The Logic Behind “-logic” and “-logical”

Why does the English language allow one to select between, say, biologic and biological, neurologic and neurological, and technologic and technological? Why complicate our language lives with the choice? Is the universe malicious? According to one study, the suffix -ic is preferred over the variant -ical by a ratio of 8 to 1. Curiously, however, … Read more

7 Tips for Editing to Improve Usage

How do you make sure you’re writing right? Crafting prose is mostly a matter of using the right words for the job. Here are some steps to help you achieve that goal. 1. Look up the definition of an unfamiliar word and be sure you understand the meaning before you use it. It’s easy to … Read more

5 Cases of Excessive Commas

The rules about commas can seem so complicated — and contradictory — that writers can (almost) be forgiven for tossing in an extra one or two. Here are several examples of overly generous deployment of commas. 1. “If a killer asteroid was, indeed, incoming, a spacecraft could, in theory, be launched to nudge the asteroid … Read more

When Is a Question Not a Question?

Inclusion or exclusion of a question mark is usually a straightforward matter. However, there are instances in which what are framed as questions should end with other punctuation, and occasionally, a statement might be followed by a question mark. A discussion of exceptions to basic use of the question mark follows. Questions are statements of … Read more

10 Shelf-Sign Errors

Errors on store signs are less egregious and more common than those on the products sold themselves, but one wonders, based on these photographs (and on the mistakes we see all the time while we’re shopping) if anybody who works in retail is paying any attention. Somehow, this rollback doesn’t seem like such a good … Read more

5 “Not This . . . But That” Parallelism Problems

Just as “not only . . . but also” constructions often stymie writers (see this recent post on the topic, and search the Daily Writing Tips site for “not only . . . but also” to find several others), similar syntactical phrasing can be difficult to form correctly. 1. “The movie achieves its effects, not … Read more

5 Compound-Word Corrections

Writers sometimes confuse a two-word phrase for a closed compound noun consisting of those two words, or vice versa. Here are five cases in which a noun phrase or a verb phrase was mistaken for a compound word or the other way around. 1. “Eating McDonald’s food everyday for four weeks turned this filmmaker into … Read more

5 Answers to Questions About Direct Address

1. I want to tell athletes at my school, where the mascot is a wildcat, to be proud of their team’s accomplishment. Should I write, “Be proud Wildcats” or “Be proud, Wildcats”? I see things like this written all the time without a comma, but something tells me I should include one. You’re right. Both … Read more

3 Cases of Extraneous Hyphens

Writers, even professionals, have a difficult time with hyphens, frequently perplexed about whether to use one — or, worse, blithely certain they’re inserting or omitting a hyphen correctly when doing so is wrong. Here are some sentences that should be bereft of hyphens. 1. “In the city’s first cop-killing since 1935, a detective was found … Read more

3 Types of “Not Only . . . But Also” Errors

Confusion about the proper arrangement of words in sentences in which the correlative conjunctions “not only” and “but also” appear is manifested in various forms of erroneous syntax. The following sentences, accompanied by discussion and corrected versions, demonstrate three categories of mistaken sentence construction. 1. “Digital cameras are not only changing photography, but our lives.” … Read more

25 Synonyms for “Deceptive” and “Fake

Many words related to deceptive and fake exist, but some have specific senses for distinctive usage. Here are some alternatives to these terms and the related words deceitful and false and their connotations. 1. Assumed: pretended, as in “an assumed name,” referring to a pseudonym used to conceal one’s identity (and, as a verb, to … Read more

Book Review: A Manual for Writers

I was prepared to have to slog through Kate L. Turabian’s Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations — I mean, just read that title again — in order to review it, but to my surprise, I found it (in parts, at least) rather appealing. To be fair, this isn’t your father’s Turabian. … Read more