5 Other Online Dictionaries

Regular Daily Writing Tips readers know that I often extol Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, the dictionary of record for the American publishing industry. Despite its apparent casual acceptance of nonstandard spellings, it’s an authoritative resource — as is its Internet version, Merriam-Webster Online. But plenty of alternatives exist; here are five interesting and helpful variations on … Read more

25 Idioms About Bread and Dessert

Wheat — the staff of life — and the baked products derived from it invite many idiomatic associations. Here are references to bread and other flour-based products in phrases and expressions. 1. “Bread and butter” refers to the basics in life. 2. “Bread and water” refers to the bare minimum of food and drink, based … Read more

5 Parallelism Problems in Sentence Structure

It’s easy to produce a faultily constructed sentence by neglecting to install all the necessary parts. Each of the sentences below lacks a small but essential component that helps render the statement sturdy and structurally sound; read each discussion for an explanation of the flaw. 1. “Lifelong interest and enthusiasm for science is instilled through … Read more

The Word of the Year for 2012

Each year, the major dictionary companies trot out their choice for Word of the Year and its runner-ups, based partly on search frequency and partly on staff consensus. Note that these words are selected not for their staying power — Words of the Year often fade into obscurity — but for the significance of their … Read more

The Meanings of “Like”

What’s not to like about like? It’s a versatile word, but one easily misused and abused. Like is a preposition: “He is like me in that regard”; “Like him, I fail to see the humor.” Take care to use me and us (and, in the third person, them), rather than I and we (and they) … Read more

The Difference Between Restrictive and Nonrestrictive Appositives

It is important for writers to distinguish between restrictive and nonrestrictive appositives. A noun or noun phrase is said to be in apposition when it is adjacent to a noun or phrase that describes the first one. But whether an appositive is restrictive, or essential to the sentence, or nonrestrictive, or nonessential, determines whether it … Read more

3 Punctuation Problems

In each of the three sentences below, the internal punctuation employed does not support the sentence construction. Discussion below each example explains how to provide sufficient scaffolding. 1. “Enjoy the break in the weather, a major storm is set to hit Northern California tonight.” This sentence contains a comma splice, it includes two independent clauses … Read more

20 Synonyms for “Law,” “Order,” or “Rule”

Many words exist that refer to an expectation expressed by an authoritative person or entity, and sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish such terms when one tries to convey a reference to a law, an order, or a rule. Here are some synonyms for those words, along with definitions. 1. Behest: an order or prompting 2. … Read more

5 Types of Specialized Dictionaries

Dictionaries aren’t just for looking up spellings and meanings of a broad selection of terms; you’ll find biographical, geographical, and medical dictionaries, among other specialized volumes. Here are five other categories of repositories of words, with a link to one online example of each. 1. Reverse Dictionaries A reverse dictionary enables you to type in … Read more

7 Packaging Label Errors

Considering the countless labeled products of all kinds available in sundry stores, it’s astonishingly rare to find a typographical error or similar mistake on packaging. Accidents do happen, however — especially in the case of products manufactured and packaged overseas — as the following images attest. Gratuitous quotation marks, usually seen on handwritten signs because … Read more

Alternative Meanings for Names of the Head and Its Parts

The head and its components, so prominent in our awareness, inspire us to use their names for other meanings. Here are ten words, including head, with their additional connotations. 1. Brain: intellect or the mind, someone considered very intelligent, or something considered the inanimate equivalent of an organic brain; as a verb, to strike someone … Read more

5 Sentences in Need of Commas

Commas signal delineation in sentences, sometimes showing the break point between two thoughts and sometimes marking the beginning and end of a phrase inserted in the midst of a sentence. Here are five sentences in which a single comma, or the second of an inseparable pair, is missing, with revisions and explanations. 1. “Even when … Read more