The Descendants of “Sedere”

Sit and its past-tense form sat, as well as set, settle, and seat, are cognates from Old English of the Latin verb sedere, meaning “sit.” The more or less disguised direct descendants of that term are listed and briefly defined in this post. Words derived from a Latin verb stemming from sedere and meaning “sit … Read more

The Distance Between Two “Leagues”

What does league, meaning “alliance,” have to do with league, meaning “a few miles”? An attempt to find kinship between these words by positing the notion of linking several similar entities or units is futile: The identical formation of the words is coincidental. The first sense of league stems from the Latin verb ligare, meaning … Read more

Vocabulary Quiz #5: Idiomatic Expressions

Revise these sentences so that the idiomatic expressions are rendered correctly. 1. He said he’d touch bases with me tomorrow. 2. I remember how I used to wile away the hours during summer vacation. 3. She awaited the news with baited breath. 4. We found ourselves in dire straights. 5. The gophers are wrecking havoc … Read more

3 Types of Parenthetical Problems

1. The survey found increasing demand for customer experiences that are difficult, if not impossible to deliver with legacy systems. Writers sometimes carelessly neglect to close a syntactical door after opening it. In this case, “if not impossible” is a parenthetical interjected into the main clause, so a comma must follow as well as precede … Read more

What to Do When a Dangling Participle Defies Revision

A dangling participle is a construction in which the participle, or verb, that follows the subject of a sentence is not associated with an introductory phrase, leaving the participle dangling. For example, in “As a client, we know this new standard may affect you and your financial-reporting requirements,” the subject “we” is identified in the … Read more

3 Cases of Poorly Constructed Short Lists

In each of the following sentences, the writer is under the misapprehension that the statement includes a list of three words and/or phrases; in fact, each sentence includes a compound list item and a simple list item (or at least is better rendered so that it does), for a total of two items. Discussion of … Read more

Words Starting with “Epi-“

The prefix epi, from the Greek word meaning “at,” “close to,” “on,” “in addition to,” or “on the occasion of,” is at the root of a number of diverse words that pertain in some way to something associated with something else. This post lists and briefly defines many of these terms. epicene (“in common”): having … Read more

Punctuation Quiz #17: Attribution

The following sentences deliberately lack internal punctuation whether such punctuation is correct or not. Insert punctuation as necessary to correct them. 1. Her reply was as follows “We have no comment in response to the allegations.” 2. She said that the management “has no comment in response to the allegations.” 3. She said “We have … Read more

3 Sentences with Punctuation Problems

Commas serve a vital function as a fundamental organizing tool within sentences, acting as buffers that keep syntactical elements in place and as signals that indicate relationship. Often, however, they are incorrectly located, omitted, or inserted, adversely affecting comprehension. After each of the sentences below, a discussion explains why a comma is misplaced, missing, or … Read more

Hyphenation Quiz #1: Attaching Prefixes to Words

Identify in each sentence below whether, according to The Chicago Manual of Style and most other style guides, the word with a prefix should have a hyphen connecting the prefix to the base word or whether the prefix should be directly attached to the base word. 1. a) The anti-immigration group solicited signatures for their … Read more

20 Archetypes for People Based on Names

Various expressions have arisen, sometimes from folkloric or historical origins, to describe types of people by assigning them with personal names. Here are twenty such appellations and their definitions and (sometimes only probable) origins. 1. Average Joe: the average man from a demographic viewpoint; from the ubiquity of the name Joe 2. Chatty Cathy: an … Read more

3 Cases of Confused Connections

Relationships between sentence elements are sometimes obscured by suboptimal syntax. In each of the following examples, ordering of phrases is an obstacle to comprehension. Discussion and revision of each sentences explains and provides a solution. 1. Despite encouragement from regulators, financial institutions experience mixed results ranging from prompt responses to requests, at best, to requests … Read more