In standard usage, ‘daylight saving time’ wins out

The end of daylight saving time offers an opportunity for people prone to correcting to remind us the middle word is singular—”daylight saving time”—although in casual use, it’s just as often rendered plural.

The form “daylight savings time,” exists for no particular reason except for our predilection to pluralize “saving.” There is little harm in the variant form, and most good dictionaries record “savings” as an alternative.

“Savings” as a noun that describes what you have put away in the bank is plural. But your 20 percent Macy’s coupon represents a singular act of saving, and so there is little logic in writing “a savings of 20 percent.” Logic is not our only source of guidance in what constitutes standard English, though, and “a saving of 20 percent” has come to sound a bit odd. It is one of those constructions that authorities call proper despite the overwhelming tide of actual usage.

“The phrase ‘a savings’ occurs so frequently in modern usage that to label it an error would be futile,” concedes Bryan A. Garner in Garner’s Modern American Usage.

Style guides still cFall-Daylight-Saving-15-1200x1200all for “daylight saving time.” But the “savings” variant is everywhere, even in edited prose. A search of the Google Books’ American English corpus and English Fiction corpus show the plural form was rare until the 1970s but is now almost as common as the singular form.

In British English, “daylight saving time” is on par with the official “British Summer Time.”

The term “daylight saving” in connection with changing the clocks was introduced in the British Parliament in 1908 with the Daylight Saving Bill. The proposal was based on a 1907 pamphlet distributed by William Willett, “The Waste of Daylight.” Willett’s pamphlet did not use the term “daylight saving.” He proposed to move the clocks ahead 20 minutes each Sunday for four weeks starting in April. The idea was mocked, seriously considered, then abandoned.

Willett wasn’t the first with the idea. The invention is attributed to George Vernon Hudson, an English-born New Zealand entomologist who suggested it to the Wellington Philosophical Society in 1895. Some attribute the idea to Benjamin Franklin, who wrote a humorous essay about wasting daylight in 1784. But clock time was much less of an issue in the 18th century, and Franklin didn’t suggest adjusting clocks, simply ringing church bells or firing canons to wake people up at a decent time so they wouldn’t waste candle wax in the evenings.

Clocks were first changed in Germany for World War I, and that change was quickly adopted elsewhere. It was mostly abandoned after the war, then readopted for World War II. It wasn’t standardized in the United States until 1966, and we’ve fiddled with it since then.

It’s now daylight saving time for a longer period of the year than standard time, muddying the term “standard.” I often see times listed as “EST” during the summer months, but that’s only valid from the first Sunday in November to the second Sunday in March — a period as short as 18 weeks.

Despite including a compound modifier, the term was not originally hyphenated. The American Heritage Dictionary includes the hyphen, and Garner endorses it. But most dictionaries and style guides do not include a hyphen.

It’s also often capitalized, in the style of “Greenwich Mean Time” and “Eastern Standard Time,” but there is no need to capitalize the concept. Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary online capitalizes “Daylight Saving Time,” but the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary does not.

If “daylight” is attached to a specific time zone, style guides offer differing advice:

  • The Chicago Manual of Style doesn’t call for capitalization with time zones except where proper nouns are concerned, so “Pacific daylight time,” “mountain standard time,” “Greenwich mean time.”
  • The Associated Press Stylebook says to capitalize the full name of the time zone: “Pacific Daylight Time,” etc. Short forms maintain the capitalization of the region: “Mountain time,” “Central time zone.”

For a reminder of proper style, check out this video from Nacho Punch, “Saving Daylight.” My favorite line comes after 1:18.

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I apologize if you’ve come here looking for my latest wisdom. I’ve been blogging for for more than a year, and whatever wisdom I have tends to end up there. I might update this on occasion if there is an issue more appropriate for this space, such as the numerous entries during the National Grammar Day ACES Tweeted Haiku Contest. Otherwise, please check out what I’ve been saying at

Bard Day celebration offers much to read about

It’s Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, more or less, and all of Twitter is a stage for stories about the immortal one.

There is no time for me to read of Shakespeare morning until night, so I created a list of links pulled from Twitter today for your leisurely reading enjoyment, The first one is my own, so I may be a poor jurist. But all the others I have read or intend to read.

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ACES 2014 National Grammar Day Tweeted Haiku Contest entries

A little bit of what I’ve learned on Twitter

The following column originally appeared on in two parts. As I have no space limitations, here it is in its entirety for your convenience.

The first part is here:

And here is the second part:

Twitter is technically simple, but conceptually difficult. When I started, I tweeted useful tips and followed people who I thought might be interested. Eventually, I started following people I thought were interesting. It took me a long time to understand that people talking to me weren’t necessarily talking to everybody and that when I said something, people weren’t necessarily listening. I think I’ve experienced all the Twitter epiphanies, but it took me a long time.

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Habitat for Humanity house is a fitting tribute to a nice guy

My plan was to drive back to Grand Rapids, Mich., today and spend Saturday pounding nails and raising walls on a Habitat for Humanity home. But I’m not over a stomach bug that has been bothering me for a week now. I can’t risk making someone else sick, so I’ve sent my regrets, bitterly disappointed that I won’t be able to pay such a fitting tribute to my old boss and friend, Andy Angelo.

Andy died last summer, much earlier than he should have, because of asthma. He was metro editor at the Grand Rapids Press when I started, and he became my supervisor as news editor. He brought out the best in those who worked under him by working harder than any of us and caring deeply about the news that was delivered to people’s homes every day. He was a journalist who could remind us what journalism is all about. He also was a friend, caring about our comfort and happiness at work and at home, always willing to lend a hand professionally or personally.

The House that Andy Built is a testament to Andy’s willingness to help out wherever he could. Dozens of former colleagues, friends and family members are building a Habitat house on Grandville Avenue SW, near the community arts center. Andy helped his wife, Mary, create that neighborhood center, and he served on the board.

In 2010, Andy’s assistant news editor and I nominated Andy for the Robinson Prize, an honor the American Copy Editors Society gives to an outstanding copy editor each year. His selection gave me a chance to spend some time with him and Mary again at the annual conference in Phoenix in March, 2011. His acceptance speech was spontaneous and touching, and, for Andy, predictable. He spoke of the young people he sat with at the banquet and how they gave him confidence in the future of the craft.

At the hotel lobby bar afterward, Andy bought drinks and, unusual for Andy, reveled in a bit of recognition. He was happy, and if you’ll forgive my lack of humility, I felt wonderful knowing I played a part in connecting such a worthy person with the recognition he deserved.

Those working hard at 661 Grandville Avenue SW will have that same feeling. Andy touched many, many people, and only the most jaded among us could fail to be moved by the opportunity to give something back and to contribute to the ideals he exemplified.

I write this partly as a way to vent my frustration, partly as a way to honor Andy, since I’m unable to do so with sinew and sweat. If you are moved to contribute in a small way, the House that Andy Built is accepting donations. If you believe in the power of a nice guy to make a difference in the world, this is an appropriate way to reinforce that belief for others. The world could use a few more Andy Angelos.

The donation page for Habitat for Humanity of Kent County is here: Under the drop down menu, select “Andy’s House.”

The youth news bureau at Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities renamed itself the Andy Angelo Press Club. In March, some of its young reporters took a look at Andy. Here is the result:

Here is the story I wrote for the ACES website after Andy’s death:

Here is the Facebook page for the House that Andy Built, which I hope will have photos of Saturday’s build: