5 Billboard Taglines That Advertise Errors

I strongly advise against employing billboards to teach you proper English grammar and spelling, but you can certainly use them to learn what not to do. Here are some pain-inducing billboard boo-boos: 1. “Are you in or out?” This tagline from the remake of Ocean’s Eleven won’t strike many people as erroneous, but the omission … Read more

Emphasis for Epithets and Personification

Among the more colorful specimens of the human race you will find many who earned a sobriquet, or nickname — what we word geeks call an epithet. (Epithet, among other meanings, is also a euphemism for name-calling or other uncomplimentary utterances.) From Alexander the Great to the King of Pop, memorable figures with such appellations … Read more

Let Your Wishes Be a Writing Prompt

In 1970, poet Kenneth Koch went into classrooms at a Manhattan elementary school and benevolently tricked children into realizing that every one of them was a writer. It’s been a long time since I read Wishes Lies, and Dreams, his paperback memoir/anthology, but I do recall that the first thing he did was ask the … Read more

5 Ways to Set Smothered Verbs Free

Nominalizations are nouns formed from verbs. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; various parts of speech are transmogrified into others as part of the process of language. But such creations, colloquially known as smothered verbs, can easily complicate sentences, leading to wordiness and passive construction. Enable for more dynamic prose by allowing verbs to … Read more

100 Mostly Small But Expressive Interjections

They often seem disreputable, like sullen idlers loitering in a public thoroughfare, but they actually do a lot of hard work and are usually persnickety about the tasks to which they are put. They are interjections — one class of them, anyway: those lacking etymological origins but packed with meaning. But how do you know … Read more

How to Avoid Bias in Your Writing

Gender and ability bias in language doesn’t register for many people, but that’s often because many of them do not belong to the classes who have been subjected to the bias. For example, many writers persist in referring to our species, collectively, as man or mankind, even though several reasonable alternatives exist: the human race, … Read more

7 Sentences Energized by Elegant Variation

In one of the most recent tugs-of-war between qualitative practice and quantitative practicality, search engine optimization has been eroding the exalted status of time-honored elegant variation, the convention of avoiding wearying repetition of words throughout a sentence or a passage. One of the principles of SEO, the suite of strategies for shaping online content to … Read more

Literally the Worst Mistake You Could Ever Make

If most people’s employment of the word “literally” doesn’t drive you mad, you’re probably guilty of a few misuses yourself. It’s one of the most common complaints of the grammar-savvy. Responding to our post on “Blackboard Moments” – those usages of speech that provoke the same response as fingernails on a blackboard – Abbie points … Read more

How to Refer to Time

It’s time to talk about time: specifically, how to write references to units of temporal measurement. This post will note style for increments from seconds to centuries. Time of Day Imprecise times of day are generally spelled out: “six-o’clock news,” “half past one,” “a quarter to three,” and “eight thirty,” as well as “noon” and … Read more

The DWT Freelance Writing Course Is Live

As you probably know the Internet is growing faster than ever, and content is what fosters that growth. As a result there is a strong demand for writers online right now, ranging from copywriters to paid bloggers and magazine writers. That is why a couple of months ago we ran a poll asking our readers … Read more

Where to Place the Possessive Apostrophe in a Surname

You see them all the time during rural drives and suburban errands alike, those olde-fashioned wooden shingles mounted on mailboxes or dangling from porches or fastened to walls: “The Smith’s” and the like—stark reminders that possessives still throw many people for a loop. Rules about possessives can be complicated, but this error is straightforward enough: … Read more

Use of Trademark Names in Fiction

A couple of years ago, a site visitor asked about the necessity of obtaining permission to refer to trademarked products by name in fiction. Here’s the specific query: How is copyright dealt with in fiction writing? For example, if I sell a story where I wrote that a character jogged to Burger King in his … Read more