Color Symbolism in Writing

Advertisers pay a great deal of attention to the colors that go into their marketing materials. There’s even a branch of psychology that studies the way color can affect human behavior. Marketers use color to sell products—red to stimulate the appetite, pink to appeal to women, green for gardening and farming supplies, and so on. … Read more

Dropping the “of” After “couple”

This recent cry of despair from a reader has not fallen on deaf ears: You’re the only people I know to complain to, so I’m complaining again: ‘Couple’ in spoken form, and recently in written form, with ‘a’ and ‘of’ elided, has become the equivalent of ‘two’. The reader goes on to offer an “updated” … Read more

Endearing and Ravished

English has such a rich vocabulary, writers have little excuse to use a word that is almost right. As Twain famously put it, The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. Two adjectives that writers may want … Read more

Fossil L-Words

An aspect of English spelling that fascinates me is the existence of what I call “fossil words”— words in which a letter is embedded like a fossil in the rock—there, but no longer pronounced. Among these fossil words are some “silent L” words that go back to the earliest forms of English. walk Old English … Read more

Demise of the -er Comparative

Perhaps, like me, you were taught in elementary school that most one-syllable adjectives, plus two-syllable adjectives that end in y, form the comparative and superlative by adding –er and –est. Most one-syllable adverbs also form the comparative and superlative with –er and –est. As with every grammar “rule,” there are exceptions, but mostly, short adjectives … Read more

Calculus Etymology

I did not take calculus in high school. (I barely made it through basic math.) All I know about calculus is that it is a branch of mathematics that involves a certain type of calculation that entails the study of rates of change. The word calculus has an interesting etymology. It’s a diminutive of the … Read more

Writing the Pandemic

Since the media’s first faltering coverage of the coronavirus called COVID-19, the disease has not only embedded itself in the world’s population, it has also claimed a place in the English language. Coverage of the disease has swallowed so much of the daily news coverage since 2020 that the AP Stylebook, the Merriam-Webster dictionary and … Read more

30 Ways to Say, “You’re Stupid”

I’ve been bingeing on the Shetland mysteries by Ann Cleeves and have finished them all. The novels are set in the Shetland islands to the extreme north of the UK. One of the many enjoyable features is the realistic dialogue, replete with dialect words and British idioms. I encountered several words, some of them insults, … Read more

Words to Describe the Way People Talk

If there is any one interest and practice shared by every human being on earth, it’s talking—usually to other people, but not always. Unsurprisingly, these 7.9 billion talkers possess numerous words for different ways of talking. Many speech words in English derive from other world languages, so the following collection is representative of more than … Read more

Pandemic Vocabulary

This post was prompted by a reader who poses the following question: What is the preferred way to write Covid-19 in prose English? Answer: If you write for publication, it will depend on your publication’s guidelines. These three versions can be found in various publications: COVID-19 Covid-19 covid-19. So far, I’ve seen the all-lowercase covid-19 … Read more

Critical Race Theory

An academic term receiving a lot of attention these days is Critical Race Theory. When a previously specialized term makes its way into the general vocabulary—beg the question, moot, Anglo-Saxon, etc.—misuse runs close behind. Add a hot-button word like race, and the term becomes explosive. Critical Race Theory is a descendant of Critical Theory. Theory … Read more

Important News for Free Email Subscribers

DailyWritingTips started in 2007. Right after that we launched a free subscription to our content. Three years ago or so the free subscription was substituted by a paid, more complete subscription with exercises along with our writing tips (which allowed us to remove ads from the website). Despite the launch of the paid subscription we … Read more