Worked, Wrought and Overwrought

Judging by comments and emails I receive whenever I write about the verb wreak, some English speakers believe that the past tense of wreak is wrought.

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Woof or Weft?

A reader has a question about the old-fashioned nouns woof and weft: It doesn’t come up often, but it bothers me when it does: a reference to the “warp and woof” of fabric (either physical or metaphorical) instead of “warp and weft.” I recently saw “warp and woof” in The New York Times. One dictionary says “woof (sometimes weft)” — suggesting that “woof” is preferred. Please say it isn’t so.

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Femme Fatales and Film Noirs

A freelancer who writes about film wants to know how to deal with two French terms used by filmmakers: If I’m dealing with more than one film, is it “femmes fatale” or “femme fatales?” And when it comes to multiple films of film noir, is it “films noir” or “film noirs?” Plus, given that the terms are French, should they be italicized?

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Prepositions to Die With

A reader wonders about prepositions used with the verb to die: Just recently when a prominent politician passed away I saw and heard various reports that he had died – FROM cancer, WITH cancer, and OF cancer. Do you have a view on which may be better?

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Verb Review #8: Passive Voice

The way some writing coaches slam Passive Voice, one might imagine that its use constitutes a grammatical error. It doesn’t.

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Posthumous and Posthumously

Researching another topic altogether, I came across this startling use of the word posthumously.

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Shore It Up

Reading an advice article about the writing of historical fiction, I came across what I assume is an eggcorn for the idiom “to shore up.”

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Bail Out vs. Bale Out

Reading A Presumption of Death by Jill Paton, (St. Martin’s Minotaur, New York, 2003), I was distracted by the author’s frequent references to the necessity of a pilot’s having to “bale out” of his aircraft. How odd, I thought, that such a spelling error would slip by in a book of this quality. Surely the expression should be spelled “bail out.”

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Hyphenating More + Adjective

A reader questions the standard advice that the adverb more should not be linked to an adjective by a hyphen.

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Pronouncing Dour and Other OU Words

A reader asks: How does one pronounce properly the word “dour”?  Should it rhyme with “sour” or “door” or be pronounced something like the whiskey “Dewar’s” or perhaps “doer”?

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