In the 1964 movie My Fair Lady, excruciatingly British phonetics professor Henry Higgins worries about the fate of the English language. “In America,” he observes, “they haven’t used it for years.”

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“Huh?” you may ask yourself. “I kinda remember hearing those words in high school English class, but I have no idea what they mean,” you may answer.

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Have you ever been reading something and reached the end of a sentence, then had to start reading the sentence again because you forgot what it was about?  Do you think it was simply because it was a long sentence? Or were there other reasons?

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Q: What would you say are the most overused words from the past year? I nominate “pivot.”

Yes, the word “pivot” – a word that was previously only used in osteopathic and Jazz dance applications – has been tossed around quite brutally, particularly on cable news channels. The Ninja agrees that as an indication of a swift, smooth, and (ideally) imperceptible change in narrative, it is woefully inadequate.

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Perhaps your high school English teacher told you about style guides, but maybe you didn’t even come across them until college when your English Composition instructor informed you, “You must use MLA style or fail this course.”

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The Language Ninja explains the meanings of a newfangled millennial slang term.

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It’s a little tricky.

Many amateur writers use the word however incorrectly. The most common mistake—and we see it way too often—is using it as if it were a coordinating conjunction.

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Ahh, the music of language.

We’ve all heard the phrase before, but many of us haven’t given much thought to what it actually means. Is it how words sound? The “flow” of a sentence? Or something more?

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Q: If there’s a place in the linguistic world for the words “sexting”, “twerk”, and “totes”, why can’t we finally accept “ain’t”? It’s been in common usage for centuries. When will “ain’t” finally be recognized as a legitimate word?

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The grammar police nabbed me recently. A client whose academic paper I was editing objected to one of my corrections. He pointed out that in a sentence where the subject is in the form “Not only…but also,” the verb must agree with the noun in the “but also” part.

Example: “Not only language ninjas but also Rocky Mountain English professors know this rule” and “Not only the Language Ninja, but also the Rocky Mountain English Professor knows this rule” are correct, but “Not only language ninjas, but also the Rocky Mountain English Professor know this rule” is not.

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