Tag Archives: right vs wrong words

Might vs May: Are They Interchangeable?

Do I use 'might' or 'may'?

If you have trouble deciding when to use might and when to use may, this post is for you.

As a writer and ruthless editor who strives for clarity, I prefer this clear distinction:

might implies possibility
Eric might go to the movie tonight.
(There is a possibility Eric will go to the movie.)

may implies permission
Eric may go to the movie tonight.
(Eric has permission to go to the movie.)

Yet I find multiple sources online that offer what I consider this unsatisfactory claim about the difference between might and may: Continue

Like it? Share it!

Did Capt. Mark Kelly ‘Receive’ or ‘Earn’ a Degree?

Astronaut Mark KellyIt happened again … in fact, twice in one week.

First I read that Mark Kelly, retired astronaut and husband of former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, launched his campaign to run for the U.S. Senate seat once occupied by the late John McCain. The Arizona Republic described Kelly’s background: Continue

Like it? Share it!

Baby sit, Pet sit, House sit: One Word, Two Words or Hyphenate?

pet-sitting cat & dogA Ruthless Editor blog follower noted that babysitting, which first appeared in the U.S. lexicon in 1937, is generally expressed as one word.

Yet she finds pet sitting and house sitting often expressed as two words, and in some cases they are hyphenated. Which are correct: pet sit / pet-sit / petsit or house sit / house-sit / housesit?

As I did the research, it occurred to me that some might consider this issue trivial in terms of grammar. On the other hand, these words could readily arise in news writing, fiction or blogging.

Here are some reliable sources and how they present all three: baby sit, pet sit and house sit: Continue

Like it? Share it!

Is Alright the Same As All Right?

A blog follower sent me an email questioning all right versus alright and when each should be used. The query arose at her weekly writers group gathering.

No one felt confident about the answer, so they reverted to what apparently is a common refrain when they hit a grammar roadblock: “Ask Kathy!”

Let’s begin by considering the meanings of all right. Continue

Like it? Share it!

Want to Improve Your Writing and Speaking? Start Here!

people communicating at workYou’ve been out of the classroom for how long?

Your English teacher’s name was … ?

Why am I asking? I’m starting to think about New Year’s resolutions. (I know, I know, it’s still early December.)

If self-improvement is on your 2019 radar, and if fine-tuning your writing and speaking skills is among your targets, make brushing up on basic grammar your first step.

My definition of grammar: the words we choose, how we string them together, and how we punctuate them to make sense. Continue

Like it? Share it!

What’s the Difference: Incident and Incidents, Incidence and Incidences

incident_incidence_of_wildfiresAs the United States has struggled with catastrophic hurricanes, wildfires and mass shootings, I’ve heard people stumble over the use and pronunciation of incident and incidents, and of incidence (a valid word) and incidences (not a valid word in plural form).

The following definitions and examples will help you tell the difference.

incident: a noun meaning an event or occurrence; synonyms are episode, happening, escapade, occasion, adventure, proceeding, circumstance, development

These examples show how to use incident and incidents:


Like it? Share it!

Sending Holiday Greetings? Ditch the Apostrophe!

sign_holiday_card_no_apostrophe_family_nameIf you send holiday greetings, or if you ever sign a gift card on behalf of your whole family, here’s a tip about writing a family name.

No apostrophes, please!

An apostrophe in a name indicates possession. A signature does not imply possession. When you send a card on behalf of your family unit, use care with how you express your last name — your surname — in plural form.

Here are samples of an assortment of last names and how to make them plural. Continue

Like it? Share it!

How to Spot Redundancies

I have a thing about redundancies.

They are a grammar pet peeve I’ve blogged about before, but the world apparently hasn’t gotten my message.

I’m not giving up, darn it!

A redundant word is one that could be omitted without loss of meaning; it repeats something already written or said.

We are in communication mode day in, day out. The least we can do in our word-dense world is to avoid extra words that add neither meaning nor clarity to our messages.

My guideline for spotting a redundancy:
Consider what using its opposite would do to the sentence.

Here are my latest real-world examples. The second sentence of each will help you spot the redundancy in the first that should be omitted. Continue

Like it? Share it!

Have You ‘Pleaded’ or ‘Pled’ in a Court of Law?

If you are puzzled by recent news reports and their use of pleaded or pled, these sources can help you decide which is right — or maybe I should say which is preferred.

If you enter a plea of not guilty today in response to a charge or indictment — in other words, if you plead not guilty — would you say tomorrow that you pleaded not guilty or that you pled not guilty?

Here is information taken directly from five sources: Continue

Like it? Share it!