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.”

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