Tag Archives: misused words

Content vs. Contents: What’s The Difference?

moving_boxes_contentsA colleague who was helping a family member move brought up content vs. contents. In her role as a technology expert, she deals with content in terms of words and images incorporated into websites, blogs and other electronic media.

But as a moving helper, she was dealing with the contents of a house and garage.

My google search proved that a seemingly direct word really is anything but. Here’s what I discovered: Continue

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Got Grammar Pet Peeves? You’re Not Alone

annoyed_grammar_pet_peevesI invited those of you on my email list to share your grammar pet peeves, and the results are in!

First: What is grammar? Grammar encompasses the words we choose and how we punctuate them — how we string them together.

Words give our sentences meaning, and punctuation marks tell us when to pause or stop, when to raise our voice or show emotion, when we’re asking a question versus making a statement.

Here are your pet peeves: ways others speak and write that you find annoying. They’re alphabetized so you can skim and select what interests or resonates with you. I’ve commented here and there and added examples. Continue

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What Do You Say: Lie Or Lay?

lie-vs-lay-on-beachDo you lie down or lay down? Do you lie the book on the table or lay the book on the table?

Lie vs. lay is one of our most confusing word choices.

You might want to lie down when you finish reading this blog, but I’m going to lay it on you anyway. I’m counting on my examples to help you make the right choices. Continue

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Incredible: Astonishing Or Not To Be Believed?

astonished_incredibleIncredible: It’s one of the most used — and most overused, in my opinion — words in American English. As with many words in our confusing language, it has more than one meaning:

incredible: impossible to believe
– the definition of credible: able to be believed; convincing
– the meaning of the prefix in: not; it negates what follows

The meaning of incredible derives from the Latin credibilis (worthy of belief) + in (not) = incredibilis (something that cannot be believed).

Consider what the prefix in means in these words: Continue

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Grammar Accord: Help Your Nouns, Pronouns Agree

holding-hands-in-accordCareful writers and speakers make sure their nouns and pronouns agree. This chapter from my book, Grammar for People Who Hate Rules: Killer Tips From The Ruthless Editor, explains how to avoid an all-too-common error.

If you remember early grammar lessons, you might recall learning that a noun is a person, place or thing:

man | village | car

The man drove to a nearby village to test-drive the car. Continue

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Are You Diagnosed With A Disease Or With Tests And Analysis?

Veterinarian_diagnoses_catWhile editing a letter as part of a client’s application to veterinary school, I encountered the word diagnose.

We all use or hear diagnose at some point in our lives, whether it relates to our own health or that of a family member, friend, work colleague — or a pet.

Does a physician or veterinarian diagnose a patient or a disease? In other words, which do you say:

“He was diagnosed with pneumonia.”
“He was diagnosed as having pneumonia.”

Or might you say, “X-rays were used to diagnose his pneumonia”?

It’s a fine line, but there is a grammatical difference. Continue

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When To Choose A Couple Of Vs. A Couple

A couple of / pair of garden gloves.Here’s a multiple-choice test for you. Pick the right usage:

• Check your email inbox in (a couple) (a couple of) minutes.
• I’m meeting (a couple) (a couple of) people in an hour.
• She’d like to tell him (a couple) (a couple of) things!

According to some grammar sources, either a couple or a couple of is acceptable.

However, those sources also note that a couple without the of is colloquial. It strays from what most consider Standard English. Continue

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Grammatical Errors Sabotage Writer’s Message, Credibility

Embarrassing_Grammar_MistakesWhen this headline written by a member of one of my LinkedIn groups hit my inbox, I did a double take:
Is you Networking, Notworking?

Although it’s catchy, I clicked on the link to see if the errors — you instead of your, no capital Y, and a comma where none is needed — were intentional as a means to attract attention or whether they truly were oversights.

When I read further, I decided they had to be oversights, as these faux pas were only the beginning. Continue

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