Common Crutch Words. What’s Yours?


This morning, I just read – again – an old article published by The Atlantic Wire. Titled “A Literal Epidemic of Crutch Words“, the article highlights words and phrases that we tend to use loosely, both in formal and informal conversation. Going through the list, I couldn’t help but think that writers are not exempt from leaning on crutch words and phrases. Here are some of the phrases/words that I see often – and might have a beef with. Exponentially. “How could you leave out exponentially, a crutch word that might be used accurately once in a thousand times? Something grows exponentially when [Read more…]

The Worst Words of 2012 – What to Avoid in 2013


I was planning to work on this entry earlier this month, but as you know, the Universe and I weren’t exactly on the same page. Still, all’s well that ends well, and I hope I am not incorrect in thinking that it’s not too late to take a look at some of the worst words of 2012. Not only can it be fun, it might also come in handy as we continue churning out our pieces this year. Usually, at the end/beginning of each year, I like taking a look at Lake Superior State University’s list of banished words. What [Read more…]

What Do You Call Someone Who Protests?


Last year could very well be called the year of protests. We’re only halfway through this year, but I guess we can say that protests are still the “in” thing. Now please remember that this is a grammar column and not a political one, so let’s forget about the latter aspect of the word. Instead, why don’t we take a look at a noun derived from the word “protest”? What do you call a person who protests? Is he a protester, or is he a protestor? A quick look at online dictionaries will not give you a single answer. It [Read more…]

The Art of Dishing Out Insults


Why would anyone want to dish out insults? I am a firm believer in courtesy and respecting other people. As much as I can, I keep insults to the minimum. However, I have to admit that there are times when you just can’t help but think insulting things. You might even be justified on certain occasions. If you are a writer, you’ll probably have more reason to make an insulting remark or two. I think that this is especially true if you write fiction, and your characters have a rough edge to them. So is there an art to dishing [Read more…]

10 Unusual Collective Nouns

Collective Nouns Infographic

Do you find yourself checking the thesaurus often lately? I don’t know about you, but I do love checking for new words to use regularly. This is especially true for when I find myself using the same words too much. Sometimes, I am not even aware of that fact, but the thesaurus does help! Of course, I still believe that nothing beats reading voraciously when it comes to vocabulary expansion. I found this infographic that presents 10 supposedly unusual collective nouns, which some of you might find interesting. To be honest, I don’t really think that the collective nouns in [Read more…]

Eschewing the Exotic for the Quotidian

Exotic Birds

I like experiencing strange, new things. Not too new and too strange, mind you. I am not that adventurous, but I have found that new experiences almost always brings positive results. When it comes to words, I also like learning new words and using them whenever possible, as naturally as possible. I do not know what you think about using new and uncommon words as often as you can, but I honestly would not be surprised if we share the same sentiment. I have to admit, that sometimes, I do have the propensity to choose words that may not be [Read more…]

Are You Disinterested or Uninterested?

Confused Art

The English language is such a beautiful thing, isn’t it? That is not to say that it is always simple. In fact, even native speakers make mistakes now and then. Even professional writers have their Waterloo. The good thing is that as long as we are open to correction and learning, we can only become better. Today’s grammar post is all about words that are often used interchangeably, often incorrectly. We already took a look at some word pairs that give people problems some time last year. Remember ingenuous and ingenious? This time around, let us take a look at [Read more…]

2011 Word of the Year

Word of the Year

In 2010, we were treated to a interesting new word courtesy of Sarah Palin. “Refudiate“, which did not exist prior to Palin’s usage, made it as the New Oxford American Dictionary’s Word of the Year. It was also included in the dictionary as a real word. Halfway into the first month of 2012, we have several words to consider as Word of the Year for 2011. A simple search on Google using that phrase yielded several results, three of which we will take a look at in this week’s grammar post. Merriam-Webster: PRAGMATIC “Pragmatic” is a commonly used word, isn’t [Read more…]

Lake Superior State University’s 2012 List of Banished Words

Banned Sign

Around this time last year, we took a look at the annual list of banned words published by Lake Superior State University. We saw the likes of “tweet“, “app“, “teachable moment“, “bromance“, and “friend” (as a verb) included in the list. To be honest, while I started out with the intention of observing whether or not I used the words in the list, I totally forgot all about it as the months of 2011 went by. As we enter the second week of 2012, I find myself thinking of the list again. As I said in that post, there was (and [Read more…]

To OMG or to LOL?


Dear FWJ Friends, Have you heard about the latest updates to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)?  For people in our line of work, this might be old news, but let me share it with you nonetheless. As of March 2011, several new initialisms have been added to the OED, initiliasms being “abbreviations comprised of the initial letters of a name or expression.  If you’re thinking “OMG!” then you are hitting the nail right on the head!  OMG, otherwise known as “Oh my God” is now included in the March release of OED Online.  I suppose my hairdresser was actually correct [Read more…]

If I Lay Here…


There is a plethora of confusing word pairs in English, and even native English speakers confuse their usage in everyday conversation.  Earlier today, for some reason, I kept hearing Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars in my head.  I used to listen to this song a lot, so I guess the fact that I felt like lying down for a few minutes more triggered memories.  In any case, I was thinking to myself, should it be lay or lie?  That simple question resulted in more than a few minutes of lying in bed and mulling the two words over.  So what’s the [Read more…]

Lake Superior State University’s Lists of Banished Words and Phrases


We all have our pet peeves, and for writers, this is especially true when it comes to word usage.  I am sure that all of you will be able to come up with your own list of banished words and phrases, but I wonder how your list will compare to what Lake Superior State University has come up for 2010 and 2011? Last week, the Internet was abuzz with talk about the newly released 35th Annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness. It seems that my year has been starting out slowly, [Read more…]

Refudiate: 2010 Word of the Year


Sarah Palin may not have succeeded in her quest to become the Vice President of the United States, but her time in the spotlight is not really over. While she did not` seek to be re-elected as the governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin has been busy with a host of other activities. Her own TV show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, is attracting some attention, together with her Twitter account: @SarahPalinUSA. Some time this year, Twitterverse was abuzz with Sarah Palin’s tweet using a one-of-a-kind word. Can you spot it below? “Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, [Read more…]

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

Begging dog

Don’t you just love it when you learn something new unexpectedly?  I was reading the news today when I saw an article titled “To beg or not to beg” and for some reason, I decided to take a look at it. I am glad I did, because it was a very interesting read, which I would like to share with you. How often do you hear the phrase “to beg the question”? How do you use it? In my case, I don’t really hear it that often, but I always understood it in the context of someone making a statement [Read more…]

Are You Ingenuous or Ingenious?


When I was teaching ESL, lessons on confusing word pairs were inevitable.  The level of the learner was irrelevant.  My students all needed clarification on certain word pairs.  Interestingly enough, I have discovered than even native speakers of English have similar issues.  The words in question may be of a more advanced level, but the confusion remains.  Just take some time to browse blogs, and you’ll find at least one example! For this week’s grammar post, let us take a look at some of words that are used interchangeably, when they shouldn’t be. Ingenuous and Ingenious I’ll be honest here [Read more…]

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