December 11, 2017

Enormity

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True errors using the word "enormity" are rare. But there's a difference between using a word correctly and using it well. Sticklers disapprove of using "enormity" to mean "enormousness" or anything to do with size, for that matter. Instead, they prefer its stricter definition, "an outrageous, improper, vicious, or immoral act." That is, if you're playing it safe, "enormity" refers not to size but to wickedness. You can make your own choices. Here's what you need to know.

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December 4, 2017

Reign and Rein

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You don't reign in your spending. The queen hasn't enjoyed a long rein.

It's very easy to confuse these two homophones. Here's how to get them right.

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November 27, 2017

Compare To vs. Compare With

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The differences between "compare to" and "compare with" are subtle, and you can probably disregard them if you want. But careful writers give these two constructions slightly different uses. Here's what you'll want to know.

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November 20, 2017

From Soup, To Nuts?

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The hotel staff can arrange a wide array of entertaining activities, from hikes through the Sonoran mountains, to guided tours of the area’s unique historical sites, to gallery excursions highlighting painting, sculpture, and local crafts.

See those commas before "to guided tours" and "to gallery excursions"? They're not necessary. They don't really make sense, either. Yet some writers assume that every sentence that describes a range "from" something "to" something else automatically gets commas.

Not so, as a simple example like "from soup to nuts" illustrates. So only use these commas when they'll help the reader organize the information.

 

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November 13, 2017

Historic and Historical

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The differences between historic and historical are subtle. If you have a vague, unarticulated sense of how best to use each, you're probably right. Here it is articulated.

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November 6, 2017

Rob vs. Burglarize

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In news media and in law, there's a clear distinction between what it means to rob someone and what it means to burglarize a place. But outside those two specialties, the language is more flexible. Here's how to make good choices.

 

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October 30, 2017

Disinterested versus Uninterested

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Technically, these words are pretty flexible. But in the eyes of many readers, they're not. Here's how to make a wise choice in using them.

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October 23, 2017

A Myriad of Misunderstandings

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Is myriad an adjective, as in There are myriad benefits to this plan? Or is it a noun, as in, There are a myriad of benefits to this plan?

Short answer: It's both. But a lot of people, possibly even some in present company, have fallen victim to the myth that it can't be a noun.

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October 16, 2017

Gerund, Participle or Participial Modifier?

 

"Ing" forms of verbs can do a number of different jobs. They can be parts of verbs, they can be nouns, or they can be adjectives. Knowing which form you're working with can help you better understand how your sentence is structured. Here's a quick look at "ing" forms.

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October 9, 2017

Hoi Polloi

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You hear people use hoi polloi to mean upper-crust, elite types. Actually, it's more strongly associated with the masses. Here's a full breakdown, along with when to use the in front of it.

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