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Old 04-05-2020, 11:49 AM
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Aethera's Grammar Corner

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Aethera's Grammatical Pet Peeves

I understand that not everyone knows English as a first language, and even those who do have had different levels of education or understanding related to grammar. (I hated grammar lessons in school.) I get it. I do. But when the errors are so simple, I can only take so much. This is a writing-focused site, so skimming this list of bad habits just to make sure you're not writing lazy pidgin English is a strong recommendation. On my grouchier days, I would make this a requirement for joining, but I'm not an Admin, and Birched is nicer than I am.

I challenge everyone on site to read through this list (even the not yet written categories) and be 100% sure they know exactly how to do each! I've also created a discussion thread for any chatting about this that may happen, please stick to grammar questions and comments here only.

Things that drive Aethera nuts:
✪ Lack of Proofreading!
An editor's list of common mistakes! (Thanks, Ytterbium.)
Apostrophe Use and Misuse
-?- Homophones (Words That Sound the Same)
-?- Subject/Verb Agreement and Tenses
-?- Proper Punctuation


Proofread! Proofread! Proofread!
Perhaps this seems a bit random for me to post in a grammar guide, but the number of people who do not proofread their posts seems to grow daily from my perspective. I know sometimes people are busy and just trying to sneak in enough time to get the words written, but it takes far less time to read through the words once before hitting submit than it did to write them. Proofreading will usually catch any number of typos, errors with verb tense (like writing in past tense and slipping in an 'is'), punctuation mark issues, and generally make it easier to read for your fellow players or anyone reading along with your game. Remember, our members have various levels of fluency in English. Some errors will confuse people far more than you may realize.

This has been a public service announcement from Aethera. Carry on.


Pet Peeve #1: Apostrophe Use and Misuse
The apostrophe (') is a wonderful character. We use it first to create contractions (I'm, doesn't, Ma'am) and second to show ownership (George's shoe, the students' work, the children's toys). Please note that you do not use an apostrophe to make a plural noun!

YesNo!
I'm (I am)I bought three CD's CDs.
she'll (she will)Open Friday's Fridays!
can't (cannot)No dog's dogs allowed.
we'd (we would or we had)Use apostrophe's apostrophes better.
Ma'am (Madam) 

Pronoun Rule and Contraction Confusion (It's/Its and Let's/Lets)
Another big issue with apostrophes is that pronouns don't need apostrophes. Those boots are his, this essay is hers, that pen is yours, and the muffins are theirs... no apostrophes required. That's also how you can quickly tell the difference between it's and its; just like other pronouns, "its surface" and "its length" don't require an apostrophe. By contrast, the contraction in "it's (it is) a nice day" is necessary. So remember the pronoun rule. It will help with some of these other issues, too. The other common word confusion is the difference between let's and lets; the contraction use of "let's (let us) get going" does need an apostrophe, but "Dirk lets his dogs out" is the correct present-tense form of the verb let (meaning to allow or permit).

So to summarize, you do use an apostrophe for contractions and ownership, you do not use one with plural nouns and pronouns. (The rare plural-with-apostrophe exceptions don't really apply to RPGX writing.) Because you were good and actually read this far, you get to see a more visual way to remember how to use apostrophes.

Correctly Forming Possessive NounsPossessive Nouns Done Correctly
Lower on my list of pet peeves is the fact that not everyone can create possessive nouns correctly. It's really simple. I did include a note about style in a tooltip (hover over the asterisks) with the singular possessives, if you want a longer explanation.

Word TypeWhat ChangesExamples
Word doesn't end in S
add 's
cat's tongue, enemy's plan, children's games, men's bathroom
(singular) Ends in S
add ' or 's (Both ' and 's are correct in [American] English and are entirely a stylistic choice by the writer or the industry for which the writer is writing (professional style guides have their own rules you should follow). Depending on the age of certain texts (such as religious texts), older norms may prevail. Other countries' English norms also vary, so use whichever is more normal for you. I like adding just the apostrophe, especially when you would say the word without the extra s sound. **)
Jess' shirt, the iris's petals, James' birthday, Texas's oil industry
(plural) Ends in S
add '
crickets' chirping, the Smiths' house, the parents' bedroom


coming soon: Homophones, Verb Agreement and Tenses, Punctuation, and more...

Check out the post by Ytterbium (editor) about common mistakes!
If you have suggestions for elaboration on any of the posted pet peeves, or suggestions for other things to cover when I get time to do so, feel free to post here or send me a PM. I have a list of things to add, but I'm happy to make sure I've covered everything!

I am considering a "things to avoid in posting" checklist, as well as a "tips for being understood by non-native speakers" section, but at present this will remain strictly a grammar how-to.
DisclaimerIn case there are any concerns, I (Aethera) am not a professional editor, but my grammar is as perfect as I can make it. As an author wannabe, if it's not, I lose opportunities. Feel free to explore my posts if you're curious. I am not infallible, but I double-check my answers before I post them and any errors will be rapidly corrected. I also drag others in to proofread, such as with this post. Thanks to all those who helped out!
~Aethera

Last edited by Aethera; 06-30-2020 at 11:09 AM.
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Old 04-29-2020, 10:05 AM
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Ask Lurkers in the Library: Q&A
I've linked the questions to the relevant post, but for the time being the answers are linked to the start of any discussion afterward, I haven't discovered a better way to link to multiple posts without quoting each and that gets messy and takes up a lot of space quickly. I am attempting to paraphrase the highlights of the answers, but let me know if any of these aren't as understandable as I may think.

Ytterbium gave us a great post about common errors with a number of punctuation errors and examples, conjunctions (and, but, etc.), hyphens in adjectives and adverbs, 'which' versus 'that', numerals and writing out small integers, and the difference between 'fewer' and 'less' as well as 'many' and 'much'. I'm not even going to try and paraphrase that here.

bananabadger offered a couple links to grammar books that "explore the concept of 'what you need to know' and 'why it is this way, go figure.'"

And as was decided in the discussion, while it may be useful to try and provide a guide to how to better use English grammar...
Quote:
Write clearly and have fun doing so. There's your style guide.
Dialogue
Q: When, if ever, does dialogue from the same speaker require a new paragraph?
A: It's rarely required, but it's often advisable. Paragraph breaks are for new ideas or to break up walls of text.

Punctuation
Q: Please include advice on commas! I already feel like I use a lot of them, and Grammarly is throwing in even more. If you read it out loud it just sounds like too many pauses to be healthy.
A: Lots of usage tips and examples.

Q: Ytterbium used a dash that is longer than a hyphen. Why? How?
A: There are three dashes used in English, none of which are traditionally used with spaces on either side despite some more modern leanings. The hyphen (-), the en dash (–), and the em dash (—), named for being the width of the 'n' and 'm' characters despite modern fonts messing with them somewhat. Hyphens are to hyphenate. En dashes are used with ranges of numbers (from 2003–2013) and sports scores fall into that category. Em dashes are a bit more complicated, but typically you would use them in place of other forms of punctuation, often to accent the part of the sentence in which it was used. The use of an em dash is less governed by absolute rules these days than it is by fluctuating style preferences—ones that often vary from region to region. Check these posts for examples of inserting clauses and emphasis.
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Old 05-01-2020, 06:18 PM
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Question's about Apostrophe's :D

I've always been a tad confused about apostrophes when it comes to using them to show ownership, combined with the word "its" (or perhaps "it's").

On one hand, apostrophes are used to show ownership.
ExampleThe square's sides are equal in length.

I'm pretty sure that's correct so far. However, when you replace "square" with the pronoun "it", I guess you could say I start getting confused. Here's how I would normally do that:
ExampleIt's sides are equal in length.

I feel like the pronoun has ownership of the sides, so the apostrophe should be there. Is this correct, or am I violating the rule of pronouns not requiring an apostrophe? Please help me, o great and wise Aethera!


By the way, love the cute kitty picture!

Thanks for taking the time to do this. I feel as if tons of people line up to criticize others' writing, but don't try to offer any help to fix the problem. It's very cool to see someone trying to help.

I don't know if you're looking for suggestions for future posts here or not, but just in case you are...
 
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Last edited by Crimson; 05-01-2020 at 06:19 PM.
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Old 05-01-2020, 07:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crimson 0M3N View Post
I've always been a tad confused about apostrophes when it comes to using them to show ownership, combined with the word "its" (or perhaps "it's").

On one hand, apostrophes are used to show ownership.
ExampleThe square's sides are equal in length.

I'm pretty sure that's correct so far. However, when you replace "square" with the pronoun "it", I guess you could say I start getting confused. Here's how I would normally do that:
ExampleIt's sides are equal in length.

I feel like the pronoun has ownership of the sides, so the apostrophe should be there. Is this correct, or am I violating the rule of pronouns not requiring an apostrophe? Please help me, o great and wise Aethera!
That's the thing with pronouns in English, though. Possessive pronouns just add "s". "Its" is no different than "his" or "hers" or "theirs". The base form generally adapts the "s" ending.

"It's" is a contraction of "it is". The apostrophe shows the removal of letters. Keeping the two separate is important.
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Old 05-02-2020, 09:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crimson 0M3N View Post
I've always been a tad confused about apostrophes when it comes to using them to show ownership, combined with the word "its" (or perhaps "it's").
[...]
I feel like the pronoun has ownership of the sides, so the apostrophe should be there. Is this correct, or am I violating the rule of pronouns not requiring an apostrophe? Please help me, o great and wise Aethera!


By the way, love the cute kitty picture!

Thanks for taking the time to do this. I feel as if tons of people line up to criticize others' writing, but don't try to offer any help to fix the problem. It's very cool to see someone trying to help.

I don't know if you're looking for suggestions for future posts here or not, but just in case you are...
 
Hi there, Crimson, thanks for asking! What Ziether said above is correct. The reason I referred to it as "the pronoun rule" is precisely because of the confusion you had there. If logic were how languages were formed, you'd be right... unfortunately, logic has very little to do with it. The contraction form of "it is" (it's) needs the apostrophe to show there's a letter missing. The pronoun rule says the possessive pronoun "its" doesn't need one. I hope that helps! If you think of the pronoun rule as a law not to be broken, it might be easier to tell the difference?

I am certainly hoping that I can help, rather than just criticize. We'll have to see how I do! I admit the cute kitty looking serious was the best way I could try and set the tone of the post, since as much as I'm telling people off for bad grammar, I do really want to help people improve theirs; I think a site so focused on writing like this will really benefit from anything I can do to help.

I am adding a note about specifically dealing with parentheses and quotation marks to my hidden to-do list. Punctuation is definitely on the list, but I'm glad you mentioned these because I wasn't thinking about either!
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Old 05-02-2020, 12:08 PM
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I'm the managing editor of a magazine that goes worldwide. Here are some grammar issues I see frequently, plus a bonus item at the end.


1. The Oxford Comma (A, B, and C).

The Oxford comma is the comma that goes before and in a list like the above example. Get in the habit of using it all the time (unless, as Auron3991 pointed out in the rawr thread, you have a list nested inside of your list—in that case, use semicolons: A; B, C, and D; and E).

I'm aware that the necessity of the Oxford Comma is a popular debate topic. The reason I prefer using it is that people who say they always use it rarely forget it, but everyone who says they don't use it still uses it half the time without thinking about it. I've been an editor since 2002, and I've only come across one person who never, ever used the Oxford comma. Everyone else is hit or miss, because it's not something people look for when proofing their own work.

The only thing that can overrule following the rules of good grammar perfectly is consistency (but don't consistently do things like mixing up it's and its). If you consistently never use the Oxford comma, this is acceptable. However, if you get into the habit of using it, you will find it's one less thing to worry about.


2. Punctuation marks that don't have "colon" in their name go inside quotation marks.

This sentence looks wrong but is correct:

Did you really say, "Let's murder all the halflings?"

Logically, it wants to be Did you really say, "Let's murder all the halflings."? but that isn't grammatically correct. English doesn't like long strings of punctuation marks—or letting them out of quotes.

Colons and semicolons are an exception and go outside quotes:

Mother Lorelai said, "Let's murder all the halflings"; this would prove to be a terrible idea.

Other possible exceptions are the en dash and em dash. There's probably an actual rule about this, but what will serve you well is to do what looks good (by which I mean easy to read and understand) in those rare instances when you need dashes and quotation marks together—and be consistent about it.

Also, this does not apply when using a quote mark to signify inches: At 6'6", Theo towered over most other humans.


3. If a quote goes for multiple paragraphs, each new paragraph gets an opening quotation mark, but only the last paragraph gets a closing one.

This probably isn't the best example, given the one-sentence paragraph in the middle (actually, upon a second look, they're all one-sentence paragraphs), but it gets the point across.

Quote:
"I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification – one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

"I have a dream today.

"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."
This rule applies to dialogue, too. If your character makes a paragraphs-long speech, do the above.


4. Save exclamation marks for essential emphasis, and then only use one.

Don't do this:

Mother Lorelai swung! And swung!! And swung!!! And finally, her sword pierced the halfling's thick skull!!!!!!!

Or this:

You want to murder all the halflings?!!!???!!!!?

Use periods unless the exclamation is necessary. An exclamation mark might be necessary for several sentences of dialogue in a row, and that's fine—but still don't use more than one exclamation mark at a time. One exclamation mark can easily do the work of three or four (or more!) if it isn't overused.

One question mark and one exclamation mark together is also acceptable in the right circumstances.

You want to murder all the halflings?!

Extra credit for turning them into an interrobang.

If, in dialogue, you're using bold text, the largest font size, all caps, and red letters, then—maybe—break the one-exclamation-point rule. But only then.


5. When to start sentences with conjunctions (and/but/or).

Do it less than I've done it in this post. It's fine as a once-in-a-while thing, especially during dialogue; some characters naturally speak like that. The "Mother Lorelai swung! And swung! And swung!" bit from above is too much and not dialogue—and therefore is poor grammar.


6. Hyphens, adjectives, and adverbs.

Hyphenate compound adjectives that appear before the noun: The potato-shaped halfling.

Do not hyphenate compound adjectives that appear after the noun: The halfling was potato shaped.

Do not hyphenate adverbs and adjectives: The weirdly earthy-smelling halfling was potato shaped.


7. Which and that.

When it's not being used as a questioning word or in matters of choice, which generally gets a comma in front of it and is used as part of an appositive, which is a descriptive bit of text set aside by commas. That does not.

The car, which I saw, was red.

The car that I saw was red.

The above sentences have different meanings and, if spoken, would have different words emphasized. When writing something similar, decide which meaning you want to convey and follow form accordingly.


8. Never start sentences with a numeral.

Three years ago... is correct.

3 years ago... is not.

If you want to write about how 35,845,024 years ago the halflings started their reign of terror, then you either write

Thirty-five million, eight hundred forty-five thousand, and twenty-four years ago, the halflings started their reign of terror.

or you find a different order of words that still gets your point across without having to spell all that out.


9. If a number is between zero and ten (including zero and ten), spell it out. Some people take this rule up to twelve.

As Admin Dirk pointed out, this only applies to whole numbers. Writing pi as 3.1415926... is fine, although you still shouldn't start a sentence with a numeral.

It also wouldn't apply to sports scores (Tampa Bay beat Kansas City 7-3), math problems (2+2=4), height (6'6"), and probably a few other instances I'm not thinking of right now that are unlikely to come up in a typical game post here.


10. Fewer and less.

You have fewer countable things. You have less of uncountable things.

Fewer halflings. Fewer players.

Less beer. Less glitter.

The dwarf drank fewer bottles of beerbeers, but the elf drank less the liquidbeer.

The same rules apply to many and much: Many halflings. Much chaos.


11. If you're a non-native speaker and struggling to get a point across, use Google Translate. Seriously.
  1. Type what you want to say in your native language.
  2. Translate that into English.
  3. Copy the English and translate it back to your native language.
  4. If it still makes sense in your native language after this, you're done. Use those words. If not, edit the wording in your native language and go through these steps again until it still makes sense after being translated to English and back. This most likely means simplifying the text. That's okay; never use a ten-dollar word when a five-cent one will work just as well.
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Last edited by Ytterbium; 05-16-2020 at 06:08 PM. Reason: Still finding mistakes. Proofreading is never done.
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Old 05-02-2020, 04:38 PM
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I have a dialogue related question. I'm not sure if it's preference-based, or if there is an actual rule for it.

When, if ever, does dialogue from the same speaker require a new paragraph?

For instance, is the below paragraph, containing a sentence or two between dialogue, okay?

Quote:
"Why are we watching the Great British Baking Show again," he asked, sinking into the couch. This was the third time this week his roommate had put it on. It was always the same! "Can't we watch something else?"
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Old 05-02-2020, 04:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nasrith View Post
I have a dialogue related question. I'm not sure if it's preference-based, or if there is an actual rule for it.

When, if ever, does dialogue from the same speaker require a new paragraph?

For instance, is the below paragraph, containing a sentence or two between dialogue, okay?

Quote"Why are we watching the Great British Baking Show again," he asked, sinking into the couch. This was the third time this week his roommate had put it on. It was always the same! "Can't we watch something else?"

I think your example is fine as is, and I would probably write this the exact same way. (However, you should replace the comma after again with a question mark. The following he can remain lower case, as dialogue mixed with narration the way you have it all counts as one sentence.)


Paragraph breaks are for new ideas:

"I like this show," responded his roommate. "Here are three things you've never noticed about it. . . . and that's why I'll always turn it on.

"Unrelated question, but which team ended up winning Only Connect? After the first round, that show's just too smart for me, but I know you watch it religiously. I'll always be more of an Eight out of Ten Cats Does Countdown person."


Alternatively, on here, as is true all over the internet, paragraph breaks are used to avoid the sorts of walls of text that DMs hate to read. I'm pretty wordy, especially with my dialogue, and I have been chastised before for paragraphs that need dividing. If you hit "Preview Post" and something looks really long, see if you can find a natural place to break that paragraph.
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Old 05-02-2020, 09:52 PM
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Thanks, guys. You all rock. Ytterbium answered questions for me that I didn't even know I had lol

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aethera View Post
...Punctuation is definitely on the list, but I'm glad you mentioned these because I wasn't thinking about either!
You can always count on me to add befuddlement to anything that should be crystal clear! Happy to be of service
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Old 05-02-2020, 11:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nasrith View Post
When, if ever, does dialogue from the same speaker require a new paragraph?
It's rarely required, but it's often advisable.

The general rule is that you start a new paragraph when your character finishes one train of thought and starts another. Think of it as someone delivering a speech IRL. They've talked a little on one particular topic, but now they're switching to a secondary topic. They pause to collect their thoughts, perhaps even take a sip of water, before proceeding. That is the dramatic effect that the paragraph break is supposed to achieve in fiction. (Note: I come from a background in amateur theatre, so my style is invariably 'dramatic', rather than 'literary'. In other words, when writing fiction I tend to think in terms of the dramatic effect that my choices will have on a reader.)

There is one other use of the paragraph break that I tend to use, and sometimes overuse - and that is to create emphasis. Even if there's no real break in your character's train of thought, you might put a single line of dialogue (or narration, for that matter) in its own paragraph.

The effect is to force readers to pay particular attention to that sentence.

Having said all this, I almost never split continuous dialogue in this fashion. If I want to break my dialogue up, I usually insert some action or thought bubble or other piece of narration at the beginning of the new paragraph. But that's just an issue of personal style.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crimson 0M3N View Post
By the way, love the cute kitty picture!
It's definitely the glasses. Who's an erudite kitty? Yes, you are!
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Old 05-03-2020, 03:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by telcontar View Post
The effect is to force readers to pay particular attention to that sentence.
I see what you did there
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Old 05-03-2020, 08:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nasrith View Post
I have a dialogue related question. I'm not sure if it's preference-based, or if there is an actual rule for it.

When, if ever, does dialogue from the same speaker require a new paragraph?

For instance, is the below paragraph, containing a sentence or two between dialogue, okay?
The only thing I would add is that it's definitely okay to keep going! (I'm pretty good about it, but jeez, in some of my posts the paragraphs are so wordy I probably should break them up more.) There's no need to put dialogue on its own line, and especially when you're writing both sides of dialogue, such as your PC talking to an NPC or familiar, keeping the paragraph breaks specifically to indicate change of speaker is important for reader comprehension unless it's very obvious, such as breaking paragraphs during longer monologues. (And a note on that... I would rather see a comment about the character pausing or realizing there is something else to add than one long monologue, but that's me.)
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Old 05-03-2020, 09:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ytterbium View Post
9. If a number is between zero and ten (including zero and ten), always spell it out. Some people take this rule up to twelve.
I think this rule tends to work for integers only, not all numbers.

"The value of pi is three point one four one five nine two six" seems a very odd sentence to write and read.

Why wouldn't we write "The value of pi is 3.1415926"?
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Old 05-03-2020, 10:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Admin Dirk View Post
I think this rule tends to work for integers only, not all numbers.

"The value of pi is three point one four one five nine two six" seems a very odd sentence to write and read.

Why wouldn't we write "The value of pi is 3.1415926"?
You're right. I'm going to edit my post to reflect that.
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Old 05-03-2020, 06:24 PM
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I was just reading your newly edited advice, and thinking "probably shouldn't apply to Roman numerals either".


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