Tuesday, December 31, 2013

whereabouts are/whereabouts is: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, December 31, 2013

whereabouts are/whereabouts is
Despite the deceptive S on the end of the word, “whereabouts” is normally singular, not plural. “The whereabouts of the stolen diamond is unknown.” Only if you were simultaneously referring to two or more persons having separate whereabouts would the word be plural, and you are quite unlikely to want to do so.

_____________
FINAL DAY: Still don't have the third edition of Common Errors in English Usage? Get it today for $15—the coupon code FIFTEEN is set to expire January 1, 2014.

Monday, December 30, 2013

strong suite/strong suit: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, December 30, 2013

strong suite/strong suit
“Strong suit” is an expression derived from card-playing, in which hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades are the suits. When you put your best foot forward you play your strong suit.

_____________
ENDING SOON: Still don't have the third edition of Common Errors in English Usage? Get it today for $15—the coupon code FIFTEEN is set to expire January 1, 2014.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

root/rout/route: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, December 29, 2013

root/rout/route
You can root for your team (cheer them on) and hope that they utterly smash their opponents (create a rout), then come back in triumph on Route 27 (a road).

_____________
ENDING SOON: Still don't have the third edition of Common Errors in English Usage? Get it today for $15—the coupon code FIFTEEN is set to expire January 1, 2014.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

tradegy/tragedy: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, December 28, 2013

tradegy/tragedy
Not only do people often misspell “tragedy” as “tradegy,” they mispronounce it that way too. Just remember that the adjective is “tragic” to recall that it’s the G that comes after the A. Also common is the misspelling “tradgedy.”

_____________
ENDING SOON: Still don't have the third edition of Common Errors in English Usage? Get it today for $15—the coupon code FIFTEEN is set to expire January 1, 2014. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

old-timer’s disease/Alzheimer’s Disease: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, December 27, 2013

old-timer’s disease/Alzheimer’s Disease
I’ve always thought that “old-timer’s disease” was a clever if tasteless pun on “Alzheimer’s Disease,” but many people have assured me that this is a common and quite unintentional error.

Some medical authorities prefer the form “Alzheimer Disease,” though that is seldom used by nonprofessionals.

_____________
ENDING SOON: Still don't have the third edition of Common Errors in English Usage? Get it today for $15—the coupon code FIFTEEN is set to expire January 1, 2014. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

perse/per se: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, December 26, 2013

perse/per se 
This legal term meaning “in, of, or by itself” is a bit pretentious, but you gain little respect if you misspell per se as a single word. Worse is the mistaken “per say.”




















 
_____________
ENDING SOON: Still don't have the third edition of Common Errors in English Usage? Get it today for $15—the coupon code FIFTEEN is set to expire January 1, 2014.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

aswell/as well: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, December 25, 2013

aswell/as well
No matter how you use it, the expression “as well” is always two words, despite the fact that many people seem to think it should be spelled “aswell.” Examples: “I don’t like plastic trees as well as real ones for Christmas.” “Now that we’ve opened our stockings, let’s open our other presents as well.”

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

brussel sprout/brussels sprout: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, December 24, 2013

brussel sprout/brussels sprout
These tiny cabbage-like vegetables are named after the Belgian city of Brussels, which has an S on the end. The correct spelling is “brussels sprout.”

Monday, December 23, 2013

athlete: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, December 23, 2013

athlete
Tired of people stereotyping you as a dummy just because you’re a jock? One way to impress them is to pronounce “athlete” properly, with just two syllables, as “ATH-leet” instead of using the common mispronunciation “ATH-uh-leet.”

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Saturday, December 21, 2013

butt naked/buck naked: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, December 21, 2013

butt naked/buck naked
The standard expression is “buck naked,” and the contemporary “butt naked” is an error that will get you laughed at in some circles. However, it might be just as well if the new form were to triumph. Originally a “buck” was a dandy, a pretentious, overdressed show-off of a man. Condescendingly applied in the US to Native Americans and black slaves, it quickly acquired negative connotations. To the historically aware speaker, “buck naked” conjures up stereotypical images of naked “savages” or—worse—slaves laboring naked on plantations. Consider using the alternative expression “stark naked.”

Friday, December 20, 2013

marital/martial: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, December 20, 2013

marital/martial
“Marital” refers to marriage, “martial” to war, whose ancient god was Mars. These two are often swapped, with comical results.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

respiratory: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, December 19, 2013

respiratory 
Even health professionals tend to mispronounce this word by smooshing the second and third syllables into one. This word has several possible pronunciations, but “resp-uh-tory” is not one of them. However you say it, try to at least hint at all five syllables.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

table: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, December 18, 2013

table
In the UK if you table an issue you place it on the table for discussion; but in the US the phrase means the opposite: you indefinitely postpone discussing the issue.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

whimp/wimp: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, December 17, 2013

whimp/wimp
The original and still by far the most common spelling of this common bit of slang meaning “weakling, coward” is “wimp.” If you use the much less common “whimp” instead, people may regard you as a little wimpy.

Monday, December 16, 2013

administer/minister: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, December 16, 2013

administer/minister 
You can minister to someone by administering first aid. Note how the “ad” in “administer” resembles “aid” in order to remember the correct form of the latter phrase. “Minister” as a verb always requires “to” following it.


__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

advice/advise: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, December 15, 2013

advice/advise 
“Advice” is the noun, “advise” the verb. When a columnist advises people, she gives them advice.


__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

skiddish/skittish: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, December 14, 2013

skiddish/skittish
If you nervously avoid something you are not “skiddish” about it; the word is “skittish.”

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Friday, December 13, 2013

AM/PM: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, December 13, 2013

AM/PM
“AM” stands for the Latin phrase Ante Meridiem—which means “before noon”—and “PM” stands for Post Meridiem: “after noon.” Although digital clocks routinely label noon “12:00 PM” you should avoid this expression not only because it is incorrect, but because many people will imagine you are talking about midnight instead. The same goes for “12:00 AM.” You can say or write “twelve noon,” “noon sharp,” or “exactly at noon” when you want to designate a precise time.

It is now rare to see periods placed after these abbreviations as in “A.M.”; but in formal writing it is still preferable to capitalize them, though the lower-case “am” and “pm” are now so popular they are not likely to get you into trouble.

Occasionally computer programs encourage you to write “AM” and “PM” without a space before them, but others will misread your data if you omit the space. The nonstandard habit of omitting the space is spreading rapidly, and should be avoided in formal writing.

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

tripple/triple: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, December 12, 2013

tripple/triple
Don’t double the P in “triple.” Don’t be confused by the fact that Triple Sec is a tipple (alcoholic drink).

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

these are them/these are they: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, December 11, 2013

these are them/these are they
Although only the pickiest listeners will cringe when you say “these are them,” the traditionally correct phrase is “these are they,” because “they” is the predicate nominative of “these.” However, if people around you seem more comfortable with “it’s me” than “it’s I,” you might as well stick with “these are them.”

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

nonplussed: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, December 10, 2013

nonplussed
“Nonplussed” means to be stuck, often in a puzzling or embarrassing way, unable to go further (“non”=“no” + “plus”=“further”). It does not mean, as many people seem to think, “calm, in control.”

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Monday, December 9, 2013

advocate for/advocate: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, December 9, 2013

advocate for/advocate
When they are acting as advocates for a cause, people often say they are “advocating for,” say, traffic safety. This is not as widely accepted as “campaigning for” or “working toward.” Saying you are “advocating for the blind” leaves a lot of listeners wondering what it is you advocate for them. If you can substitute “advocate” for “advocate for,” you should do so: “I advocate for higher pay for teachers” becomes “I advocate higher pay for teachers.”

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

diswraught/distraught: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, December 8, 2013

diswraught/distraught
“Diswraught” is a common misspelling of “distraught.”

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

end result: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, December 7, 2013

end result
Usually a redundancy. Most of the time plain “result” will do fine.


__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Friday, December 6, 2013

error/err: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, December 6, 2013

error/err
When you commit an error you err. The expression is “to err is human.”




__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Islams/Muslims: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, December 5, 2013

Islams/Muslims
Followers of Islam are called “Muslims,” not “Islams.” Muslim is now widely preferred over the older and less phonetically accurate Moslem.

The S in “Islam” and “Muslim” is sibilant like the S in “saint.” It should not be pronounced with a Z sound.

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

prophecy/prophesy: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, December 4, 2013

prophecy/prophesy
“Prophecy,” the noun (pronounced “PROF-a-see”), is a prediction. The verb “to prophesy” (pronounced “PROF-a-sigh”) means to predict something. When a prophet prophesies he or she utters prophecies.

Outside of Bob Dylan’s lyrics, writers and critics do not “prophesize.” They prophesy.

__________________
When is an error common? Paul Brians' latest blog entry provides the details.

The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

alright/all right: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, December 3, 2013

alright/all right
The correct form of this phrase has become so rare in the popular press that many readers have probably never noticed that it is actually two words. But if you want to avoid irritating traditionalists you’d better tell them that you feel “all right” rather than “alright.”


__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Monday, December 2, 2013

point being is that: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, December 2, 2013

point being is that
“The point being is that” is redundant; say just “the point is that” or “the point being that.”


__________________
Cyber Monday deals end today at William, James & Company. On Monday, December 2 take 30% off your entire order from the catalog of William, James titles.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

noone/no one: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, December 1, 2013

noone/no one
Shall we meet at Ye Olde Sandwyche Shoppe at Noone? “No one” is always two separate words, unlike “anyone” and “someone.”

__________________
Cyber Monday deals are on at William, James & Company. From now through Monday, December 2 take 30% off your entire order from the catalog of William, James titles.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

must of/must have: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, November 30, 2013

must of/must have 
“Must of” is an error for “must have.”

__________________
Cyber Monday deals are on at William, James & Company. From now through Monday, December 2 take 30% off your entire order from the catalog of William, James titles.

Friday, November 29, 2013

samwich/sandwich: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, November 29, 2013

samwich/sandwich
In some dialects, “sandwich” is pronounced “samwich.” In standard English the first syllable is pronounced exactly the way it’s spelled, like the word for sand at a beach.

__________________
Cyber Monday deals are on at William, James & Company. From now through Monday, December 2 take 30% off your entire order from the catalog of William, James titles.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

lots, plenty, load (number): Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, November 28, 2013

lots, plenty, load (number)
The expression “a lot” takes a singular verb when it refers to an amount of something that can’t be counted: “a lot of water has gone over the dam.” But it takes a plural verb when it refers to a countable number of things: “there are a lot of fish in the sea.” “Lots” works the same way: “there is lots of room left in the theater, but for some reason lots of us are still waiting to be seated.” Remember that “there’s” is a contraction of “there is”; so instead of “there’s a lot of flowers in the garden,” say “there are a lot of flowers.”

The same rule applies to “plenty” and “load.” “There is plenty of turkey left,” but “there are plenty of pecans in the pie.” “Loads of dirty dishes are in the sink,” so “there is loads of washing up to do.”

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

squoze/squeezed: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, November 27, 2013

squoze/squeezed
The standard past tense of “squeeze” is not “squoze” but “squeezed.” Even most people who write “squoze” know this, and use it jokingly.

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

rod iron, rot iron/wrought iron: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, November 26, 2013

rod iron, rot iron/wrought iron
Wrought iron has been worked (wrought) by hammering and bending, often into elaborate shapes. It is distinguished from cast iron, where the iron takes on the shape of the mold the molten metal was poured into.

There is such a thing as “rod iron”—iron shaped into rods—but this is a rare specialized term. Most instances of this form are erroneous spellings of “wrought iron,” as are all instances of “rot iron.”

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Monday, November 25, 2013

object d’art/ objet d’art: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, November 25, 2013

object d’art/ objet d’art
The French-derived word for an object of artistic value or a curio is objet d’art pronounced “ahb-ZHAY darr,” (first syllable rhymes with “job”). It is often anglicized mistakenly to object d’art. People also mispronounce and misspell it ojet d’art, omitting the B. The correct plural form is objets d’art.



















__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

memorium/memoriam: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, November 24, 2013

memorium/memoriam
The correct spelling of the Latin phrase is “in memoriam.”

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

vary/very: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, November 23, 2013

vary/very
“Vary” means “to change.” Don’t substitute it for “very” in phrases like “very nice” or “very happy.”


__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Friday, November 22, 2013

substance-free: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, November 22, 2013

substance-free
An administrator at our university once announced that his goal was a “substance-free” campus, which I suppose fit in with the fad of the period for “virtual education.” What he really meant was, of course, a campus free of illegal drugs and alcohol, designated “controlled substances” in the law. This is a very silly expression, but if he’d just said “sober and straight” he would have sounded too censorious. How about “drug- and alcohol-free”?

__________________
The kid is all right: Paul Brians' latest blog post explains that "all right" remains properly two words, though attitudes about using "alright" are shifting.

The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

masseuse/masseur: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, November 21, 2013

masseuse/masseur
“Masseuse” is a strictly female term; Monsieur Philippe, who gives back rubs down at the men’s gym, is a “masseur.” Because of the unsavory associations that have gathered around the term “masseuse,” serious practitioners generally prefer to be called “massage therapists.”

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

today’s day and age/this day and age: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, November 20, 2013

today’s day and age/this day and age
The traditional expression is “in this day and age,” meaning “right at this moment and during a considerable stretch of time around this moment.” “Today’s day” is redundant: “today” already has “day” in it.

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

seam/seem: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, November 19, 2013

seam/seem
“Seem” is the verb, “seam” the noun. Use “seam” only for things like the line produced when two pieces of cloth are sewn together or a thread of coal in a geological formation.















__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Monday, November 18, 2013

celibate/chaste: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, November 18, 2013

celibate/chaste
Believe it or not, you can be celibate without being chaste, and chaste without being celibate. A celibate person is merely unmarried, usually (but not always) because of a vow of celibacy. The traditional assumption is that such a person is not having sex with anyone, which leads many to confuse the word with “chaste,” denoting someone who does not have illicit sex. A woman could have wild sex twice a day with her lawful husband and technically still be chaste, though the word is more often used to imply a general abstemiousness from sex and sexuality. You can always amuse your readers by misspelling the latter word as “chased.”

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

in another words/in other words: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, November 17, 2013

in another words/in other words 
“In other words” is the correct expression.

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

drier/dryer: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, November 16, 2013

drier/dryer 
A clothes dryer makes the clothes drier.


__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Friday, November 15, 2013

backup/back up: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, November 15, 2013

backup/back up
To “back up” is an activity; “back up your computer regularly”; “back up the truck to the garden plot and unload the compost.”

A “backup” is a thing or describes a thing: “keep your backup copies in a safe place.” Other examples: a traffic backup, sewage backup, backup plan, backup forces.

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

could give a damn/couldn’t give a damn: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, November 14, 2013

could give a damn/couldn’t give a damn

If you don’t care at all about something, the standard popular expression is “I couldn’t give a damn.” People often say instead “I could give a damn,” which should logically mean they care. Note that we say “I don’t give a damn,” not “I give a damn” unless it’s set in some kind of negative context such as “do you really think I give a damn?” or “do I look like I give a damn?’

The same goes for parallel expressions where the last word is “darn” or some other expletive.
Just remember that in Gone with the Wind Clark Gable told Vivien Leigh, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”


__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

quick claim/quitclaim: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, November 13, 2013

quick claim/quitclaim
The term for a legal document relinquishing a legal claim to some property is a “quitclaim deed.” It is not a “quick claim,” and “quitclaim” is a single word.

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

crape/crepe: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, November 12, 2013

crape/crepe
In modern English “crape” refers to thin, crinkled paper or cloth. Black crape was traditionally associated with mourning. A crepe is a thin flat French pancake. Most Americans pronounce the two words the same, to rhyme with “ape.” If you want to spell it the French way, you’ll need to add a circumflex over the first E: crêpe, and pronounce it to rhyme with “step.” Even if you use the French form you’re likely to sound the final S in plural crêpes, though a real French speaker would leave it silent.


__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Monday, November 11, 2013

devote/devout: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, November 11, 2013

devote/devout
If you are devoted to a particular religion, you are devout, not devote. You may be a devout Christian, a devout Catholic, a devout Jew, a devout Buddhist, etc.

“Devote” (with no final D) is a verb, something you do rather than something you are. You may devote a lot of your time to working at a food bank, or building model airplanes, for instance.

If you are enthusiastically dedicated to an activity, a cause or person, you are devoted to it. You can be devoted to your gardening, to collecting money for Unicef, or to your pet. You can be a devoted father, husband, or a devoted runner or knitter. You can be a devoted fan of the Seattle Storm. If you have a lot of fans, you may have a devoted following. The devotion involved need not be religious.

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last). SOLD OUT!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

harbringer/harbinger: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, November 10, 2013

harbringer/harbinger
The correct spelling is “harbinger.”


__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last). SOLD OUT!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

suped up/souped up: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, November 9, 2013

suped up/souped up 
The car you’ve souped up may be super, but it’s not “suped up.”





















__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last). SOLD OUT!

Friday, November 8, 2013

wait on/wait for: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, November 8, 2013

wait on/wait for
In some dialects it’s common to say that you’re waiting on people or events when in standard English we would say you’re waiting for them. Waiters wait on people, so it’s all right to say “I’m tired of waiting on you hand and foot”; but you shouldn’t say “I’m waiting on you down here at the police station; bring the bail money so I can come home.”

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last). SOLD OUT!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

ugly American: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, November 7, 2013

ugly American
The term “ugly American”—used to describe boorish people from the US insensitive to those in other countries—bothers fans of the 1958 novel The Ugly American, whose title character was actually sensitive and thoughtful—he just looked ugly. The popularizers of this phrase hadn’t read the book, and judged its message too quickly by its title.

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last). SOLD OUT!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

sister-in-laws/sisters-in-law: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, November 6, 2013

sister-in-laws/sisters-in-law
Your spouse’s female siblings are not your sister-in-laws, but your sisters-in-law. The same pattern applies to brothers-in-law, fathers-in-law, and mothers-in-law.

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last). SOLD OUT!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

past time/pastime: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, November 5, 2013

past time/pastime
An agreeable activity like knitting with which you pass the time is your pastime. Spell it as one word, with one S and one T.


__________________
Read about Paul Brians' holiday pastime of truffle-making on the Common Errors blog.

The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US. Single-copy shoppers can still use the coupon code and get the new edition for $15.

Monday, November 4, 2013

feelings for/feelings about: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, November 4, 2013

feelings for/feelings about
When someone says “I’m developing feelings for you,” the message is “I’m falling in love with you.” Feelings for are always positive feelings. In contrast, feelings about something or someone can be either positive or negative: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”


















__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

not hardly/not at all: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, November 3, 2013

not hardly/not at all
“Not hardly” is slang, fine when you want to be casual—but in a formal document? Not hardly!


__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

span/spun: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, November 2, 2013

span/spun
Don’t say “the demon span her head around.” The past tense of “spin” in this sense is spun.

__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US.

Friday, November 1, 2013

all the farther/as far as: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, November 1, 2013

all the farther/as far as
In some American dialects it is not uncommon to hear sentences such as “Abilene is all the farther the rustlers got before the posse caught up with them.” The strangely constructed expression “all the farther” should be replaced with the much more straightforward “as far as.”


__________________
The new edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now shipping, and it makes a great gift. When you order 5–9 copies and use the coupon code FIFTEEN, you pay only $13.48 each. Order 10 or more for just $12.15 each. All with free shipping in the US.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

syllabi/syllabus: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, October 31, 2013

syllabi/syllabus
“Syllabi” is the plural of “syllabus,” but you can also say “syllabuses.” Don’t call a single course schedule a “syllabi.”

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

peal out/peel out: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, October 29, 2013

peal out/peel out
Bells and thunderclaps peal out; but if your car “lays down rubber” in a squealing departure, the expression is “peel out” because you are literally peeling a layer of rubber off your tires.

Monday, October 28, 2013

within/among: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, October 28, 2013

within/among
“Within” means literally “inside of,” but when you want to compare similarities or differences between things you may need “among” instead. It’s not “There are some entertaining movies within the current releases,” but “among the current releases.” But you can use “within” by rewriting the sentence to lump the movies together into a single entity: “There are some entertaining movies within the current batch of releases.” A batch is a single thing, and the individual films that make it up are within it.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

cope up/cope with: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, October 27, 2013

cope up/cope with
When you can’t keep up with your work you may not be able to cope with your job; but you never “cope up” with anything. In casual speech we say “I can’t cope” but in formal writing “cope” is normally followed by “with.”


__________________
Read about the new edition of Common Errors in English Usage on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

Saturday, October 26, 2013

ascribe/subscribe: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, October 26, 2013

ascribe/subscribe
If you agree with a theory or belief, you subscribe to it, just as you subscribe to a magazine.

Ascribe is a very different word. If you ascribe a belief to someone, you are attributing the belief to that person, perhaps wrongly.


__________________
Read about the new edition of Common Errors in English Usage on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

Friday, October 25, 2013

disasterous/disastrous: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, October 25, 2013

disasterous/disastrous
“Disastrous” has only three syllables, and is pronounced diz-ASS-truss. Because of its relationship to the word “disaster” many people insert an extra second syllable when speaking the word aloud, or even when writing it, resulting in “disasterous.” Not a disastrous error, but it can be an embarrassing one.


___________
This week's entries feature selections from the revised and expanded third edition of Common Errors in English Usage—now available to order on the William, James & Company Web site. The cover price is $19, but enter the coupon code FIFTEEN to buy it for the introductory price of $15 through the end of this year.

Read about the new edition on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

As always, both editions come with free shipping within the US.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

over and out/out: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, October 24, 2013

over and out/out
There is an old tradition in two-way radio communication of saying “over” to indicate that the speaker is through talking and inviting the other person to speak. You are turning the air over to the person you’re speaking with. When you’re done speaking, you terminate the conversation by saying “out” (not “over and out”).

For some reason, Hollywood and radio scriptwriters thought it was neat to conclude radio conversations with “over and out,” but this would technically mean “You can talk now if you want, but I’m not going to be listening.”

Today “over and out” lives on mostly as an ill-remembered allusion to those old movies and shows in song lyrics and punning headlines. Radio communication buffs, however, cringe when they hear it.


___________
This week's entries feature selections from the revised and expanded third edition of Common Errors in English Usage—now available to order on the William, James & Company Web site. The cover price is $19, but enter the coupon code FIFTEEN to buy it for the introductory price of $15 through the end of this year.

Read about the new edition on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

As always, both editions come with free shipping within the US.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

expecially/especially: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, October 23, 2013

expecially/especially
A spelling checker will catch the common misspelling “expecially,” but there are also many people who mispronounce “especially” with the first syllable sounding like “ex-” even when they know that the correct spelling begins with “es-.”


___________
This week's entries feature selections from the revised and expanded third edition of Common Errors in English Usage—now available to order on the William, James & Company Web site. The cover price is $19, but enter the coupon code FIFTEEN to buy it for the introductory price of $15 through the end of this year.

Read about the new edition on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

As always, both editions come with free shipping within the US.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

ceremonial/ceremonious: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, October 22, 2013

ceremonial/ceremonious
“Ceremonial” and “ceremonious” are often considered synonyms, and can indeed be used interchangeably in many contexts. But there are some cases in which one is better than the other.
If you are talking about the performance of a ceremony, the word you will usually want is “ceremonial” as in “ceremonial offering,” “ceremonial garb,” or “ceremonial dance.” Sikhs traditionally wear ceremonial daggers.

“Ceremonious” is mostly used to describe formal behavior which often has little or no connection with a literal ceremony: “ceremonious manners,” “ceremonious welcome,” or “ceremonious speech.”

___________
This week's entries feature selections from the revised and expanded third edition of Common Errors in English Usage—now available to order on the William, James & Company Web site. The cover price is $19, but enter the coupon code FIFTEEN to buy it for the introductory price of $15 through the end of this year.

Read about the new edition on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

As always, both editions come with free shipping within the US.

Monday, October 21, 2013

shoulder on/soldier on: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, October 21, 2013

shoulder on/soldier on
Soldiers are expected to do their duty despite all obstacles, and that’s why we say that a person who perseveres soldiers on. But because “soldier” is rarely used as a verb in modern English, many people mix this expression up with a more common one involving pushing through crowds: to shoulder through. People shouldering are being pushy, usually in an obnoxious way. People who soldier on are admirably determined to carry on despite difficulties.

___________
This week's entries feature selections from the revised and expanded third edition of Common Errors in English Usage—now available to order on the William, James & Company Web site. The cover price is $19, but enter the coupon code FIFTEEN to buy it for the introductory price of $15 through the end of this year.

Read about the new edition on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

As always, both editions come with free shipping within the US.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

-ful/-fuls: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, October 20, 2013

-ful/-fuls 
It’s one cupful, but two cupfuls, not “two cupsful.” The same goes for “spoonfuls” and “glassfuls.”

__________________
Read about the new edition of Common Errors in English Usage on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

Saturday, October 19, 2013

core/corps/corpse: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, October 19, 2013

core/corps/corpse
Apples have cores. A corps is an organization, like the Peace Corps. A corpse is a dead body, a carcass.

__________________
Read about the new edition of Common Errors in English Usage on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

Friday, October 18, 2013

pair/pare/pear: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, October 18, 2013

pair/pare/pear
When you peel an apple, you pare it. The resultant apple peelings are called “parings.” “Pare” is also used metaphorically in phrases having to do with removing portions of something, such as “pare down the budget” or “pare your wish list to the three most important items.” Many people overlook the meaning of this word and write instead “pair” or even “pear.” You can pair apples with pears in a dessert, but to peel them you have to pare them.

Although it’s not too surprising that cooks should mix up these spellings, it’s astounding how often medical and scientific writers refer to substances that are “pared” with each other. A couple of medicines or treatments are paired with each other.

__________________
Read about the new edition of Common Errors in English Usage on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

you better/you had better: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, October 17, 2013

you better/you had better
In casual speech, it’s common to say things like “you better make your bed before Mom comes home.” But in writing and in formal speech, the expression is “you had better.” Slightly less formal but still fine is the contracted version: “you’d better.”


__________________
Read about the new edition of Common Errors in English Usage on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

make pretend/make believe: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, October 16, 2013

make pretend/make believe
When you pretend to do something in a game of fantasy, you make believe.

__________________
Read about the new edition of Common Errors in English Usage on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

chaise longue: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, October 15, 2013

chaise longue
When English speakers want to be elegant they commonly resort to French, often mangling it in the process. The entrée, the dish served before the plat, usurped the latter’s position as main dish. And how in the world did French lingerie (originally meaning linen goods of all sorts, later narrowed to underwear only), pronounced—roughly—“LANZH-uh-ree,” come to be English “lawnzh-uh-ray”? Quelle horreur! Chaise longue (literally “long chair”), pronounced—roughly—“shezz lohng” with a hard G on the end, became in English “shayz long.” Many speakers, however, confuse French chaise with English “chase” and French longue with English “lounge” (understandable since the article in question is a sort of couch or lounge), resulting in the mispronunciation “chase lounge.” We may imagine the French as chasing each other around their lounges, but a chaise is just a chair.

__________________
Read about the new edition of Common Errors in English Usage on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

Monday, October 14, 2013

ect./etc.: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, October 14, 2013

ect./etc.
“Etc.” is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase et cetera, meaning “and others.” (Et means “and” in French too.) Just say “et cetera” out loud to yourself to remind yourself of the correct order of the T and C. Also to be avoided is the common mispronunciation “excetera.” “And etc.” is a redundancy.

__________________
Read about the new edition of Common Errors in English Usage on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

Sunday, October 13, 2013

gig/jig: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, October 13, 2013

gig/jig 
“The jig is up” is an old slang expression meaning “the game is over—we’re caught.” A musician’s job is a gig.

__________________
Read about the new edition of Common Errors in English Usage on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Friday, October 11, 2013

calm, cool, and collective/calm, cool, and collected: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, October 11, 2013

calm, cool, and collective/calm, cool, and collected
Unless you’re living in an unusually tranquil commune, you wouldn’t be “calm, cool, and collective.” The last word in this traditional phrase is “collected,” in the sense of such phrases as “let me sit down a minute and collect my thoughts.” If you leave out “cool” the last word still has to be “collected.”


__________________
Read about the new edition of Common Errors in English Usage on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

Thursday, October 10, 2013

apiece/a piece: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, October 10, 2013

apiece/a piece 
When you mean “each” the expression is “apiece”: these pizzas are really cheap—only ten dollars apiece.” But when “piece” actually refers to a piece of something, the required two-word expression is “a piece”: “This pizza is really expensive—they sell it by the slice for ten dollars a piece.”
Despite misspellings in popular music, the expression is not “down the road apiece”; it’s “down the road a piece.”

__________________
Read about the new edition of Common Errors in English Usage on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

born/borne: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, October 9, 2013

born/borne
This distinction is a bit tricky. When birth is being discussed, the past tense of “bear” is usually “born”: “I was born in a trailer—but it was an Airstream.” Note that the form used here is passive: you are the one somebody else—your mother—bore. But if the form is active, you need an E on the end, as in “Midnight has borne another litter of kittens in Dad’s old fishing hat” (Midnight did the bearing).

But in other meanings not having to do with birth, “borne” is always the past tense of “bear”: “My brother’s constant teasing about my green hair was more than could be borne.”


__________________
Read about the new edition of Common Errors in English Usage on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

ones/one’s: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, October 8, 2013

ones/one’s
The possessive pronoun “one’s” requires an apostrophe before the S, unlike “its,” “hers,” and other personal pronouns. Examples: “pull oneself up by one’s own bootstraps,” “a jury of one’s peers,” “minding one’s own business.”

A simple test: try inserting “anyone’s” in place of ”one’s.” If it works grammatically, you need the apostrophe in “one’s” too. When “one’s” is a contraction of “one is” it also requires an apostrophe: “no one’s listening,” “this one’s for you.”

The only times “ones” has no apostrophe are when it is being used to mean “ examples” or “people” as in “ripe ones” or “loved ones,” or in the informal arithmetical expression “the ones column.”


__________________
Read about the new edition of Common Errors in English Usage on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

Monday, October 7, 2013

throws of passion/throes of passion: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, October 7, 2013

throws of passion/throes of passion 
A dying person’s final agony can be called their “death throes.” The only other common use for this word is “throes of passion.” “Throws” are wrestling moves or those little blankets you drape on the furniture.

__________________
Read about the new edition of Common Errors in English Usage on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

Sunday, October 6, 2013

sooner/rather: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, October 6, 2013

sooner/rather
“I’d sooner starve than eat what they serve in the cafeteria” is less formal than “I’d rather starve.”

__________________
Read about the new edition of Common Errors in English Usage on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

Saturday, October 5, 2013

percipitation/precipitation: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, October 5, 2013

percipitation/precipitation
Rain, snow, hail, etc. are all forms of precipitation. This word is often misspelled and mispronounced as “percipitation.”


__________________
Read about the new edition of Common Errors in English Usage on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

Friday, October 4, 2013

present writer/I: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, October 4, 2013

present writer/I
Formal writers used to avoid writing “I” when referring to themselves by using instead the phrase “the present writer.” This practice is generally discouraged by modern editors, and is considered awkward and old-fashioned. Simple “I” works fine and calls less attention to itself so long as it’s not repeated too often.


___________
This week's entries feature selections from the revised and expanded third edition of Common Errors in English Usage—now available for pre-order on the William, James & Company Web site. The cover price is $19, but enter the coupon code FIFTEEN to buy it for the introductory price of $15 through the end of this year.

Read about the new edition on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

Thursday, October 3, 2013

marinate on/meditate on: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, October 3, 2013

marinate on/meditate on
To add flavor and moisture to meats or other raw ingredients, you can soak them for a while in a flavored liquid marinade (note that the word for the liquid is spelled with a D). You marinate it (note that the word for the action is spelled with a T). You would rarely have a legitimate reason to use the phrase “marinate on.” An example would be: “leave the chicken to marinate on the counter while you prepare the other ingredients.”

When you ponder a subject thoughtfully, you meditate on it. So many people are misusing “marinate” when they mean “meditate” that some have concluded that they are related words with overlapping meanings. They urge people to think carefully about a subject by telling them to “marinate and meditate” on it. Letting thoughts soak into your consciousness has nothing to do with marinades.



___________
This week's entries feature selections from the revised and expanded third edition of Common Errors in English Usage—now available for pre-order on the William, James & Company Web site. The cover price is $19, but enter the coupon code FIFTEEN to buy it for the introductory price of $15 through the end of this year.

Read about the new edition on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

As always, both editions come with free shipping within the US.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

any other number of/any number of other: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, October 2, 2013

any other number of/any number of other
When there are a lot of possible alternatives, we may say there are any number of them: “There are any number of other colors I would have preferred to this sickening lime green.”

This expression often gets scrambled into “any other number of.”




___________
This week's entries feature selections from the revised and expanded third edition of Common Errors in English Usage—now available for pre-order on the William, James & Company Web site. The cover price is $19, but enter the coupon code FIFTEEN to buy it for the introductory price of $15 through the end of this year.

Read about the new edition on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

As always, both editions come with free shipping within the US.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

surplus neckline/surplice neckline: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, October 1, 2013

surplus neckline/surplice neckline
Medieval priests in chilly Northern European churches wore an extra-large cassock over a fur-lined gown. This garment came to be known as a surplice (from Latin super pelliceum: “over fur”).

Even those few who might have heard of the priestly garment are not likely to make the connection when discussing the surplice neckline on women’s clothing because the secular women’s garment has an overlapping V-neck whereas most surplices worn in churches today have square or rounded necklines.

So it’s not surprising that a large number of people mistakenly refer to the women’s garment style as a “surplus neckline.” The only surplus involved in these items is the amount of flesh revealed by them.



___________
This week's entries feature selections from the revised and expanded third edition of Common Errors in English Usage—now available for pre-order on the William, James & Company Web site. The cover price is $19, but enter the coupon code FIFTEEN to buy it for the introductory price of $15 through the end of this year.

Read about the new edition on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

As always, both editions come with free shipping within the US.

Monday, September 30, 2013

were/where: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, September 30, 2013

were/where
Sloppy typists frequently leave the H out of “where.” Spelling checkers do not catch this sort of error, of course, so look for it as you proofread.

___________
Things will never again be as they where were. The revised and expanded third edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now available for pre-order on the William, James & Company Web site. The cover price is $19, but enter the coupon code FIFTEEN to buy it for the introductory price of $15 through the end of this year.

Read about the new edition on the Common Errors blog.

If you wonder were where the previous edition went, don’t worry—you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

As always, both editions come with free shipping within the US.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

unconscience/unconscious: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, September 29, 2013

unconscience/unconscious
Do people confuse the unconscious with conscience because the stuff fermenting in one’s unconscious is often stuff that bothers one’s conscience? Whatever the cause, there is no such word as “unconscience.” And while we’re on the subject, “subconscious” is not used in Freudian psychology; it implies something that is merely not consciously thought of, rather than something that is suppressed. The term is, however, used by Jungians.

___________
The revised and expanded third edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now available for pre-order on the William, James & Company Web site. The cover price is $19, but enter the coupon code FIFTEEN to buy it for the introductory price of $15 through the end of this year.

Read about the new edition on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

As always, both editions come with free shipping within the US.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Shepard/shepherd: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, September 28, 2013

Shepard/shepherd
“Shepard” can be a family name, but the person who herds the sheep is a “shepherd.”

___________
Ready to shepherd in a new era? The revised and expanded third edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now available for pre-order on the William, James & Company Web site. The cover price is $19, but enter the coupon code FIFTEEN to buy it for the introductory price of $15 through the end of this year.

Read about the new edition on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

As always, both editions come with free shipping within the US.

Friday, September 27, 2013

adapt/adopt: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, September 27, 2013

adapt/adopt 
You can adopt a child or a custom or a law; in these cases you are making the object of the adoption your own, accepting it. If you adapt something, however, you are changing it.

___________
Ready to adapt to change? The revised and expanded third edition of Common Errors in English Usage is now available for pre-order on the William, James & Company Web site. The cover price is $19, but enter the coupon code FIFTEEN to buy it for the introductory price of $15 through the end of this year.

Read about the new edition on the Common Errors blog.

If you are not ready for a change, you can still order the second edition at the discounted price of $12 (while supplies last).

As always, both editions come with free shipping within the US.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

gyp/cheat: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, September 26, 2013

gyp/cheat
Gypsies complain that “gyp” (“cheat”) reflects bias; but the word is so well entrenched and its origin so obscure to most users that there is little hope of eliminating it from standard use any time soon.
Note that the people commonly called “Gypsies” strongly prefer the name Rom (plural form Roma or Romanies).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

anecdote/antidote: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, September 25, 2013

anecdote/antidote
A humorist relates “anecdotes.” The doctor prescribes “antidotes” for children who have swallowed poison. Laughter may be the best medicine, but that’s no reason to confuse these two with each other.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

dyeing/dying: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, September 24, 2013

dyeing/dying
If you are using dye to change your favorite t-shirt from white to blue you are dyeing it; but if you don’t breathe for so long that your face turns blue, you may be dying.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sunday, September 22, 2013

appauled/appalled: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, September 22, 2013

appauled/appalled
Those of us named Paul are appalled at the misspelling of this word. No U, two L’s please. And it’s certainly not “uphauled”!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Friday, September 20, 2013

Issac/Isaac: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, September 20, 2013

Issac/Isaac
Words with a double A are rare in English, causing many to misspell the Biblical name “Isaac.”

Thursday, September 19, 2013

soup du jour of the day/soup of the day: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, September 19, 2013

soup du jour of the day/soup of the day 
Soupe du jour (note the E on the end of soupe) means “soup of the day.” If you’re going to use French to be pretentious on a menu, it’s important to learn the meaning of the words you’re using. Often what is offered is potage, anyway. Keep it simple, keep it in English, and you can’t go wrong.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

irregardless/regardless: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, September 18, 2013

irregardless/regardless
Regardless of what you have heard, “irregardless” is a redundancy. The suffix “-less” on the end of the word already makes the word negative. It doesn’t need the negative prefix “ir-” added to make it even more negative.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

crucifix/cross: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, September 17, 2013

crucifix/cross 
A crucifix is a cross with an image of the crucified Christ affixed to it. Reporters often mistakenly refer to someone wearing a “crucifix” when the object involved is an empty cross. Crucifixes are most often associated with Catholics, empty crosses with Protestants.

Monday, September 16, 2013

beside/besides: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, September 16, 2013

beside/besides
“Besides” can mean “in addition to” as in “besides the puppy chow, Spot scarfed up the filet mignon I was going to serve for dinner.” “Beside,” in contrast, usually means “next to.” “I sat beside Cheryl all evening, but she kept talking to Jerry instead.” Using “beside” for “besides” won’t usually get you in trouble, but using “besides” when you mean “next to” will.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

alternate/alternative: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, September 15, 2013

alternate/alternative
Although UK authorities disapprove, in US usage, “alternate” is frequently an adjective, substituted for the older “alternative”: “an alternate route.” “Alternate” can also be a noun; a substitute delegate is, for instance, called an “alternate.” But when you’re speaking of “every other” as in “our club meets on alternate Tuesdays,” you can’t substitute “alternative.”

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013

boughten/bought: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, September 13, 2013

boughten/bought
“Bought,” not “boughten,” is the past tense of “buy.” “Store-bought,” a colloquial expression for “not home-made,” is already not formal English; but it is not improved by being turned into “store-boughten.”

Thursday, September 12, 2013

medal/metal/meddle/mettle: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, September 12, 2013

medal/metal/meddle/mettle 
A person who proves his or her mettle displays courage or stamina. The word “mettle” is seldom used outside of this expression, so people constantly confuse it with other similar-sounding words.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

ground zero: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, September 11, 2013

ground zero
“Ground zero” refers to the point at the center of the impact of a nuclear bomb, so it is improper to talk about “building from ground zero” as if it were a place of new beginnings. You can start from scratch, or begin at zero, but if you’re at ground zero, you’re at the end. The metaphorical extension of this term to the site of the destruction of the World Trade Center towers is, however, perfectly legitimate.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

apropos/appropriate: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, September 10, 2013

apropos/appropriate
“Apropos,” (anglicized from the French phrase “à propos”) means relevant, connected with what has gone before; it should not be used as an all-purpose substitute for “appropriate.” It would be inappropriate, for example, to say “Your tuxedo was perfectly apropos for the opera gala.” Even though it’s not pronounced, be careful not to omit the final S in spelling “apropos.”

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Friday, September 6, 2013

tolled/told: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, September 6, 2013

tolled/told
Some people imagine that the expression should be “all tolled” as if items were being ticked off to the tolling of a bell or it involved the paying of a toll, but in fact this goes back to an old meaning of “tell”: “to count.” You could “tell over” your beads if you were counting them in a rosary. “All told” means “all counted.” This older meaning of “tell” is the reason that people who count money out behind bank windows are called “tellers.”

Thursday, September 5, 2013

immaculate conception/virgin birth: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, September 5, 2013

immaculate conception/virgin birth
The doctrine of “immaculate conception” (the belief that Mary was conceived without inheriting original sin) is often confused with the doctrine of the “virgin birth” (the belief that Mary gave birth to Jesus while remaining a virgin).

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

itch/scratch: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, September 4, 2013

itch/scratch
Strictly speaking, you scratch an itch. If you’re trying to get rid of a tingly feeling on your back, scratch it, don’t itch it.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

sacreligious/sacrilegious: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, September 3, 2013

sacreligious/sacrilegious
Doing something sacrilegious involves committing sacrilege. Don’t let the related word “religious” trick you into misspelling the word as “sacreligious.”

Monday, September 2, 2013

get me: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, September 2, 2013

get me
“I gotta get me a new carburetor,” says Joe-Bob. Translated into standard English, this would be “I have to get myself a new carburetor.” Even better: leave out the “myself.”

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Saturday, August 31, 2013

ring its neck/wring its neck: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, August 31, 2013

ring its neck/wring its neck 
Wring the chicken’s neck; and after you’ve cooked it, ring the dinner bell.

Friday, August 30, 2013

intergrate/integrate: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, August 30, 2013

intergrate/integrate 
There are lots of words that begin with “inter-” but this is not one of them. The word is “integrate” with just one R.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

cowtow/kowtow: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, August 29, 2013

cowtow/kowtow
You can tow a cow to water, but you can’t make it drink. But the word that means bowing worshipfully before someone comes from the Chinese words for knocking one’s head on the ground, and is spelled “kowtow.”

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

drownding/drowning: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, August 28, 2013

drownding/drowning
Before you are drowned, you are “drowning,” without the extra D. Later, you have not “drownded.” You’ve “drowned.”

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

and/or: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, August 27, 2013

and/or
The legal phrase “and/or,” indicating that you can either choose between two alternatives or choose both of them, has proved irresistible in other contexts and is now widely acceptable though it irritates some readers as jargon. However, you can logically use it only when you are discussing choices which may or may not both be done: “Bring chips and/or beer.” It’s very much overused where simple “or” would do, and it would be wrong to say, “you can get to the campus for this morning’s meeting on a bike and/or in a car.” Choosing one eliminates the possibility of the other, so this isn’t an and/or situation.

Monday, August 26, 2013

belief/believe: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, August 26, 2013

belief/believe
People can’t have religious “believes”; they have religious beliefs. If you have it, it’s a belief; if you do it, you believe.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

can goods/canned goods: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, August 25, 2013

can goods/canned goods
Is there a sign at your grocery store that says “can goods”? It should say “canned goods.”

Saturday, August 24, 2013

hoard/horde: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, August 24 , 2013

hoard/horde 
A greedily hoarded treasure is a hoard. A herd of wildebeests or a mob of people is a horde.

Friday, August 23, 2013

astrology/astronomy: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, August 23, 2013

astrology/astronomy
Modern astronomers consider astrology an outdated superstition. You’ll embarrass yourself if you use the term “astrology” to label the scientific study of the cosmos. In writing about history, however, you may have occasion to note that ancient astrologers, whose main goal was to peer into the future, incidentally did some sound astronomy as they studied the positions and movements of celestial objects.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ceasar/Caesar: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ceasar/Caesar
Did you know that German “Kaiser” is derived from the Latin “Caesar” and is pronounced a lot more like it than the English version? We’re stuck with our illogical pronunciation, so we have to memorize the correct spelling. (The Russians messed up the pronunciation as thoroughly as the English, with their “Czar.”) Throughout America thousands of menus are littered with “Ceasar salads,” which should be “Caesar salads”—named after a restaurateur, not the Roman ruler (but they both spelled their names the same way).

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

bazaar/bizarre: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, August 21, 2013

bazaar/bizarre
A “bazaar” is a market where miscellaneous goods are sold. “Bizarre,” in contrast, is an adjective meaning “strange, weird.” Let all those A’s in “bazaar” remind you that this is a Persian word denoting traditional markets.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

them/those: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, August 20, 2013

them/those
One use of “them” for “those” has become a standard catch phrase: “How do you like them apples?” This is deliberate dialectical humor. But “I like them little canapés with the shrimp on top” is gauche; say instead “I like those little canapés.”

Monday, August 19, 2013

oversee/overlook: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, August 19, 2013

oversee/overlook
When you oversee the preparation of dinner, you take control and manage the operation closely. But if you overlook the preparation of dinner you forget to prepare the meal entirely—better order pizza.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Saturday, August 17, 2013

interface/interact: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, August 17, 2013

interface/interact
The use of the computer term “interface” as a verb, substituting for “interact,” is widely objected to.

Friday, August 16, 2013

riffle/rifle: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, August 16, 2013

riffle/rifle
To rifle something is to steal it. The word also originally had the sense of “to search thoroughly,” often with intent to steal. But if you are casually flipping through some papers, you riffle through them.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

large/important: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, August 15, 2013

large/important
In colloquial speech it’s perfectly normal to refer to something as a “big problem,” but when people create analogous expressions in writing, the result is awkward. Don’t write “This is a large issue for our firm” when what you mean is “This is an important issue for our firm.” Size and intensity are not synonymous.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

apart/a part: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, August 13, 2013

apart/a part
Paradoxically, the one-word form implies separation while the two-word form implies union. Feuding roommates decide to live apart. Their time together may be a part of their lives they will remember with some bitterness.

Monday, August 12, 2013

borrow/loan: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, August 12, 2013

borrow/loan
In some dialects it is common to substitute “borrow” for “loan” or “lend,” as in “Borrow me that hammer of yours, will you, Jeb?” In standard English the person providing an item can loan it; but the person receiving it borrows it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

toward/towards: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, August 11, 2013

toward/towards
These two words are interchangeable, but “toward” is more common in the US and “towards” in the UK.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

old fashion/old-fashioned: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, August 10, 2013

old fashion/old-fashioned
Although “old fashion” appears in advertising a good deal, the traditional spelling is “old-fashioned.”

Friday, August 9, 2013

drug/dragged: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, August 9, 2013

drug/dragged
“Well, look what the cat drug in!” Unless you are trying to render dialectical speech to convey a sense of down-home rusticity, use “dragged” as the past tense of “drag.”

Thursday, August 8, 2013

write me: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, August 8, 2013

write me
Many UK English speakers and some American authorities object strongly to the common American expression “write me,” insisting that the correct expression is “write to me.” But “write me” is so common in US English that I think few Americans will judge you harshly for using it. After all, we say “call me”—why not “write me”? But if you’re an American trying to please foreigners or particularly picky readers, you might keep the “write me” phobia in mind.

If you disagree, please don’t write me.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

never the less, not withstanding/nevertheless, notwithstanding: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, August 7, 2013

never the less, not withstanding/nevertheless, notwithstanding
For six centuries we have been spelling “nevertheless” and “notwithstanding” as single words, and today it is definitely not standard to break them up into hyphenated or non-hyphenated multiword phrases.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

crafts : Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, August 6, 2013

crafts 
When referring to vehicles, “craft” is both singular and plural. Two aircraft, many watercraft, etc. Do not add an S.

But when referring to hobbies and skills such as “woodcrafts” or “arts and crafts” adding an S in the plural form is standard.

Monday, August 5, 2013

shutter to think/shudder to think: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, August 5, 2013

shutter to think/shudder to think
When you are so horrified by a thought that you tremble at it, you shudder to think it.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

might has well/might as well: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, August 4, 2013

might has well/might as well
You might as well get this one right: the expression is not “might has well” but “might as well.”

Saturday, August 3, 2013

away/a way: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, August 3, 2013

away/a way
“Jessica commented on my haircut in a way that made me think maybe I shouldn’t have let my little sister do it for me.” In this sort of context, “a way” should always be two distinct words, though many people use the single word “away” instead. If you’re uncertain, try substituting another word for “way”: “in a manner that,” “in a style that.” If the result makes sense, you need the two-word phrase. Then you can tell Jessica to just go away.

Friday, August 2, 2013

callous/callused: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, August 2, 2013

callous/callused
Calling someone “callous” is a way of metaphorically suggesting a lack of feeling similar to that caused by calluses on the skin; but if you are speaking literally of the tough build-up on a person’s hand or foot, the word you need is “callused.”

Thursday, August 1, 2013

crescendo/climax: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, August 1, 2013

crescendo/climax
When something is growing louder or more intense, it is going through a crescendo (from an Italian word meaning “growing”). Traditionalists object to its use when you mean “climax.” A crescendo of cheers by an enthusiastic audience grows until it reaches a climax, or peak. “Crescendo” as a verb is common, but also disapproved by many authorities. Instead of “the orchestra crescendos,” write “the orchestra plays a crescendo.”

_______

Are some people really upset by this usage? Yes, indeed.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

allusive/elusive/illusive: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, July 31, 2013

allusive/elusive/illusive
 When the defense lawyer alludes to his client’s poor mother, he is being allusive. When the mole keeps eluding the traps you’ve set in the garden, it’s being elusive. We also speak of matters that are difficult to understand, identify, or remember as elusive. Illusions can be illusive, but we more often refer to them as illusory.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

another words/in other words: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, July 30, 2013

another words/in other words
When you reword a statement, you can preface it by saying “in other words.” The phrase is not “another words.”

Monday, July 29, 2013

born out of/born of: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, July 29, 2013

born out of/born of
Write “My love of dance was born of my viewing old Ginger Rogers-Fred Astaire movies,” not “born out of.” The latter expression is probably substituted because of confusion with the expression “borne out” as in “My concerns about having another office party were borne out when Mr. Peabody spilled his beer into the fax machine.” The only correct (if antiquated) use of “born out of” is in the phrase “born out of wedlock.”

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Saturday, July 27, 2013

hairbrained/harebrained: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, July 27, 2013

hairbrained/harebrained
Although “hairbrained” is common, the original word “harebrained” means “silly as a hare (rabbit)” and is preferred in writing.

Friday, July 26, 2013

drips and drabs/dribs and drabs: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, July 26, 2013

drips and drabs/dribs and drabs
Something doled out in miserly amounts is provided in “dribs and drabs.” A drib is a smaller relative of a dribble. Nobody seems to be sure what a drab is in this sense, except that it’s a tiny bit larger than a drib.

Since the origin of the phrase is obscure, people try to substitute a more familiar word for the unusual word “drib” by writing “drips and drabs.” But that’s not the traditional formula.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

quotation marks: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, July 25, 2013

quotation marks 
The examples below are set off in order to avoid confusion over the use of single and double quotation marks.

There are many ways to go wrong with quotation marks. They are often used ironically:
She ran around with a bunch of “intellectuals.”
The quotation marks around “intellectuals” indicate that the writer believes that these are in fact so-called intellectuals, not real intellectuals at all. The ironic use of quotation marks is very much overdone, and is usually a sign of laziness indicating that the writer has not bothered to find the precise word or expression necessary.

Advertisers unfortunately tend to use quotation marks merely for emphasis:
“FRESH” TOMATOES
59 CENTS A POUND
The influence of the more common ironic usage tends to make the reader question whether these tomatoes are really fresh. Underlining, bold lettering, all caps—there are several less ambiguous ways to emphasize words than placing them between quotation marks.

In American usage, single quotation marks are used normally only for quoted words and phrases within quotations.
Angela had the nerve to tell me “When I saw ‘BYOB’ on your invitation, I assumed it meant ‘Bring Your Old Boyfriend’.”
British usage has traditionally been to reverse this relationship, with single quotation marks being standard and double ones being used only for quotations within quotations. (The English also call quotation marks “inverted commas,” though only the opening quotation mark is actually inverted—and flipped, as well.) However, usage in the UK is shifting toward the US pattern, (see, for instance, The Times of London); though the printing of fiction tends to adhere to the older British pattern, where US students are most likely to encounter it.

Single quotation marks are also used in linguistic, phonetic, and philosophical studies to surround words and phrases under discussion; but the common practice of using single quotation marks for short phrases and words and double ones for complete sentences is otherwise an error.
Block quotations like this should not be surrounded by any quotation marks at all. (A passage this short should not be rendered as a block quotation; you need at least three lines of verse or five lines of prose to justify a block quotation.) Normally you should leave extra space above and below a block quotation.
When quoting a long passage involving more than one paragraph, quotation marks go at the beginning of each paragraph, but at the end of only the final one. Dialogue in which the speaker changes with each paragraph has each speech enclosed in its own quotation marks.

Titles of books and other long works that might be printed as books are usually italicized (except, for some reason, in newspapers); but the titles of short poems, stories, essays, and other works that would be more commonly printed within larger works (anthologies, collections, periodicals, etc.) are enclosed in quotation marks.

There are different patterns for regulating how quotation marks relate to other punctuation. Find out which one your teacher or editor prefers and use it, or choose one of your own liking, but stick to it consistently. One widely accepted authority in America is the Chicago Manual of Style, whose guidelines are outlined below. English, Canadian, Australian and other writers in British-influenced countries should be aware that their national patterns will be quite different, and variable.

In standard American practice, commas are placed inside quotation marks:
I spent the morning reading Faulkner’s “Barn Burning,” which seemed to be about a pyromaniac.
Periods are also normally placed inside quotation marks (with the exception of terms that appear in single quotation marks in linguistic, phonetic, and philosophical studies, as mentioned earlier). Colons and semicolons, however, are preceded by quotation marks.

If the quoted matter ends with a question mark or exclamation point, it is placed inside the quotation marks:
John asked, “When’s dinner?”
But if it is the enclosing sentence which asks the question, then the question mark comes after the quotation marks:
What did she mean, John wondered, by saying “as soon as you make it”?
Similarly:
Fred shouted, “Look out for the bull!”
but
When I was subsequently gored, all Timmy said was, “This is kinda boring”!
It is unfortunately true that many standard character sets—including ASCII and basic HTML—lack true quotation marks which curl to enclose the quoted matter, substituting instead ugly “inch” or “ditto” marks. If you are writing HTML for the Web, you need to turn off the “smart quotes” feature in your word processor which curls quotation marks and apostrophes. Leaving curled quotation marks and apostrophes in text intended for the Web causes ugly gibberish which will make your writing hard to read.

If you would like to include proper curled quotation marks and apostrophes in your HTML code you can write “ (curled double open quote), ” (curled double close quote), ‘ (curled single open quote), and ’ (curled close quote). Most contemporary browsers can properly interpret these codes, though they used to cause trouble for people using older browser versions.