4 Rules for Setting Designations off with Commas

Where do commas go in the vicinity of references to city and state names, or when identifying a date? Is a comma necessary before Jr. or II after a person’s name, or between a corporate name and a tag like Inc.? The rules for use of such functional punctuation follow: 1. City-and-State Designations In a … Read more

60 Synonyms for “Walk”

When you walk the walk, talk the talk: Replace the flat-footed verb walk with a more sprightly synonym from this list: 1. Amble: walk easily and/or aimlessly 2. Bounce: walk energetically 3. Clump: walk heavily and/or clumsily 4. Falter: walk unsteadily 5. Foot it: depart or set off by walking 6. Footslog: walk through mud … Read more

The Ups and Downs of “Left” and “Right”

Left has gotten a bad rap throughout history. Because of overwhelming majority of people are right-handed (most estimates are in the range of 85 to 90 percent), left-handedness has come to be associated with weakness — the word left itself is descended from an Old English word meaning “weak.” Left-handedness was therefore until recently often … Read more

A Few Rounds About Bullet Lists

Before reading this post you might wanna check one we published a while ago titled 7 Rules For Formatting Lists. Here’s a quotation from it: “The items in unnumbered lists are often preceded by dots or other symbols known collectively as bullets, though such markers are technically not necessary, especially in a recipe or a … Read more

5 Words Caught in Semantic Drift

Is it possible to simultaneously admire the vibrancy and flexibility of the English language and grumble about shifts in meaning that deprive the language of some of its richness? I know it is, because I often do so. Because of the organic nature of language, English is a victim of semantic drift — not as … Read more

Prone vs. Supine

It’s easy to confuse the meaning of prone and supine — and it’s important to distinguish between them, because they’re antonyms. (I also discuss here some of the synonyms of each word.) Prone, from the Latin term pronus, means “inclined to,” and it is commonly used in this figurative sense as well as to mean … Read more

The Suffix “-esque” and the Like

The suffix -esque, one of a class of what are called adjectival suffixes, is adopted from the French version of the Italian suffix -esco, related to the standard English adjectival suffix -ish, and all of them mean like, or “related to” or “characteristic of”; -esque is more specialized, while -ish has additional senses. The French … Read more

Stay a While and Learn About “Sojourn”

After I posted a list of synonyms for trip, a couple of readers offered sojourn as an additional alternative. Unfortunately, however, they are victims of a common misunderstanding. Sojourn is actually a near antonym of trip. It means “a brief stay.” The confusion undoubtedly arises from the presence of the syllable journ, which is cognate … Read more

20 Verbs Smothered by “Be”s

Below are phrases in which a form of “to be” plus an adjective (or a preposition and a noun) and, often, a preposition can easily be replaced by a simple form of the verb (occasionally accompanied by a preposition), resulting in a more concise statement: 1. Before: “She is able (or unable) to think for … Read more

20 Rules About Subject-Verb Agreement

Is, or are? Go, or goes? Whether a verb is singular or plural depends on any one of a complicated set of factors. Here is a roster of rules for subject-verb agreement (or “Here are some rules . . .”): 1. Use verbs that agree with a subject, not with a noun that is part … Read more

A Quiz About Compressing Accordion Sentences

Brisk, lively writing requires attending to phrasing that slows readers down and or trips them up. Be vigilant about finding ways to make sentences less wordy and more direct. Firm up these five flabby sentences, and compare your revisions with mine: 1. “The kit includes a set of five food containers, and they are dishwasher … Read more

7 Similar but Distinct Word Pairs

Look-alike, sound-alike words can cause confusion. Note the distinctions between each pair of terms listed below: 1. Abjure and Adjure Abjure, from Latin by way of French, means “to deny” or “to renounce,” or “to avoid.” Adjure, which took the same route to English, means “to confirm” or “to command,” or “to advise or urge.” … Read more