, question marks and exclamation points, as well as internal commas, semicolons and colons. Almost all books, magazines and newspapers use that typography, and so should you, gentle readers, because, in the age of word processing, your text will look like set type, and the spaces needed after punctuation marks will be proportioned automatically. It’s not all that hard to break the double-space habit — and you won’t need hypnotism, medicated gum, a patch or vaping to do it.