Numerous idioms ending with the word out exist, but only a select group serve (in open form) both as verb phrases and (in hyphenated or closed form) as compound nouns; “tune out,” for example, describes the act of ignoring sensory stimuli, but one does not refer to a tune-out as an instance of such behavior, though one can, for example, either bail out or experience a bailout.
The oft-misunderstood hyphen is often left out of a phrase because of confusion about (or ignorance of) its purpose; occasionally, perplexity about the hyphen’s function is the cause of extraneous use, as shown in the examples below.
The term “lean writing style” is not new to literary criticism. Dashiell Hammett is the American writer most cited as the master of it.
I have seen nonprofessional writers use the phrase “simultaneous people” in the context of computer use, as in this exchange between a customer and a service provider.
Is it a coincidence that the etymologically unrelated but closely associated words could, should, and would look and sound nearly the same? Mostly yes, with a little bit of no.
Writers easily confuse an appositive (a descriptive word or phrase that is equivalent to a person, place, or thing that is named) with a phrase that simply describes a person, place, or thing named, or create confusion by incorrectly wording or punctuating an appositive or a description. The following sentences demonstrate various types of such errors.
An initial letter, almost invariably capitalized, is often the first element in a two-word noun compound that constitutes an idiom. (Use of a connecting hyphen varies, and various sources may include or omit a hyphen.) Often, the letter stands for a word; occasionally, letters are used to assign priority (A and B, for example) or represent a shape. Here are common terms representing this form.
Various words and phrases serve to communicate what a word or phrase refers to or herald to a reader that additional information is forthcoming or a comparison is being made, but writers sometimes make the mistake of unnecessarily employing more than one of these indicators at once. The following five sentences illustrate an array of redundancies. Discussions and revisions follow each erroneous sentence.
The Latin term motus, meaning “a moving” or “motion,” is the progenitor of the Old French word motif, which survived unchanged into Modern French and was subsequently borrowed into English. Motif, in turn, inspired the English term motive and its variants. Here’s an introduction to the motif/motive family.
Recently I’ve noticed the phrase “stating to be” in contexts that call for either “claiming to be” or “stating that.” For example.
A frequent source of miscommunication is to assume that the people we address attach the same connotation and meaning to words that we do.
Semicolons help clarify construction of sentences. Using the punctuation mark, employed as either a comma on steroids or a strategically flexible period, is usually just one of two or more possible solutions, but though it has a stuffy reputation and many writers are confused about its applications, it often is the best choice.