10 Types of Numerical Terms

How many categories of numerals are there, and what are their functions? No, you haven’t stumbled onto DailyMathTips.com by mistake; this post helps sort out the ways you can refer to numbers and under which circumstances, with nary a digit or operational sign in sight. Ready? One, two, three . . . 1. Cardinal Numbers … Read more

The Winning Formula for Writing Success

When I wrote the heading for today’s post, I thought to myself, “I should be making infomercials and workshop presentations, offering my ‘secret’ for a thousand dollars.” A thousand dollars a head for even a few dozen participants? That’s what I call successful writing: With one phrase and a few platitudes, I could take a … Read more

An Emphatic Essay About Appositive Epithets

An interesting problem often presents itself when one employs an anarthrous nominal premodifier. A what who which? “Anarthrous nominal premodifier” is usage-ese for “false title,” one of a handful of other more user-friendly ways to describe a job title that is not a job title. A description of this concept that is, I think, better … Read more

85 Synonyms for “Help”

There are so many ways to help — at least eighty-five, I discovered. Here are that number of synonyms and idiomatic phrases for the verb help: 1. Abet: to actively help with an endeavor 2. Accommodate: to offer something, especially to help meet a need or want 3. Advance: to speed up the development of … Read more

A Writing-Competence Matrix

The effectiveness of any nonfiction manuscript is contingent on at least three factors: the writer’s level of expertise in the subject matter, their reportorial aptitude, and their writing ability. (By extension, the performance of other potential contributors — a developmental editor, a copy editor, a proofreader — in the execution of their responsibilities is also … Read more

Dual vs. Duel

When dual and duel go head to head in a usage fight, the one that wins, as is often the case, depends on the field of battle, otherwise known as the context. The adjective dual derives from the Latin term dualis, related to duo, the Latin word for two. Duo, of course, was borrowed directly … Read more

A Quiz About Quotation Marks

Use of quotation marks for dialogue is fairly straightforward; several posts on this website that deal with the topic can by found by searching for “quotation marks.” This quiz deals with other uses of these emphasis markers. Read the following sample sentences, determine the problem with the use of quotation marks, and devise a solution. … Read more

The Story Behind Words for Hair Color

The conventions for referring to hair color are tousled. Why is it that we refer to someone with light-colored hair as a blonde (and, rarely, a blond) but we call someone with red hair a redhead? Why are blonde and brunette spelled two ways? Blond and its feminine form blonde, both from the Latin word … Read more

Don’t Be Negative About Negatives

A site visitor called attention to a sentence in one of my recent posts and asked, because it has two negatives, whether it is grammatically correct. The sentence in question? “In case you hadn’t heard, I couldn’t care less.” The reader confused the appearance of two negative words with the concept of the double negative, … Read more

30 Archaic Adjectives and Adverbs

The words below are either obsolete, archaic, or old-fashioned, and though those in the latter category can still be found in modern writing, use all with caution. Sparing use keeps these words alive and adds a whimsical or quaint note, but too frequent recourse to such antiquities will have you sounding like a Renaissance Faire … Read more

Existent vs. Extant

What’s the difference between existent and extant? It might be more appropriate to ask, what’s the difference between exists and “is extant”? Existent usually seems awkward to me; exists or “to exist” often seems more suitable. (Even a comparative sentence such as “Unicorns are just as existent as umbrellas” seems odd — and not just … Read more

A Quiz About Attribution

Punctuation associated with attribution — identification of the source of a statement — can, when used incorrectly, confuse rather than clarify communication. Troubleshoot these troublesome sentences, paying attention to the relationship of the attribution to the rest of the sentence, and then compare your revisions with my solutions at the bottom of the page: 1. … Read more