Facts are More Important Than Being First

Thanks to technology, everyone who wants to be a writer and publisher can easily do so online. Unfortunately, this ease has resulted in a lot of unease about how information is disseminated. Early online information about the recent massacre of children and adults at a Connecticut school is a case in point. Initial reports identified … Read more

10 Words That Include the Element “-Cept”

Words in which the element -cept appears have one thing in common: They have something to do with taking, literally or figuratively. Here are ten such words in noun form and their definitions, as well as common terms — nouns, verbs, and adjectives — based on them, along with meanings for the additional terms. 1. … Read more

7 British English Writing Resources

This site is intended primarily for writers of American English, though much of the information is also applicable to people who write English in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world. However, I recently received a request for recommendations about writing and editing guides that focus on British English. Here are seven authoritative … Read more

5 Cases of Extraneous Hyphenation with Numbers

The combination of numbers, spelled out or in numerical form, and hyphens is a volatile mixture that often confuses writers. Here are five sentences in which hyphens are erroneously inserted into constructions that do not require them, with explanations and corrections. 1. “Four-percent of adults may have ADHD.” There’s no reason to combine four and … Read more

Alternative Meanings for Names of Sense Organs

The words for body parts that enable us to perceive stimuli have, sensibly, been applied to other meanings that are extensions of the original connotations. Here are additional meanings of ear, eye, nose, skin, and tongue. Ear An ear is an earlike part of an object or a body or a plant. It also means … Read more

7 Types of Misspellings

Most misspellings can be categorized in one of seven groups. Here are some examples for each of those types. 1. Incorrectly Repeated Consonants In some words, consonants are awarded extraneous twins, such as a doubling of the first t in commitment or of the r in harass (the latter perhaps from confusion with embarrass, in … Read more

Alternative Meanings for “Hand” and Names of Its Parts

The human hand is such a quintessential element of our anatomy — we wouldn’t be human without ours (specifically, without our prehensile thumbs) — that we have applied the word to many literal and figurative senses other than the physiological one, as well as a wealth of idiomatic phrases (too many to list here). Here’s … Read more

Figurative and Alternate Meanings for 20 Medical Terms

Words used to describe medical conditions or phenomena often acquire new connotations by extension of the original meaning, though sometimes the medical meaning followed rather than fostered the other. Here are twenty such terms and their other senses, as well as the initial definition. 1. Anemic: lacking in some quality, such as energy, interest, quantity, … Read more

3 Cases of Distracting Usage

Word choice is problematic when the sense of a selected word, when read in association with another word, creates a diversion for the reader that distracts from the content. Here are three sentences with distracting words, along with solutions for revising them to avoid the distraction. 1. “He turned heads in scientific circles when he … Read more

How to Write a Book Review

Writing a book review — or any evaluation of a piece of content, including live or recorded music or a film — is simply a matter of sharing your thoughts after you have engaged in the content, but there is a standard template for producing it. Here’s one outline of the format. The two primary … Read more

5 Misplaced Phrases

The flexibility of the English language is a blessing and a curse: It is commendable because it invites creativity, but the feature can also be a flaw, leading to confused context. In these five sentences, the faulty positioning of a phrase mars the meaning. 1. “Meanwhile, his supporters continue to physically assault and terrorize student … Read more

10 Colloquial Terms and Their Meanings

Why is there a taint surrounding ain’t? Why do editors get ornery or riled, or have conniptions or raise a ruckus, if writers try to use these and other words? The ebb and flow of the English language’s vocabulary is caused by competing crosscurrents. Neologisms come in with each tide, some of them washing ashore … Read more