Tag Archive | usage

Freakin’ Awesome

Recently, on Twitter, a fellow tweeter (who shall remain unnamed) asked me to stop using awesome to mean, like, really cool. This person, like many others, is frustrated that the milder use common among Americans is weakening a once-powerful word. The first definition of awesome in most dictionaries is its more traditional meaning: inspiring great […]

The Lost Because

I have a proofreader who corrects every “because of” to “as a result of,” and I’d like to know if she just hates “because of” or if there is a some rule I’m unaware of. For example, “Overall, oil services’ operating margins will likely contract as a result of reduction in available rigs.” Would “because […]

Like, Literally Literally

About a month ago, XKCD posted this comic: And I laughed! And I totally agreed! …Sort of. So here’s the thing. The figurative use of literally—when people use it as an intensifier but don’t mean that something happened exactly as they’re describing it—does not make one whit of real difference to the world, just as this […]

See Me After Class

Look, I try to be a nice curmudgeon, and I don’t normally get all outraged over people’s little mistakes. These things usually don’t really matter, in even the medium-size scheme of things, and besides, everyone is ignorant about something and everyone makes mistakes. But this, this chaps my hide. This was posted to Postsecret on Sunday, […]

Semicolon vs. Colon

You talked about separating independent clauses with semicolons, but when would you use a colon to separate independent clauses instead? Are the uses completely different, or does the author get a choice? –Stephen That’s an interesting question. When a semicolon joins two independent clauses, it’s basically saying, “Here are two equally important bits of information […]

What Has the Semicolon Done for Us Lately?

Considering that sentences can be separated with semicolons, what’s good will it do the piece of writing? Will it make the sentence sound more sophisticated as compared to using a comma and a coordinating conjunction? —Chad the Velociwritetor First, for those who don’t know, let me back up a couple steps. When you have a […]

Dash It All

Can you please break down dashes and hyphens? When do we use an em-dash? When do we use an en-dash? Do we put a space between the words on either side of a hyphen or not? Help! –Matthew Hoo boy! This is kind of a big topic, so I’m going to try to give you […]


Copy editors’ job description is unusual in that the whole point of the profession is to deliver perfection. But no item of text that has ever gone to print could be called perfect. Something could always be improved—an error could have been cleaned up, an infelicitous phrasing could have been avoided, the perfect word could […]

Insure vs. Ensure

When do I use “insure” and when do I use “ensure”? I can never remember which is which. Well, there’s a pretty good reason that you find them confusing. Technically, they started out as just variant spellings of one another, so they meant the same thing. And some sources will tell you that insure can still mean […]

“Dreamt” Philosophy

This seems like a basic question, and easily google’d, but where’s the fun in that? My question is this: if I were to say “I’m going to be ____ at the stake,” which is the proper word to use? “Burnt” at the stake doesn’t sound right, but neither does “burned.” –Anna Well, it might not […]


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