Beware of “Whom”

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I just read a mystery by Sue Grafton in which her character Kinsey Millhone mentally corrects a maid who responds to her phone call by asking “Who may I say is calling?”

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Accepting Complements

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There are a number of words that people have a hard time keeping straight. Usually these words sound alike, but have very different meanings. For instance, should you say “Please accept my complement!” or “Please accept my compliment!”?

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Homonyms, Homophones, Homographs and Heteronyms

There is some confusion and controversy around the definition of homonyms, homophones, homographs and heteronyms. In this article we will explore the difference between those terms. Homonym comes from the Greek homo which means “same” and onym which means “name.” When we talk about words, however, what should we use to define their names? The … Read more

The Inverted Pyramid

Here’s a tip from the newsroom: the inverted pyramid style of writing. It will help you to get your message across faster. It was developed by journalists for reasons that are completely irrelevant today… or are they? The inverted pyramid principle says you should put your most important point at the top of the article, … Read more

Compound Modifiers

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The compound modifier is my very favorite piece of the English language. It’s a hobby of mine to go around hyphenating word groupings that are modifying unbeknownst to them. Once you learn what it’s all about, you’ll do the same. But, what is a compound modifier, you ask. Well, let me tell you…

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The Difference Between e.g. and i.e.?

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The Latin abbreviations e.g. and i.e. are used extensively in English. Not everyone, however, is aware of the difference in their usage. Some people use them interchangeably. Others even invert their meaning. If you are not completely sure when to use each of those abbreviations, keep reading!

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The apostrophe is a possessive kind of punctuation mark, but it’s also used in another way. When we leave something out of a word or phrase, the apostrophe marks the place where it was left out. We use this in everyday speech without even thinking about it.

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Audience is Everything

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Just as real estate revolves around the old adage, Location! Location! Location!, students, teachers, authors and any writer worth his or her salt lives by a motto as well. Quite simply, audience is everything.

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Let the Word Do the Work

When language-mutilator Yogi Berra said that something was “like ‘deja vu’ all over again,” everybody laughed. Lately I get the feeling that some people who say it don’t know it’s a joke. Yogi’s “belts and suspenders” approach to words seems to be on the increase. We’ve all seen ads that offer “a free gift.” Sometimes … Read more

There, Their, They’re

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When two words sound alike (known as homonyms), it ‘s easy to think they mean the same thing. English being what it is, they usually don’t and it’s important to get them right so you say exactly what you mean.

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Word of the Day: Idiosyncrasy

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Idiosyncrasy comes from the Greek: idios “one’s own” and sun-krasis “temperament” or “mixture.” Idiosyncrasy is a peculiar habit or characteristic of an individual or group. It can also refer to mental and physical characteristics. Below you will find examples of the usage.

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Show, Don’t Tell

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Anyone who’s ever written a short story or taken a freshman composition course has heard the words “show, don’t tell.”

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