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Pleaded vs. Pled and Enormity Defined

Today I will answer a couple of questions I received from radio listeners when I was a guest.

Question: Should you say “pleaded guilty” or “pled guilty”? Answer: Either one is considered correct.

Question: Does “enormity” mean “something monstrous” or “something huge”? Answer: In formal writing, enormity has nothing to do with something’s size. The word is frequently misused: the “enormity” of football linemen, or the “enormity” of the task. For that, we have such words as immensity, vastness, hugeness, enormousness.

Enormity is an ethical, judgmental word meaning “great wickedness,” “a hideous crime.” The enormity of Jonestown doesn’t mean Jonestown was a huge place, but rather, the site of a hugely outrageous tragedy.

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Posted on Friday, February 5, 2010, at 12:22 pm


On to vs. Onto

Rule 1: In general, use onto as one word to mean “on top of,” “to a position on,” “upon.”

Examples:
He climbed onto the roof.
Let’s step onto the dance floor.

Rule 2: Use onto when you mean “fully aware of,” “informed about.”

Examples:
I’m onto your scheme.
We canceled Julia’s surprise party when we realized she was onto our plan.

Rule 3: Use on to, two words, when on is part of the verb.

Examples:
We canceled Julia’s surprise party when we realized she caught on to our plan.
(caught on is a verb phrase)
I’m going to log on to the computer. (log on is a verb phrase)

 

Pop Quiz
1. Billy, I’m worried that climbing on to/onto that tree limb is unsafe.
2. My daughter is going on to/onto graduate school.
3. Jose stepped down from the ladder on to/onto the ground.
4. The magician realized one person in the audience was on to/onto his trick.
5. After you drive five miles, turn on to/onto Highway 280 south.
6. The Gateses have moved on to/onto a life of philanthropy.

 

Pop Quiz Answers
1. Billy, I’m worried that climbing onto that tree limb is unsafe.
2. My daughter is going on to graduate school.
3. Jose stepped down from the ladder onto the ground.
4. The magician realized one person in the audience was onto his trick.
5. After you drive five miles, turn onto Highway 280 south.
6. The Gateses have moved on to a life of philanthropy.

Click here to learn hundreds of distinctions between common words.

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Posted on Wednesday, January 6, 2010, at 8:53 am


Advice vs. Advise

The word advice is a noun. It means recommendation.

Example: My sister gave me great advice about applying to colleges.

The word advise is a verb. It means “to give advice,” “to inform,” “to recommend.”

Example: Can you advise me about colleges that offer bioengineering degrees?

 

Pop Quiz

  1. The principal gave the graduating seniors advice/advise about how to be happy, not just successful.
  2. I would advice/advise against studying all night before a test.
  3. What advice/advise would you give to someone who is learning English as a second language?

 

Pop Quiz Answers

  1. The principal gave the graduating seniors advice about how to be happy, not just successful.
  2. I would advise against studying all night before a test.
  3. What advice would you give to someone who is learning English as a second language?

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Posted on Thursday, December 17, 2009, at 10:07 am


Clearing Up Confusing Words

Many words in English cause confusion because they sound or look alike. Here are a few rules to help you with some common but tricky words.

Rule 1: The word accept means “to agree,” “to receive.”
The word except means “but,” “not including.”

Examples:
I accept your apology.
I’ll eat anything except cottage cheese.

Rule 2: The word allusion means “an indirect mention of something.”
The word illusion means “false perception.”

Examples:
In her novel, the author made an allusion to her own childhood.
OR The author alluded to her own childhood.
The magician created the illusion that the rabbit disappeared right before our eyes.

Rule 3: The word complement means “to complete” or “to enhance.”
The word compliment means “to praise.”

Examples:
Their algebra textbook won awards because her math skills complemented his writing skills beautifully.
I want to compliment you on your beautiful singing voice.

Click here to see many more Confusing Words and Homonyms clarified with examples.

 

Pop Quiz

  1. I cannot accept/except the fact that he doesn’t want to invest in real estate with me.
  2. Einstein was the first scientist to point out that the perception of time as linear is an allusion/illusion.
  3. My husband gave me such a nice complement/compliment when he said that my proofreading skills were as sharp as his editor’s.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

Correct answers are indicated in bold type and by an asterisk (*).

  1. I cannot *accept/except the fact that he doesn’t want to invest in real estate with me.
  2. Einstein was the first scientist to point out that the perception of time as linear is an allusion/*illusion.
  3. My husband gave me such a nice complement/*compliment when he said that my proofreading skills were as sharp as his editor’s.

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Posted on Friday, September 11, 2009, at 9:52 am


Into vs. In To

How does one know when to use into or in to?

One of the main uses of the preposition into is to indicate movement toward the inside of a place.

Examples
The children jumped into the lake for a swim.
Mom drove the car into the garage.

In to is the adverb in followed by the preposition to.

Examples:
He turned his paper in to the teacher.
The administrators wouldn’t give in to the demands of the protesters.

We will explore into vs. in to in more depth in a future blog.

 

Pop Quiz

  1. As a child, I was too afraid to go into/in to the Halloween haunted house.
  2. I’m going to turn the wallet I found into/in to the police.
  3. If your battery is running low, you’ll need to plug your power cord into/in to the socket.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

  1. into
  2. in to
  3. into

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Posted on Saturday, July 18, 2009, at 10:02 pm