Valleys and Gullies

A variety of words serve to describe geographical features characterized by low-lying terrain between higher elevations of land. This post lists and defines many of these terms.

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Punctuation Quiz #13: Punctuation Within Parenthesis

Each of the following sentences is structurally flawed because an interjected word or phrase is not correctly nested within or attached to another phrase that is itself an interruption in the flow of a sentence. Revise the sentences as necessary.

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5 Categories of Unnecessary Scare Quotes

Each of the sentences in this post demonstrates a distinct example of superfluous use of quotation marks to call attention to a word or phrase. The discussion following each example explains why the scare quotes are extraneous.

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3 Cases When Hyphenation Doesn’t Help

Writers are often confused by the complexity of hyphenation rules, mistakenly omitting them when their presence would help clarify meaning and inserting them when they’re superfluous. The decision about whether to use them can be further complicated in sentences in which it would be technically correct but aesthetically inadvisable to use them. Three examples, each followed by discussion and revision, demonstrate a few sentences in which recasting a sentence to avoid hyphens is preferable to using them.

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Mister and Master

Yes, mister and master are related, the one originally being a variant of the other. They, and a number of compounds and some associated terms, all derive from the Latin verb magistrare, which means “subjugate.”

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Vengeance and Vindication

Vengeance, vindication, and a few related words are derived from a Latin word pertaining to punishment and retribution. These terms and their definitions are listed in this post.

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The Distraction of Prepositional Phrases in Noun-Verb Agreement

The question of whether to use the singular or plural form of a verb in a sentence can be complicated by the distracting presence of a prepositional phrase—one that includes a preposition such as of, in, or to followed by a noun directly or after one or more an intervening verbs and/or adjectives. But as the following examples demonstrate, such a phrase should (with a key exception) be disregarded when identifying which noun the sentence’s key verb should agree with.

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Synonyms for “Works”

Several words available to writers seeking to succinctly refer to the entirety of a person’s artistic or literary works are listed and described in this post.

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Metaphorical Usage and Scare Quotes

Writers often mistakenly believe they are being helpful when, in the act of using a word or phrase in a nonliteral sense, they frame the term in quotation marks intended to alert readers, “This usage is not being employed in its original sense!”

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