What is an “Entree”?

Someone asked me why Americans use the word entree to refer to the main course of a dinner, while in French and in British usage, entrée refers to a dish served before the main course. The unspoken criticism was that, when it comes to matters of language, Americans always get things wrong. Words change their … Read more

The Past of “Pay” is “Paid”

A reader expresses dismay at lapses in the spelling of the past form of the verb pay:   An article in the Burlington (VT) Free Press today had this heading:  Isle La Motte to vote on spending repayed funds. [W]hen did repayed become an acceptable word?  The answer, of course, is that it hasn’t. Note: a … Read more

Post, Entry or Article?

This is a guest post by Eric Cummings. If you want to write for Daily Writing Tips check the guidelines here. My co-blogger and I have come across an interesting usage problem. We don’t know what to call what we write. It feels strange to refer to blog posts as “articles.” “Articles” sounds official, proper … Read more

Some Advice about “Advise”

Two comments on writing sites jumped out at me recently: Whereas other kinds of writing you could slide a bit, although that is not adviced or recommended. and Very smart advise. Also always check with the publisher for submission guidelines as they all can be a little diferent but they all want perfection to their … Read more

Word of the Day: Mishap

Mishap is a misfortune; an accident. All such confrontations contain combustible mixes of the money, power and mishap that seem to bubble out of the ground whenever a huge supply of oil or gas is for sale. (The Economist) The professional wrestler known as The Undertaker got minor burns on his chest and a scare … Read more

Story Writing 101

Since prehistoric times, when tales were told around fires and painted on cave walls, stories have been an essential part of our human experience. But what exactly is a story – and how can you write a great one? A story is simply a tale of events that are linked by cause and effect. It … Read more

But, it’s in the Dictionary!

Sometimes readers respond to my rejection of a given word or spelling with the argument that it’s “in the dictionary.” My response is that dictionaries are not scripture. Just because a word is in the dictionary does not mean that it’s an acceptable choice for all speakers and writers in all contexts. The recent discussion … Read more

Word of the Day: Offhand

Offhand can be used as an adverb, where it means unprepared or brusquely; and as an adjective, where it means casual. President Clinton made an offhand confession on Tuesday night that he had raised taxes “too much” in his first budget in 1993, and the remark drew mockery from Congressional Republicans today. (NY Times) While … Read more

What’s the Time?

A reader asks How does one ask the time in English? Several expressions are used: Do you have the time? What time is it? What’s the time? What time do you make it? Have you got the time? Depending on context, the first and last of these expressions can also be used to ask if … Read more

The Line is for the Toe

The Washington Times recently printed an editorial about H1N1 flu calling the disease “tow-the-line flu”. The use of the phrase “tow the line” is a common mistake; what the paper should have written was “toe the line”. To “toe the line” means to conform to some rule or standard, to fall into line. Politicians, for … Read more

Do We Really Need “Verbiage” and “Verbage”?

Libby Lewis writes: Today I wanted to comment to someone that a flyer they had designed contained too many words. I stopped short mid-sentence wondering if the right word to use was “verbage” or “verbiage”. Dictionary.com surprised me by defining “verbage” as “A deliberate misspelling and mispronunciation of verbiage that assimilates it to the word … Read more

Come Participate in the DWT Poetry Competition

I am pretty sure we have many poets and wanna-be poets among our readers (not to mention the ones who just like to read poetry), so it was about time to run a DWT Poetry Competition. First of all here are some good reasons for you to participate: The winner will receive a $100 Amazon … Read more