Hysterical and hysteria have interesting origins. Because of those origins, it’s best to use the words with caution. Hysterical first showed up in print the early 1600s, and it was used to describe a woman suffering from hysteria. Hysteria was medical Latin for a neurotic condition marked by strong displays of uncontrollable emotion. It’s important to note that the male-dominated medical community … Continue reading Hysterical and Hysteria: Their History and a Word of Caution
A word needs to earn capitalization.
Every once in a while, to add a little flair to our writing or give the impression that we’re sophisticated, we replace and with as well as. Sometimes, this works: Correct: Clarence is skilled in baseball and ballet.Correct: Clarence is skilled in baseball as well as ballet. In fact, as well as adds a little something to that second sentence (not just two extra … Continue reading ‘As Well As’ vs. ‘And’
As is the case with most peeves, my dislike of reach out isn’t necessarily rational to anyone but me. Allow me to tell you about my experience with this wretched expression, followed by my feelings (which are perfectly valid, thank you very much).
Many of us were taught that it’s wrong to begin a sentence with these conjunctions: and, but and because. Here’s the truth: It’s not wrong to begin sentences with any of those words. Your teachers meant well, but you can stop listening to them now. They had their reasons, of course, and it does make … Continue reading Beginning Sentences With ‘And,’ ‘But’ and ‘Because’
Comprise can be a tricky word. If we look to Merriam-Webster for the primary definition of comprise, we find: “to be made up of.” The first example sentence is: “The factory was to be a vast installation, comprising 50 buildings.” In other words, the whole comprises the parts. Here are more examples of comprise used correctly: Correct: Wisconsin comprises 72 counties. Correct: The zoo comprises over 400 animal species.Correct: … Continue reading Comprised of vs. Comprises
A grizzled old copy editor once told me to always shorten reason why to reason. If you’re a fellow copy editor or someone who wants to be concise, this is good advice. Does that mean reason why is wrong? No. It’s simply wordier. Think about the following lines: Leonard gave Selma three reasons why they should postpone their trip to Albuquerque.Leonard gave … Continue reading Reason Why
There’s a popular expression in English that usually goes something like this: You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Here’s how the Oxford American Dictionary defines the phrase: “You can’t enjoy both of two desirable but mutually exclusive alternatives.” For example, most of us can’t spend money on expensive cars and fine foods and still … Continue reading Have Your Cake and Eat It Too
Until is a fairly common word in English. You might say, “I can’t wait until summer” or “I’ll give you until sundown to deliver the money.” A popular alternative to until is till. In fact, “I’ll give you till sundown to deliver the money” probably sounds better. But is till the correct way to write this word? Or should it be ’til? … Continue reading Until, Till and ’Til
When you focus your attention on a solution, do you home in on the solution, or do you hone in on the solution? They’re both common expressions, but the preferred choice in standard English choice is home in on. Think of it this way: A homing pigeon is directed home. A homing missile is automatically directed at a target. To … Continue reading Home In vs. Hone In