888 Tweeted Tips
I have been posting tips on grammar, usage and style for years on Twitter. Here are many of those tips, some perhaps needing a revisit and some context, but hopefully useful as a searchable list. Follow me on Twitter: @EditorMark.
"Reverse 911" is a trademark, so generically it's "automated phone alert system," says AP Stylebook.
If something makes a 360-degree change, its ends up where it started. Making a 180-degree change is a reversal.
It's "a historic." In Britain, it's often "an" before "h" words where the stress is not on the first syllable. Not British? Don't do it.
Go with "a historic" unless you're affecting a cockney accent and don't pronounce the h.
Contemplating "a while" awhile ago. Remember: Two words if it follows "in" or "for"—that's when it acts as a noun. "Awhile" is an adverb.
Perhaps "a whole nother" has no correct written equivalent, and it should be considered a mispronunciation: "A whole other."
"A Xmas" or "an Xmas"? Depends how you expect your readers to interpret it: Christmas or "ex"mas. Google hits are divided.
"A" or "an" before "0-4 record"? Is it "zero and four" or "oh and four"? It can go either way depending on pronunciation.
Two related tricks help with -able vs. -ible. If you can form a word by losing the suffix, it's usually -able. If the word is Latin, -ible.
Collectible has a Latin root but it's complete without the suffix. So much for those tricks. It's enough to make one downright irritable.
In the US, the adjective is "collectible," with the UK's "collectable" a variant. "Collectible(s)" is the noun form.
Don't struggle to differentiate "able" and "capable." They are etymologically unrelated and mostly interchangeable.
To "abscond" means to sneak away, not necessarily to steal. "Abscond" usually is followed by "with."
For the process by which something is absorbed, the old past-tense spelling "absorpt" lives on in "absorption."
"Adsorption" is too close to its cousin to be really useful. It's the process by which a liquid or gas clings to a solid surface.
"Access" as a verb is widely accepted despite its short life. Some still consider it jargony, but the alternatives can be clumsy.
I guess it's time to throw in the towel on the redundant "active shooter." But we could at least use it sparingly when not quoting police.
"Adviser" seems to be the more well-regarded spelling in the U.S., but "advisor" is nearly as common. The adjective is always "advisory."
"Affect," as a verb, changes. "Effect," as a verb, creates.
As a verb, "affect" means to change. The verb "effect" means to create.
As verbs, to "affect" is to influence, to "effect" is to bring about. "Effect" something and take the credit.
To "affirm" is to state something as the truth or, with an object, to agree something is true. To "confirm" is to establish the truth.
You can throw an afghan on your Afghan to keep it warm without ever visiting Asia.
The "afghani" has been the basic unit of money in Afghanistan since the 1920s. The people are "Afghans." The main language is "Pashto."
Ages usually aren't possessive. "One" would not be plural. So, a samll chlid can be a "one year old."
You're 31 years old and a 31-year-old. Most style guides suggest numerals for years, no matter how old.
Agenda is plural; the singular is "agendum," but "item" or "agenda item" are much more common. For more than one agenda, "agendas."
Dictionaries call "ahold" a casual or dialectic Americanism. It means "hold." It's better to avoid it in formal writing.
"Aircrafts" may seem logical, but it's not standard. "Aircraft" is the accepted plural. Same with "watercraft."
Don't stifle emphasis, but when "all" stands with "of," one or both might be expendable: half of (all) the voters; all (of) my ducks.
If you "allude" to something, you make an indirect or passing reference. To "refer" is to make a specific reference.
"Alright" is common, but it's a nonstandard spelling of "all right," which prevails in formal writing. Stick with two words, all right?
"Alternate" is accepted in the U.S. as an alternative to "alternative," but that could cause confusion with its main meaning: every other.
"Altogether" means completely. "All together" is all in one place or time. It'd be altogether cool if you could all together retweet this.
Alum is gaining ground as a nonsexist alternative for an alumnus or alumna. It's not standard.
Ambivalent means you can't decide or have mixed feelings ("ambi-" means "both," as with ambidextrous). It does not mean you don't care.
Ambivalent means you can't decide between two choices. The "bi" in the middle means "two." It does not mean you don't care.
Ambulance is from a French term "hospital ambulant," or walking hospital, which followed an army.
Amongst is not wrong, but it means the same thing as "among." "Amongst" may sound old-fashioned, but "among" is the older form.
"Amount" is usually used for uncountable things.
"Amping up" and "ramping up" are pretty new expressions, both dating to around 1980. Context might favor one.
"Amping" might be more likely for energy level. "Ramping up" is often used with implementing something.
"Amused" and "bemused" are not synonyms; "bemused" means confused. Or: A≠B, B=C, where A is amused, B is bemused and C is confused.
"An historic" is common, probably because "an 'istoric" was a common early pronunciation. But there's little logic here.
"An" survived until recently before words beginning with "h" where the stress is not on the first syllable.
"An," likely a variant of "one," was around long before "a" took over in use before a consonant.
It's "an" before a vowel sound. Sound is key. Silent h: "an honor." Sounded h: "a historic
The construction "and/or" is ugly and rarely beneficial. Try "and" or "or" and you'll usually find the word you want.
With "and/or,” either “and” or “or" almost always suffices. In a list of possibilities, “and" is fine. And “or" need not exclude.
"Anniversary" means a year after; "first" clarifies, but "one-year anniversary" is redundant.
"Mensiversary" is rare, but sometimes used, logically, for a monthly "anniversary." It's bound to raise eyebrows.
"Antennas" is the common, preferred plural for those things we used to have on our TVs. "Antennae" is preferred for insect feelers.
If you are "anxious" for the weekend, you are not just eager, but also worried. "Anxious" implies unease. Think "anxiety" and "angst."
Any one emphasizes the singular. If the pronoun is indefinite, anyone can write it as one word.
If you might be speaking of a bunch of people, use "anyone." If there is but one possibility, use "any one."
The one-word "anytime" is a 20th century U.S. invention that most sources consider standard to mean "at any time." But not "at anytime."
"Any" modifies "way" when we write "in any way" or "any way the wind blows." "Anyway" is an adverb meaning regardless or however.
It's up to you whether you use "appendices" or "appendixes." The former is the correct Latin, but who speaks Latin?
Appraise means to assess, as in value or quality. "Apprise" is to inform. "Apprize" means "appraise," but it's rare and best avoided.
We associated "praise" with the now-obsolete "apprize" to get "appraise," which is set a value. Unrelated: "Apprise" someone of information.
"Appreciate" means to increase in value or to fully perceive. Its use as "show gratitude for" also is firmly established.
If you "appreciate" something, you recognize its value or you simply perceive it. It also can mean you are grateful for it.
Appreciable means great enough to be perceived. It doesn't necessarily mean you like it.
It's "April Fool's Day" according to Oxford American and OED. But American Heritage, WNW, M-W, Macmillan dictionaries prefer "Fools'."
OED's earliest reference: "No wise man will tell me that it is not as reasonable to fall out for the observance of April-fool-day" (1753).
"Archaic" means old and out of fashion. An "anachronism" is something inappropriate for the time period. "Arcane" means understood by few.
"Around" is usually spatial, with “about” more commonly used with times or dates. But the usage “around 3 o'clock” date back to the 1800s.
"Artisan" has lost much of its meaning from overuse. An artisan is a skilled worker, so it's pretty broad.
Read about a controlled burn of "as many as 1,850 acres." Unless they're burning in 1-acre increments, it should be "as much as ... ."
To "ascribe" is to attribute, credit or blame. You "subscribe" to a belief, but you can "ascribe" a belief to someone or something.
Aside is an adverb or, on stage, a noun. As a preposition, it's archaic or dialectical. A basketball team has five players a side and several more set aside.
"Assent" is agreement; "ascent" is climbing higher. Think "sc"aling a mountain for "ascent" (which comes from "descend").
To "assure" is to help dispel doubts; to "ensure" is to make sure something will happen. Ensure an outcome, then assure us it will happen.
Some object to "at about" with time. One of the two often suffices, but usage guides do not object to using both adverbs.
You can have a concert "at" the park, but "in" might be better because a park is bigger than a concert and so contains it.
We use an "auger" to make holes. (The tool used to be "a nauger," but we got confused.) An "augur" is a soothsayer, hence "augurs well."
"Aural" means heard or related to the ear just as "oral" means related to the mouth.
"Average" usually refers to the mean: sum divided by quantity. Median average is the midpoint in a series; mode is the most common number.
"Avuncular" means like your mother's brother, and it's usually used to describe a friendly man.
Mom's siblings are "avunculus" and "matertera." "Avuncular" describes a maternal uncle, but it usually means acting as an uncle.
"Awe" no longer is limited to something terrible, but it should be impressive. The word that precedes "cute" is "aw."
"Aweful" is a common misspelling. It's tempting to add the "e" when emphasizing the "awe," but "awful" does the job.
"Ax" is the preferred spelling among U.S. style guides, but "axe" is just as common. Pick one and be consistent.
"Backward" seems to prevail in the US, though "backwards" is more common in England.
"Backyard" started as two words, but one word now prevails for noun or adjective. (You can still play in the back yard if you want to.)
Baloney is foolish or exaggerated talk. Bologna is the luncheon meat.
"Barbecue" is the preferred spelling for the gathering or cooking style. It's from a Taino-Arawak word the Spanish spelled "barbacoa."
"Barred" owl sometimes is confused with less-common "barn" owl. Former has a bar pattern on its chest. Latter likes barns.
"Basis" is a thing's foundation or schedule. "Bases" is the plural of "basis" and "base." Avoid "bases" for a singular concept.
"Bass" in music sounds like and comes from "base." The Italian "basso" influenced the odd spelling. The fish is unrelated.
"Bated" is what your breath is when you are waiting expectantly. "Bate" is an old shortening of "abate." "Bait" is unrelated.
"Bear with me" means put up with me (or help me carry my burdens). "Bare with me" might be a sign at a nudist colony.
"Since" is usually fine to mean "because," but "because" could be safer where there may be confusion with a time element.
It may be unnecessary, but just so we're all in bed with each other on this one: It's spelled bedbug.
We say "beers" to mean multiple servings of beer and "beer" to for an uncountable amount.
Think of "before" to remember the "e" in "forego" (to go before). Do without the "e" in "forgo" (to do without).
The past participle of "begin," with a helping verb, is "begun." "Began" is preferred for past tense: I began; I have begun.
Classically, one who "begs the question" is assuming the answer in the question. Why? Because it is. Consider "raises the question."
"Bellwether" has been misspelled for centuries. It comes from a lead male sheep ("wether") that had a bell tied around its neck.
"Wether" is a castrated sheep or goat. It's uncommon enough to get a squiggly line under it in spell checks.
"Bemused" means absorbed in thought, especially enough to make you confused. It doesn't mean amused, despite similar origins.
"Beside" means physically next to. "Besides" means "other than." They used to be interchangeable, but they've grown distinct.
Between you and me, separate ranges introduced with "between" with "and." With "from" or with no preposition, separate with "to."
Distinct relationships are "between" multiple parties, whether two or 20. "Among" refers to the collective, not individual parts.
For ranges, "between" goes with "and" and "from" goes with "to." Between one and 100; from three to five. Not "between 20 to 30."
That iconic clock tower at the Palace of Westminster is the Elizabeth Tower (so named in 2012). Big Ben is the tower's bell: heard, not seen.
Biweekly means every two weeks. But for 150+ years, it also has been used to mean twice weekly. Avoid confusion and say what you mean.
"Bloc" (French for "block") is an alliance of individuals, parties or nations. For other groupings, use "block," as with "cell block."
"Blond" is the preferred adjective regardless of gender. "Blonde" is the feminine noun, but it's a label best avoided.
"Bloody" has long been thought profane, falsely linked in the 1700s to "Christ's blood." It began as, and is becoming, a harmless intensive.
No matter how you pronounce "bona fides" (a noun) and "bona fide" (an adjective), write them each as two words.
"Bored with" has the better history, but "bored of" is common.
"Bourbon" (usually lowercase) is a Kentucky whiskey with corn making up more than half its mash.
The "bow," or "shoulder," of a boat is the front, just as your shoulders go forward when you take a bow. (These two "bows" are unrelated.)
"Breach" is related to "break," thus the "ea" spelling. "Breeches" are short trousers and, by extension, buttocks. Hence, "breech birth."
M-W Collegiate and @APStylebook retain the hyphen in breast-feeding, breast-feed, etc. Other sources and most writers have made it one word.
A "buff" is an enthusiast; "a maven" is more of an expert.
"Burned" and "burnt" both were born in the 1500s and both remain acceptable. In the U.S., -ed prevails, but -t is used for colors.
Bursa is an old word for bag; we now say "purse." It's also a sac of fluid in joints. A bursar or purser holds cash for a college or ship.
Your check goes to the college "bursar," which is the same job as the ship's "purser." The word "bursa" evolved into "purse."
Dictionaries would accept "Busses Welcome" signs, but they strike me as inviting kisses. Use "buses" (unless you're after a buss).
I think it's better to receive busses than to take buses, and it's better to use one "s" for the vehicles and two for the kisses.
"Cache" (one syllable) is a hidden storage place or a thing secretly stored. It's not just storage, except when it's computer memory.
Calories are a unit of measurement, not indivisible items. You can have less than a calorie (you'd measure it in joules).
In the UK, letters are “cancelled.” Webster eschewed the double “l,” so in the US they’re “canceled.” The root is “cancelli,” or “crossbars.”
If you want a big gun, ask for a "cannon." One "n" is for a law or principle, literary works, or a piece of music. The camera is Canon.
It's "can't wait" or "can hardly wait." "Can't hardly wait" is common, but it means—well, I'm not sure what it means.
A horse traveling at a moderate pace to Canterbury gives us the word "canter." A singing horse might be a "cantor."
If you're seeking votes or soliciting opinions, the word is "canvass." The sturdy cloth is "canvas" with one "s."
Capital is a city, money or uppercase letter. Capitol (think of the shape of a dome) is a building, and it's capitalized if it's specific.
The more common the cheese (e.g., cheddar), the less likely it is to be capitalized.
Things named after places tend to become generic and lower case, but wine named for a region is usually capitalized.
Your mom is "Mom"; a generic mom is "mom." Capitalize when you are using it as a substitute for a proper name.
Capitalize formal titles before names but not after. Job descriptions stay lower case: "... said Judge Traver to attorney Biegler ."
All major style guides say do not capitalize seasons. The usual exceptions apply, as well as when it is part of a publication date.
Capitalize: regions, not compass points; titles before name, not after or alone.; Congress.
If you use it as a name, "I have to call Mom," it's upper case. But, "I have to call my mom."
North America, but northern America; Chairman Bill Gates, but Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman.
Regions are capitalized if they're specific, identifiable and commonly understood: New England, the South.
Style guides say consult a favorite dictionary on whether to capitalize animal breeds. Generally, only place names are upper case.
Today's egalitarian style guides say don't capitalize "president" when it stands alone. Same with "pope." Caps before a name only.
Weigh a diamond in "carats" (200 mg each), but the purity of the band is measured in "karats" (up to 24). Shift-6 gets you a "caret."
AP Stylebook, Webster's New World, and Merriam-Webster Collegiate agree "carpool" is one word as verb, two as noun. Other dictionaries accept one word for either.
"Casework" is common in social work; two words seems more common in law. Neither is wrong, but two words avoids confusion.
"Casted" is almost universally considered incorrect for the past tense. Cast your vote on Election Day unless you cast it in early voting.
Call in the cavalry if you seek a charge by horse-borne soldiers. The hill of Jesus' crucifixion was Calvary, with a capital C.
"Cede" words start ac-, con-, inter-, pre-, re-, and se-. Also, "cede." Some "seed" words: ani-, lin-, poppy-, rape-, and bird-.
For nonseed words ending with a seed sound, "supersede" is unique. Three end in "ceed" and start "ex," "pro," and "suc." Otherwise, "-cede."
AP keeps "cell phone" two words, agreeing with all my dictionaries except Webster's New World. NYT and LAT use one.
"Censor" and "censure" are sometimes confused. The first prevents something; the second is a reaction to something.
To "censure" is to rebuke. To "censor" is to ban or expurgate. In Rome, a censor conducted the census and worked to uphold morals.
"Centered around" is common, but not terribly logical. Be bold and say "centered on" if that's what you mean.
The common spelling is "cesarean" section, but Caesar salad. First is associated with Julius Caesar; second is from its inventor, Caesar Cardini.
I've tried to avoid "chair," but I'm warming to it, even when sex is known. I don't mind "chairperson" as generic.
"Childrens" is never correct. The plural of "child" is "children," and the possessive requires an apostrophe: "children's."
Chippewa is an anglicization of "Ojibwa" (also, Ojibwe, Ojibway). It's the same native people, who also go by the broader "Anishinaabe."
Eager horses champed at the bit, but “chomping” now seems more common than “champing.” Champ or chomp away as it pleases you.
“Chord" and “cord" have shared and swapped meanings, but “chord" is now used for the musical sense and “cord" for a length of rope.
In music, a chord is a combination of notes. Natural notes are A through G. To remember the spelling of “chord," note that it adds an “H.”
The only instance of double letters in "Cincinnati" occurs with the two consonants in the middle: "nn."
Cite has several meanings (quote, commend, offer as example, ticket for a violation). Make sure it works in context or consider a more explicit word.
To "clamor" is to make a lot of noise. To "clamber" is to awkwardly climb or move (probably from "clamb," an old past tense of "climb").
Climatic means related to the climate or weather. "Climactic" refers to the climax of a story or event.
Coarse, or "ordinary," used to be spelled "course," possibly as a river running its course. With the "a," it now usually means "rough."
Use of "coed" made sense when "coeducation" was new and women were the exception. Men have been in the higher ed minority for decades.
"Colored" is a derogatory label in the U.S. but the accepted term for mixed racial origin in South Africa. Give context if you must use it.
Columbias in N. America include at least four cities, a river, a district and (with "British") a province. In S. America, it's Colombia.
Just as a comma can replace "and" in a simple series, so should "and" be able to replace the final comma.
Until a few minutes ago, I thought data could be "comma delineated." The correct form is "comma delimited."
A pair of commas sets off nonessential elements in the middle of a sentence "words, phrases, clauses."
Commas and periods go inside quote marks in the U.S.
Commas separate independent clauses, so they're best avoided for phrases that lack a subject.
Consider separating each item in a series of long phrases the same way you would separate a series of short items: with commas.
"Commentator" is established, so we probably shouldn't be so hard on the backformation "commentate."
Dictionaries include "commentate," usually without comment. It is not quite the same as "comment," so it serves a purpose.
Complement, that which completes (remember "e"), spawned a new meaning and spelling: "compliment," an expression of praise.
A "full complement" means "all." And in a further development "complimentary" somehow came to mean free of charge.
"I really like your…" starts a compliment. Remember that "I" with "compliment. "Complementary" things go together. They complete each other.
"Compote" is fruit cooked in syrup. It's closely related to "compost," but try not to confuse the two.
The passive "comprised of" invites excessive scorn. To be safe, a thing either is composed of its parts or it comprises its parts.
Businesses may have a "comptroller" or a "controller." Same job; same pronunciation. The former is a 500-year-old misspelling.
"Confectionery" is a collection of sweets or a shop. "Confectionary" usually is an adjective. If you confuse them, you're not the first.
"Congresswoman" or "-man" are accepted as substitutes for "U.S. representative," but "Congress" refers to both the House and the Senate.
The admonition against starting a sentence with a conjunction makes sense for second-graders. But we're adults here. Just be judicious.
"Conscience" doesn't mean "with science," but "with moral awareness." To spell it, always let "con science" be your guide.
Conscience can mean "awareness," but that's mostly been supplanted by "conscious," which adds the -ous suffix ("full of").
If you have no conscience you are unscrupulous. If you are not conscious you are not awake. Both once meant the same thing, but no longer.
Let's reach a "consensus" to not spell it "concensus." The word combines "con-" and "sentire," and is unrelated to "census." Remember s s s.
The odd hyphen in Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music came after the merger of a "Conservatory of Music" and a "College of Music."
"Constitution" is capitalized if referring to the one hashed out in 1783. Otherwise, AP style says, cap C only with state or nation's name.
"Contaminate" is always a verb. It spawned the 19th century noun "contaminant." A contaminant contaminates.
"Contemporary" and "contemporaneous" usually mean the same thing, though the former alone can be a noun or used for the current time.
Perhaps "contemporaneous" is the only one of the two used for an exact point in time, but it's also widely used to mean the same era.
Some sources say "contemporary" is more used with people, "contemporaneous" with things, but there are many counterexamples.
Continuous and "continual" mean uninterrupted. "Continual"alone means recurring, and there lies a useful distinction.
Over the winter, we had continual snow fall. "Continuous" would mean it never stopped.
A tip for self-editing: Read all your contractions as full words: Does "it's" make sense as "it is"? Did you really mean "you are"?
If you create something, you have the copyright. There is no longer any reason to say "all rights reserved."
A "council" is a deliberative body. "Counsel" is advice or a lawyer on a case. Facing a suit, the council sought counsel from its counsel.
"Counsel" and "counselor" are nouns that mean "lawyer." "Counselor" can also be used for other advice-givers. One "l" in US.
If you say it's countless, it ought to at least be really hard to count. Following with a list using ordinal numbers disproves your point.
Couple can be singular as a unit or plural if you're referring to individuals. Sometimes it's obvious which form to use.
"Couple" is a noun, and it's considered informal to drop the "of" and treat it as we would an adjective: "a couple tweets."
The noun "couple" takes a preposition, "couple of tweets." Think "pair." The casual "couple tweets" isn't yet accepted usage.
Craft brewery preferred to "microbrewery" by @APStylebook. Cheers!
If you've been creeping, you have "crept." "Creeped" is only for when you are "creeped out." "Crept out" means sneaked away.
Avoid the plural "criteria" for one item, common though it is. If you have one thing, all the guides say it's a "criterion."
A "crossroads" is an intersection or a choice. A "crossroad" is a road that crosses another. But meet Robert Johnson at the "cross road."
You are "at a crossroads" if faced with choices. A "crossroad" is a road that crosses another. Keep it plural for an intersection.
"Currently" usually adds nothing; use it rarely and thoughtfully for clarity. Don't write the horribly verbose "at this point in time."
"Curricula" is the preferred plural of "curriculum" (because educators), but "curriculums" is a common alternative.
"Cutlery" is a mass noun, so it takes a singular verb. It describes the wares made by a "cutler," the root of which is "knife."
The new name for that Central European country? It's "Czechoslovakia" without the "oslovak": Czechia.
If you do something daily, the adverb is "every day." The one-word "everyday" is an adjective meaning commonplace.
Daiquiri is sometimes misspelled "daquiri," so remember the three "i"s. It's from a Cuban place name, but it's usually not capitalized.
Easy to mix idioms are get one's "dander up" (lose temper) and be in a "high dudgeon" (offended). Dander's also an animal's dead skin flakes.
Singular or plural for data? Yes. It's the plural of datum, but it's commonly used as a collective noun. Academics usually go plural.
Starting a sentence "Data show(s)" and then presenting raw data is redundant.
Style rules regarding dates don't apply to an understood term such as Sept. 11 or 9/11. AP accepts either on first reference.
"Deep-seated" refers to the figurative placement of something, often a belief or feeling. "Deep-seeded" is logical, but it's not the idiom.
There is nothing wrong with adding the suffix "-able" to "defend," but "defensible" is older and more common.
If you're tempted to spell "definitely" with an "a,” remember that it shares a root with “finite.”
Defuse means disable a bomb ("de-" plus "fuse"). Figuratively, defuse a tense situation. "Diffuse" as a verb means spread out or scatter.
We're trained to simplify, but often more description is better than less. And sometimes, no description is necessary.
"Desert island" for the uninhabited place in the middle of the ocean. "Deserted island" suggests someone was there but left.
"Deserted island" is logical, but "desert island" has been used since the 1600s, when "desert" was likely to mean "uninhabited."
Deserve and desert as in "just deserts" come from a prefix meaning "completely" and the same word as "serve."
"Deserve" and "desert" are close cousins, as are "dessert" (the end of the meal) and "desert" (wilderness).
"Despite" preceded "spite." It comes from Latin word that gave us "despise," meaning look down on.
Despite and "in spite of" are synonyms, though it's possible some may interpret one as having more spiteful connotations.
Dessert, the thicker of the spellings, can make you fat; time in the desert can make you thin. That's how I keep them straight.
If you do something "like the dickens," keep "dickens" lower case. The euphemism for "devil" precedes "The Pickwick Papers" by 250 years.
A dictionary entry doesn't mean full acceptance. Dictionaries reflect common usage, and some are more accepting than others.
Die is the singular, "dice" the plural. "Dice" as a singular is both old and common, but in writing especially, "die" predominates.
"Different than" is widely, but not universally, accepted before a clause. In comparing nouns, most prefer "different from."
"I've written five different Tweets." Is "different" needed? It is acceptable, but if it doesn't add clarity or emphasis, leave it off.
"Digitization" is more common and more logical than "digitalization." Digitize to convert to digits (as in binary). Digital is an adjective.
"Dilemma" began in rhetoric as a choice between two bad things. The "two things" root ("di-") is broadly ignored.
Use of "dilemma" simply as a jam or a predicament is widespread, but some will object. There has never been a word "dilemna."
"Dinkus," the three asterisks that mark a break in book design, probably relates to "dingus," which means "thingy" and comes the Dutch "dinges."
AP says disc for records, optical discs, disc brake. Disk for computer-related, medical, etc. Garner agrees.
"Discrete" means distinct or separate (the island of Crete is a discrete part of Greece). "Discreet" means quietly careful or judicious.
Disk is the usual spelling, but "disc" is preferred for compact discs, disc brakes and a few other cases.
"Dispatch" seems to be the slightly older spelling, at least in English, and is more common than the "despatch" variant.
"Dispel" ideas, thoughts, fears, crowds—things that can be scattered. If it can't scatter (accusations, attention), better to "divert" it.
"Dived" and "dove" compete for dominance regionally, but both are generally accepted. If one is preferred, it's probably dived.
A group can be diverse. An individual could have diverse tastes, interests, etc. Don't call an individual "diverse" to mean different.
I've seen "diverse" used to mean "minority" for an individual. Racial diversity in an individual would suggest a multiracial person.
There may be "do or die" situations, but "do and die" correctly quotes Tennyson. "Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die."
"Doohickey" prevails in my idiolect, but I've heard "doodad" used in Michigan. "Doodah" only in song.
As a pejorative, "douchebag" seems much more common, but the dictionaries I checked don't yet allow for one word.
I won't refuse one either way, but "doughnut" is the preferred spelling. The main dictionaries accept the more-popular "donut" variant.
Dove is nonstandard, but common enough to be acceptable outside formal writing. Longfellow's Hiawatha "dove as if he were a beaver."
Dived is the more traditional past tense of dive, but dove is usually fine for simple past tense. With "have" or "has," stick with "dived."
"Downpayment" wins the Google popularity contest, but all my sources are emphatic: "Down payment" is two words (for now).
"Down's syndrome" is very common, but the advocacy organizations use "Down," as does the AP Stylebook.
If it's mechanical, it's a "dryer." But if you seek a comparison, the spelling is "drier." "My new dryer gets things drier."
DST gives us more PM daylight for the next 7 months. Traditionally and per most sources, no second "s" in "saving." Your savings may vary.
"Dual" and "duel" are from different roots The "a" spelling is for the adjective meaning "two of." "Duel" is the fighting word (noun or verb).
"Due to," "because of," "owing to" are largely interchangeable. That doesn't mean some won't expect you to make distinctions.
Sticklers insist that "due to" modifies a noun phrase, "because of" modifies a verb phrase. Most sources say don't sweat it. Trust your ear.
"Duffel" for the bag or cloth is named after a town in Belgium. But "duffle" is a variant spelling.
"Dumpster" is an expired trademark for the Dempsey Brothers' big trash container. It's now generic.
You can spell the plural "dwarves," especially if you're quoting Tolkien, but "dwarfs" is both preferred and more common.
AP says use "each other" for two people, "one another" for more. The "rule" has been around for 190 years, but it is widely ignored.
Adverbs ending -ly don’t take hyphens, but -ly adjectives do. “Early” in a compound modifier is an adjective: "early-childhood education."
"Earth" is capitalized when not immediately preceded by "the" and when referring to the whole planet. It's generally lowercase otherwise.
Adding -ed normally makes a verb past tense. For initialisms, 'd is more common.
Effect is usually the noun, affect the verb. You "affect" something, resulting in an effect.
Effect as a verb is to bring about: effect change. If you affect change, you're influencing the change.
"Effect" is usually a noun, but it's a great verb, too. To "affect" is to influence; to "effect" is to bring about.
"Elicit," a verb, means draw out. "Illicit," an adjective, is unlawful or wrong. Think of the negative il- prefix. (Yes, licit is a word.)
Three dots in a triangle mean "therefore" or "ergo." An ellipses is three dots in a row.
Three dots together constitute an ellipsis, a single punctuation mark. The term for one is a suspension point, dot or period.
An e-mail subscription list sometimes is called a "listserv," but that's a trademark for an e-mail list program. Call it an e-mail list.
"Eminent" is famous; "imminent" is impending. The root is "to project," the former in a good way, the latter as in hanging over your head.
"Eminent" describes an important person; "preeminent" means "most eminent." If you have more than one, they can't all be "preeminent."
"Empathy" is the ability to share the feelings of others. It is deeper than "sympathy," which is feeling sorrow for another's misfortune.
En dashes often preferred for page and date ranges, and for negative/minus sign
The French "en route" is the idiom. It's far more common than the direct translation, "on route."
You're better off encasing something than incasing it. The "i" spelling once was popular, but never as popular as the "e" spelling.
En-dashes convey a difference. But I don't see multiple hyphens for compounds as less clear.
"Endemic" doesn't mean "widespread." A disease, condition or species is "endemic" if found in a certain population or area.
Despite once being synonyms, "enormity" and "enormousness" are different. Keep "enormity" for something evil or outrageous.
In Britian, you are more likely to "enquire." In the U.S., "inquire" is more common.
"Enquire" is a variant of "inquire" in the US. Both are used as a verb in the UK, where "i" prevails for the ever-popular "inquiry."
Entitled has always meant "given a title." AP and others prefer "titled," and I agree. But you are entitled to use either.
"Epicenter" is the focus point of an earthquake or the center of a similarly negative situation. Don't use it where "center" will do.
The difference between "epidemic" and "pandemic" is a matter of scale. Epidemics are limited to a population and usually don't last long.
"Eponymous" refers to a person whose name is used to describe something, not the thing being described: Hamlet, the eponymous tragic hero.
"Equally as well" could be forgiven as redundancy for the sake of intensity. You're better off with "equally well" or "equally."
The common reference shorthand "et al." takes no period after the whole word "et," but "al." is an abbreviation for "alii," or "others."
Reserve "etc." for when it's actually useful, and avoid it after "e.g." or "for example." The "et" is "and," so "and etc." is redundant.
Ethanol is another word for alcohol. If there's any difference, it's in purpose rather than chemical makeup.
Brass sections do not include euphonia. "Euphonium" is a Latin-sounding 19th century word derived from Greek. The plural is "euphoniums."
"Everyday" is an adjective that means commonplace, but it need not mean every day. Two words when it's an adverb: I try to tweet every day.
One can be "ex-," "former," or "past." Do something long enough, you're a "veteran." But don't use those words in combination.
"Exalt" is to raise up or praise and is related to "altitude." "Exult" means rejoice.
An "exception" is something excluded, an "exemption" freedom or immunity. One "takes exception," "gives exemption."
"Expedient" means practical and convenient, not always with regard to fairness. If you mean quick, you want the related word "expeditious."
The root of "exult," to rejoice, means leap or dance. "Exalt" is to raise up or praise and is related to "altitude."
Avoid using "eye of the storm" to mean in the middle of a chaotic situation. The eye is the calm center of a storm.
"Faculty" can take a singular or plural verb, but that doesn't mean you can use "faculty" to mean one person.
It's rare now, but "fare" is an Old English word meaning to travel (wayfarer), and most money-related senses take that spelling.
It might be helpful to remember fare as a fee for traveling and fare as goods both relate to "far" and both end in "e," as in "economics."
"Fair" as a gathering and "fair" as a favorable quality (impartiality, good looks, good weather) come from different sources.
"Farther" is better for physical distance, "further" for degree and figurative senses. "Farther" started as a variant on "further."
It celebrates all fathers, but Father's Day keeps the apostrophe inside as a singular possessive, as does Mother's Day and New Year's Day.
"Faze" is a variant of "feeze," to drive off, which is found in a text from around 1000. It survived in dialect and was altered in 1800s.
Faze is an Americanism, but its roots go back a thousand years. "Phase" is unrelated. Think "period" for the one that starts with "p."
"Feck" comes from "effect" as in the essential part of something, mostly archaic. Feckful means effective, worthwhile.
If you feel bad, don't say "badly" unless you have a poor sense of touch. It's the same as with smelling bad or smelling badly.
If you say "I feel good" to describe your ability to feel, "good" would be an adverb, and frowned upon.
The EE in the middle of "feet" is a shoe width that I can sometimes squeeze into. A "feat" is an achievement, related to the word "fact."
You stand on your "feet." That EE in the middle also is a shoe width. A "feat" is an achievement, related to the word "fact."
A fetish is an object of idolatry. Psychologists decided they liked the term and gave it a popular new meaning.
"There are a few" when "a few" serves as an adjective to the plural noun that follows.
"Fewer than" refers to units of countable things. It's "less than 10 miles" because the concept is distance, not individual miles.
Adding a -ly to a numbered list (firstly, secondly) is fussy, but acceptable. But don't start with "first" and follow with "secondly."
"Flack" is a 1940s U.S. word for press agent. "Flak" is a 1930s German abbreviation for an anti-aircraft gun. It also means criticism.
For something likely to burn, "flammable" is clearer than its older cousin "inflammable." If it can't burn, it's "nonflammable."
"Flautist," from the Italian "flautista," superseded "flutist" in England in the 1800s. Americans stuck with the older form.
The figurative "flesh out" means provide details or form, as in putting meat on bones. "Flush out" is get rid of (you know, like a toilet).
"Flier" is preferred for a handbill or aviator. "Flyer" is common, but some sources say that's a variant unless it's printed on your wagon.
To "flout" is to mock or otherwise show disdain. To "flaunt" is to show off. "Flautist" is a fancy-schmancy way of saying "flutist."
AP decided "flu-like" takes a hyphen, an exception to its style of hyphenating the suffix only after proper nouns or to avoid a triple "."
"Fluoride" and "flux" are cousins. To remember the "flu" start to what's in your toothpaste, think of what you use to solder pipes.
It's no longer made from tin; "foil" is accurate in context.
"Fora" and "forums" are widely accepted plurals for "forum." English plurals sound less pretentious.
Ships "founder," meaning they take on water and sink. A sailor on the doomed ship might "flounder," or thrash about trying to stay afloat.
Fourth of July or July Fourth are correct terms. Also Independence Day.
"Fracking," for "hydraulic fracturing," has been around since the 1950s. In the drilling industry, it's often spelled "fracing."
"For free" is criticized because "free" often works better in half the space. But try it both ways before you condemn it.
As we visit the Conservatory of Music at the U of Cincy, my son notes it is capital "F," lowercase "h" in French horn.
"Frequently" can mean in quick succession, which "often" doesn't necessarily convey. But other than that, petty much the same.
After we shortened "refrigerator" to "fridge," we added a "d" to make it look right. The root relates to "frigid."
I'm glad I have a friend like Mike means I'm glad a Mike-like person (in this case, Mike) is my friend. But some folks disagree.
"Frier" is a variant of "fryer," which is fish or chicken suitable for frying, someone who fries, or a cooking utensil.
Remember, "Frisbee" is a brand name. For generic versions, use "frisbee" and wait for the letter.
A "fryer" is fish or chicken suitable for frying, someone who fries, or a cooking utensil. "Frier" is a variant spelling.
Usage guides say, incorrectly, that "fulsome" is "offensive" or "excessive," not "abundant." If you use it, be sure the meaning is clear.
Avoid "fumes" for "vapor." Fumes are smelly or toxic vapor. Vapor is any diffused matter floating in air, such as steam.
Fungi is the better plural of the Latin "fungus," but "funguses" is accepted, too. It's its own kingdom, no longer considered a plant.
The "funny bone" is not a bone, but the area of cartilage below the humerus where the ulnar nerve is sensitive to pressure. Probably no pun.
Adjectives in "future plans" and "past experiences" suggest things are not "next" or "just now." Usually, no such distinction is necessary.
"Gator" is a fine substitute for "Alligator," but remember the "o." "Gater" is an obscure trade word useful only in Scrabble.
An instrument or the act of measuring is "gauge." "Gage" is a variant in the U.S. Watch out for the misspelling "guage."
A "gauntlet" is a glove; you can throw it down but not run it. Yet, the battle may be lost: "Gantlet" often is called a variant spelling.
Some dictionaries (oddly) prefer "gauntlet" as the thing that is run and give the "aw" pronunciation as an option for "gantlet."
It's still OK to be lightheartedly gay, but context is important. The centuries-old "gay" has meant homosexual since at least the 1930s.
"Gay" for sexual orientation has become the predominant meaning. It can refer to men and women, but "gay and lesbian" is more common.
Gender is now a stand-in for "sex," usually for social or cultural differences. "Sex" is still OK, especially for biological differences.
"Gender" for "sex" is hundreds of years old. It was linked with identity in the mid-20th century, and that has become a useful distinction.
General is traditionally an adjective after "attorney," "solicitor" or "surgeon," which is why we add "s" to the noun to make them plural.
Don't call the attorney general, solicitor general, or surgeon general "general." But the surgeon general does have the title "admiral."
Don't dismay, but it's "God rest you merry, gentlemen," not "God rest you, merry gentlemen." It means, “May God grant you merriment."
The hyphenated "good-bye" is hanging on. Merriam-Webster's dictionaries lack an entry for "goodbye," and many publications rely on M-W.
Brits cringe when I've "gotten" something, but it's a fine word here in America. "Gotten" suggests acquisition; "got" suggests ownership.
One still "graduates from college" rather than "graduates college." But that distinction is slipping away.
An old mnemonic but a good mnemonic: First you graduate, then you congratulate. D comes before T. Congrats, grads.
"Graffiti" is an Italian plural: "The graffiti were all over." But don't fret. It's accepted as a mass noun: "The graffiti was . . ."
Starting graphs "first," "second," "finally" is an overused organizational crutch. If you use it, at least make sure there is a progression.
"Gray" is the U.S. spelling; "grey" is British. Either is acceptable, but it's better to use "a" for American, "e" for English.
Many restaurants have "grille" as part of their names. but that's the term for a ventilated grating, as on a car. We cook on a "grill."
"Ground Zero" in New York is capitalized at the Washington Post. It's "ground zero" in AP copy and at the NY Times and LA Times.
"Gybe" is the spelling in British English for the action of shifting a sail to change course. "Jibe" is the AmE spelling.
Lowering a flag to honor the dead is a naval tradition. On land, however, "half-mast" will earn you rebuke from pedants. So, "half-staff."
AP Stylebook on "hard line": Hard-liners (noun) take a hard line (noun) on a hard-line (adjective) approach.
The original dish was probably "hash browned potatoes.” It’s most commonly “hash browns,” with the one-word spelling considered a variant.
It certainly would be hard to hoe a road. And pointless. The expression is "hard row to hoe." Backyard gardeners will understand.
To "make hay" (also "make hay while the sun shines") is to seize an opportunity. To "make haste" is simply to move quickly.
"Head cold" is written as two words, but it's easier for me to say it as one.
Headlines are present tense, but some object to "dies" in a headline, since it's the outcome, not the process.
AP Stylebook decided "headscarf" and "headscarves" are one word. That seems most common, though Webster's and Merriam-Webster lack an entry.
"Health care" is more likely outside the industry.
"Healthy" means both in good health and conducive to good health. "Healthful" is specific to the second sense, but either is OK.
Declare "hear, hear" if you agree (not "here, here"). The phrase originated in the British Parliament as "hear him, hear him."
It's "heart-rending." "Heart rendering" is what you did on your school notebook. "Rending" means "tearing."
Appetites are "hearty;" so is a jovial or energetic person. "Hardy" is robust or resolute. Similar words, but remember "heart" and "hard."
The "heel" of a foot or shoe has a double "e," like "feet" and a shoe width. And it's what a dog does. Once you heal, you are A-OK.
"Helpmeet" is 17th century and its variant "helpmate" is 18th. "Running mate" is two words.
The @APStylebook capitalizes "Her Majesty" (when used in a quote), but "queen" is lower case if it's not in front of a name.
To "hew" is to cut or shape by cutting. Figuratively, "hew" is to shape into conforming. "Hue" is rarely a verb, but raise a "hue and cry."
"Hiccup" is an old onomatopoeia often written "hiccough," which came later. It's related to "cough" only by association. Stay with "hiccup."
"Hinderance" is a spelling common enough to be considered a variant, but the simpler, two-syllable "hindrance" is preferred.
"Hispanic" and "Latino/Latina" are a matter of personal choice and publication style. "Latino" seems to be gaining. If you can, be specific.
For something to be "historic," it must be important to history. If it just happened in the past, it's "historical."
You are safest with "a historical" anywhere in the world. If you hear the "h," skip the "n."
History is not just what has happened, but the retelling of what has happened (which isn't always quite what happened). The story is key.
"Hone" means "to sharpen," as in a blade or a skill, and is incorrectly transferred to "hone in on." But remember the pigeon and "home in."
"Honoraria" is the more common plural for "honorarium," but "honorariums" is fine. If you get them, don't fret about what they're called.
"Hoofs" and "hooves" both seem to be accepted. "Hooves" is more popular now, but this wasn't always the case.
A "horde," a crowd, is from the Turkic "urdu" or "camp." A "hoard" is a collection of things. It's from German and Norse for "treasure."
"Hot line" was used a decade before the U.S. and USSR set one up in 1963. "Hotline" seems recent, but Wordnik has it in use since the '60s.
Humerus, as with "elbow," is spelled with an "e." "Humorous" is not related to the bone of the upper arm.
Don't fear multiple hyphens. There is nothing wrong with "country-music-loving people." I mean as a hyphenated phrase.
Copy-editing tip: Hyphens in compound modifiers don't add confusion, but leaving them out sometimes can. #hyphens
Hyphenated forms of words tend to lose the hyphen over time, so to-day we have many formerly hyphenated words.
Hyphens aren't needed after adverbs ending in -ly, such as "barely concealed glee." The -ly signals the role of the word.
Hyphens in ages are used for nouns: "a race for 3-year-olds" or adjectives: "22-year-old Scotch." No hyphen needed in "13 years old."
Why we need hyphens: Because a community building opportunity is not the same as a community-building opportunity.
Why we need hyphens: Because an extra clean mitten is not the same as an extra-clean mitten.
Why we need hyphens: Because a professional-development guru isn't the same as a professional development guru.
Why we need hyphens: because an extra-large crayon is not the same as an extra large crayon.
Why we need hyphens: because helping direct-mail services is not the same as helping direct mail services.
Why we need hyphens: Because second-best margarita in Phoenix is not the same as second best margarita in Phoenix.
"Hysterical" meaning really funny was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 1993. Traditionally, it means affected with or inducing extreme emotion.
The Greek root that gives us "hysterical" also gives us "uterus," from which hysterical behavior was once assumed to originate.
"I" when it's the subject. "Fred and I are planning the event. Send all complaints to Fred and me."
The abbreviation i.e. (id est) means "that is." Don't confuse it with e.g. (exempli gratia), which is "for example." Follow with a comma.
It's hard to tell when it's spoken, but write "iced tea," not "ice tea." Same with "iced coffee." But it's "ice wine" and rapper "Ice-T."
Beware of calling the 15th of any old month "the ides." "The ides" refers to the 15th of March, May, July and October. Otherwise, the 13th.
The subjunctive is struggling, especially in casual writing. But "if I was" instead of "if I were" still brings scorn from sticklers.
"If I were" -- the subjunctive is not dead yet. "If I was" is common and casual, but "if I were" is preferred.
"Impacted" is one of several medical conditions involving bones, bowels or teeth. "Affected" is a much nicer word.
"Impact" as a verb is overused and inelegant, but it's too common to be dismissed. I usually change it, but not always.
If actual physical contact occurs, "impact" is now an established verb.
A jury is "impaneled," dictionaries agree. They call "empanel" a variant. Both spellings are common.
Don't forget the "e" in "impasse." Voltaire coined it as an alternative to "cul-de-sac." English kept the French spelling.
Spell checkers will skip the old word "impassible," which has largely been replaced by "impassive." "Impassable" means blocked.
"Imposter" is an "impostor." The variant spelling gets nearly 5 million Google hits, but stick to a double "o."
The Latin prefix "in-" is the same as the Germanic "un-." The Germanic "in-" is an intensifier. So we have both to confuse us.
"in spite of" and "despite" are interchangeable. I prefer "despite" because "spite" has a different meaning if it stands alone.
The Latin prefix "in-" is the same as the Germanic "un-." The Germanic "in-" is an intensifier. So we have both to confuse us.
"Incase" is a considered a variant spelling of "encase," though both spellings are hundreds of years old. "Just incase" is just wrong.
Incentivize is generally accepted; "incent" less so. Both are avoidable. Don't use for "motivate" if reward is not implied.
"Incentivize" is 40 years old and dictionaries accept it. That doesn't mean you have to use it. Don't use it if you mean "motivate."
“Incidence” is used to describe the frequency of “incidents,” which is the plural of “incident.” Avoid "incidences” unless you really mean multiple rates of occurrence.
Independence Day is more descriptive, but "Fourth of July" is the name given in the 1938 act that extended pay for the federal holiday.
When you "infer," you're using evidence to draw a conclusion. If you're hinting or indirectly indicating, the word is "imply."
The "in" in "inflammable" doesn't mean "not," as with "un" or "non." The prefix is an intensifier, as with the "in" in "intensifier."
If you see a reference to the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) delete it. It's now Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
"Inspiring" and the much younger "inspirational" have subtle differences, but they're interchangeable in common usage. An "inspirational" book might be written to inspire. An "inspiring" book has accomplished this task for the reviewer.
"Instant" goes back to Latin. The -aneous construction apparently comes from church Latin.
In the case of compensation for a loss, the word is "insure." For making sure of something, I prefer "ensure," but either word is OK.
You might get away with "insuree" for a person who is insured, but "insured" is the better choice for the noun.
You can be both interested and "disinterested." "Disinterested" means impartial, so it's better to avoid it if you mean "not interested."
An "initiative" is citizen- (or, face it, special interest-) initiated legislation. A "referendum" is a question referred to a popular vote.
Invaluable is "having great value." The Germanic "in-" is an intensifier. (Latin's "in-" can be like the Germanic "un-.")
Invaluable means value beyond measure. The prefix serves to intensify, as with the related en-. Same with "inflammable."
"Irregardless" is a variant, formed by adding the negative prefix "ir'" to "regardless," which already has a negative suffix.
An "iteration" is a repetition, so there's technically no "first iteration." "Reiteration," then, is a second repetition, but few worry about that distinction.
Computer-speak has made "iteration" more common, often simply for "version." In math and computers, each iteration gets closer to a goal.
This is in no way seasonal, but all my dictionaries agree on the spelling "jack-o-lantern." Real-world variations are rampant.
If it's relevant, "Jew" is no less an appropriate noun than "Christian" or "Sikh." But "Jewish" is the adjective form.
"Jibe" is a nautical term with Dutch origin. A "gibe" is an insult, from an Old French word meaning "handle roughly."
"Jibe" is a variant of "gibe," but to properly taunt, stick with the "g" spelling. Use "jibe" when sailing or quoting Shakespeare.
When things agree, they "jibe." When changing course on an English boat, you "gybe." The sail is spelled "jib." A "gib" is a bolt or pin.
Most dictionaries prefer the spelling "judgment," calling "judgement" a variant. The OED is fine with either, and Brits favor "judgement."
In the U.S., we drop the "e" when combining "judge" and "-ment." Some blame Webster, but "judgment" seems to have the better history.
"Ketchup" and "catsup" are centuries-old spellings, but "ketchup" is much more prevalent. The word is either Cantonese or Malay.
Florida has many "keys" or low-lying coastal islands. The capitalized "Florida Keys" are those that stretch south of the Florida mainland.
I grew up saying "kitty-corner," but the correct term remains, for now, "cater-cornered." "Cater" means a four in cards or dice.
There is just one "s" late in the odd word "lackadaisical." Its an alteration of "lackaday," from the expression "alack the day."
"Laid" takes an object: "He laid the pen down." "Lie" and its uncommon past participle "lain" never do. "Layed" is a variant best avoided.
"Latino" collectively refers to either sex. Judge Sonia Sotomayor is a "Latina." She is the first "Latino" on the U.S. Supreme Court.
You "lay" on the ground as the past tense of "lie." With an object, you "laid" yourself down, past tense of "lay" yourself down.
Lie down and consider: While "lay" is the past tense (I lay down for a nap), it's also present tense with an object (lay the pen down).
You "lay" something. But, annoyingly, "lay" also is the past tense of "lie." Lay an object down. The cat lay in waiting.
"Leaped" and "leapt" are both correct. "Leapt" is a bit older, but not by much, and "leaped" is slightly more common.
"Learnt" is rare in the US but common in the UK. "Learned" is probably the older spelling, but not by much.
Led, past-tense of "lead," sounds like "lead," the dense metal. Lighten up and spell "led" as it sounds, with three letters.
A "leech" is a bloodsucking worm (or, originally, a doctor); to "leach" is to remove by percolation. Mnemonic: "Eek, a leech!"
"10 items or less," "10 or fewer items." Many credible sources insist on fewer, but the reasoning is specious. Either is OK.
Lighted and "lit" are valid as adjective or verb. Any attempt to draw a distinction is based on good intention, not usage.
"Lightning" once was "lightening." We no longer use the middle "e." The meanings of "lightening" include the drop late in pregnancy.
Lights were lighted, but "lit" is accepted as the past tense form.
A modern canard says "like" excludes what is being compared while "such as" includes it. But we shouldn't discount "like."
Such as is preferred in formal writing to cite examples, and we are stuck with such rules as this until the overly persnickety cave in.
There is precedent for "like" meaning something is an example of a larger class, a definition dictionaries are comfortable with.
Don't change "like" to "such as" when you are comparing two things. "He wants to be an editor like Mike," not "such as" Mike.
Keep in mind that "like" can be ambiguous, "such as" can provide clarity. There is sound reasoning at the heart of the rule.
AP Stylebook's social media chapter includes "liveblog," noun or verb. The less hep, two-word form is much more common.
"Loth" is usually considered a variant spelling in American dictionaries, but it once was more common than "loath."
"Loath" is often pronounced "loathe," but I've never heard anyone speak of taking a "bathe."
If something disgusts you, you might say you loathe it. If you seek an adjective, "I am loath to tweet this," drop the 'e.' Sorry, just is.
You loathe (verb) a loathsome (adj.) thing if you intensely dislike it; if you are loath (adj.), you are reluctant (loath to leave).
Styles differ, but generally it's best to differentiate between a company name and a logo: "Yahoo writes its name as Yahoo!"
Dictionaries and style guides prefer "long-standing." An exception: The Times of London makes it a single unhyphenated word.
Most dictionaries and style guides prefer "long-standing." One exception: The Times of London makes it a single unhyphenated word.
"Lose" is a four-letter verb. "Loose" as a verb means "let go." As an adjective, it means "not tight." Want something less tight: Loosen it.
Where did we get "lunch"? A lunch of bread once meant a hunk of bread; that could have influenced "luncheon."
"Lunch" started out a a chunk, as in cheese or bread. "Luncheon" may be from a Spanish word meaning slice.
"Luxuriant" is lush, such as a garden or a full head of hair. Its cousin "luxurious" means sumptuous, full of luxury.
Mackinac Island is in the Straits of Mackinac, which link Lakes Huron and Michigan under the Mackinac Bridge. All are pronounced "Mackinaw."
"Mackinac" is from an Ojibwe word and comes through French Canadian. The coat, blanket and city are spelled "Mackinaw."
"Madding" things make you crazy. "Maddening" things make you angry. And "far from the madding crowd" is Thomas Hardy quoting Thomas Gray.
In a voting and polling, "majority" is more than half, "plurality" is most among three or more choices. "Absolute majority" is unnecessary.
To "make do" with less is to make what little you have do something. "Make due" is a common misspelling.
The cheese is manchego, sometimes Manchego, but sometimes misspelled with an extra "n." It's named after a breed of sheep from La Mancha.
A "mantle" is a robe; you might figuratively wear a "mantle" as an honor or office. Put your trophies on the "mantel," over the fireplace.
Don't say "margin" if you mean "ratio." Ratio is the relationship between two numbers; margin is the difference: 2-1 ratio; 12-point margin.
A covered entrance to a theater is a "marquee," which also is a top act or something preeminent. "Marquis" is a title for a nobleman.
AP Stylebook added "Marseille" as the spelling for the southern French city. It's commonly spelled ending with an "s," but not in France.
Many words are formed with the ending "-mate" (classmate, roommate), related to "meat," as in shared food. But "running mate" is two words.
Don't fear "me." You are not about to say "Joe and me are tweeting." But in other cases, "me" is fine. Never say "between you and I."
I get nervous typing "meat" or "meet." But the one eaten is the one with "eat" in it.
"Meat" you might eat; "meet" you might do with a friend. "Meat" usually means mammal flesh, but it can be used more broadly.
You may wince, but Olympians have medaled for years. Non-sports uses of the verb date to the 19th century.
"Media" is the plural of "medium," but it's usually used as a singular mass noun. Either way is considered standard.
Spell "medieval" medi (middle, as in medium), ev (aev, age; the "e" in era and eternal are related), and al (pertaining to).
A “memento” is a souvenir or an object that sparks a memory. Think “meme.” "Momento" is at best a variant (except as a Spanish “moment”).
If you're measuring something out, usually justice, the word is "mete." It's related to "measure."
"Mic" vs. "mike" divides the generations. "Rock Band" and "Guitar Hero" use "mic." "Mike" probably originated in the 1920s, "mic" in the '60s.
The OED's earliest reference to "Michiganian" is 1813. "Michigander" in the OED corpus dates to 1848. Source: Abraham Lincoln.
Lansing once decreed "Michiganian" as the label for people from the Great Lakes State, but "Michigander" is more common. Neither is wrong.
When dealing with possibility, the basic tip is that if you're talking about a past event, use "might." "What might have been."
If you're talking about a possible past event, use "might" not "may." The two are pretty interchangeable in present and future tense.
Some say "might" is more likely than "may," but I'm not sure most people see that. The danger with "may" is that it can imply permission.
Some sources prefer "may" for present tense. "You may be right." The two are generally considered interchangeable in future tense.
"Might" suggests a hypothetically existing condition, where "may" suggests a future possibility.
"May" and "might" grew up alongside each other in northern European languages, so using them interchangeably is not new.
"Millenniums" used to be common, probably more common than "millennia," but "millennia" is now much more common. Either is fine.
The root of "minuscule" is "minus," not "mini." "Miniscule" is common enough to get some acceptance, but be safe with "minus."
"Mnemonics," with an "m" for mind, from the Greek word mnemon, meaning "mindful."
Monies has recently grown more popular than "moneys," though most sources prefer "moneys." Both have a long history.
"Money" is a mass noun. "Moneys" and "monies" are accepted forms for groups of money, but "money" is usually the better choice.
You might find a rare reference to "mongeese," but the correct plural is "mongooses." The word "goose" is unrelated.
There is just one moon and one golden sun, but it is OK to also use "moon" for a satellite of another planet. Reserve "sun" for our star.
A "moot point" in the U.S. has come to mean one that is unsettled but no longer significant. In Britain, the meaning remains "debatable."
A "moot" once was a meeting. The moot courts in law schools, featuring trials with only academic significance, influenced the later senses.
Amoral means outside the scope of morality or lacking a sense of morals. "Immoral" suggests you know what you're doing.
For numbers, "more than" and "over" have long been interchangeable. Many publications reserve "over" for spatial relationships.
Regarding numbers, "more than" and "over" have long been interchangeable. But many newspapers reserve "over" for spatial relationships.
"Mortar and pestle" can take a singular verb if you see it as a unit or a plural verb if not.
"Mother" is capitalized if used as a name: "I have to call Mother"; "I have to call my mother."
"Mother's Day" is a singular possessive. Founder Anna Jarvis said she positioned the apostrophe so the focus is on individual moms.
Three unrelated words. "Mousse" breaks diets or controls hair. "Moose" is kin to a deer. "Mouse" is a rodent or a computer input device.
Mucus is the slimy substance produced by mucous membranes. The adjective with the “o" comes from joining “mucus” with “-ous,” or “full of."
Someone with a mustache is either "mustached" or "mustachioed." Some dictionaries reserve the Italian-sounding word for luxuriant staches.
Myriad can be a noun or an adjective, but avoid it for merely "many." It means countless or an extremely big number.
You can have "a myriad of ideas" or "myriad ideas." It comes from a Greek word for "10,000," or, in effect, countless.
"Myriad" can be a noun or an adjective, so "myriad ideas" or "myriad of ideas."
You can have a ton of fun and a barrel of monkeys. "A myriad of ideas" is the older construction.
Avoid "myriad" for merely "many." It means countless or an extremely big number (literally, 10,000).
"Myself" refers back to the subject: "I'm typing this tweet myself." It's not a substitute for "I" or "me."
There is nothing wrong with calling yourself "me." Use "myself" only when the subject already is "I" or "me."
"Native American" is widely accepted, but so is "Indian." In Canada, "First Nations" is common. Go by a person's preference if possible.
"Nauseous" and "nauseating" describe things that make you sick. "Nauseated" is feeling nausea.
"Neanderthal" is the preferred spelling, but many prefer "Neandertal," after the valley where the hominid was discovered.
Obviously, "needless to say" is clearly unnecessary, but that certainly goes without saying, as you, of course, undoubtedly know.
AP Stylebook added "nerve-wracking" to its guidance on rack and wrack. I don't buy it. Nor do I agree with "wracked with doubt" from 2010.
New Year's Eve (all day) and Day are singular possessives. "Happy new year," "happy New Year" and "happy New Year's" are all fine. Cheers.
This may mean the next and "next" the one after, but if it's not clear which day, month or season, avoid "next" and be explicit.
"Next" often means "the one after the next one," so if it's not absolutely clear which day, month, or season, avoid "next" and be explicit.
"This" may mean "next" and "next" the one after, but if it's not absolutely clear which day, month or season, avoid "next" and be explicit.
A nickname is capitalized, but a descriptive term is not.
Nil is a 19th-century contraction of the Latin "nihil," or "nothing," which still shows up in "nihilism" (but what's the point of that)?
If you see "no holes barred," ask why would anyone bar a hole anyway? Think wrestling. It's "no holds barred."
"Noisome" is derived from the word "annoy" and has nothing to do with noise. It means "offensive" or "bad-smelling."
"None" usually is singular, but not always. To test, substitute "not one of." None of us is going because none of us agree.
"None" usually is considered singular, but not always. To test, substitute "not one of." None of us is going because none of us agree.
"Nonplussed" means surprised and confused and unable to continue, not the opposite. Break it down: non (not) and plus (more). Enough said.
"Nonprofit" and "not-for-profit" are interchangeable. I prefer the shorter version (certainly as a noun) without a hyphen.
The Nth-annual occurrence of an event happens on it's Nth anniversary plus 1. Anniversaries start the year after the first event.
AP Stylebook has no rule against mixing style for numbers So, "five out of 13." Other style guides say use numbers or numerals, not both.
The vocative "O" is thus spelled and always capitalized. It's better than its homophone "Oh" when used to address or invoke.
"Obstinant" has been cropping up for centuries, but "obstinate" is the word for unyielding. "Abstinent" means something else.
Avoid starting a sentence with "Obviously." Instead use: "It is a truth universally acknowledged."
Spell "occasionally" with double letters on the outside consonants and single letters on the inside.
You can be occupied, but the "pre-" does emphasize the previous condition.
"Octopodes" is the pluralized "octopus" in Greek. If not at a faculty party, stick with English: "octopuses."
And "octopi" is just plain wrong. Stick to "octopuses" - Greek plurals tend to get you beat up.
"Off of" is idiomatic. In other "of" constructions, it's not as big (of) a deal, but dropping "of" can be an improvement.
Residue or waste, leftover flesh, and edible entrails are spelled "offal." Sorry if that was too awful for a morning tweet.
"Offhand" is nonchalant or spontaneous; "offhanded" is a variant. But we do things "offhandedly" and with "offhandedness."
Ol' or ol for "old" has been around for centuries; "ole" seems to be a 19th century U.S. spelling. Best spelling: "old."
"Old-fashioned" is the common modifier and "old fashioned" is the drink. But there is nothing inherently wrong with "old-fashion."
"Only option" seems oxymoronic, but it's OK as a qualifier: "It was the only option that avoided war." That qualifier could be implied.
Ophthalmologist has an 'h' on either side of the "t." Handy mnemonic: "Huh! There's a 'h' on either side of the 't' in 'ophthalmologist'!"
Most dictionaries suggest "possum" is colloquial for "opossum." But no one ever "played opossum."
North America's marsupial is the "opossum," even though "possum" is more common and no one "plays opossum." OED dates both to early 1600s.
Either "optimum" or "optimal" is fine as an adjective. If it's used as a noun, use "optimum." OED dates both to 1890s.
Or not is necessary if you are saying something is so regardless of the choices. "I'm right whether or not you agree."
Superfluous, maybe, but "or not" serves as a negative option to the positive statement that follows.
"Or not" is not incorrect after "whether," except in that it often is superfluous. The "sounds right" test is usually all you need.
Orient yourself in U.S. English. "Orientate" is more common in Britain, but it brings undeserved scorn in the U.S.
In the OED corpus, the verb "orient" meaning "to position" rather than "to face east" predates "orientate" by six years (1842 and 1848).
"Orient" yourself in U.S. English. "Orientate" is more common in Britain, but it brings undeserved scorn in the U.S.
The verb "orient" came first. "Orientate," the preferred term in the UK, is probably a shortening of "orientation."
There's logic in "orientate," which is from facing the orient.
"Pair" is a noun referring to a set of things, so add "s" to make it plural. Interestingly, though, adding "s" here is a modern convention.
"Pakistan," a word coined in 1933, is a noun. "Pakistani" is a noun—for the people—or an adjective. It's not a language.
Palate, part of the mouth or sense of taste, ends in "ate." Palette, the board for mixing colors, starts "pale." Carry it all on a pallet.
Panini is plural, but I think it's too late to change all the menu boards. You could order a "panino" just to see what happens.
"Paparazzi" is the plural form of "paparazzo." A celebrity photographer is so called because of the character Paparazzo in "La Dolce Vita."
A canard: "No one-sentence paragraphs." It's not a hierarchy; they perform different functions. One sentence often is plenty.
The word "parallel" conveniently contains two parallel lines in the middle to remind us of the double-L spelling.
Etymologically, "parboil" suggests boiling thoroughly. But confusion early on led to the only still-valid sense: "partly boil."
"Parley" is a discussion between opponents and "parlay" is to risk your winnings on another turn or invest for greater reward. They're not related.
If you pass something (time, salt, on the right, away) use "passed." Use "past" to compare time or distance.
"Passed" is the past tense of "pass." Except in a few special uses, it's a verb. "Past" is never a verb.
"Past" and "last" are mostly interchangeable, but "last" could imply there are no more to come.
Payor: one is obligated to pay. Payer: one who pays.
"Payor" is not uncommon, especially in legal use. But few dictionaries include it, and then only as a variant of "payer."
“Peal," with bells and other noises, is close kin to “appeal.” Slip on a banana peel and cry “eek!” Keep your eyes peeled for this error.
"Peek," a quick, furtive look, comes from "peep" (as in show). Both have a double "e." "Peak," a point or mountain top, is unrelated.
Some people take it personally if you drop the "ly" and still try to use it as an adverb. "Personal" is an adjective.
To "peruse" is to read, usually with care. It often is used (perhaps with ironic origin) to mean "skim," but sticklers don't care for that.
"Perverse" can be unusual or downright evil. "Perverted" is that which has been made perverse or that which is sexually depraved.
While "pervert" is a great verb meaning, essentially, "turn away from the right path," its connotation demands careful use.
If there is just one, it's a "phenomenon." "Phenomena" is plural. "Mah-Na Mah-Na" is a nonsense song from the 1960s.
To remember which letter is doubled, think "King Philip pined for the Philippines." The people and language are Filipino.
The tool, claw or military maneuver is a "pincer." One who pinches is a "pincher." Both were part of English by the 15th century.
"Pique" comes from French and means to "prick." The origin of "peaked" for failing in health or spirits is not known.
A "playwright" is the person who has "wrought" or "worked" a play, as with millwright or shipwright. "Write" is unrelated.
"Pleaded" remains the preferred past-tense or "plead." But "pled" is very common in the U.S., and dictionaries consider it standard.
We rarely fret about the plural of Greek borrowings. Most English nouns are best pluralized with an "s": symposiums, syllabuses, octopuses.
Speeches sometimes are said to be given at a podium, but a podium is a raised platform. The stand for microphone and notes is a "lectern."
Dais, which sometimes is pronounced die-iss, but is more commonly day-iss, is also a raised platform.
Poetic and "poetical" are equally acceptable. "Poetic" is more common, but poets and others have used either for 500 years.
Feel free to "pooh-pooh" an idea, but please don't "poo-poo" it.
Most newspapers once capitalized "the Pope," and some still do. But convention now is to lowercase "pope" except in front of a name.
"Popsicle" has nothing to do with soda pop. The story is that the inventor's children called it "Pop's sicle," a play on "icicle."
Popsicle is a trademark for flavored ice on a stick. The generic, lowercase "popsicle" is a bit more common than the capitalized version.
Popsicle has nothing to do with soda pop. The story is that the inventor Frank Epperson's children called it "Pop's sicle."
In England, flavored ice is an "ice lolly." Australians enjoy an "iceblock." (Popsicle tweets are in honor of my son's former wisdom teeth.)
It was originally called "Epsicle" after the inventor's name, with "-sicle" presumably from "icicle."
"Populace" is a noun referring to a group of people; "populous" is an adjective meaning densely populated.
You "pore" over your books if you are studying hard and "pour" over them if you miss your coffee mug.
"Port" is the left side of a ship. "Port" and "left" both have four letters, both end in "t," etc. The right is "starboard."
The organization is the "U.S. Postal Service," but capitalize the shorthand "Post Office." Buy stamps at a "post office."
Precedents are set; priorities take "precedence." Presidents often set precedents and take precedence.
Premier means top or foremost, including a head of government. Add an "e" (as in entertainment), and "premiere" is the first performance.
Prepositional phrases don't get to boss around the verb, only nouns get to boss around the verb.
Language contains order and change. Prescriptivism resists the latter; descriptivism quietly observes both.
Both meanings of "presently" date back centuries. "Directly" and the old "anon" also can mean now or soon.
It's common, but "presently" for "now" is frowned upon. It can mean "soon," but the fully accepted meaning is "immediately."
Some local or state governments call it "Presidents Day." Here in Ohio, the holiday is "Washington-Lincoln Day," but no one calls it that.
The federal holiday is "Washington's Birthday." Call it "Presidents Day" or "Presidents' Day" if you must. Don't call it "President's Day."
"Preventative" is a very common variant of "preventive." Only sticklers would call it incorrect. Both date to the 17th century.
If you're talking financiAL capitAL, the spelling you want is principAL.
"Principle" is a rule or belief. For people, money, and the primary thing, it's "principal." In school they told me it's princiPAL.
Priuses is correct. It's of Latin origin related to "prior," but that's immaterial. It's now a noun and an -es makes it plural.
The plural of the car is "Priuses." It's from a Latin adjective related to "prior," but it's now a noun so add -es.
"Privation" and "deprivation" mean states in which necessities are lacking. "Deprivation" is more common and more broadly applied.
If the prefix "pro" means "go before," it probably doesn't take a hyphen: "progenitor," "proactive."
The prefix "pro" for "in support of" usually gets a hyphen, but it's sometimes seen without. I'd write "pro-grammar."
The overused "proactive" may make us cringe, but it does serve its purpose. Proactive response? I deleted that before you wrote it.
M-W uses "tentatively" in its definition of "proffer," which may capture a subtle distinction with "offer."
Feel free to make projections, but don't project "future" revenue, needs, costs, etc. "Ó it's redundant.
There is no "pronounciation." Drop the second "o" and pronounce it that way, too: pronunciation. (But, pronouncing, pronouncer, etc.)
Singular band names and sports teams are singular in the U.S. Coldplay is ... Plural proper names usually take plural verbs.
"Proscribe" is to forbid; "prescribe" is to establish rules. Language rules are descriptive, prescriptive, sometimes proscriptive.
Prospective means potential, as with a prospect. "Perspective" is a view or point of view. "Spectacle" has a shared root.
"Prospective" means potential, as with a prospect. "Perspective" is a view or point of view. The root ("to look at") is shared.
"Prospectus" is from French, based on the Latin verb for looking ahead. Plural is "prospectuses." "Prospecti" does not exist in Latin.
"Prostrate" is the verb or adjective meaning lying face down on the ground. "Prostate" is the gland. Try not to mix them up.
AP and others prefer "proved" for the verb, "proven" for the adjective. Fine, but "proven" has has a solid history as a verb.
Proved also is an adjective, but "proven" is now standard. "A proved method," etc., could cause confusion when spoken.
Proven was uncommon a few decades ago. But the word survived for centuries in Scotland and is now thought no less valid than "proved."
Parentheses, dashes and commas all set off secondary points in a sentence. Consider well whether your point deserves such denigration.
Qatar's name, rhymes with "totter," is traditional Arabic. The population is less than 900,000. Capital is Doha. People are Qataris.
A "quay" (pronounced "key" or "kway") is a structure or earthwork in a harbor used to unload ships.
The OED has a 1914 reference to "queer," used extensively in an @latimes story quoting a man describing the gay community in Los Angeles.
Don't try to apply the "-aire" suffix to a list of questions. The word, from French, is "questionnaire" with a double "n."
In U.S., periods and commas go inside quotation marks. Question and exclamation marks and semicolons go out if they're not part of the quote.
If you don't know the source, don't use the quote. Quotations are often falsely attributed to famous people. Quote sites copy each other.
If you don't know the source, don't use the quote. Quotations are often falsely attributed to famous people. Quote sites copy each other.
The odd spelling of "racquetball" was adopted in 1969 to replace the name "paddle rackets." It uses a "racket" or "racquet."
"Rapped attention" and "wrapped attention" are music and fashion headline puns; "rapt" is from a Latin word meaning "taken."
You might have to "raze" a barn your grandfather "raised." "Raze" (related to "razor") and "raise" are homonyms and antonyms.
The prefix "re" rarely takes a hyphen. Some dictionaries dislike a double letter, so "re-entry." Hyphenate to avoid confusion: "re-form."
Intensifiers, such as "really" in "really tired," sometimes defy logic for emphasis. Do this and risk being told you couldn't be more wrong.
You can usually say "the reasons" or "why," but calling something redundant assumes nothing is lost in deletion. "Reasons why" can add clarity.
"Reasonability" dates to the 17th century, but it remains an uncommon variant. "Reasonableness" is the more credible choice.
A "recession" ends when a decline hits bottom. It doesn't mean the economy has recovered, says the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Don't call two quarters of GDP decline a "traditional" definition of "recession." It's not traditional, and many reject it as simplistic.
"Recorded history" is redundant, as history is our record of the past. But it can be a useful redundancy where emphasis is needed.
Some redundancies to avoid: "one-year anniversary," "a new record," "true fact," "ATM machine," "free gifts," "totally destroyed."
Typing “refer to” requires eight keystrokes. Typing “reference” requires nine. Just saying.
Yes, you can frigerate, but refrigerate means the same thing. The classical Latin "refrigerare" is to return something to a cool state.
Refute means to disprove, so evidence is required. Don't use it as a synonym for "deny" (regardless of what some dictionaries say).
To "deny" is to make a simple declaration. To "refute" is to prove it. To "rebut" can be to argue against.
A "regime" is a government or, as with its cousin "regimen," a system for doing things. "Regimen" is likely to have a medical connotation.
Regime describes the government in power, and it also can be a system or a plan. Add an "n" and a "regimen" also is a way of doing things.
"Reign" is related to the later "regal" and "regent." "Regina" is the feminine form in Latin of "rex," or "king."
"Rein" has been used figuratively for "control" since at least the 14th century, and it's probably related to the word "retain."
The expression "rein in" comes from the rein of a horse. Also, give "free rein." "Reign" means to rule as a monarch.
Despite an inherent redundancy, "reiterate" is established as "repeat." Few who aren't computer nerds or marketing types use the verb "iterate."
"Relevance" is more common and more accepted than the older "relevancy," but both are legitimate words.
Relevance is more common and more accepted than its Scottish law predecessor, "relevancy." Both are fine words.
Some call "relevancy" inferior to "relevance," but the trisyllabic version is newer and both are widely used. Let your ear guide your pen.
"Remanded" is a legal term meaning "ordered back" and is sometimes used alone to mean "sent back to custody" or "held in custody."
Both "remanded to" and "remanded in" are common. Better would be a more explicit term --"sent back to jail" or "ordered held."
"Renumerate" is a common misspelling. The word, like "money," has the "m" before the "n." So, "remunerate." Or you could just say "pay."
The variant "reoccur" seems logical enough, but it's uncommon in edited text, where the earlier "recur" is preferred.
Although shops often have "re-opening" events , there is no confusion with the preferred spelling, "reopening."
"Reportage" is not wrong. "Reporting" is much more common and is probably the better choice.
The word "restaurant" was invented in 18th century Paris, hence the odd spelling for a place where you "REST And U RANT" (and eat).
Some dictionaries list the simplified "restauranter," but it's considered a misspelling. Life was simpler when we went to an "eating house."
From Latin's "restaurare" comes "restore," "restaurant" and "restaurateur." Some sources accept "restauranteur," but it's generally avoided.
Once you master "restaurant," drop the "n" and add a French suffix for "restaurateur," a word that is half vowels.
Restive' is like "restless" but with more attitude.
A mystery might have a "bullet-ridden corpse," but "bullet-riddled" is more common, logical. "Riddled" is full of holes; "ridden" is burdened.
"Right on" started in black America, certainly by the 1960s, possibly earlier. It was widespread by the '70s.
Rigmarole is commonly pronounced with four syllables, and that's accepted, but it's better to spell it with three.
In edited English in the 1950s, "rock 'n' roll" seems at least as common as the more formal "rock and roll."
Roll has many meanings related to the Latin "rota," or wheel; the "role" spelling is used only for a function or a part we play.
An actor's lines once came on a "roll" of parchment, or "rolle" in Old French. Remember "each" and "every" part is a "role" with an "e."
The plural of "roof" rhymes with either "proofs" or, especially in England, "hooves." It's always spelled "roofs."
You sometimes see "rooves," but not often in the past 300 years. Stick with "roofs."
We root, root, root for the home team. "Route" can be pronounced with an "oo" or an "ow," but that's a different word.
Rooting for food and the root of a tree are old, unrelated words. Route (related to “road”) also has a different origin.
"Rye" in the U.S. refers to the grain used, but in Canada it may mean "whisky."
As anyone who has ever heard of Ireland will explain, it's "St. Paddy’s Day," not "St. Patty’s Day.” Whatever. Lá Shona Fhéile Pádraig
"Sanction" can be a a noun or verb and can mean a law, a penalty or official permission. Where there's doubt, be explicit.
@APStylebook says capitalize "Scotch whisky," but "scotch" on the rocks. @ChicagoManual says lowercase.
"Segue," a verb or noun, is a transition. It's a musical term broadly applied. "Segway" is a personal transporter.
"Seldomly" is no more an accepted word than "oftenly." "Seldom" is the adverb, so resist the urge to add -ly.
Lengthy lists don't need semicolons unless individual items in the list include commas. If it's hard to follow, consider bullets.
Sensationalism means a thing's relative importance is not accurately represented or aspects of it are overblown.
A device that senses is a "sensor." The word is unrelated to "censor," to restrict information, or "censure," to reprimand.
"Sensual" had developed sexual implications by the 1600s, prompting Milton to coin "sensuous" for simply pertaining to the senses.
"Separate" is so spelled as verb, adjective or noun. Think of "apart" to remember the middle "a." A close cousin is "prepare."
I prefer "sex" to describe biological difference, "gender" to distinguish identity.
Think of "sorbet" to remember that there is but one "r" in "sherbet," despite 1.3 million Google hits for "sherbert."
"Sherbet" and "sorbet" differ in dairy content, but the French "sorbet" once was just a variation of the Turkish "sherbet."
Drop the "e" and add a "y" to make "shine" into the adjective "shiny." "Shinny" is a pick-up hockey game.
"Shrunk" has gained acceptance as a past tense of "shrink," but sticklers stick with "shrank" for past tense, "shrunk" for past participle.
"Sic" has a hard time being neutral. Use it to clarify for the reader, not to show that the author is unimpressed.
A "sight" is something seen and a "site" is where something sits ("sit" is probably unrelated, but it's a good memory trick).
"Since" is not wrong as a conjunction meaning "because." Just be careful: It can be confusing if time is involved.
"Since the attendance zones were eliminated post-Katrina": good example where "because" would work better than "since."
As a verb, "slate" differs in origin in U.S. and British English. In the UK, slated means criticized. In the US, slated means scheduled.
"Sloe gin" is not a type of gin, but a liqueur made with the berries of a European shrub, the blackthorn, steeped in gin. Drink it slowly.
Smartphone is one word everywhere. @ChicagoManual, @APA_Style follow @MerriamWebster's "cell phone." @APStylebook nixed the space in 2011.
"Sneaked" is the proper past tense of "sneak," but the informal "snuck" is a common alternative. It's a 19th century U.S. invention.
"Soldiers" are members of the Army, and Marines tend to object if that word is used to describe them generically.
No need to capitalize "solstice" or "summer solstice." It means "sun (sol) standing still." Capitalize "Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn."
Argument against two spaces after a period: inconsistency. I always find places where there is one space, and I often find three.
Dictionaries and style guides are split on “spinoff” as a noun. @APStylebook, @ahdictionary are OK with it. @MerriamWebster wants a hyphen.
Spit and image is the original, but the corruption is much more common: "spitting image." Not "splitting image."
"Spite" is from "despite," related to "despise." Now interchangeable, "despite" and "in spite of" have largely lost their malicious meaning.
"Stable" means a patient isn't expected to get worse, but it's not a condition. The American Hospital Association says avoid it.
"Stable" is used as a condition level, probably ill advisedly, in some hospitals in the UK.
"Stadium" is Latin (borrowed from Greek), so some prefer "stadia" to "stadiums" as the plural. But Latin plurals tend to get you teased.
The words "stalactite" and "stalagmite" are variations on a Greek root meaning "drip" or "drop." Remember "c" for "ceiling," "g" for ground.
Before the "e" and "a" spellings diverged, a "stationer" was a bookseller who sold from a shop or "station."
"Stationery" comes from a stationer, once a bookseller with a shop (or station). Spelling mnemonic: StationEry needs pen, envelope.
Stanch the flow of blood. Some accept "staunch," but that word is best reserved for when you mean loyal and constant.
"Steak fries" are thick french fries, but "fish fries" is the plural of "fish fry." A hatchling is a "fry," and its plural is "fry," too.
"Steer" and "stern" are related words. The back of the boat, the stern, is where the steering takes place.
Straight's from stretch, which is from strekken which could be related to the Latin strictus.
"Strait" means constricted, so strait-laced is tightly laced, like a corset.
A "strait" is a narrow waterway. Try to navigate it and you might find yourself in "dire straits." "Straight is unrelated."
Straight-laced has a 3-1 advantage in Google hits over "strait-laced." It may be a mistake that's becoming established.
Strait is related to "strict" and "strain." So, "strait-laced," "straitjacket." But the "straight" spellings are pretty well accepted.
"Strait" is related to "strict," "strain," and "stringent." "Straight" grew up differently; it's a cousin of "stretch."
"Struck" is usually the past of "strike," but use "stricken" for a sudden blow or misfortune or deletions from your permanent record.
To "ascribe" is to attribute, credit or blame. You "subscribe" to a belief, but you can "ascribe" a belief to someone or something.
It can be hard to hear, but keep the "d" when you write "supposed to." If I expect you'll do it, you are "supposed" to do it.
"Supposably" is a common mispronunciation of "supposedly," but it's also a word for "arguably" (think suppose). Not the same.
If you have prepared all your "syllabi," you are in the minority. Major sources agree "syllabuses" is the more common plural form.
The word "syllabus" comes from a mistake by Cicero using a Greek word and then a misinterpretation by scholars. The better plural is "syllabuses."
Some sources prefer "symposia" as the plural, and that is more often what's chosen. But there is little basis for an -ia instead of an -s.
A "symposium" (or symposian) is a Greek drinking party and the title of a dialogue by Plato set at a gathering of wine drinkers.
The better plural of "symposium" is "symposiums." Academics like "symposia," but the word isn't Latin. It's from Greek ("drink together").
OED's earliest example of a short form of "synchronism" was in 1929, spelled "sink." A 1939 reference had "sync." First "synch" was 1945.
"Systemic" means pertaining to the whole system; "systematic" is a method based on a plan or system.
Don't "change tact." "Tact" is sensitivity in dealing with people or situations. To "tack" is changing a boat's course. "Change tack."
Taps, which signals lights out and is played at military funerals, is a bugle call, not a song title. It's written: taps.
Taut means stretched, tense, or efficient; taught is what students are. To "tout" is to sell something or try to persuade.
"Taut" is stretched or pulled tight; "taught" is for learners. Keep the spelling tight for taut; taught is harder to teach.
"Taut" means stretched, tense, or efficient. To "tout" is to sell something or try to persuade. Words are unrelated.
Unrelated words:"taut" is stretched, tense, or efficient; "tout" is to sell something or try to persuade; "taught" is past tense of "teach."
AP Stylebook goes with "tea partyers" to describe tea party adherents.
UK usage is to treat singular team names as plurals: "Ireland have." We usually stick to singular noun, singular verb in U.S.
AP Stylebook says "tea party" is not a single formal organization, so it's not capitalized.
Tear is pronounced "tare" or "teer," depending on meaning, but those spellings are their own rare words. Shed a tear; tear on dotted line.
Your teddy bear might be named for Teddy Roosevelt, but style guides and general usage say lowercase t.
"Temblor" comes from Spanish "temblor de tierra." "Tremblor" is a common error.
Temblor means "earthquake." It's Spanish (temblor de tierra) for tremble or shake. "Tremblor" is a variant that's best avoided.
A "tenet" is a principle, a "tenant" a renter. Confusion may arise from Latin root's third-person form, "tenent." Use English, not Latin.
If it relates to written text, it's "textual." For physical qualities, it's "textural." Both come from the Latin word for "woven."
That often is superfluous. But don't omit it without carefully reading what's left. Keep it for clarity; omit if excessive.
Commonly, use "that" with restrictive clauses, which contain essential information. If your clause is just extra info, start with "which."
A modern myth holds that "theater" is a building, "theatre" is the art form. Not so. The place is the older sense, and that was "re."
"Theatre" is the spelling with the longest history, and it prevails in England. "Theater" is the more common U.S. spelling.
"Then" is always about time, "than" always for comparison. The words diverged 1,300 years ago.
"They" as a singular pronoun has utility, commonality and even history on its side. Many consider it wrong in formal writing.
"This differs from That." With an adjective instead of a verb, "This is different from That. "Avoid the casual "different than."
A "thong" is a leather strip, and the word is used for footwear, swimwear and underwear. Best to stick with "flip-flops" for footwear.
The plural noun "throes" has hazy roots in suffering and pain; it's often used with "passion." "Throws" go on your sofa or shoulders.
"Tie tac" is a variant, but common. Your tie is usually held in place with a "tie tack."
The ancient word is till. There is no need to write the awkward 20th century invention 'til. And 'till is right out.
EST, CST, etc. refer to standard time. But between springing forward and falling back, we're on daylight saving time: EDT or Eastern time.
Not all periods involve time, but cases where it's helpful to follow "periods" with "of time" are exceedingly rare.
"Time frame" probably is destined to become one word, but not anytime soon. Keep it two words, dictionaries say.
"Tire," for bikes and cars, is more commonly "tyre" in Britain. "Tyre" was uncommon before a late-1800s UK revival.
The bell "tolled" a dozen times, but "all told" means "in total."
A "ton" or "short ton" is 2,000 lbs. in the U.S. and Canada. "Tonnage" refers to carrying capacity, not weight.
The tonnage designation on pickup trucks usually "half ton"once referred to carrying capacity, but it now it's used for vehicle class.
A "tonne" is a "metric ton," 1,000 kg or 2,205 lbs, just shy of a "British ton" or "long ton," 2,240 lbs.
I use a comma before "too" at the end of a sentence when it adds clarity and matches rhythm.
Think of the extra "o" to remember that "too" is an adverb meaning "also" or "excessive" (too much?). "To" is a preposition.
Women have been wearing "tops" since the early 20th century and going "topless" since the mid-20th century.
When Time Magazine first mentioned topless bathing suits in 1937, it meant men's trunks.
"Toward" and "towards" have been interchangeable since the Dark Ages. Brits prefer the "s," but Americans tend to drop it.
"Toxin" originally referred to an organic infection that produces a toxic response. If it is not organic, "poison" is the broader term.
"Trailblaze" is common as one word or two. It comes marking a tree on a trail in white, like the white spot on an animal's face called a "blaze."
"Training" as a noun refers to skills learned, but it's sometimes an inelegant shorthand for "training session."
Troupe is the French word for "troop," but we use it for a group of performers. A "trouper" works hard without complaint.
"Turnout" is a place in a road or path or a description for those who turn out. If you want a verb, make it two words.
A "tussle," or struggle, can lead to "tousled," or messy hair, but the related words mean different things. "Tussal" is related to a cough.
AP's Stylebook entry for "Twitte," says the verb and noun forms of "tweet"are lowercase. As a verb, "Twitter" stays up, but that's getting rare.
"Under weigh" used to be the preferred spelling. It's rare now. "Underway" is commonly one word.
I'm not a fan of "more unique," but intensifiers are often used with absolutes (e.g., "a more perfect union").
Of the double letters in "unnecessary," an extra middle "c" is an unnecessary one.
OED suggests "up" for "raise" began as an early 20th century U.S. gambling term. It has been a verb for hundreds of years.
It's "the Who" and "the Mamas and the Papas" in AP copy and Chicago Style. An upper case article is a less-common style choice.
"Used" is the past tense of "use," so it's "used to," not "use to." The duplicated middle sound makes this a common error.
"Vapor" is Latin for steam. In England, the French-influenced "vapour" is the common spelling. But UK ray guns "vaporise."
"The vapors" is an archaic medical condition popular with hypochondriacs. And "fuming" can mean showing your anger.
"Verbal" means related to words, including speech. "Oral" is spoken, so it's the better choice if that's what you want to convey.
"Very" is an all-purpose intensifier, and it can mean less as well as more.
You can be a past, ex-, or former soldier (or sailor, Marine, etc.), but once a veteran, always a veteran. There is no ex-veteran.
"Veterans Day" was established with no apostrophe. Leaving it off suggests it's for all to celebrate rather than owned by veterans.
"Visa versa" may be fun to say, but if you want to impress with your Latin, the phrase is "vice versa" (no hyphen).
"Voila" is the spelling for the French exclamation pronounced "vwa-lah." Don't confuse it with the instrument spelled "viola" (three syllables).
Remember "an" before a vowel sound, as in "an honor to have you follow me."
In the U.S., it's "a historic." The decision on "a" or "an" depends on the vowel sound. We pronounce the "h," so "a."
If I'm asked to sign a "waiver," I may "waver" in indecision. To "waive" (relinquish) originally meant to abandon someone as a "waif."
The Guardian style guide counsels against using Wales as a unit of measurement ("50 times the size of Wales"). It's silent on Rhode Island.
ChicagoManual suggests (in this order) World War I, the First World War, the Great War. And "the war" after that.
Historically, all "-ward" words have had "-wards" versions.
You’re "wary" if cautious, "weary" if tired. "Wary" is kin to "aware.” You can figuratively wear your weariness, but those are unrelated.
"Waste," noun or verb, means "trash." The waist, with an "i," lies between the ribs and hips. Credit Johnson (1755) with the "i" spelling.
"Weak" is spelled with an "a," as are associated words anemic, ailing, atrophied. "Week" has a double "e," as does "seven."
Noah Webster changed many "re" spellings to "er," and Americans no longer write litre, spectre and saltpetre.
We may show weight in kilograms, but that's really a unit of mass. A pound is a weight, not a unit of mass. Weight varies; mass is constant.
A thing held down with weights is "weighted down." "Weighed down" works, too, but that also has the sense of being a burden.
You might wet a whetstone with water or oil when you sharpen your knives, but spell it with an "h," as in "hone."
On my Thames river cruise I learned from the tour guide that "wharf" is an acronym for "Ware House at River's Front." Ahem.
"Whatsoever" is a fine substitute for "whatever" when emphasizing the negative. It's from "whatso," which also meant "whatever."
"Whereabouts" can be singular or plural, and plural is now more common. AP Stylebook says "whereabouts is," but most sources say take your pick.
To "whet" is to sharpen, as in "whetstone." It's also to sharpen desire, as with an appetite. But "wet" your whistle. The words are unrelated.
"Whether" implies a choice, "or not" may seem superfluous and often can be dropped. "I don't know whether you are correct."
And now, the whether: "Whether or not" is not incorrect because "or not" serves as a negative option to the positive statement that follows.
"Whilst" is more formal in UK usage, but it's the same as "while." "Whilst" is rare in the US.
The Gaelic term "life water" is commonly spelled "whiskey" if it's from Ireland or the U.S. Scotland, England and Canada spell it "whisky."
If it's Canadian, it's "whisky"; from Scotland, "scotch" or "Scotch whisky." It's Tennessee "whiskey;" bourbon's a Kentucky whiskey.
"White paper" is more a "report" than a "fact sheet." It's authoritative. The term started in the British House of Commons.
I've always said I'd rather be a who than a that, but that is just me. Or who is just me.
"Who" is the proper pronoun for the subject of a sentence. If your pronoun is not doing anything, use "whom." "Who" does stuff to "whom."
Perhaps "a whole nother" has no correct written equivalent, and it should be considered a mispronunciation: "A whole other."
"Why" after "reason" is often superfluous, but don't discount it out of hand "Ours is not to reason why," Tennyson wrote.
The "wicker" furniture on your sun porch is close cousin to "willow." "Whicker" is onomatopoeia for "snigger," or it's a sound made by the wind.
"Wi-Fi" is a trademark, so written.
Winnie the Pooh is Disney's name for the bear A.A. Milne called "Winnie-the-Pooh" (and Christopher Robin called "Winnie-ther-Pooh").
As August wanes and the nights provide some coolness, remember "wintry" is the preferred spelling; "wintery" is a variant.
Dictionaries agree: It's one word for most common "work-" words (workweek, workplace). Exception: "work force." WNW alone accepts one word.
If you’re accustomed to doing something, you are wont to do it. You may or may not want to do it. We’ve had the adjective since the 1300s.
World War I is more common in U.S. and "First World War" is more common in U.K. "World War One" is an uncommon formation.
"Worse comes to worst" seems more logical than the original idiom, "worst comes to worst." Either is generally accepted.
The newer version, "worse comes to worst," adds a sense of deterioration that didn't exist in the original idiom.
"Worse comes to worse" gets more Google hits than other varieties of the idiom. But it's better to throw at least one "t" in there.
While "worse comes to worst" competes with the older "worst comes to worst," "worse comes to worse" gets the most Google hits.
The word "wort" traces its roots (pun intended) to at least 825. The unrelated "wart" might be even older.
"Wrack" as in "wrack and ruin" means destruction. "Racked with pain" is from the torture device
"Wracked with doubt" makes sense if you're destroyed by doubt. But "racked with doubt" is more established to mean tortured by doubt.
"Rack" refers to the torture device; "wrack" means "wreck." "Nerve-wracking" would be nerve-destroying. Use "nerve-racking," "racked with guilt."
"Wracked with doubt" makes sense if you're destroyed by doubt. But "racked with doubt" is more established to mean tortured by doubt.
"Wrangle" can be a noun. "They had a wrangle." So it's easy to allow "wrangle with" someone, even if it's rare.
"Wreak" means cause, usually in a bad way. Past tense is "wreaked." So, it's "wreaked havoc," not "wrecked" or "wrought."
"Work" is the present tense of "wrought." Most people these days prefer to say "worked" for the past tense.
The "what" that God "wrought" is the Israelites. The quote refers to God's work. "Wreak" means cause damage (or wreckage).
X, the Greek letter "chi," is rendered in the Latin alphabet as "kh" or "ch." Chi has long been used for "Christ," thus "Xmas."
Yarn is a mass noun that doesn't normally take a plural. "Yarns" for balls or skeins of yarn is informal, but common.
If you are talking about the stories your uncle tells, those would be yarns, too.
English has no separate plural form of "you," but other languages do. Does that explain "y'all," "youse," "yinz," etc.?
The contraction is for "you all" (not "ya all"), so it's "y'all." Y'all is plural, but it's often used somewhat illogically as a singular.
"Zero in" may be a WWII invention, but its earliest use seems to be related to guns, not planes.
The Japanese Zero was a translation, so called because of the imperial year (2600 or 1940) in which it was introduced.
Most sources suggest “zeros," maybe “zeroes," as the noun plural, "zeroes" for the verb. @APStylebook and @USGPO say “zeros” either way.
ZIP stands for Zone Improvement Project. But as an acronym, it's likely to go the way of "scuba."
ZIP code is commonly written "zip code," and dictionary entries reflect this. AP and the U.S. Postal Service capitalize the acronym.
Consider your “buts”: The conjunction is often used to contrast things that don’t need contrasting. The better choice might be “and."
One-word “handwashing" is growing; @MerriamWebster’s Unabridged has an entry. But two words is more common and how M-W Collegiate enters it.
The acronym may be CDC, but the agency is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—plural on the first word, bonus words at the end.
Hummus (from Arabic) is made of chickpeas and other good stuff. Humus (from Latin) is made of decomposing plants. One is great with chips.
The verb “task” followed the noun in the 15th century; Shakespeare loved it. It fell out of favor, and some now consider it business speak.