Tag Archives: misused words

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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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. Continue

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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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