Tag Archives: misused words

‘Icky’ Words — Politics, Ethics, Optics — and Their Verbs

www.RuthlessEditor.comYou’d have a hard time finding a news report these days that doesn’t include the word politics. Ethics and optics often aren’t far behind.

But which is correct:

Politics are in the news every day.

Politics is in the news every day.

Here’s how you determine whether to use the singular verb is or the plural form are with politics and other ics words. Continue

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Can, May, Might: How Do They Differ?

www.RuthlessEditor.comMany of us learned either at home or early in our school days that there is a difference between can and may:

Can you (do you have the ability to) have your book report done by noon?

May I (do I have your permission to) read your book report to the class?

According to merriam-webster.com, can still is the verb of choice for ability, but both can and may are acceptable to express permission. Continue

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How ‘In Behalf of’ Differs from ‘On Behalf of’

www.RuthlessEditor.comI’ve wondered from time to time about the difference between in behalf of and on behalf of. This recent post from Daily Writing Tips on GrammarBook.com sheds light on the nuance of difference between them.

In Behalf of vs. on Behalf of
Sometimes in writing and speaking we arrive at a phrase that forms a fork in the road to expression. Ideally, we can distinguish one path from the other, even if by subtlety.

Other forks pose a greater challenge. Each way looks the same, and the sounds from both are familiar. We pick our path and hope for the best, making our choice a 50-50 gamble. Continue

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3 Tips to Solve the Who vs. Whom Dilemma

www.RuthlessEditor.comFewer and fewer people seem to recognize when to use who and when to use whom. Have who and whom become interchangeable? 

It depends on whom you ask.

There still are people who value grammatical correctness, and there still are those who will judge you for not knowing the difference between who and whom.

These three tips will help those who care but get confused:

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Expanded Use of ‘Concerning’ is Disconcerting

www.RuthlessEditor.comI hate to be considered an inflexible, grumpy grammarian.

That’s why I’m working on controlling my irritation with the expanding use of concerning to mean something that is worrisome or unsettling.

There is so much going on in our country and our world that people are worried about, we hear this is concerning, that is concerning … ad infinitum. Continue

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Graduation Grammar: Alumn, Cum Laude, Emeritus … And More

www.RuthlessEditor.comSpring brings graduations, along with confusion about use and misuse of related terms. Let’s clear up a few.

Do you say: “Seth graduated Harvard University last week.”

What about: “Becca will graduate Clemmons High School in May.”

Neither is correct. Why? Continue

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Ignore Noun/Pronoun Agreement For Gender Neutrality? Count Me Out!

www.RuthlessEditor.comThe Associated Press Stylebook, my first choice among style guides and grammar reference manuals, rocked the writing world when it announced it was giving the green light to using the plural pronoun “they” with a singular noun.

AP explains:

They, them, their … In stories about people who identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her: Use the person’s name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence, whenever possible. If they/them/their use is essential, explain in the text that the person prefers a gender-neutral pronoun. Be sure that the phrasing does not imply more than one person …

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Watch your ‘Ta ta’s’ in Preventative, Exploitative, Authoritative

www.RuthlessEditor.comI’ve often said that English is a complicated language. It’s no wonder non-native English speakers struggle to learn and understand it. Those of us brought up in English-speaking homes can struggle with it as well.

My last blog covered commentate and orientate: Are they real words? Or should it be comment and orient?

The following words have a questionable extra syllable. Which do you consider grammatically correct? Continue

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Comment or Commentate; Orient or Orientate?

Does a word ever offend your ears and stop your thought process in its tracks?

Language and its usage evolve, but when I heard someone use commentate as a verb, I scrambled to see if any source considers it a valid word.

comment | commentate

comment as a noun: a spoken or written remark expressing an opinion or reaction
comment as a verb: to express an opinion or a reaction
commentate as a verb: to give a commentary on; to comment in a usually expository or interpretive manner; to act as a commentator Continue

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