Category: Vocabulary

Making Sense of Morphemes

Posted on Tuesday, October 16, 2018, at 11:00 pm

A GrammarBook.com reader recently wrote to us with a question about the use of morphemes in American English. We thought this was a good opportunity to review the subject in further understanding the structure and parts of our language. Language, like matter, can be broken down from its largest to its smallest components. The five …

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Word Nerds: Verbal Custodians Trapped in a Time Warp

Posted on Tuesday, October 9, 2018, at 11:00 pm

A big drawback to a column like this is being perceived as having insufferable attitude: “So, Mr. Expert, I guess you think you’re so superior.” It’s not like that. Word nerds do custodial work. A lot of brilliant people can’t write. Ernest Hemingway was a terrible speller. Word nerds don’t think they’re “better”—do janitors think …

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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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Pronouncing the Word Blessed

Posted on Tuesday, June 5, 2018, at 11:00 pm

We received a number of inquiries from readers asking about the proper pronunciation of the word blessed when used in a way that we were not aware of when our original e-newsletter on this subject was issued on August 11, 2012. In order to provide what we hope is now complete coverage of the topic, today we …

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Figuring Out the Trick Behind [sic]

Posted on Tuesday, May 29, 2018, at 11:00 pm

We’ve all seen it at some point when reading: a three-letter package in brackets. It follows text to draw attention to or make a point about it. We’re talking about [sic]. What is it—and when do we accurately use it? Fowler’s Modern English Usage explains that sic is Latin for “so, thus.” It is a complete word and …

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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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Tackling More Tricky Word Choices: Issue vs. Problem

Posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, at 11:30 pm

Several of our articles to start the year have focused on tricky word choices, ones that may throw us off simply because we might not be aware of or pay attention to their subtleties and differences. Another pair of tricky, freely swapped words is issue and problem. Most often, we’ll use issue to mean problem, …

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You Lost Me After “Feb”

Posted on Wednesday, February 14, 2018, at 8:30 am

In honor of both our present month as well as the birthday of our late writer Tom Stern, today we repeat his classic pronunciation article first published on February 3, 2016.   Feb-yoo-ary. Febber-ary. Feb-wary. Can't anyone around here say "feb-roo-ary"? It's time to revisit dissimilation, the labored linguistic theory that purports to explain why so …

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Year-End Quiz 2017

Posted on Tuesday, January 9, 2018, at 12:01 pm

Review is good for retention. That’s why GrammarBook.com likes to start the new year with a jumbo quiz that spans the last twelve months of topics we’ve covered with you. In 2017 we explored an array of ways to enhance your grammar and writing. We hope what you learned follows you well into 2018 as …

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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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Putting Out the Patrol for Made-Up Words

Posted on Tuesday, August 1, 2017, at 2:15 pm

Estimates of English’s total word count vary, but linguists agree the number ranks near the top of the world’s vocabularies. A May GrammarBook newsletter article cited English as having as many as 300,000 distinctly usable words. With so many residents in a vernacular, impostors posing as real words are bound to slip in. They start as mistakes …

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Stubborn Stinkaroos

Posted on Tuesday, July 25, 2017, at 1:01 pm

Some would say that the 2012 election year’s political dialogue divided the country into the obscenely ultra-rich one percent and the ninety-nine percent who comprise the poor, the shrinking middle class and the, I guess you could say, tastefully affluent. Compare that with the literary one-percenters, a mulish minority of nitpickers who believe “proper” speaking and …

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