Motion and Movement

If a word begins with mot- or mov-, chances are that it refers to literal or figurative motion or movement. This post describes many such words. Motion and movement themselves are exemples of this class of word, which stems from the Latin verb movere, meaning “move.” (The connection for motion and other mot- words is […]

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Grammar Quiz #18: Who vs. Whom

In standard English who is used as a subject or a predicate nominative. Whom is used as an object (direct, indirect, object of preposition, etc.). Compounds, such as whoever and whomever, follow these same rules. Choose the correct form to fill the blank in each sentence. 1. ______ did you choose to serve on your […]

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How to Spell Exclamations of Laughter

How does one spell the sound of an eruption of laughter? It depends on the species of mirth, and the list below offers suggestions based on such subtleties. Whether one seeks to indicate a character’s laughter in the manuscript of a novel or short story or to indicate actual or conjectural laughter in nonfiction, consider […]

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3 Examples of Restructuring In-Line Lists

“In-line list” is simply a fancy term for a list of things in a sentence that aren’t treated as a vertical list—that is, a list formatted so that each item is positioned below the previous one (often with a number, letter, bullet, or other symbol to set the items off visually from each other and […]

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3 Cases of Erroneous Punctuation

In each of the following examples, confusion about the role of the comma in conjunction with a conjunction results in incorrect inclusion, omission, or placement of punctuation. Discussion following each example explains the error, and a revision illustrates correct employment of punctuation. 1. The business recently acted on the recommendation, and early on in its […]

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Idioms for Fabric and Other Materials

Words for various materials used in clothing have been applied to various descriptive terms and idiomatic expressions, including those described below. Cotton-picking is a euphemism to express anger or frustration. To cotton to something is to take a liking to it or to come to an understanding of it (the phrasing can also be “cotton […]

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Grammar Quiz #17: If Clauses

The type of “if” clause known as “first conditional” is used to express a condition that is possible and even likely to be fulfilled in the future. The most common verb tenses used with this type of conditional statement are simple past in the “if” clause and future tense in the other clause. It does […]

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5 Types of Usage Errors

Words can be misused in a variety of ways, as illustrated in the following examples, each followed by an explanatory discussion and a revision. 1. A massive diffused bomb sat in the middle of the courtyard. One form of erroneous word usage is use of a similar-sounding word, as in the case of effect in […]

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3 Cases of Intrusive Punctuation Before a Quotation

When an introductory or attributive phrase ending in a verb precedes one or more complete sentences enclosed in quotation marks to express something written or said, a comma separates the phrase from the quotation—for example, “The conventional wisdom is, ‘Trust, but verify,’” or “I replied, ‘Go for it.’” But if the quotation is incomplete or […]

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The Prevailing Style for Prefixes: No Hyphens

The hyphen’s role as a connector between prefixes and words has diminished significantly over the last few decades—and would be even more inconsequential if writers paid more careful attention to this long-standing trend. This post demonstrates how words with prefixes should be treated. You can still visit many houses and churches today that existed in […]

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Plans, Plains, and Planes

The three words in the headline for this post, and words derived from them—listed and defined below—stem from a common source. Plan, plain, and plane all derive from the Latin adjective planus, meaning “clear,” “even,” “flat, level,” and “plain.” Plan comes from the French word meaning “map”; the English word, originally a technical term in […]

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Vocabulary Quiz #12: Commonly Confused Words

In each sentence, choose the correct word from the pair of similar terms. (If both words possibly can be correct, choose the more plausible one.) 1. If we rise early enough, we can be ______ down the road by noon. a) farther b) further 2. Is there anyone ______ me, who wants to volunteer for […]

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