Category: Effective Writing

Choices vs. Options and Alternatives

Posted on Wednesday, March 8, 2017, at 10:33 am

If a salesperson presents you with three inkjet printers to consider for purchase, is he or she giving you choices—or options? These two nouns were once more distinct from each other, but the line has blurred as common usage continues evolving. Today, you will not lose meaning or clarity when using either word to refer …

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Small Dishes

Posted on Wednesday, March 1, 2017, at 10:37 am

Things we’ve been meaning to talk to you about … Breaking news is broken  Remember when a standing ovation meant something? Now performers get them for just showing up. There’s a misguided tendency nowadays to overdo things whose power is in their scarcity. So it is that virtually every day, especially on the cable news …

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Words Can Be Bullies

Posted on Tuesday, February 14, 2017, at 2:03 pm

Words that start with the letter h don’t always act like it. Consider “herb,” when it means “an aromatic plant used for seasoning in cooking.” Americans dump the h, whereas many Brits pronounce it. So we say “an ’erb,” but an Englishman says “a herb.” A different sort of h-confusion happens when self-important speakers and …

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A Fine Distinction

Posted on Tuesday, February 7, 2017, at 11:57 pm

How valid can a rule be if nobody knows or cares about it anymore? That all depends on what the definition of “nobody” is. A lot of people I’ve been around seem to feel “nobody” applies to just about everybody 15-plus years younger or older than they are. Generational outcasts—the nerds, wonks, and misfits—also get …

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Spell Check Overreach

Posted on Wednesday, February 1, 2017, at 3:59 pm

My spell check has been drinking again. It just told me “déjà vu” should be “deejay.” Everyone who uses Word software probably has some form of spell check. Mine—I call him “SC”—also makes occasionally helpful (but often just surreal) suggestions about grammar and punctuation. To be fair, SC sometimes saves me from my own carelessness. …

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