Word Inflation, or Unnatural Syntax?

Ted Moses sends this example of word inflation in the work place: The Deputy requested me to send this letter to all staff.”   I don’t think the problem is that request is too formal for the context. The use of request as a verb meaning “to ask” is common enough in ordinary speech and … Read more

Word of the Day: Anew

Anew is an adverb, and it means again or once more. As a vice chairman and longtime stockholder of Bear Stearns, Fares D. Noujaim suffered an emotional and financial blow when the investment bank imploded. Now he gets a chance to start anew. (NY Times) In a break with the administration, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. … Read more


Before mistletoe became an excuse to kiss people at Christmas parties, it was an important symbol in ancient Celtic religion. Pliny the Elder describes a ceremony in which Druids climbed an oak tree to harvest mistletoe with a golden sickle. Wrote Pliny: They believe that mistletoe given in drink will impart fertility to any animal … Read more

Word of the Day: Propaganda

Propaganda is any kind of information that is spread to help or harm a specific doctrine, system, person, group and so on. The origin of the word is connected with the “College of the Propaganda,” a school created by Pope Urban VIII to educate priests for missions around the world. In various pronouncements, top propaganda … Read more

“Epiphany” or Mere “Realization”?

Like coins, words become devalued over time. An example is the once golden word epiphany. It’s from the Greek epiphaneia, “manifestation, striking appearance.” Epiphany is a lovely, mysterious word that rolls off the tongue and conveys a sense of spiritual revelation. Originally it referred to the theophany of Christ. theophany: A manifestation or appearance of … Read more

Hint to Writers: Use the Thesaurus with Caution

This is a guest post by Jennifer Blanchard. If you want to write for Daily Writing Tips check the guidelines here. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a huge fan of the thesaurus. I’ve used it throughout my writing career—All the way from day one back when I was 12-years-old. In fact, … Read more

Elision or tmesis?

Reader Lydia was left with a question after the post about the expression a whole nuther: So, this isn’t the case of eliding words because it is easier to pronounce? Can you clarify a bit more? Two other readers, PF and Jon, put a Greek name on what is going on with a whole nuther: … Read more

A Cigarette Butt is One Thing…

In standard English usage, the word butt has numerous meanings as both a noun and a verb. The OED offers 14 entries for butt as a noun. The meanings vary from “barrel” to “a type of one-horse cart.” Perhaps the most common definition is a. The thicker end of anything, esp. of a tool or … Read more

Word of the Day: Peruse

Peruse means to read or examine something with great care, checking all the details. Many people believe that peruse means to glance over something, but this is clearly not the case. I.R.S. policies are not always so clear, so caution is advised. In cases where cooperative buildings have commercial space, a prospective buyer should be … Read more

Quotation Marks and Apostrophe S

Aika asks: how do I properly sequence “‘s and punctuation marks? As I can’t think of any example of beginning a quotation with a disembodied ‘s, I’ll offer this guideline from the Chicago Manual of Style: . . . A term enclosed in quotation marks . . . should never be made into a possessive. … Read more

Epicenter vs. Center

In an article on the BBC website just recently, the head of a computer game industry body described the city of Dundee as “the epicentre for the industry in Scotland”. A little earlier, in an article about renewable energy on the same site, the First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, described the city of Glasgow … Read more

Word of the Day: Caveat

A caveat is a warning or admonition. It can also mean a detail or condition to be taken into consideration while doing something. After country icon Minnie Pearl died, Rod Harris commissioned a statue. The donation came with one caveat: The statue had to stay on one exact spot in downtown Centerville, Tenn. (USA Today) … Read more