10 Demographic Names and Expressions

In researching various words used to describe the common people, I came across a scattering of other demographic denominations, including a couple (bobo and clerisy) I hadn’t known before. Like the previous list, this collection, which ranges in nature from sociological designations to synonyms for the learned to slang (and which is annotated with notes … Read more

35 Words Frequently Found in Compounds

The subject of compounds, permanent or temporary combinations of words — temporary in the sense that they are “invented” for the occasion but are not in common usage — is a complicated matter because whether a compound employing a given word is open (with letter spaces between the constituent words), hyphenated, or closed (with no … Read more

12 Misunderstood and Misquoted Shakespearean Expressions

The plays of William Shakespeare provide a wealth of pithy sayings — many of which he likely popularized rather than produced himself, though we may still be grateful to him for sharing them. Unfortunately, sometimes the original sense is adulterated by careless usage, so that the eloquent force of the expression is weakened. Here are … Read more

Book Review: “Woe Is I”

Patricia T. O’Conner’s Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English (link to the book on Amazon) sells itself to its target audience with that big word in the subtitle — this book is gentle on the reader — but more confident writers and editors who might just need to look … Read more

The Writing Process Is a Numbers Game

You would think that it would be a words game, but it’s not. It’s all about numbers. We’ve all seen different definitions of the writing process. One thing they all have in common, though, is that they begin with ideas and end with words on paper (or screen). While the normal stages: prewriting, writing, revising, … Read more

5 Rules About Conjunctive Adverbs

Many words and phrases are similar in function to the conjunction and, but they’re not exact replacements; they even belong in a different grammatical class — adverbs. But because of this similarity, they’re called conjunctive adverbs or adverbial conjunctions. When considering using any of the special adverbs discussed below — the simplest and most common … Read more

5 Tips for Styling Numbers

Below you’ll find a handful of tips about appropriate use of numbers in various contexts. 1. Money Isolated, casual references to amounts of money of one hundred dollars or less or one hundred cents or less are usually spelled out (“I made over fifty dollars in one afternoon”; “Remember when a candy bar cost twenty-five … Read more

25 Synonyms for “Beginner”

There are a lot of terms used to identify a beginner — many of them condescending or derogatory, so pay attention to connotation before employing any of these synonyms: 1. Abecedarian (from the Latin term abecedarius, “of the alphabet,” coined from linking the first four letters of the alphabet with vowels to form a pronounceable … Read more

Persuasive Writing Is Getting the Reader to Say “Yes”

All writing, in a sense, is persuasive writing. Even in fiction, the writer asks readers to engage in a story and agree, or at least sympathize, with a premise. But two particular types of prose, the advertisement and the argument, encourage readers to buy something, whether it’s a literal purchase of a service or a … Read more

7 Expressions and Ideas About Elephants

The elephant, thanks to its majestic size and unusual features, has inspired an assortment of metaphors and other verbal associations. “The elephant in the room,” for example, refers to an obvious issue that observers go out of their way to ignore. A more complicated connotation is that of a white elephant, an undesirable possession often … Read more

7 Classes and Types of Phrases

Phrase is such a banal term for two or more words that convey an idea that it may surprise you that there are seven types of phrases, with variations. Here, with pertinent phrases in sample sentences formatted in boldface, is a rundown of the categories: 1. Absolute Phrase An absolute phrase is a modifying parenthetical … Read more

10 Terms for the Common People

The English language is rich with descriptive (and generally derogatory) terms for the common person, though many are adopted from other languages: 1. Bourgeoisie: This term, derived from the French word roughly translated as “the people of the city,” refers to the middle class rather than the common folk per se, but the sense of … Read more