15 French Words and Phrases That Don’t Mean That in French

This post lists a number of words and phrases used in English that are derived from French but are no longer employed with the same idiomatic sense in French (if they ever were). Each term is followed by the literal French translation, a brief definition, and a comment about its status in French and how the French language conveys the idiom.

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  • Mark Nichol on
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Top 10 Writing Apps for Android Smartphones

Today’s modern writer doesn’t always have time to sit down at his desktop and write. With more and more writers living the digital nomad style, there is a major demand for technology that can help. If you are an Android user, here are 13 writing apps that you should know about. 1. Dictionary.com App This […]

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How to Test for Coordinate and Noncoordinate Adjectives

One of the ways adjectives can be categorized is to determine whether they are coordinate or noncoordinate adjectives. This distinction is important, because it dictates whether two or more consecutive adjectives are separated by punctuation. For many writers, however, deciding which category an adjective belongs to can be a challenge. Fortunately, two simple tests are available to help writers know how to treat strings of adjectives.

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The Diversity of Over- and Under- Compounds

Becoming familiar (or more familiar) with words beginning with over– and under– must include taking into account that these compounds can be both literal and figurative (or only figurative but rarely only literal) and can serve as various parts of speech. This post discusses some examples.

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Sentences with Interrogative Elements Are Not Questions

Writers sometimes erroneously assume that when a statement includes a phrase beginning with who, what, when, where, why, or how (or what or which), it should be treated as an interrogative, or question. However, whether the sentence should be punctuated with a question mark depends on how a verb is juxtaposed with the interrogative word and how the sentence is otherwise structured. Each of the sentences below is incorrectly treated as a question. Discussion after each example describes the problem, and a revision solves it.

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  • Mark Nichol on
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128 Words with Senses That Started Out as Underworld Slang

The slang senses of many words we use in conversation and in informal writing originated in jargon employed by criminals, often coined to disguise the activities they were describing when they spoke among one another. This post lists and defines a number of those words.

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3 Cases of Improving Writing Through Combination

In each of the following pairs of clauses, an ineffectual presentation of information is strengthened by altering sentence structure through combination. Discussion and revision follow each example.

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3 Errors Involving Correlative Conjunctions

A correlative conjunction is a word that correlates with, or is complementary to, another such construction, establishing a connection or a comparison in a sentence. Each of the sentences below erroneously employs a pair of correlative conjunctions in a faulty syntactical structure, and the discussion that follows each describes the problem, while a revision demonstrates the solution.

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  • Mark Nichol on
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Style Quiz #14: Not Only . . . But Also

Each of the following sentences incorrectly establishes a relationship between two things with a setup of “not only” followed by a faultily constructed counterpoint; revise the sentences as necessary to achieve parallel construction.

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Temporary and Permanent Phrasal Adjectives

Use of phrasal adjectives, combinations of two or more words that as a grammatical unit provide additional details to nouns, is complicated by standards of usage pertaining to hyphens. This post discusses various types of phrasal adjectives (some of which have, since they were coined, been fused to form single words).

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  • Mark Nichol on
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