Category: Effective Writing

Give the Gift of Pedantry

Posted on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, at 6:43 pm

If there is a logophile—word lover—on your holiday gift list, you can’t go wrong with What in the Word? by Charles Harrington Elster. Elster is a formidable scholar, but he has written a book that is fun to read, yet packed with information. Scattered throughout the book’s seven chapters are astute quotations, “fascinating facts,” and …

Read More

Things We Will Never Say

Posted on Tuesday, November 17, 2015, at 10:49 am

There are certain words or phrases that seem to cast a spell over people. All at once some expression is all the rage, and there is no escaping it. It is hard to say anything positive about this particular manifestation of herd mentality but we’ll try: It’s better than a lynch mob. Have you noticed …

Read More

The Oxymoron: Simply Complicated

Posted on Tuesday, November 10, 2015, at 12:44 pm

An oxymoron is a turn of phrase that contains a contradiction or paradox. Some familiar examples: definite maybe, same difference, poor little rich girl. The word oxymoron derives from Greek: oxus means “sharp; quick,” and moros means “dull; foolish.” Sharply foolish? Eureka! Oxymoron is itself an oxymoron. The plural is traditionally oxymora, but some now …

Read More

Media Watch

Posted on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, at 10:51 pm

What better way to begin a Media Watch column than with headlines? Here are two recent ones that got our attention: • “Bacteria has sickened more than 100.” • “Foreclosure crisis makes taught thriller.” “Bacteria has sickened” is incorrect because has is singular and bacteria is the plural of bacterium. If the headline writer balked …

Read More

When Idioms Become Monsters

Posted on Tuesday, October 20, 2015, at 9:52 am

Close but no cigar, fly off the handle, he is pulling your leg, I was beside myself—we see idioms like these all the time, even though the closer we look, the less sense many of them make. Sometimes two familiar expressions get jumbled. When that happens, the result is what you might call a “Frankenstein …

Read More

1 3 4 5 6 7 26