3 More Cases of Confusion Between a Thing and Its Name

One fairly infrequent but prominent error in sentence composition is the careless confusion of a word or a phrase with the person, place, or thing that it represents, which usually occurs when the term is being defined or explained. The sentences below have this problem, or a related one, in common; discussion and a revision … Read more

Throughput, Exogenous, Titer, and Fomites

Media coverage of the coronavirus causing the disease COVID-19 has introduced numerous previously unfamiliar terms into daily usage. Four that have especially caught my attention are throughput, exogenous, titer, and fomites. throughput When I first heard this word being thrown about, I thought it must be recently invented political jargon, like walkback: walkback: Verb. to … Read more

10 Pairs of Words with Dissolving Distinctions

Erosion of distinctions between senses for words with similar or related meanings is a natural process, but careful writers resist becoming accessories to acceleration of that process. Here are ten word pairs that are used interchangeably, often at the expense of clarity. 1. Accurate/precise: Accuracy is the degree to which an estimated measurement or a … Read more

Identifying Clauses

A reader has asked for help in distinguishing noun, adjective, and adverb clauses. First, what is a clause? A clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a finite verb. (A finite verb shows time such as present, past, or future.) Clauses are of two main kinds: independent and dependent. An independent … Read more

Words from Greek “Theos”

Most people are acquainted with the word theology and its offshoots, theologian and theological. The words are formed from Greek theos (god) and logy (knowledge). Theology is the study of the nature of God and religious belief. Here are some more theos words that may not be as familiar. theocentric theos + kentrikos (having a … Read more

Bureaucrats and Politicians

A reader has asked for a discussion of the words, bureaucrats vs officials, and lawmakers vs politicians. [I’d] like to know what teachers and English-language experts think of the use of these terms in the media, politics, or in everyday conversation. For example, why using “bureaucrats” in a sentence will generate a different reaction than … Read more