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The Write Stuff: Adjective Comparisons

Adjectives allow us to show levels of comparison—positive, comparative, superlative—in people and objects. Examples include tall, taller, tallest, and popular, more popular, most popular.

But comparisons can trip us up. When do we add  –er or –est? And when do we go with more or most? For instance, should we write fairer or more fair for the comparative? Should we say fairest or most fair for the superlative?

If the adjective has just one syllable, add –er or –est. For example, fair becomes fairer and fairest. Big becomes bigger and biggest.

Many words with two syllables also add –er and –est, but not all. When in doubt, consult a good dictionary. Examples of two syllable words include happy, happier and happiest, and eager, more eager and most eager.

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The Write Stuff: Multiple Ownership

Recently, a writer asked about the correct use of an apostrophe to indicate multiple ownership of an item or more than one item.

The solution is fairly straightforward.  For example, if two people own one item, say a townhouse, write “Maria and Jack’s townhouse.”  If two people own two items, like coats tossed on the floor, write “Alice’s and Juan’s coats.”

The Write Stuff: Overworked Adverbs

As writers, we love words, so we tend to use lots of them.  But wordy writing makes for slow reading.  One way to pick up the pace is to delete the adverbs very, quite, and really.

You can use Word (or the word processing software of your choice) to search for and delete all instances of those overworked words. You and your readers will never miss them.