Today would have been E.B. White's 113th birthday. Perhaps most famous for penning "Charlotte's Web" and "Stuart Little," he was also a regular contributor to The New Yorker. These achievements definitely make him qualified to be that guy, the one who interrupts pleasant conversations by clearing his throat and letting you know that you used an incorrect pronoun.

Which is why he and William Strunk Jr. co-wrote "The Elements of Style," the grammar nerd's handbook. If you need to brush up on gerunds and participles, we recommend the recent edition beautifully and comically illustrated by Maira Kalman.

So what better way to celebrate the language/farm animal enthusiast's birthday than by pairing wordage rules and pictures of adorable piglets?


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  • <strong>Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding 's. Thus write,</strong> This piglet would like to inform you that, although it's the runt of the litter, being slaughtered is not in its future. <em>Flickr photo by REL Waldman</em>

  • <strong>In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term except the last. Thus write,</strong> For dinner, this hog would like mush, mush, and mush. <em><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/laurelfan/195111980/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by Laurel Fan</a></em>

  • <strong>Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas. Thus write,</strong> Pigs and spiders, two animals of varying sizes, are still able to form friendships. <em><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bigredorange/68938232/sizes/o/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by Foers</a></em>

  • <strong>Place a comma before a conjunction introducing an independent clause. Thus write,</strong> John Arable wanted the small pig off his hands, but his daughter begged him to keep it. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/madcitycat/1278596288/sizes/l/in/photostream/" target="_hplink"><em>Flickr photo by cathyse97</em></a>

  • <strong>Do not join independent clauses with a comma. Thus write,</strong> Wilbur is a fine pet; he and Fern are close friends. <em><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/suckamc/3321742339/sizes/l/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by Martin Cathrae</a></em>

  • <strong>Do not break sentences in two. In other words, do not use periods before commas, like this:</strong> Wilbur misses Fern. Who visits less frequently as she grows older. <em><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/steevithak/2950417629/sizes/l/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by steevithak</a></em>

  • <strong>Use a colon after an independent clause to introduce a list of particulars, an appositive, an amplification, or an illustrative quotation. A colon usually follows an independent clause. The first example is wrong, and should be rewritten as in the second example.</strong> At the farm, Wilbur befriends: a spider, a lamb, a goose, and a sheep. At the farm, Wilbur befriends the other animals: a spider, a lamb, a goose, and a sheep. <em><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/shawnnap/6136244024/sizes/l/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Flickr photo courtesy of dodsport</a></em>

  • <strong>Use a dash to set off an abrupt break or interruption and to announce a long appositive or summary. This write,</strong> The wise goose warns Wilbur of his fate - a crispy, scrumptious Christmas meal. <em><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nuskyn/5327424325/sizes/l/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by Meneer Zjeroen</a></em>

  • <strong>The number of the subject determines the number of the verb. Words that intervene between subject and verb do not affect the number of the verb. The first example is wrong, and should be rewritten as in the second example.</strong> Wilbur is one of those pigs that are always kind and optimistic. Wilbur is one of those pigs that is always kind and optimistic. <em><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/beluga/324186072/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by Abri_Beluga</a></em>

  • <strong>Use the proper case of pronoun. The personal pronouns, as well as the pronoun who, change form as they function as subject or object. The first example is wrong, and should be rewritten as in the second example.</strong> Charlotte is the spider whom helps save Wilbur. Charlotte is the spider who helps save Wilbur. <em><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/smoo/456855215/sizes/o/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by smoobs</a></em>

  • A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject. Thus write, Spinning praises in her web, Charlotte makes Wilbur famous, and saves his life. <em><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/meddygarnet/3431834837/sizes/l/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by meddygarnet</a></em>

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