The Grammar Factor – Mother’s Day, break in or break-in, plural of status

May, 2012

Apostrophe online program

To celebrate the launch of my new online apostrophe program, I am offering a discount with a promo code (owt010dbi) until the end of June.

Normally, $19.95 GST incl, the program with the promo code is $9.95 GST incl. (The discount appears on the PayPal page.)

Why not give this promo code to anyone you think needs help with apostrophes? (I can think of a couple of people who need this program!)

The program has six modules accompanied by six different activity types. For more information, visit

Readers’ questions

Mother’s Day

Question: Why is the apostrophe after Mother in Mother’s Day?

Answer: The US woman who campaigned for the introduction of Mother’s Day wanted each family to remember their own mother rather than mothers generally. Read an interesting article about this woman at

Break in or break-in

Question: Should it be break-in or break in in the following examples?

Following a recent spate of break-ins in the area…
You often suffer from sore feet when you break in a new pair of shoes.

Answer: I would hyphenate break-ins because it is a noun, but not hyphenate ‘break in a new pair of shoes’ because break in is a phrasal verb in this sentence.

Differences between US and Australian English

Question: What are the major differences between US and Australian English?

Answer: Spelling is the most obvious difference – organise/organize, centre/center, honour/honor.

There are also differences in punctuation: US writers tend to use more full stops in abbreviations (e.g. Dr.), the serial comma is more common and quotation marks are used differently in reported speech.

When asked what he thought of the new legislation, he said he thought it was ‘unrealistic and unworkable’. (Australian and New Zealand)
When asked what he thought of the new legislation, he said he thought it was ‘unrealistic and unworkable.’ (US)

If anyone has anything to add on this topic, please email me:

Status or statuses

Question: What is the plural of status?

Answer: The plural of status can be either statuses or status depending on the context.

The migrants checked their immigration statuses.
The new immigration laws changed their status.

Articles of interest

Do you use emails and text messaging instead of having a conversation? Read an article by John McDermott in FT Magazine on how to have a conversation at

‘Ordinary English’
A US court judge demanded documents in a case between Apple Inc. v. Motorola Inc., Civil Action No. 11-8540 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 10, 2012) be in ‘ordinary English’.

More information about like and as

Thanks for your comments about like and as – a reader sent the following link on this subject:

Readers’ pet peeve

Using like as sentence interrupters:
‘He was, like, really late.’
‘And he went like, you know, and I went like, oh really!’

Word of the month

Hopefully, the debate about hopefully has passed you by and you may well wonder what the fuss is about! Traditionally, the accepted meaning for hopefully was ‘in a hopeful manner’, but over time people have used it, as I did in the first sentence, to mean ‘it is hoped’. Now the Associated Press Stylebook has accepted this usage, causing a debate about language.

Read an amusing article on the decline of writing standards at:

Quote of the month

‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.’
Stephen King

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