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"For all their bluster about bombing the Islamic State into oblivion, neither Donald J. Trump nor Senator Ted Cruz of Texas have demonstrated anywhere near the appetite for military engagement abroad that Clinton has." Mark Landler New York Times Magazine April 21, 2016.

I'm sure all my students have spotted the error already. You have a neither/nor construction involving two repellent subjects (repellent, here, is not a grammatical term). Since you are telling your reader that neither ONE nor the OTHER is demonstrating an appetite, the sentence takes a singular verb. Thus, neither Trump nor Cruz HAS (not HAVE) demonstrated said appetite. That The New York Times let this one get by merely proves that the days of a raft of other people copyediting a reporter's work before it sees print are long gone. Now you have to hope that the reporter has a pretty good working knowledge of the English language before he or she submits a piece for publication. Mark Landler, above, missed this mistake. It was corrected by the next day, probably after some language maven wrote in about it!

Sometimes there is no point in arguing. When I use the phrase "all right", I always spell it "all right"--and I never spell it "alright". This topic comes up each year when my students and I discuss the concerns raised by lexicologist Benjamin Dreyer in his bestselling book Dreyer's English. But "alright" is so ubiquitous that I almost never see "all right" anymore. Because I am in my dotage and because years of rock and roll have destroyed my eardrums, I avail myself of the closed captions when I am watching anything on television. Because "alright" is such a frequently used response to a question, it comes up a lot on my screen. It is always spelled as a single word "alright".

Grammarly weighs in on the subject as follows:

Is there a difference between “all right” and “alright”?

There’s no significant difference between the meaning of “all right” and “alright.” However, since “alright” is still a relatively new form—albeit one gaining in popularity—it’s not always accepted in formal writing. For example, in academic-university research papers, the traditional two-word version “all right” might be more acceptable to your professor. Similarly, your manager might expect to see the spelling “all right” in a formal work report.

But Grammarly also argues that both forms are technically correct, even though it states above that "alright" might not be accepted in some quarters. is a little more determinative. It states:

The form alright is a one-word spelling of the phrase all right that made its first appearance in the 1880s. Alright is commonly used in written dialogue and informal writing, but all right is the only acceptable form in edited writing. Basically, it is not all right to use alright in standard English.

So "all right" is the only acceptable form to be in compliance with Standard Written English. Therefore, when my students ask my advice on a creative piece (let's say a story or screenplay), I will never even question the use of "alright". But on a homework assignment or an AP essay--"all right" is mandatory!

Speaking of which, how does one pronounce the "Vs." shown in the graphic up top? For most of my life, it was pronounced only one way--"ver'-sus"--two syllables, with the stress on the first syllable. But in recent years, I have heard many sports reporters and athletes say something like "It is us vers them" or "It's Ranney vers Wardlaw-Hartridge" or even more mind-numbing would be a locution like "We're versing Wardlaw on Friday night!"

This smacks of laziness to me and nothing more. It is a huge pet peeve of mine, and I'm sure there will be no point when the use of "vers" as a verb will seem acceptable to me. My research shows that the change began sometime in the 90s or a little earlier, probably generated by gamers, and the misuse of the word has grown like kudzu since then. A very fine baseball reporter in New York said "vers" when being interviewed one day, and I immediately sat down and wrote him a letter to resist the desire to talk like his kids and adhere to the commonsense rules of the English language.

An entry in Language Log reads as follows:

To verse: High school slang meaning to compete against another school's team, as in "We're going to be versing the Brown Bombers next week." From the preposition "versus."

The key phrase above is "high school slang"--meaning that any serious writing or speech should never see it used.


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