Amble vs. Ample

I came across this comment in a review on the Amazon site: I am too stocked up on my own books to be able to accept any books for review at this time as I’d wanted to give amble time reading if I accepted them for an honest review. I know as well as anyone … Read more

There’s A Style Guide for That

Authors who specialize in one field of knowledge are sometimes unaware of style guides used in other areas. In writing for DWT, I mostly rely on these three style guides: The Chicago Manual of Style The AP Stylebook Penguin Writer’s Manual Chicago is directed at a broad audience that includes both scholars and entrepreneurs. AP … Read more

Epidemic vs. Pandemic vs. Endemic

The dreadful outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa has made headlines like these a daily sight in newspapers and on news sites all over the world: Ebola Epidemic Ravages West Africa Leave endemic Ebola zones – Germany tells nationals Americans fear pandemic as Ebola patients evacuate to Atlanta The element dem in epidemic, … Read more

A Useful Reminder About ‘An’

English has two forms of the indefinite article: a and an. In modern usage, the form a is used in front of words that begin with a consonant sound; an is used in front of words that begin with a vowel sound. The following uses of an are nonstandard in modern English: OK, I admit … Read more

Driver License vs. Driver’s License

A reader questions the use of the possessive in such constructions as “doctor’s appointment” and “driver’s license”: If I take out my state-granted proof of authority to drive an automobile in Oklahoma, the title on that wallet-sized document is “Driver License,” not “Driver’s License.” I hear a lot of people say that they have a … Read more

For Sale vs. On Sale

A reader asks, When do you use the expression “for sell” instead of “for sale”? Short answer: Never. ESL learners must be puzzled when they see ads like these on the Web: I have a nice Play Station 3 drum set for sell for 35 dollars. We have a wristband for sell for $100 in … Read more

Ever Since and Every Sense of the Word

Many misspellings are the result of mispronunciation. The first time I saw the expression “ever since” written as “ever sense,” I assumed that it had been written by the speaker of a regional dialect. For example, where I live, it’s often impossible to tell if someone is asking to borrow a pen or a pin. … Read more

Person vs. Persona

A reader asks for “some analysis between person and persona.” Both words derive from an ancient Latin word that originally referred to the theatrical mask worn by an actor. In time, the word came to refer to the character played by the actor wearing the mask. The characters in a play are still referred to … Read more

A Cause for Concern

It’s a cause for concern that many professional journalists and consultants of various kinds are muddling the idioms “a cause for concern” and “gives one pause” to create the meaningless hybrid “a pause for concern.” Here are some examples, taken from serious news and consulting sites: Why the Latest Economic Reports Should Give Pause for … Read more

Corroboratively vs. Collaboratively

A reader has brought my attention to an odd use of the word corroboratively in a job description for a communications specialist position: Work corroboratively as a member of an integrated contractor team… Like the reader, I believe that the recruiter was reaching for the adverb collaboratively, which is the word used to describe the … Read more

Talking about Age in the Media

Everyone wants to live longer, but no one wants to be old. –Harry Moody, director of academic affairs for AARP (2012). To me – old age is always ten years older than I am. –Bernard Baruch, American financier (1870-1965). About forty-two million Americans are 65 years or older. Advertisers, politicians, and researchers often need to … Read more

Epic, Really Epic

The word epic is used so sloppily these days that a modern day polar explorer referring to the harrowing and courageous exploits of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic expedition felt that modification was needed: “It [Shackleton’s crossing] was epic, really epic…” Really in this quotation is not being used as an intensifier; it means “truly.” It’s … Read more