40 Synonyms for “Lie”

Humans may not be the only species capable of deception, but we’re probably the most sophisticated animals when it comes to lying, and our languages contain many words to describe variations of untruth. Here’s a roster of synonyms in English for referring to lies and similar creations: 1. Bluff: a statement intended to deceive or … Read more

AP StyleGuard and the Death of Editing

Thanks to a new software program called AP StyleGuard, human intervention in improvement of written content is no longer necessary. All editors, please clean out your desks and report to Human Resources for your exit interview in five minutes; HR staff will provide information about career-change counseling on request. That’s a joke, folks. (So’s the … Read more

How to Format Subheads

An effective way to break up long sequences of paragraphs and provide an organizational scheme for your writing is to insert subheads. Here are some considerations: Subheads should be succinct — just a short phrase with a keyword or two. They should be formatted in a larger point size than the running text, or at … Read more

5 Alternatives to Hyphenating Phrasal Adjectives

The default method for communicating to the reader that a phrase preceding a noun is a single entity modifying that noun is to hyphenate the word string together: “They agreed that a plug-and-play functionality was most desirable.” Depending on the exact wording, the relationship of words preceding a noun to that noun is more or … Read more

Evoke vs. Invoke

Evoke and invoke, two members of a small but powerful family of words relating to stimulus and response, have senses both similar and distinct. To evoke something is to call it forth, perhaps by bringing it to mind, or, synonymously with invoke, by summoning it (as in conjuration) or presenting it in support of an … Read more

It’s All About Accuracy

During my editing career, I’ve corrected some significant factual errors in manuscripts before they were published — mistakes that would have compromised the authority of a book or a magazine or newspaper article, or at least embarrassed its author. (Aw, shucks, don’t mention it — it’s my job.) I’ve also probably overlooked a few. And … Read more

25 Synonyms for “Story”

So, you’re writing a story? What kind of story? No, don’t unreel the plot for me. Provide some context for the narrative style by telling me what your model is for your tale. This is not about genre, though there may be some overlap; it’s all about the form. Choose from one or more of … Read more

How to Format Reader-Friendly Headlines

The headline of a piece of content is the reader’s invitation, so make it inviting in form as well as content. Using all capital letters is overbearing; choose between headline style (capitalizing initial letters only in words representing major parts of speech) or sentence style (initial caps only for the first word and proper nouns). … Read more

The Word of the Year 2011

Each year at about this time, the English-language media rolls out various reports announcing the word of the year according to one or more authorities. These pieces imply or overtly suggest that these selections are keywords for our society’s values, beliefs, and obsessions. But a glance at such choices reveals that these words are the … Read more

Put Adverbs in Their Place

When, how, or why something is done is expressed by an adverb, whose primary function is signaled by its name: Adverbs modify verbs (and sometimes other parts of speech — more on that later). They appear more or less in proximity to the verb they modify, but their syntactical location can vary for diverse reasons. … Read more

Precede vs. Proceed

Lazy pronunciation can wreak havoc on the language as word pairs like precede and proceed become confused. These similar-looking and similar-sounding terms, however, though not antonyms, face in opposite directions. The origin of the former word is the Latin term praecedere (“go before”), while the latter stems from the Latin word procedere (“go forward, advance”). … Read more

25 Adverbs That Get an “A”

You already know many adverbs that start with a-, a prefix that can mean, among other things, “on” (aboard) “in a state” (asleep), or “in a manner” (aloud). Here’s a roster of some of the lesser-known words in this class, many of which inspire vivid imagery, evoke an archaic or rustic tone, or conjure an … Read more