Tag Archives: right vs wrong words

Should You Avoid Impact And Impactful?

The battle rages! Is impact a noun, a verb … or both?

And what about impactful? Is it even a word?

The American Heritage Dictionary points out that impact as a verb dates to the early 1600s. What happened between then and now?

Language evolves. Because so many among us dislike impact in verb form, instead preferring affect or influence, you as a writer must decide whether using phrases such as “Cutting prices will impact sales,” or “How will regulation impact water quality?” is worth the scrutiny.

In my online research, I discovered a reader who acknowledges that negative feelings about impact as a verb run deep: Continue

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7 Headlines, 8 Grammar Lessons

In the past, I’ve used headlines to show how to — but more often how NOT to — write or speak. Examples teach best.

This post’s seven headlines comprise three good and four bad examples that involve correct word use, incorrect word use, and redundancies.

One headline boasts a double whammy: two grammatical errors in just nine words!

Please know that the frequent appearance of the name Trump is simply due to the fact that so many headlines have been and continue to be about him.


1) A Thai Shrimp Salad of Myriad Tastes

Myriad means many, a countless or infinite number. It also can mean both numerous and diverse.

Some would write or say a myriad of. However, when you consider the writing guideline of always expressing something in the fewest words, myriad by itself works just fine. Hooray for this headline writer!

2) Trump Offers Carson Role Of HUD Secretary Despite His Not Wanting It

What’s correct that warrants calling out? Many would think it should read:
Trump Offers Carson Role Of HUD Secretary Despite Him Not Wanting It

I consider this example noteworthy because it shows how to correctly use a possessive (his) with -ing words (gerunds) and why gerunds sometimes should be considered nouns.

Here’s how you can tell:
What would be another way of expressing Not Wanting It? Let’s try rejection to demonstrate how the sentence would be constructed with an obvious noun:

Trump Offers Carson Role Of HUD Secretary Despite His Rejection of It
When you view Not Wanting It as a noun, His is the best choice.

3) How Trump’s Labor Nominee Benefited From Undocumented Workers

I’m fond of saying that English is a confusing language, and this is a prime example. When you have a verb that ends in a consonant, you generally make it past tense by doubling the final consonant and adding ed:

plan, planned  |  slip, slipped  |  pop, popped

With benefit, you do NOT double the consonant for either benefited or benefiting.

Why not? If a verb ending with a consonant has more than one syllable, you don’t double the consonant if the first syllable is stressed:

ben-e-fit, ben-e-fited  | can-cel, can-celed  |  mar-shal, mar-shaled


4) Refugee Youths Find Safe Haven in Boy Scouts

Haven is defined as a place of safety or refuge, or an inlet providing shelter for ships or boats. Therefore, describing a haven as Safe is redundant.

5) Snatching Healthcare Away From Millions

To snatch means to quickly seize something in a rude or eager way, so Away is redundant.

6) Samantha Bee Slams Donald Trump for Diverting Attention Away from His Travel Ban

To divert means to change course or turn from one direction to another, or to distract someone or their attention from something. Therefore, Away is redundant.

7) Neither Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump are Talking Education

First, when you use neither, its companion is nor: Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump …

Second, when you use neither, the appropriate verb is singular: is, not are.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump is Talking Education

Think of it this way: Neither one is talking education.
The opposite would be: Both are talking education.

Other words that take a singular verb: each, either, everyone, everybody, nobody, someone

Consider sharing this blog with a colleague, friend or family member. And please excuse the seemingly heavy emphasis on Trump; he has dominated headlines.

If you see questionable headlines, send them to me: mailto:contact@ruthlesseidtor.com.

You’ll be helping demonstrate either good or bad writing … or maybe we’ll find the headlines just darned funny!

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Who vs. Whom? Here’s How To Decide

Do you have difficulty when it comes to choosing who or whom?

Some think whom sounds stuffy and pretentious.

When did proper grammar become stuffy? I think that’s an excuse made by people who don’t know the difference.

Does anyone criticize Ernest Hemingway for using whom in the title of his famous novel For Whom The Bell Tolls?

Here are four guidelines to help you recognize whether to use who or whom: Continue

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10 Sets of Words That Confuse

I love words, but I often find myself second-guessing whether I’m using a certain word properly — especially when two words are similar in sound, spelling or meaning.

If you love words, you know how confusing the English language can be.

Consider this simple choice. Would you say:
Over a dozen skiers flew over the jump.

Or would you say:
More than a dozen skiers made it over the jump. Continue

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Which Is Right: Proved or Proven?

Have you ever proven someone wrong, or have you proved someone wrong?

A reader wonders which is right, and as is often the case with English, there are differing opinions.

My primary and preferred resource, The Associated Press Stylebook, suggests using proven only as an adjective, which describes or tells more about a noun.

Some claim that chicken soup is a proven remedy for a cold.
She has a proven record of success.
The band has a proven level of popularity.


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One Word or Two: Use Care With Your Shortcuts

What’s wrong with this headline:

How to Setup a Marketing Campaign
to Capture More Leads

If you recognized setup as incorrect (it should be set up), good for you! You have a better sense of grammar than the person who wrote the headline.

When a verb such as set is used with a preposition such as up, it is called a phrasal verb: set up. Combining a verb with an adverb also creates a phrasal verb: cut back.

But when the elements of the phrasal verb are combined and expressed as one word, they create a noun: set up / setup  |   cut back / cutback  |  break down / breakdown.

Each of the following examples has two sentences. The first uses a phrasal verb (two words), and the second uses a noun — a single word created by a verb and a preposition. (Exception: cut in No. 4 is followed by the adverb back.) Continue

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As Language Evolves, Should You Follow The Trends?

dictionary_new_wordsLanguage continually evolves. At this time of year in particular, we consider words that have emerged to describe new fields, new products or new phenomena.

The Oxford English Dictionary listed 1,346 new words as of September 2016. Yikes!

nws.merriam-webster.com has introduced new words and slang from 2016. Submitted by the public, some are clever and useful, others are simply silly, and some are grammatically unsound.

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Happy New Year (or new year?) 2017!

new_year_2017Happy New Year! … almost.

Starting a new year poses two grammatical challenges: First, how do we refer to the exact time we begin a new year?

The answer: not 12:00 p.m., not 12:00 a.m., not 12 midnight, but simply midnight.

A favorite grammar site, grammarphobia.com, concurs with my primary reference, The Associated Press Stylebook: Continue

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Benefited vs. Benefitted: Single or Double t?

small_letter_tI’ve written in past blogs about whether you should double the t before adding ed or ing to benefit.

Because I often see benefitted and benefitting, I decided it was time to check other grammar sources:

The Associated Press Stylebook
The Chicago Manual of Style
Webster’s New World College Dictionary

All five agree that you generally double the final consonant and add ed or ing to words that end with a consonant: Continue

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Toward/s, Forward/s, Backward/s: To s Or Not To s?

man_walks_toward_lakeDo you say or write:

• He walked toward (or towards?) the lake.
• Let’s move forward (or forwards?) with our plan.
• She stepped backward (or backwards?) and stumbled off the porch.

Many sources say either works, but most suggest no s with toward, forward or backward in American English. Similar words that do not need an s are upward, onward, downward and afterward. Continue

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