Grammar Quiz #24: Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers

A participial phrase is said to be “dangling” when the noun it is intended to modify is missing from the sentence. Similarly a modifier is said to be misplaced when it is separated from the word it modifies. Edit the following sentences to eliminate such errors. 1. Looking from my bedroom window, the horses frolicked … Read more

Betters and Bettors

Is there a connection between better, which is sometimes employed as a noun, among other parts of speech, and the noun bettor? This post explains their etymological origins and lists and defines related words. Better is primarily an adjective, from Old English bettra (and, previously, betera), meaning “superior.” It can also mean “more advantageous or … Read more

Spelling Variations

This post discusses several factors responsible for variations in spelling, with examples. For much of the history of the English language, spelling was more an art than a science; because of lapses in literacy, there was no standard orthography. Even now, well into the twenty-first century, thanks to ignorance and laziness (and some intentional slangy … Read more

3 Examples of Interpolated Coordination

When a phrase provides comparative or correlative information to supplement information appearing in the main clause of a sentence, it must be integrated into the sentence without disrupting the syntax. In each of the following sentences, this integration is flawed. Discussions following the examples explain the problem, and revisions demonstrate the solution. 1. Understanding interrelated … Read more


This post pertains to varieties of pleonasms, instances of verbal redundancy, which are usually a sign of careless or lazy writing (though some are employed for rhetorical effect). The word pleonasm stems from the Greek term pleonazein, meaning “to be excessive,” and is related to plenty, plural, and plus. One type of redundancy is onomastic … Read more

Style Quiz #15: Redundancy

Correct errors of redundancy in the following sentences by removing words that repeat the meaning already expressed by other words in the same sentence. 1. After a few minutes, the hawk was a small speck in the sky. 2. The Medical Examiner was called to the building where a dead corpse had been found. 3. … Read more

“Stance” and Its Relations

A previous post listed words such as constitute that ultimately stem from the Latin verb stare, meaning “stand.” Here, stance (from the present participle of stare), and words in which stance is the root, as well as terms related to those words, are listed and defined. A stance is a literal or figurative attitude or … Read more

3 Cases of Using the Wrong Punctuation

In each of the following sentences, the wrong punctuation has been employed to aid in organization of a sentence. Discussion after each example explains the problem, and a revision demonstrates the solution. 1. Ensure that you have an escape route while driving in traffic, drive at a speed that places your vehicle outside clusters of … Read more

35 Numerical Prefixes

This post lists prefixes of Greek and/or Latin provenance used in expressions of numerical relationships, with examples. 1. uni-: “one” (unicycle) 2. mono-: “one” (monogamy) 3–4. du-: “two” (duplicate); sometimes duo- (duopoly) 5–6. deuter-: “two” (deuterium); sometimes deutero- (deuterograph) 7. bi-: “two” (bicycle) or “twice” (biannual) 8. di-: “two” (dilemma) 9. tri-: “three” (triangle) 10. … Read more

Punctuation Quiz #26: Punctuation Errors

The following sentences contain errors of punctuation. Revise them as necessary. 1. That’s my dream car in the window I plan to buy it as soon as I have enough money. 2. The boss is really old. He still addresses women clients as Mrs So-and-So. 3. I never expected to see so many glacier’s and … Read more

5 Functions of Quotation Marks

This post discusses the use of quotation marks to distinguish dialogue, parts of compositions, phrases as phrases, scare quotes, and epithets. 1. For Dialogue Quotation marks are placed around speech in fiction (to distinguish it from attribution and narrative) and nonfiction (for the same reasons, in addition to emphasizing that it is recorded verbatim and … Read more

Essential and Nonessential Clauses

Discussions below explain the mistakes in the examples given, which err in mistaking essential and nonessential clauses and vice versa. A revision accompanying each sample sentence demonstrates correct form. An essential (or restrictive) word, phrase, or clause is one that is necessary for conveying the intended meaning of a sentence. When the essential element follows … Read more