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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I used to think I was a great writer.

Of course, that was back in eighth grade, before I had any serious education or formal training in the craft. Back then, all it took to be a great writer (in my mind, at least) was a great vocabulary and a desire to cram big words into small thoughts.

Ahh, it was a simpler time. You can imagine my surprise when I received feedback in my first serious writing class.

I saw red. Lots of red.

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Regardless of your political opinion, it’s safe to say 2017 has already been a year worth remembering. A controversial wave started rolling in last year, and the American people are surfing its surface around the web in all different directions.

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We’ve all had those insightful moments where a brilliant thought or idea rushes through our mind. It’s this time that we run to grab our pencil and paper and quickly jot down our fleeting thought. Did you ever feel like your brilliant idea became a complete flop once you put it into words? Sometimes it’s not our actual ideas that need tweaking, but rather the language we use to describe them.

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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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My new husband is a long-time Ayn Rand fan and has belonged to their Objectivist group for decades. I went to a meeting or two. There were some very nice, seemingly intelligent people there, yet I remained skeptical about some of their beliefs about altruism and their extreme anti-religion stance, among others. So, I thought, “I should re-read The Fountainhead.” I hadn’t read it since my pre-Master of Fine Arts (MFA)  in Creative Writing degree. I remember, though, that I had some trouble slogging through the book, and although the characters were sort of interesting, I had been left with the impression that it was not a particularly pleasurable piece of writing. So, in order to further my fine connection with my new sweetheart, I decided I should try again.

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Now, I know what you’re thinking.

How much did Trader Joe’s pay him to write this?

Don’t worry—the advertisers haven’t bought me yet. This has nothing to do with advertising and everything to do with me stumbling across a great example of copywriting done right.

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Welcome to the first Language Ninja article of what is sure to be a blazing hot summer!

Ninja’s beat the heat tip: Switch out your heat-absorbing black shinobi shōzoku for a light-reflecting bodysuit made of mirrors. She’s pretty sure you can find one on Etsy.

Now that the practical advice is out of the way, let’s get started on the questions!

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