“Expedient” vs. “Expeditious”

What’s the difference between expedient and expeditious? The words were originally synonymous, but their meanings diverged long ago, and the distinction is small but significant. Both words derive from the Latin term expedire, which means “disengage” or “prepare.” (The literal meaning is “free the feet.”) As you may have guessed, that’s also the source of … Read more

7 Proofreading Steps

Proofreading is the last line of defense for quality control in print and online publishing. Be sure to conduct a thorough proofread of all documents before they are printed for distribution and of all Web pages before they go live, using these guidelines. But before you proof, you must edit. (This post explains the difference … Read more

How to Punctuate Non-“He Said” Attributions of Quotations

The speaker of a quotation or a line of dialogue is normally identified in an attribution, a phrase as simple as “he said” that attributes the words to a particular person. However, there are other ways to attribute, including the ones illustrated in these examples, that don’t explicitly require an attributive verb. The sentences below … Read more

5 Ways to Network with DailyWritingTips.com

DailyWritingTips.com readers often ask us about our presence on social networks, so in this post, we provide details about how to interact with DWT and with other people who care about how they communicate. 1. Find us on Facebook, at Facebook.com/DailyWritingTips. There, you will see links to DailyWritingTips.com posts and can check out comments by … Read more

3 Disagreements About How to Use “Either” and “Neither”

Use of either and neither, and their associated words or and nor, is complicated by disagreements about proper usage. Here’s a discussion of the words and the opinions about their appropriate use. An “either . . . or” or “neither . . . nor” construction can include more than two elements, but some grammar guides … Read more

5 Examples of How Hyphens Help

Confusion about whether or not to use a hyphen remains one of the most common mechanical problems in writing. Here are five sentences in which hyphens are erroneously omitted. 1. “The head on crash sent three people to the hospital.” This sentence creates the unfortunate impression that a human head is somehow responsible for a … Read more

5 Steps to Completing Your First Draft

Follow these stages of preparation and production to assemble a first draft of written (or spoken) content. 1. Identify Your Purpose What is the reason for writing the content? Are you objectively presenting information? If so, is it for educational purposes, or for entertainment — or both? Are you writing to help someone make a … Read more

“Insidious” vs. “Invidious”

What’s the difference between insidious and invidious, and what about perfidious and pernicious, for that matter? None of the four words is synonymous with any of the others, though your connotation radar may correctly sense that they all have unpleasant associations. Insidious, which derives from the Latin word for “ambush” (the second syllable is cognate … Read more

7 Tips for Writing an Email Message

What’s so difficult about writing an email? Nothing. That’s the problem: It’s too easy, and you should take care that a professional message is just that — especially if you use email primarily for social interaction and are unaccustomed to sending business emails. Here are some guidelines for businesslike electronic communication. 1. If you write … Read more

5 Examples of Insufficient Hyphenation

Phrasal adjectives that consist of more than two words are often flawed in construction, perhaps because writers are hesitant to complicate a phrase with more than one hyphen. But hyphens are cheap and handy linking devices, and as these sentences show, their proper use enhances clarity. 1. “The high cost of the multi-million dollar catamarans … Read more

“Amount” vs. “Number”

The frequent confusion between amount and number is based on a misunderstanding of a small, simple distinction that the words themselves indicate. Amount refers to quantities that are measured in bulk or mass — considered as a whole — while number pertains to things that can be counted individually: “The amount of square footage in … Read more

What to Do When a Possessive Blocks Punctuation

When one refers to a city followed by the name of the state or a larger entity in which the city is located, the larger entity is set off from the smaller one by a pair of commas. But how do you treat such a reference when the place name is possessive? Revise the reference. … Read more