Verbally and Orally

Laurel asks: Can you please clarify when to use ‘verbally’ and when to use ‘orally’? Verbally comes from Latin verbum, “word.” Its adjective form verbal is often used in the sense of “spoken,” and contrasted with “written.” Here are some examples from a discussion about giving notice to a landlord: If you give notice verbally … Read more

Is She a “Lady” or a “Woman”?

A reader wonders about the words lady and woman: I was attempting to explain,  to my walking group, the difference between “woman” and “lady”. I gave examples, through parallel terms the equality between male and female, woman and man, lady and gentleman.  I said, “We are all women, but not all of us are ladies. When asked if … Read more

Lucky Expressions

Reader Emma requests a post on the expression “lucked out”: The … times I’ve heard people using [‘lucked out’] to mean “you’re out of luck” as opposed to expressing good luck or fortune is bordering on ridiculous. The expression to luck out is an American coinage dating from 1954. It means “to succeed through luck.” … Read more


A couple of previous Daily Writing Tips posts looked at when to use rhyme in poetry and also at the various types of rhyme available to the poet. Rhyme, however, is only one of the techniques employed in poetry to make its language special. Another basic one is alliteration. Alliteration is defined by the Compact … Read more

“Have” vs “Having” in Certain Expressions

Paul Russell poses an interesting question about the use of have and having. He points out the common ESL error of saying “I am having a headache” and asks: Why can I say “I’m having my lunch” but not “I’m having a headache”? Some explanations I’ve read indicate it’s all to do with possession.  But … Read more

Four “Censor” Words to Keep Straight

Don’t mix up censor, censure, sensor and censer.  These four words sound very similar when spoken, making them easy to mix up. Censor and censure, particularly, are often muddled as they are related words coming from the same Latin root. However, they do have distinct meanings and you should be aware of what the differences … Read more

Could Have and Would Have

Rita Levin asks: Can you please explain the difference between could had/could have and would had/would have. To begin with, the combinations “could had” and “would had” are impossibilities in standard English. It was with great dismay that I found the following utterances (and many more like them) on the web: If I had been … Read more

Why Freelance Writers Need an Evergreen Stable of Writing

This is a guest post by Jennifer Moline. If you want to write for Daily Writing Tips check the guidelines here. Often in the writing world it pays to be on top of current events – to be the first to publish breaking news. But in order to land a contract or regular gig, freelancers … Read more

“Make Peace With” and “Come to Terms With”

Lately I’ve noticed the use of the expression “come to peace with.” … Alice must navigate her way through the modern world of tabloid journalism and commercial exploitation and come to peace with her conflicted childhood. We have all experienced some hurtful things in our past, the key however, is to learn how to come … Read more

Let’s Hear A Little Respect for the Pluperfect

Television writers have little respect for standard English grammar. I know that. I also know that American writers in general have little use for the pluperfect (past perfect) tense, preferring instead to use the simple past with adverbial modifiers. Nevertheless, I was astonished by an exchange between a judge and a lawyer on an episode … Read more

Free eBook – 100 Writing Mistakes To Avoid

One of the fastest ways to improve your writing skills is to free yourself from the most common English mistakes: things like exchanging less with fewer, misspelling its as it’s, or placing commas where they are not supposed to be. Thinking about this, a couple of months ago I had an idea: what if we … Read more

100% Will Suffice

It’s quite common to read of people – particularly sportsmen and performers – promising to “give 110%” effort. England cricketer Andrew Flintoff, for example, once promised to give “110% in every game” he played. Of course, to do so would be impossible. When something is finite, 100% means all of it. You can’t give more … Read more