Linking Verbs and Action Verbs

Verbs are divided into two functional categories: copular verbs and action verbs. This post discusses their differences. Copular, or linking, verbs, which express a situation or a state rather than an action or a process (and thus are among the class of verbs called stative verbs), consist of several types of verbs. The basic ones … Read more

What’s the Difference Between “Reluctance” and “Reticence?

Although reticence has acquired a sense synonymous with that of reluctance, it’s important to maintain an important distinction between the two terms. Reticent means “disinclined to communicate or speak,” or “restrained in appearance or presentation.” Reluctance, by contrast, refers to an aversion, hesitation, or unwillingness to do or say something. Thus, although one might say, … Read more

How to Punctuate Descriptions of Colors

Use of hyphens and commas in phrases that include names of colors is the cause of some confusion among writers. Here’s a discussion of when to insert or omit these punctuation marks when referring to colors. As with most other phrasal adjectives, pairs of words that together describe the color of an object should be … Read more

Is Mentoring Just a Memory?

Once upon a time, a writer was created in a complex process of teaching and mentoring. To the detriment of the worlds of publishing and journalism, this system has broken down, and it will never be the same again. But as is true of any skill set, it is still possible to make the journey … Read more

50 Idioms About Arms, Hands, and Fingers

Many idioms referring to human behavior are based on analogies to parts of the body, especially arms, hands, and fingers. Here are explanations of many of the most common expressions. 1. “All hands on deck,” from nautical terminology, means that a circumstance requires everyone’s attendance or attention. 2. One who is all thumbs is clumsy … Read more

3 Types of Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are constructions consisting of a verb and either a preposition, a particle, or both. 1. Prepositional Phrasal Verb This construction consists of a verb and a preposition, as in “I take after him,” “We’re looking into that,” and “Please stand by.” 2. Particle Phrasal Verb This construction consists of a verb and a … Read more

5 Sentences with Problematic Parallelism in Lists

It’s too bad you can’t eat grammatical errors or use them to fill your gas tank, because they’re a cheap, endlessly renewable resource. Here’s a five-course meal of sentences with troublesome structure, starting with dessert. 1. “The writer will sit, eat, and interview the subject.” It seems more logical for the writer to interview the … Read more

Punctuation Errors When Posing a Question

When writers pose a question, or call attention to one, they sometimes impose unnecessary punctuation in the framing sentence. Here are a few examples of extraneous punctuation in such sentences. 1. “To pass a necessity test usually means a negative response to the question: ‘Can the same result be obtained by other means?’” A colon … Read more

An Online Tool Hyperlocally Targets Language Usage

According to a recent news article, thanks to Internet magic, online companies can identify hyperlocal vocabulary, which might have an impact on language usage and the development of tomorrow’s vocabulary. Yelp, the popular online search and review site, now has a feature on its site called Wordmaps, which shows visitors the concentration of use of … Read more

What’s the Difference Between “Frantic” and “Frenetic”?

Frantic and frenetic share a common etymological source — along with frenzy and words associated with psychiatric conditions and a discredited pseudoscience — but the adjectives differ in connotation. The words derive from the Greek noun phrenitis, meaning “inflammation of the brain.” Phrenetikos, the adjectival form, was borrowed into Latin as phreneticus, which led to … Read more

Too Much French Vocabulary Is the Haute of Hauteur

Thanks to the longstanding political and social influence of France on what is now the United Kingdom, French and its dialects have had a significant impact on the English language. Linguists estimate that nearly one-third of English words are derived from French, and though some are more efficient or evocative in meaning than words that … Read more

20 Strategies for Writing in Plain Language

The increasing popularity of plain language, the concept of writing clear, simple prose, is making it easier for people to understand legal documents and government forms. It’s also recommended for any print or online publications intended to provide information or explain a process — and writers should consider its utility for any content context. Here … Read more