Add One Letter to Create a New Word

One letter can change meaning. Watch out! lighting: illumination (n), present progressive of to light (v) lightning: a bright flash that precedes thunder (n) lightening: present progressive of to lighten (v)

“United States” vs. “U.S.”

United States is a noun; U.S. is an adjective. For example, the U.S. government runs the United States.

A Sign of the Times

Signs are expensive when you pay by the letter, and the fewer the letters, the bigger they can be in the same space. Those facts are what cause people to use misspellings and abbreviations in signs. However, that does not mean it’s OK to spell doughnut as donut, light as lite, or barbecue as BBQ […]

Splitting Inifinitives

It’s OK to boldly go. One of the worst things they teach us in school is that you shouldn’t split infinitives. This is a holdover from Latin that was horribly misinterpreted. Latin infinitives are one word, so it was impossible to split them. Someone way back when decided that when English made infinitives two words, […]

“One of the Only”

It is not appropriate to say “one of the only.” It’s either one of more than one or the only one. You can’t have one of only one. The phrase you’re looking for is “one of the few.”

Your Guys’s? Really?

I was recently in a restaurant where the server told us, “I’ll get your guys’s check.” Really? Please, please, please don’t say “your guys’s.” There’s nothing wrong with “your.”

How Many “Times” Do I Need to Say It?

Times is not a verb (unless it relates to that thing a clock keeps track of). The word is multiply.

Be a More Active Writer

Here’s a special tip for writers. This came up in a conversation with author Carol Berg at Norwescon. Think about the actions you’re making your characters do. In fact, you should try them. Try spinning on your heel to turn around. Try hissing a statement without an “s” in it. Make your characters’ actions logical, […]

Hanging Hyphenation

Hanging hyphenation is OK on the back (e.g., him- or herself) but not the front (e.g., well-regulated and -capitalized).

Misplaced “Only”

Only is the most misplaced word in the English language. Let’s look at the famous song: “I only have eyes for you” means “I’m the only one who has eyes for you.” “I have only eyes for you” and “I have eyes only for you” mean “I have nothing but eyes for you, no fingers […]

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