Category: Idioms

Ending a Sentence in a Preposition

Posted on Wednesday, March 24, 2021, at 6:00 am

Many of us who learned American English in school likely received certain inviolable decrees about usage. One of them was to use "___ and I" only as a subject. Another was never to split an infinitive (not true). Yet another was never to end a sentence with a preposition, a breach of form that can …

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For All Intents and Purposes vs. For All Intensive Purposes

Posted on Monday, March 1, 2021, at 9:00 am

You've probably heard this expression used a couple of different ways. You may also have wondered which one is correct and where the confusion comes from. Let's break down what you should write and say, what the phrase means, and why there is confusion about it. Is For All Intents and Purposes Right, or Is …

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Could or Couldn’t Care Less: Which One Is It?

Posted on Friday, February 19, 2021, at 9:00 am

Sometimes in American English, you find an expression that is used or pronounced more than one way. In the case of could and couldn't care less, we may often find that different people use one expression or the other—and they are certain their form is correct. So which is the right one for proper writing …

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Clipping Syllables to Sizes We Like

Posted on Tuesday, October 27, 2020, at 11:00 pm

The two following excerpts express the same thing. Which might you rather read or listen to? Today I went to the doctor's office for an exam because I thought I might be getting the flu. I skipped going to the gym after that. I stopped for gas and went home. Beth wanted me to help …

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Idiom: The DNA of Cliché

Posted on Tuesday, August 4, 2020, at 11:00 pm

We recently revisited the subject of the cliché, which dictionary.com defines as "a trite, stereotyped expression; a sentence or phrase, usually expressing a popular or common thought or idea, that has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse." All clichés begin as idioms, which are "expressions whose meanings are not predictable from the usual …

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Clearing the Air of Errors in English

Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2020, at 11:00 pm

The adage is true when it comes to our language: Old habits really are hard to break. Notwithstanding classroom instruction, lifelong reminders, correction from others, and even GrammarBook newsletters, certain misuses of English survive like drug-resistant viruses. Yet we grammarians and linguists march on. After all, even the Roman Empire had to give way—eventually. As …

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Checking In on Worn-Out Words and Phrases: First Quarter 2019

Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2019, at 11:00 pm

"Nature abhors a vacuum," Aristotle once said, and the same holds true for language. If we detect an empty lexical space because we feel existing words no longer occupy it well, we will look to fill it, often with something that seems or sounds fresh within our current culture and era. For a time, we …

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Year-End Quiz 2018

Posted on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Another year of grammatical exploration has concluded with linguistic miles behind us. What we’ve learned and discussed with you along the way has been illuminating, and we are grateful for the thought and insight it has inspired. We hope you gathered even more sharpened tools for communicating in concise and eloquent English. A year-end review …

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Still on the Stakeout for Worn-Out Words and Phrases

Posted on Tuesday, September 18, 2018, at 11:00 pm

Last year we waded into the weeds of worn-out words and phrases: the verbal components that appear fresh and assimilate well in language until their nature is revealed. At first they might look just like the grass that surrounds them, but in time they disrupt communication with buzz words and catch phrases that impose on …

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More on Misspoken or Mispronounced Words and Phrases

Posted on Tuesday, July 10, 2018, at 11:00 pm

A few weeks back we explored words and phrases that can sabotage our communication—and our perceived persuasion—by being mispronounced or misspoken. The article inspired thoughtful feedback and additional entries from readers who likewise monitor the proper use of English. What follows are two items from our current list that were questioned, as well as more …

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Misspoken or Mispronounced Words and Phrases

Posted on Tuesday, June 12, 2018, at 11:00 pm

Writing serves us well in communication by providing us with a framework for arranging words into clear and thoughtful statements, including opportunities for eloquence. Applying ourselves to concise writing can also reinforce articulate speech. We are often moved or impressed by those who express themselves with precision and power. Think of the historic public addresses …

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Quality, Service, Value, Needs:
Top Dogs on Our Writing Most-Wanted List

Posted on Tuesday, April 17, 2018, at 11:00 pm

We began our campaign against worn-out words and phrases in 2017 with three posts on what to weed from our writing (June, July, December). We hope in 2018 you’ve been on guard against those verbal saboteurs that would sneak in to weaken your prose. This year we will also start to call out offenders that …

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Worn-Out Words and Phrases: Resolving to Keep Writing Fresh in 2018

Posted on Wednesday, December 20, 2017, at 9:33 am

A new year once again draws near. For us grammarians and careful writers, the last 12 months have been another insightful and adventurous journey through the rules, styles, and techniques that help form concise and expressive American English. Because each new year represents fresh resolve and beginnings, we thought we’d wrap up 2017 with new …

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A Really, Really Awesome List

Posted on Tuesday, August 29, 2017, at 8:16 pm

We wish to thank newsletter reader Dorothy Rosby for permission to use the clever article she developed after reading our recent posts Worn-Out Words and Phrases: 2017 and its Follow-up post. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.   It’s come to my attention that I use the words awesome and amazing far more often than my …

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Striking the Surplus from Tautologies (Follow-Up 2)

Posted on Tuesday, August 15, 2017, at 11:09 pm

In response to comments from our readers, last week we revisited our late April newsletter article on tautologies by re-examining vast majority. Today, we’ll conclude our review by looking more closely at two more terms: Contested Tautology #2: Identical Match This noun phrase presents a similar issue to that raised among readers for vast majority. The question lies in whether …

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