Cars and Carriages

Car and carriage, and many other words containing the element car, derive from the Latin word carrus, meaning “two-wheeled wagon.” This post lists and defines many of the words descended from carrus. A car is a passenger vehicle designed to be driven on roads; autocar and motorcar are outdated terms used in the early days […]

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A Guide to Internal Punctuation

This post outlines the functions of punctuation marks employed within a sentence: the comma, the semicolon, the colon, and ellipses. Comma A comma performs a number of functions, including setting off elements of a list (“I’m going to order soup, salad, and an entrée”) combining with a conjunction to separate two independent clauses (“She ordered […]

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10 Ways to Render Sentences More Concise

This post details various strategies for reducing and simplifying sentences. 1. Sentence Combination Avoid consecutive sentences that end and begin, respectively, with the same word or phrase as occurs here: A common way to track the current state of systems is monitoring performance metrics. Performance metrics show how assets are performing at the transaction level. […]

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A Guide to Abbreviations

Abbreviations are a sometimes necessary evil, but with the power to employ them comes great responsibility. This post outlines types of abbreviations and associated guidelines. An abbreviation is a shortening of a word or phrase, either by truncation or by abridgement by way of using only the first letter of each word of the term […]

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Idioms About Units of Measure

A number of idiomatic expressions refer (often hyperbolically, or with lighthearted exaggeration) to units of English measure to describe something figuratively or make an observation. This post lists and explains many such phrases. To be “every inch a (something)” or “every inch the (something)” is to so closely match a stereotypical look or embody a […]

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Revive a Verb for Conciseness

One simple method for making a more compact, efficient sentence is to clear the way for the primary verb to do its job. In each of the examples below, other parts of speech obstruct a verb. Discussion after each sentence explains the problem, and a revision offers a solution. 1. As much as we love […]

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A Guide to Hyphens and Dashes

This post details the purposes of various horizontally aligned typographical symbols. Hyphen Hyphens perform various functions, including the following: They link standing compound words (mind-set, self-respect). They are used with some prefixes (anti-inflammatory). They represent expression in isolation of a prefix or a word element (pre-, -er). They link spelled out numerical terms representing different […]

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French and Latin Diplomatic Terms

For hundreds of years, France was a world power militarily, economically, and culturally, and thus its language became the political, well, lingua franca. Although the nation is no longer a superpower (yet influential in world affairs), the French language is still well represented in the vocabulary of diplomacy—as is its precursor, Latin. This post lists […]

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Idioms and Expressions That Refer to Eating

This post discusses a number of idiomatic expressions that refer literally or figuratively to consuming food and include some form of the word eat. To say that someone will eat someone else for breakfast is to convey that the first person will easily defeat the other in whatever competition or rivalry they are engaged in. […]

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A Guide to In-Line Lists

This post describes how to organize in-line lists, those that occur within a sentence, as compared to vertical lists, those organized by setting the items on the list apart from each other, distinguished by numbers, letters, or other symbols, on consecutive lines. (Vertical lists will be described in a separate post.) An in-line list may […]

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Compounds Based on “Port”

This post lists and defines compound words in which the second element is the word port, derived from the Latin word portare, meaning “carry.” Airport, carport, heliport, and seaport refer to locations where the vehicles and vessels implied by the respective prefixes embark and return (and remain between uses). To apport (literally, “carry to”) is […]

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A Complete Guide to Parentheses and Brackets

This post discusses the functions of parentheses and brackets, which are used to set off portions of text from the whole for various purposes. Parentheses, almost exclusively appearing in pairs, are usually employed in the same manner as a pair of commas or dashes, though they suggest de-emphasis of the content within (as opposed to […]

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