Negative Guilt Syndrome

A reader expresses second thoughts about a sentence she wrote: When I looked back at it, I realized this use of a double negative to convey a positive is an unusual construction and remembered the dire warnings received in my youth to, “never use a double negative.”

Read More
  • Maeve Maddox on
  • 1 Comments

Sense and Nonsense

A reader who heard a doctor describe a patient as “fluent and sensicle” has asked if sensicle is a word.

Read More
  • Maeve Maddox on
  • 0 Comments

Whenever vs. When Ever

It’s interesting that two-word phrases like “any place,” “a lot,” and “all right” are often squeezed into nonstandard one-word forms like anyplace, alot, and alright, but one-word wherever is often written incorrectly as “when ever.”

Read More
  • Maeve Maddox on
  • 2 Comments

To Go Haywire

A reader asks, What does the expression “to go haywire” mean?

Read More
  • Maeve Maddox on
  • 1 Comments

Hungover vs. Hung Over

A reader feels that the adjective to describe the state of experiencing the effects of too much alcohol should be an open compound: I would be really grateful if you would address whether or not the compound noun ‘hangover’ retains its closed form when used as an adjective (‘she was hungover’). I feel irked when it does, and that it should become open (‘she was hung over’) but because I can’t define “hung’ or ‘over’ in the context of suffering from the after-effects of alcohol, I haven’t been able to force my case.

Read More
  • Maeve Maddox on
  • 2 Comments

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.

Read More
  • Maeve Maddox on
  • 5 Comments

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.

Read More
  • Maeve Maddox on
  • 0 Comments

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?

Read More
  • Maeve Maddox on
  • 6 Comments

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?

Read More
  • Maeve Maddox on
  • 1 Comments

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.

Read More
  • Maeve Maddox on
  • 7 Comments