Friday, December 31, 2010

Riddles - English editing.

The teacher gives a few hints about an article or individual and then asks the students to make a guess. For example he says, “I am the source of all knowledge. I am having some other brothers also. I remain locked-up. I am very costly. But I am useful. What is my name? The answer is an encyclopedia. Students can be encouraged to make their own riddles in this game.
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Thursday, December 30, 2010

English Library - English editing.

A class library for the pupils of English can be started by the teacher. In this library 1000 to 1500 books may be kept, which may be exchanged every term after 3-4 months, with the books in the main library. This system would encourage the pupils in studying habits and their vocabulary, structures and knowledge would improve automatically, in the long run.
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

English society - English editing.

The teacher of English should organize an English Society or club for the co curricular activities of the pupils. In this society he can provide a platform to the debating pupils, and also invite scholars and writers of repute, to address his students, on various facets of the study, and teaching learning of English language, and literature. Competitions in recitation, essay writing and even plays can be also organized under this society.
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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Encouragement to Improvement - English editing.

In a big class the teacher is not able to notice the improvement of an individual student in an area, where he was deficient, because he is not able to find time for individual guidance, and discussion. But in a tutorial group the same improvement is noticed and encouragement given to the erring pupil by a tutor. This further reinforces his pupils speed at correction of his errors. It is said ‘nothing succeeds like success’ and this is very true in such cases of individual evaluation and guidance.
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Friday, December 24, 2010

Compounding - English editing.

In English (as in many other languages) new words can be formed from already existing words by a process known as compounding, in which individual words are “joined together” to form a compound word. For example, the noun ape can be joined with the noun man to form the compound noun ape-man; the adjective sick can be joined with the noun room to form the compound noun sickroom; the adjective red can be joined with the adjective hot to form the compound adjective red-hot.
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Generified Words - English editing.

The words Kleenex and Xerox illustrate another technique for creating new words, namely, using specific names of products as names for products in general (generification). Hence, Kleenex, a brand name for facial tissues, has come to denote facial tissue in general. Xerox is the name of the corporation that produces a wellknown photocopying machine, and much to the dismay of the company, the term Xerox has lost its specific brand-name connotation and has come to be used to describe the process of photocopying in general ( I Xeroxed a letter). Hence, in casual speech we can commit the grave sin of talking about buying a Canon Xerox machine.
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Blends - English editing.

New words can also be formed from existing ones by various blending processes: for example, motel (from motor hotel), infomercial (from information and commercial). Edutainment (from breakfast and lunch), cafetorium (from cafeteria and auditorium), Monicagate (from Monica (Lewinsky) and Watergate), netiquette (from network etiquette), trashware(from trash and software), and bit(from binary and digit).
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Semantic information - English editing.

For virtually every word we know, we have learned a meaning or several meanings. For example, to know the word brother is to know that it has a certain meaning (the equivalent of “male sibling”). In addition, we may or may not know certain extended meanings of the word, as in John is so friendly and helpful; he’s a regular brother to me. Semantics is the subfield of linguistics that studies the nature of the meaning of individual words, and the meaning of words group in to phrases and sentences.
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Monday, December 20, 2010

Lexical structure information - English editing.

For every word we have learned, we intuitively know something about its internal structure. For example, our intuitions tell us that the word tree cannot be broken down into any meaningful parts. In contrast, the word trees seem to be made up of two parts: the word tree plus an additional element, -s (known as the “plural” ending). Morphology is the subfield of linguistics that studies the internal structure of words and the relationships among words.
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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Teaching of Grammar - English editing.

Teaching of grammar is generally considered to be dry and dull affair by the students and the teachers both in schools. Formerly it was taught as an important branch of language. Rules and laws were given and memorized in it. That was found to be a wrong approach. But now its place has been taken by the Functional method or approach in Grammar. Now rules are neither taught nor tested in examination. It is learnt in an easier and automatic way under the new system.
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Friday, December 17, 2010

Picture Composition - English editing.

Exercises in composition from a short paragraph to a long essay can be developed by showing good pictures or matchsticks figures to the students and by asking questions, based on the various details of these pictures. The teacher himself should be an expert of this technique. He should be able to draw figures, charts on the blackboard and thus also a new dimension to his work can be added.
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Teaching of Play - English editing.

In the secondary classes, the teacher of English is required to teach play also. Mostly one Act Plays are prescribed for senior classes. In the new scheme of the ten plus two under the CBSE, Elective English is offered as a subject under literary system, in which plays, poetry, Novel etc., are also permitted.
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Teacher of poetry - English editing.

A good teacher of poetry knows the aims of teaching poetry and he tries to know the background of the poem. He understands the experiences or the impressions which the poet had at the time of composing a poem. His chief aim is to make his pupils not only aware of these circumstances, but also to make them appreciate the mood and the matter, described in the poem.
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Intensive Reader - English editing.

In the Intensive Readers the subject matter should be suitable and in accordance with the requirements of the students and the classes in which they read. The stages of their development, environment and the conditions in which they live and the society for which they are being prepared should have their bearings on the preparations of these readers for intensive reading. A graded system should be used for language. The words should follow the system of frequency, especially the difficult and new words. The antiquated and old round about manner should give place to new and straight forward style of modern writers and idiomatic expressions should come naturally. At the end of the lessons there can be a few comprehension exercises for assimilation. Lessons should follow the chronological order.
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Monday, December 13, 2010

The Rapid Reader - English editing.

Some institutions insist upon prescribing only one book or reader, for both the types of studies; though it would be nice to prescribe different books for intensive and extensive reading. In the class library also, series of interesting books can be purchased and issued for extensive reading of these students. It would be helpful.
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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Intensive Teaching - English editing.

When a teacher takes a prose lesson for intensive teaching or reading from the point of view of the student, his main aim is to promote a detailed and deeper knowledge of the language taught and to develop the powers of expression of the learner. The linguistic ability is the chief desire here. The student should be prepared to read the text from all sides in order to come at its full meaning. One additional gain, which the teacher wishes to be able to have, is to add words to the active vocabulary of the student.
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Friday, December 10, 2010

Loud Reading by the students - English editing.

During the first few years the loud reading should be very important for the students. It fixes the sounds, emphasis, stops, intonation, stress in questioning and sets their speed in reading also at proper level. Good readers should be asked to read first. Their mistakes if any should corrected by the teacher. The whole class should be asked to drill the correct pronunciations, given by the teacher.
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Model Reading - English editing.

The teacher takes all care to read the passage with proper stress, pause, phrase by phrase, properly pronouncing words, intonation being right and with a proper speed. Students keep the books closed. They simply listen and try to follow as much as possible. Their comprehension is thus improved. The teacher asked one or two questions to test their understandings. He asked the students to open their books and read the passage silently.
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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Idea - English editing.

The teacher starts with an introduction, in which he explains to the students in short about the idea in the passage, the idea of the concept that the passage contains and the related details. The students after listening to these introductory ideas get ready and receptive for the lesson.
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Monday, December 6, 2010

The Teaching of Prose - English editing.

It is mostly prose that one has to read and follow in our daily lives. The process begins with the press and the Media, which work around the clock and print our morning news papers. An ordinary literate person also scans through the news items, if not from a purchased or subscribed newspaper then from a borrowed or hurriedly read one at a news stand. After that starts the daily work schedule in which from a salesman to a clerk, a lawyer to a Physician, all remain busy either in producing prose, or using prose. A comic character tells the quality of another actor, that he was using prose, all his life, at which everybody raises the eyebrow, as if it is very special, or unique, but who would disagree, that every one of us is living with prose and it is prose, prose and nothing, but prose everywhere. The teaching learning of this technique is thus of immence importance.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Who’s - English editing.

A common written mistake is to confuse who’s with whose. The form who’s represents a contraction of who is or who has, while whose is a possessive pronoun or determiner used in questions, as in whose is this? Or whose turn is it?
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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Your - English editing.

Note the difference between the possessive your (as in what is your name?) and the contraction you’re, meaning ‘you are’ (as in you’re looking well). Note also that neither your nor yours should be written with an apostrophe.
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Monday, November 29, 2010

Whichever - English editing.

Whichever should always be written as one word, e.g. you’re safe with whichever option you choose. However, do not confuse it with constructions in which the separate words which and ever quite legitimately come together, e.g. this reminds me of the 5-year development plans, none of which ever worked.
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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Whence - English editing.

Strictly speaking, whence means ‘from what place’, as in whence did you come? Thus, some people maintain that ‘from’ in from thence as in from whence did you come? Is unnecessary, since the word already contains the idea of ‘from’, so that effectively you are saying ‘from from where’. The use with from is very common, though, and has been used by reputable writers since the 14th century. It is now broadly accepted in Standard English.
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Friday, November 26, 2010

Various - English editing.

In Standard English the word various is normally used as an adjective, e.g. dresses of various colors. It is sometimes also used as a pronoun followed by of, as in various of her friends had called. Although this use is similar to that of words such as several and many (e.g. several of her friends had called), it is sometimes regarded as incorrect.
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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Whoever - English editing.

In the emphatic use (whoever does he think he is?) whoever is also written as two words. In its other senses, however, it must be written as one word: whoever wins should be guaranteed an Olympic place; come out, whoever you are.
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

-Trix- English editing.

The suffix –trix has been used since the 15th century to form feminine agent nouns corresponding to masculine forms ending in –tor. Although a wide variety of forms have been coined, few of them have ever had wide currency. In modern use the suffix is found chiefly in legal terms such as executrix, administratrix, and testatrix but also in the word dominatrix.
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Upmost - English editing.

Upmost is a somewhat rare adjective and a variant of uppermost. It refers to the position of something, as in the upmost layer. Though a process of FOLK ETYMOLOGY it is sometimes incorrectly used instead of utmost: e.g. with the upmost care, instead of with the utmost care; to do your upmost, instead of to do your utmost.
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Monday, November 22, 2010

Unlike - English editing.

The use of unlike as a conjunction, as in she was unlike she’d ever behaved before, is not considered Standard English. It can be avoided by using as or in a way that with a negative instead: she was behaving as she’d never behaved before; we do it in a way that isn’t pushy or overtly political.
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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Transpire - English editing

The standard general sense of transpire is ‘to come to be known’ as in it transpired that Mark had been baptized a Catholic. From this a looser sense had developed, meaning ‘to happen or occur’: I’m going to find out exactly what transpired. This looser sense, first recorded in US English towards the end of the 18th century and listed in US dictionaries from the 19th century, is often criticized for being jargon, an unnecessarily long word used where occur and happen would do just as well. The newer sense is very common, however, and generally accepted in most contexts, except by purists.
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Text - English editing.

At the moment there seems to be no agreement on which the ‘correct’ form for the verb text in the past tense: text or texted. Text, as in I text but you didn’t reply is often heard, but texted is also used, and is found in writing. If no text is a regular verb, like love, then texted is the correct past tense and participle. However, people may be treating it as an irregular verb, like put, with the same past form as the present, perhaps influenced by the fact that text sounds like a past participle, as though it were ‘texted’. It will be interesting to see which form wins out in long run.
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Than - English editing

Traditional grammar holds that personal pronouns following than should be in the subjective rather than the objective case: he is smaller than she rather than he is smaller than her. This is based on analyzing than as a conjunction with the personal pronoun (‘she’) standing in for a full clause: he is smaller than she is. However, it is arguable that than in this context is not a conjunction but a preposition, grammatically similar to words like with, between, and for. If it is a preposition, the personal pronoun is objective: he is smaller than her is standard in just the same way as, for example, I work with her is standard (not I work with she) . Whatever the grammatical analysis, the evidence confirms that sentences like he is smaller than she are uncommon in modern English and only ever found in formal contexts , on the other hand, are almost universally accepted.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Overly - English editing.

The use of overly in place of the prefix over-, e.g. overly confident, although not uncommon and well established in British usage, is still likely to be regarded as an Americanism by more conservative speakers and could well strike a jarring note.
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Monday, November 15, 2010

Oversimplistic - English editing.

Many language purists would argue that oversimplistic is an unnecessary word, and that it says the same thing twice, since simplistic already means ‘over-simple’. It is therefore best to avoid it in a formal context.
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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Outside - English editing.

There is no difference in meaning between outside and outside of as in the books have been distributed outside Europe and the books have been distributed outside of Europe. The use of outside of is much commoner and better established in North America than in British English.
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Friday, November 12, 2010

Ought - English editing.

The verb ought is a modal verb, which means that it does not behave grammatically like ordinary verbs. In particular, the negative is formed with the word not alone and not with auxiliary verbs such as do or have. Therefore the standard construction for the negative is he ought not to have gone. The alternative forms he didn’t ought to have gone and he hadn’t ought to have gone, formed as though ought were an ordinary verb rather than a modal verb, are found in dialect from the 19th century but are not acceptable in standard English.
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Oriental - English editing

The term oriental has an out-of-date feel when used to refer to people from the Far East. It tends to be associated with a rather offensive stereotype of the people and their customs as exotic and inscrutable.In US English, Asian is the standard accepted term in modern use;in British English, where Asian tends to denote specifically people from the Indian subcontinent, it is better to use precise term such as Chinese, Japanese, and so forth.
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Noisome - English editing.

Noisome is a relatively uncommon word meaning ‘harmful’, noxious and has nothing to do with the word noise. It comes from a Middle English word nay, related to annoy. Purists will object to its being used to mean ‘noisy’.
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Oftentimes - English editing

Though somewhat rare outside the US, and likely to sound archaic to a British ear, oftentimes is a perfectly acceptable and standard alternative to often, as in: oftentimes the dialogue has an unnatural ring.
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Monday, November 8, 2010

Offspring - English editing.

The meaning of offspring covers both an individual child and several children, though the latter meaning is the more common. As a result, the word does not need the plural form ‘offsprings’ with an -s which is sometimes encountered.
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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Offence, Offense - English editing.

The spelling offence with a letter c is standard in nearly all varieties of English, except in the US, where offense with an s is the norm. To use this second spelling in a non-US context is therefore likely to be considered incorrect.
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Octopus - English editing.

The standard plural of octopus in English is octopuses. The word comes from Greek, but the Greek plural octopods is almost never used genuinely (i.e. outside writing about the plural of octopus). The plural form octopi, formed according to the rules of Latin plurals, are incorrect.
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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Obtuse - English editing.

Obtuse and abstruse are often confused. Someone who is obtuse is rather stupid, as in she’s about as obtuse as they come. Something which is abstruse is rather obscure and difficult to understand. To use obtuse in the meaning of ‘obscure, difficult’, though often done, is not considered good style, and conservatives will consider it a rank mistake.
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mute - English editing.

To describe a person without the power of speech as mute, especially as in deaf mute, is today regarded as outdated, and it is highly likely to cause offence. However, there is no direct, acceptable alternative, but profoundly deaf is used to imply that someone has not developed any spoken language skills.
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Muslim - English editing.

Muslim is the preferred spelling for ‘a follower of Islam’ and ‘relating to Islam’, although the form Moslem is also used. The terms Muhammadan and Mohammedan are archaic and are likely to sound deliberately offensive.
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Moot - English editing.

It is quite common to come across a debatable point being described as ‘a mute point’. This is a logical but mistaken adaptation of the old-established phrase a moot point and is generally not considered good style.
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Mongoloid - English editing.

The terms Mongoloid, Negroid, Caucasoid, and Australoid were introduced by 19th-century anthropologists attempting to classify human racial types, but today they are recognized as having very limited validity as scientific categories. Although occasionally used when making broad generalizations about the world’s populations, in most modern contexts they are potentially offensive, especially when used of individuals. The names of specific peoples, nationalities, or regions of the world should be used instead wherever possible.
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Friday, October 22, 2010

Mongol, Mongolism - English editing.

The terms mongol was adopted in the 19th century to refer to a person with Down’s syndrome (and mongolism for the condition itself), owing to the supposed similarity of some of the physical symptoms of the disorder with the normal facial characteristics of East Asian people. In modern English these terms are offensive and have been replaced in scientific as well as in most general contexts by Down’s syndrome (first recorded in the early 1960s), and related expressions such as a person with Down’s syndrome, a Down’s baby, etc.
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mitigate - English editing.

The verb mitigate and militate do not mean the same thing, although their similarity leads to them being often confused. Mitigate means ‘to make less severe’, as in drainage schemes have helped to mitigate this problem, while militate is nearly always used in constructions with against to mean ‘be a powerful factor in preventing’, as in these disagreements will militate against the two communities coming together.
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Suggest - English editing.

Suggest is a verb. Spell suggest and the related words suggestion and suggestive with a double g. The related word of suggest is suggestible. The suggestible is an adjective.
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Mischievous - English editing.

Mischievous is a three-syllable word, pronounced /miss-chi-vuhss/. It should not be pronounced /miss-chee-vi-uhss/ with four syllables, as though it were spelled ‘mischievious’ (with an extra i), which is also wrong.
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Minuscule - English editing.

The correct spelling of minuscule with a u in the second syllable, rather than with an i.‘Miniscule’ is a common error, which has arisen by analogy with other words beginning with mini-, where the meaning is similarly ‘very small’.
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Millennium - English editing.

The correct spelling is millennium with -ll- and -nn-. It may help you if you remember that the first part of the word means ‘a thousand’ in Latin, as in millipede, and is ultimately the basis for the word million. The second part is closely related to the word annual.
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Monday, October 11, 2010

Meter, Metre - English editing.

Meter is the normal spelling in both British and American English for the measuring or recording instrument, such as a gas meter. It is also the American English spelling for the unit of length and for ‘rhythm in poetry’, which in British English are both spelled metre.
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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Media - English editing.

The word media comes from the Latin plural of medium. The traditional view is that it should therefore be treated as a plural noun in all its sense in English and be used with a plural rather than a singular verb: the media have not followed the reports (rather than ‘has’). In practice, in the meaning of ‘television, radio, and the press collectively’, it behaves as a collective noun (like staff or clergy, for example), which means that it is now acceptable in Standard English for it to take either a singular or a plural verb, and few people are likely to object to its use with the former.
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Friday, October 8, 2010

Story - English editing.

Story is a noun. Do not confuse story with storey. Story means ‘an account told to people to entertain them’ (an adventure story), whereas storey means ‘a floor of a building’ (a three-storey house). In American English, the spelling story is used for both senses.
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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Manic depression - English editing.

Though terms that many people are familiar with, manic depression and manic depressive are sometimes felt to be negative by people experiencing the condition and those working with them. A less loaded term which is being increasingly used in medical and psychiatric circles is bipolar disorder, or bipolar affective disorder. People with the condition can be referred to simply as bipolar, or as having bipolar disorder.
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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Majority - English editing.

Strictly speaking, majority should be used with countable nouns to mean ‘the greater number’, as in the majority of cases. Using it with uncountable nouns to mean ‘the greatest part’, as in I spent the majority of the day reading, is not considered good written English by purists, although it is common in informal contexts. It is still a clich├ę, and the majority is best replaced by most.
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Monday, October 4, 2010

Machismo, Macho - English editing.

The -ch- in machismo can be pronounced either as a k or as in church, and both are acceptable, though the second is closer to the original Spanish. In macho, the -ch- is always pronounced as in church.
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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Its - English editing.

A common error in writing is to confuse the possessive its (as in turn the camera on its side) with the contraction it’s (short for either it is or it has, as in it’s my fault; it’s been a hot day). The confusion is understandable since the possessive forms of singular nouns do take an apostrophe + -s, as in the girl’s bike; the President’s smile.
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Friday, October 1, 2010

(-Ise) - English editing.

There are some verbs which must be spelled -ise and are not variants of the -ize ending. Most reflect a French influence, and they include advertise, televise, compromise, enterprise, and improvise.
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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Irregardless - English editing.

Irregardless means the same as regardless, but the negative prefix ir- merely duplicates the suffix -less, and is completely unnecessary. The word dates back to the 19th century, and may be a confusion of regardless with irrespective. It is regarded as incorrect in Standard English, and most people would regard it as a non-word.
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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Squirrel - English editing.

Squirrel is a noun and also a verb. Rule: Double the l when adding endings which begin with a vowel to words which end in a vowel plus l (as in travel): squirrels, squirreling, squirreled.
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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Interface - English editing.

The word interface has existed as a noun since the 1880s. The metaphorical meaning, ‘a place or means of interactions between two systems, organizations, etc.’, to which many people object, was first used before the literal, computing meaning. It has become widespread in this extended use as both a noun and a verb in all sorts of spheres. Some people object to it on the grounds that there are plenty of the other words that could be used instead. Although it is now well established as a part of Standard English, if you wish to avoid it in certain contexts you could use interaction, liaison, dialogue, contact, etc. and their related verbs.
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Integral - English editing.

There are two possible pronunciations for integral as an adjective: /in-ti-gruhi/ and /in-teg-ruhi/. /In-teg-ruhi/ is sometimes frowned on, but both are acceptable as standard.
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Insure - English editing.

Insure and ensure are related in meaning and use. In both British and US English the main meaning of insure is the commercial sense of providing financial compensation in the event of damage to property; ensure is not used at all with this meaning. For the more general meaning of ‘to make sure’, ensure that is at least 50 times more common in the Oxford English Corpus than insure that, as in the system is run to ensure that a good quality of service is maintained. In similar examples to the last one, insure that is sometimes used but is likely to be regarded as a mistake.
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Monday, September 20, 2010

Inflammable - English editing.

The words inflammable and flammable both have the same meaning, ‘easily set on fire’. This might seem surprising, since the prefix in- normally has the function of negation, as in words like indirect and insufficient. In fact, inflammable is formed using a different Latin prefix in-, which has meaning ‘into’ and here has the effect of intensifying the meaning of the word in English. Flammable is frequently used where the writer is concerned that inflammable could be misunderstood as meaning ‘not easily set on fire’, for example on warning signs. The opposite of both inflammable and flammable is either non-inflammable or non-flammable.
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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Indian - English editing.

The native peoples of American came to be described as Indian as a result of Christopher Columbus and other voyagers in the 15th and 16th centuries believing that, when they reached the east coast of America, they had reached part of India by a new route. The terms Indian and Red Indian are today regarded as old-fashioned and inappropriate, recalling, as they do, the stereotypical portraits of the Wild West. American Indian, however, is well established.
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Friday, September 17, 2010

Judgement - English editing.

In British English the traditional spelling in general contexts is judgement, though judgment without the -e is also often found. However, the spelling judgment is the standard spelling in legal contexts, and in all contexts in North American English.
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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Impracticable, impractical - English editing.

Although their meanings are similar, impracticable and impractical should not be used in exactly the same way. Impracticable means ‘impossible to carry out’ and is normally used of a specific procedure or course of action, as in poor visibility made the task difficult, even impracticable. Impractical, on the other hand, tends to be used in more general senses, often to mean simply ‘unrealistic’ or ‘not sensible’: in windy weather an umbrella is impractical.
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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Important,Importantly - English editing.

Both more/most important and more/most importantly are used as written asides, e.g. a noun-drinking, non-smoking, and more importantly, non-political sportsman. It is sometimes maintained that the only correct form in this use is important, on the grounds that it stands for ‘what is more/most important’. However, importantly used in this way is perfectly well established and acceptable in modern English.
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Impact - English editing.

The verb impact on, as in when produce is lost, it always impacts on the bottom line, has been in the language since the 1960s. Many people disapprove of it, despite its relative frequency, saying that make an impact on or other equivalent wordings should be used instead. They may object partly because new forms of verbs from nouns (as in the case of impact) are often regarded as somehow inferior. Also, since the use of impact is associated with business and commercial writing, it has the unenviable status of jargon, which makes it doubly disliked.
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Monday, September 13, 2010

Illegal, Illicit - English editing.

Something that is illegal is against the law, as in illegal drugs, illegal immigrants. Illicit traditionally covers things that are forbidden or disapproved of but not against the law, as in an illicit love affair, but it is commonly used to mean the same as illegal.
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Friday, September 10, 2010

Ilk - English editing.

Nowadays, ilk is used in phrases such as of ilk, of that ilk, to mean ‘type’ or ‘sort’. This use arose out of a misunderstanding of the earlier, Scottish use in the phrase of that ilk, where it means ‘of the same name or place’. For this reason, some traditionalists regard the modern use as incorrect. It is, however, the only common current use and is now part of standard English.
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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ignoramus - English editing.

The correct plural of ignoramus is ignoramuses. This may sound odd, considering the word is from Latin, leading one to think the plural ought to be ‘ignorami’. However, it was never a noun in Latin, only a verb, meaning literally ‘we do not know’, and the English word derives from the name of a character in George Ruggle’s play ignoramus (1615), a satirical comedy exposing lawyers’ ignorance.
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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

IF – English editing.

If and whether are more or less interchangeable in sentences like I’ll see if he left an address and I’ll see whether he left an address, although whether is generally regarded as more formal and suitable for written use.
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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Humanitarian - English editing.

Humanitarian means ‘concerned with or seeking to promote human welfare’, so it is rather loosely used in sentences such as this is the worst humanitarian disaster this country has seen, where it just means ‘human’. This use is quite common, especially in journalism, but is not generally considered good style.
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Monday, September 6, 2010

Hottentot - English editing.

Hottentot is first recorded in the late 17th century and was a name applied by white Europeans to the khoikhoi group of peoples of South Africa and Namibia. It is now regarded as offensive with reference to people and should always be avoided in favour of khoikhoi or the names of the particular peoples, such as the Nama. The only acceptable modern use for Hottentot is in the names of animals and plants, such as the Hottentot cherry.
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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hotel - English editing.

The normal pronunciation of hotel sounds the h-, which means that you should write and say a hotel. However, the older pronunciation without the h- is still sometimes heard.
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Friday, September 3, 2010

Homogeneous - English editing.

This word meaning ‘uniform, alike’ is correctly spelled homogeneous with an e before the ou, and pronounced /hom-uh-jee-ni-us/, but it is frequently spelled homogenous and pronounced /huh-moj-i-nuhss/. This rarely matters, but it is good to be aware that homogenous is a different word, an albeit dated term used in biology.
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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hoard - English editing.

The words hoard and horde are similar in meaning and are pronounced the same, and so they are sometimes confused. A hoard is ‘a secret stock or store of something’, as in a hoard of treasure, while a horde is sometimes a disparaging word for ‘a large group of people’, as in hordes of fans descended on the stage. Instances of hoard being used instead of horde are not uncommon.
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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Historic, Historical - English editing.

Historic and historical are used in slightly different ways. Historic means ‘famous or important in history’, as in a(n) historic occasion, whereas historical means ‘concerning history or historical events’, as in historical evidence: thus a historic event is one that was very important, whereas a historical event is something that happened in the past.
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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hispanic - English editing.

In the US Hispanic is the standard accepted term when referring to Spanish-speaking people living in the US. Other, more specific, terms such as Latino and Chicano are also used where occasion demands.
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Monday, August 30, 2010

Hindustani - English editing.

Hindustani was the usual term in the 18th and 19th centuries for the native language of NW India. The usual modern term is Hindi (or Urdu in Muslim contexts), although Hindustani is still used to refer to the dialect of Hindi spoken around Delhi.
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Saturday, August 28, 2010

He - English editing.

1.For a discussion of I am older than he versus I am older than him.
2.Until recently, he was used uncontroversially to refer to a person of unspecified sex, as in every child needs to know that he is loved. This use has become problematic and is a hallmark of old-fashioned or sexist language. Use of they as an alternative to he in this sense (everyone needs to feel that they matter) has been in use since the 18th century, in contexts where it occurs after an indefinite pronoun such as everyone or someone. It is becoming more and more accepted both in speech and in writing. Another alternative is he or she, though this can become tiresomely long-winded when used frequently.
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Friday, August 27, 2010

Hardly - English editing.

Words such as hardly, scarcely, and rarely should not be used with negative constructions. Thus, it is correct to say I can hardly wait but incorrect to say I can’t hardly wait. This is because adverbs such as hardly are treated as if they were negatives, and it is a grammatical rule of Standard English that double negatives (i.e. in this case having hardly and not in the same clause) are not acceptable. Words such as hardly behave as negatives in other respects as well, as for example in combining with words such as any or at all, which are normally only used where a negative is present: standard usage is I’ve got hardly any money.
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hang - English editing.

In modern English hang has two past tense and past participle forms: hanged and hung. Hung is the normal form in most general uses, e.g. they hung out the washing; she hung around for a few minutes; he had hung the picture over the fireplace, but hanged is the form normally used in reference to execution by hanging: the prisoner was hanged. The reason for this distinction is a complex historical one: hanged, the earlier form, was superseded by hung sometime after the 16th century; it is likely that the retention of hanged for the execution sense has to do with the tendency of archaic forms to live on in the legal language of the courts.
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Harass - English editing.

There are two possible pronunciations of the word harass: one stressed /ha-ruhss/ and the other /huh-rass/. /Ha-ruhss/ is the older one and is regarded by some people as the only correct one, especially in British English. However, the pronunciation /huh-rass/ is very common and is now accepted as a standard alternative.
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Handicapped - English editing.

The word handicapped is first recorded in the early 20th century in the sense of referring to a person’s mental or physical disabilities. In British English it was the standard term until relatively recently but like many terms in this sensitive field its prominence has been short-lived. It has been superseded by more recent terms such as disabled, or, in reference to mental disability, having learning difficulties or learning-disabled. In American English, however, handicapped remains acceptable.
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Monday, August 23, 2010

Halfz - English editing.

People are sometimes not sure whether to use a singular or plural verb in phrases with half. When half is followed by a singular noun (with or without of between), the verb is also singular, and when the noun is plural the verb is plural: half of the country is employed in agriculture; half the people like the idea; half that amount is enough. Occasionally, when half (of) is used with a collective noun, the plural can correctly be used: nearly half (of) the population lose at least half their teeth before they reach the age of 40.
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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Grow - English editing.

Although grow is typically used intransitively, as in he would watch Nick grow to manhood, its use as a transitive verb has long been standard in contexts which refer to growing plants and one’s hair (more land was needed to grow crops; she grew her hair long). Recently, however, grow in its transitive meaning has become popular in business jargon: entrepreneurs who are struggling to grow their businesses. This is still a relatively new usage, and it is perhaps better to avoid it in formal contexts.
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Grisly, Grizzly - English editing.

The words grisly and grizzly are quite different in meaning, though often confused. Grisly means ‘gruesome’, as in grisly crimes, whereas grizzly chiefly describes a kind of large American bear, but can also mean ‘grey or grey-haired’.
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Graduate - English editing.

The original use of this verb is be graduated from (a transitive verb, used passively: she will be graduated from medical school in June. However, it is now much more common to say graduate from: she will graduate from medical school in June. A different transitive sense, as in he graduated from high school last week, is becoming increasingly common, especially in speech, but would be considered incorrect by most traditionalists.
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Gourmand - English editing.

The words gourmand and gourmet are similar but not identical in meaning. Both can be used to mean ‘a connoisseur of the good food’ but gourmand is more usually used to mean ‘a person who enjoys eating and often eats too much’. In other words, there is a hierarchy of finesse: I am a gourmet, you are a gourmand, he is a glutton.
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Monday, August 16, 2010

Gotten - English editing.

Gotten and got, the past participle of get, both date back to Middle English. The form gotten is not generally used in British English but is very common in North American English, though even there it is often regarded as non-standard. In North American English, got and gotten are not identical in use. Gotten usually implies the process of obtaining something, as in he had gotten us tickets for the show, while got implies the state of possession or ownership, as in I haven’t got any money. Gotten is also used in the meaning of ‘become’, as in she’s gotten very fat this last year.
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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Get - English editing.

The verb get is one of the most common verbs in the English language. Nevertheless, despite its high frequency, there is still a feeling that almost any use containing get is somewhat informal. This may stem from the fact that many people were told at school not to write get at all, even though that was really only justifiable in relation to informal uses such as I got a bike for my birthday, and not standard expressions such as he fought to get his breath back.
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Friday, August 13, 2010

Salary - English editing.

Salary is noun. Salary ends with -ary.
Rule: change the -y to -ies to make the plurals of words which end in a consonant plus -y (as in berry/berries): salaries.
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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Gender - English editing.

The word gender has been used since the 14th century primarily as a grammatical term, referring to the classes of noun designated as masculine, feminine, or neuter in Latin, Greek, German, and other languages. It has also been used for just as long to refer to ‘the state of being male or female’, but this did not become a common standard use until the mid 20th century. Although the words gender and sex both mean ‘the state of being male or female’, they are typically used in slightly different ways: sex tends to refer to biological differences, while gender tends to refer to cultural or social ones.
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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Further, furthest - English editing.

In some contexts further and farther are completely interchangeable: she moved further/farther down the train. The two words share the same roots and are equally correct when the meaning is ‘at, to, or by a greater distance’. Further is a much commoner word, though, and is used in various abstract and metaphorical context, for example referring to time, where it would be unusual to use farther, e.g. without further delay; have you anything further to say?; we intend to stay a further two weeks. The same distinction is made between farthest and furthest: the farthest point from the sun, but: this first team has gone furthest in its analysis.
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fun - English editing.

The use of fun as an adjective meaning ‘enjoyable’, as in we had a fun evening, is not fully accepted in standard English and should only be used in informal contexts. There are signs that this situation is changing, though, given the recent appearance in US English of the comparative and superlative forms funner and funnest, formed as if fun were a normal adjective.
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Monday, August 9, 2010

Fulsome - English editing.

The modern, generally accepted meaning of fulsome is ‘excessively complimentary or flattering’ as in a long and fulsome forty-seven page dedication to Princess Caroline, but it is also often used to mean simply ‘abundant’, especially in uses such as the critics have been fulsome in their praise. Although this is in line with its earliest use, first recorded in the 13th century, some people consider it to be incorrect.
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Saturday, August 7, 2010

(-Ful) - English editing.

The combining form -ful is used to form nouns meaning ‘the amount needed to fill’ (cupful, spoonful, etc.). The plural of such words is cupfuls, spoonfuls, etc., with the words joined together. Three cups full would mean the individual cups rather than a quantity measured in cups: on the sill were three cups full of milk, but add three cupfuls of milk to the batter.
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Friday, August 6, 2010

Free rein - English editing.

The image behind the phrase give free rein (to somebody) is from horse-riding, and the rein referred to is the strip of leather used to control a horse’s (or child’s) movements. Nowadays the spelling free reign, with an image taken from kingship, is almost as frequent, particularly in the US.
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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Founder, Flounder - English editing.

It is easy to confuse the words founder and flounder, not only because they sound similar but also because the contexts in which they are used tend to be similar. Founder means ‘to fail’, as in the scheme foundered because of lack of organizational backing. Flounder, on the other hand, means ‘to be in difficulties’, as in new recruits floundering about in their first week.
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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fortuitous - English editing.

The traditional, historical meaning of fortuitous is ‘happening by chance’: a fortuitous meeting is a chance meeting, which might turn out to be either a good thing or a bad thing. Today, however, fortuitous tends to be often used to refer only to fortunate outcomes, and the word has become more or less a synonym for ‘lucky’ or ‘fortunate’: the ball went into the goal by a fortuitous ricochet. Although this usage is now widespread, it is still regarded by some people as being rather informal and not correct.
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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Formidable - English editing.

There are two possible pronunciations of formidable: /for-mi-duh-b’l/ with the stress on the first syllable and /for-mid-uh-b’l/ with the stress on the second. /for-mid-uh-b’l/ is now common in British English, and the traditional pronunciation /for-mi-duh-b’l/ is rarely heard nowadays. Both pronunciations are acceptable in modern standard English.
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Monday, August 2, 2010

Former - English editing.

Traditionally, former and latter are used in relation to pairs of items: either the first of two items (former) or the second of two items (latter). The reason for this is that former and latter were formed as comparatives, adjectives which are correctly used with reference to just two things. In practice, former and latter are now sometimes used just as synonyms for first and last and are routinely used to refer to a contrast involving more than two items. Such uses, however, are not good English style.
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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Floccinaucinihilipilification - English editing.

Floccinaucinihilipilification, supposedly meaning ‘the action or habit of estimating something as worthless’, is one of a number of very long words that occur very rarely in genuine use.
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Friday, July 30, 2010

Fleshy, Fleshly - English editing.

Fleshy relates to flesh in its physical sense and means primarily ‘plump, fat’ (e.g. fleshy hands, fleshy fruit) whereas fleshly relates to the more metaphorical sense of flesh, and means ‘carnal, sensual, sexual’, as in fleshly desires, fleshly thoughts. To use fleshly to mean ‘plump’ or ‘fat’ will generally be considered incorrect.
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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Flaunt - English editing.

Flaunt and flout may sound similar but they have different meanings. Flaunt means ‘to display ostentatiously’, as in visitors who liked to flaunt their wealth, while flout means ‘to openly disregard’, as in new recruits growing their hair and flouting convention. It is a common error, recorded since around the 1940s, to use flaunt when flout is intended, as in the young woman had been flaunting the rules and regulations.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Flaccid - English editing.

The pronunciations /flak-sid/ and /flass-id/ are both standard. /Flak-sid/ is the older and more traditional one and enjoys support on the grounds that is follows the rule for other words containing -cci- or -cce- (succinct, access, etc.) except those derived from Italian (cappuccino etc.).
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fit - English editing.

For fit as a verb, the past tense and past participle in British English are fitted in all meanings: the dress fitted well; the dress fitted her well; we’ve fitted a new lock to the front door. In some parts of the US, fit can be used in the first two of these three meanings and is perfectly acceptable in US English: his head fit snugly into his collar; I tried on several jackets, but none fit me.
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Fish - English editing.

The normal plural of fish is fish: a shoal of fish; he caught two huge fish. The older form fishes are still used to refer to different kinds of fish: freshwater fishes of the British Isles.
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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Fetus - English editing.

The spelling foetus has no etymological basis but is recorded from the 16th century and until recently was the standard British spelling in both technical and non-technical use. In technical usage fetus is now the standard spelling throughout the English-speaking world, but foetus is still quite commonly found in British English outside technical contexts.
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Friday, July 23, 2010

(-Fest) - English editing.

-Fest is a now well-established suffix derived from the German word Fest meaning ‘festival, celebration’. It occurred first in American English in the late 19th century in the word gabfest meaning ‘a gathering for talking’ and spread rapidly to produce other words. It is now very freely used and produces terms such as slugfest, lovefest, and ladyfest.
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Thursday, July 22, 2010

February - English editing.

To pronounce February ‘the way it is written’ is not easy. It requires the separate pronunciation of both the r following the Feb- and the r in -ary, with an unstressed vowel in between: /feb-ruu-uh-ri/. By a process called dissimilation, in which one sound identical or very similar to an adjacent sound is replaced by a different sound, the r following Feb- has been replaced by a y sound:/feb-yuu-ri/. This is now the norm, especially in spontaneous speech, and is fast becoming the accepted standard.
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Faze - English editing.

Faze means ‘to disconcert or disturb’ and is used informally in mainly negative contexts: the prospect of going on stage for forty minutes does not seem to have fazed her. In origin it is a 19th century American English variant of the ancient verb feeze ‘to drive off, to frighten away’ and has nothing to do with the ordinary verb phase. The spelling phase is now quite common, but it should be avoided in writing.
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Extraordinary - English editing.

In British English, extraordinary is traditionally pronounced /ik-stror-din-ri/ as four syllables, the –a- being merged into the following -or- to form one syllable. The pronounciation as/eks-truh-or-din-ri/ is being increasingly heard, based on US pronunciation.
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Monday, July 19, 2010

Everyplace - English editing.

Everyplace is a modern American English synonym of everywhere: they seem to be everyplace we go. It is thought to be more ‘logical’ than everywhere, mirroring expressions such as everybody and every time – we don’t say everywho or everywhen!
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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Everyone - English editing.

The pronoun everyone, meaning ‘every person’, is correctly spelled as one word: everyone had a great time at the party. The two-word expression every one means ‘each individual of a group’, as in every one of the employees got a bouns at the end of the year.
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Friday, July 16, 2010

Everyday - English editing.

The adjective everyday, ‘relating to every day; ordinary’, is correctly spelled as one word (carrying out their everyday activities), but the adverbial phrase every day, meaning ‘each day’, is always spelled as two words: it rained every day.
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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Eurasian - English editing.

In the 19th century the world Eurasian was normally used to refer to a person of mixed British and Indian parentage. In its modern uses, however, the term is more often used to refer to a person of mixed white-American and South-East-Asian parentage.
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

(-Ette) - English editing.

The use of -ette as a feminine suffix for forming new words is relatively recent: it was first recorded in the word suffragette at the beginning of the 20th century and has since been used to form only a handful of well-established words, including usherette and drum majorette, for example. Nowadays, when the tendency is to use words which are neutral in gender, the suffix -ette is not very common and new words formed using it tend to be restricted to the deliberately flippant or humorous, as, for example, bimbette, punkette, and ladette.
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Monday, July 12, 2010

Ethnic - English editing.

In recent years, ethnic has begun to be used in a euphemistic way to refer to non-white people as a whole, as in a radio station which broadcasts to the ethnic community in Birmingham. Although this usage is quite common, especially in journalism, it is considered by many to be inaccurate and mealy-mouthed and is better replaced by terms such as ‘black’, ‘Asian’, etc.
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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Et cetera (also etcetera) - English editing.

A common mispronunciation of et cetera involves replacing the t in et with a k: /ik-set-ruh/ instead of /it-set-ruh/. This follows a process known as ‘assimilation’ by which sounds become easier for the speaker to articulate, but careful speakers will tend to avoid it.
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Friday, July 9, 2010

Enthuse - English editing.

The verb enthuse was formed by shortening the noun enthusiasm. Like many verbs formed from nouns in this way, especially those from the US, traditionalists regard it as unacceptable. It is difficult to see why: forming verbs from nouns is a perfectly respectable means for creating new words in English: verbs like classify, commentate, and edit were also formed in this way, for example. Enthuse itself has now been in English for over 150 years.
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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Eskimo - English editing.

In recent years, the word Eskimo has come to be regarded as offensive (partly through the associations of the now discredited folk etymology ‘one who eats raw flesh’). The peoples inhabiting the regions from the central Canadian Arctic to western Greenland prefer to call themselves Inuit. The term Eskimo, however, continues to be the only term which can be properly understood as applying to the people as a whole and is still widely used in anthropological and archaeological contexts.
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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Equidistant - English editing.

To refer to something being the same distance from two other points or places, equidistant is traditionally used with from, as though it were ‘equally distant from’: equidistant from Aberdeen and Inverness. The use of between instead, though quite widespread, would be considered incorrect by many people.
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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Equally - English editing.

The construction equally as, as in follow-up discussion is equally as important, rather than . . . is equally important, is relatively common but is condemned on the grounds that it says the same thing twice. Either word can be used alone and be perfectly correct, e.g. follow-up discussion is equally important or follow-up discussion is as important.
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Monday, July 5, 2010

Equal - English editing.

It is widely held that adjectives such as equal and unique should not be modified and that it is incorrect to say more equal or very unique, on the grounds that these are adjectives which refer to a logical or mathematical absolute.
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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Envelop, Envelope - English editing.

Envelop, pronounced /in-vel-uhp/, is a verb, meaning ‘to wrap up, surround, etc’., while envelope, pronounced /en-vuh-lohp/ (or, increasingly rarely, /on-vuh-lohp/), is a noun, meaning ‘a container for a letter, etc.’.
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Friday, July 2, 2010

Enquire - English editing.

Usage guides have traditionally drawn a distinction between enquire and inquire, suggesting that, in British English at least, enquire is used for general meanings of ‘to ask’, while inquire is reserved for uses meaning ‘to make a formal investigation’. In practice, however, there is little difference in the way the two words are used, although enquire and enquiry are more common in British English while inquire and inquiry are more common in US English.
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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Enormity - English editing.

Enormity traditionally means the ‘extreme scale or seriousness of something bad or wrong’, as in his time in prison has still not been long enough to allow him to come to grips with the enormity of his crime, but it is not uncommon for it to be used as a synonym for hugeness or immensity, as in the enormity of French hypermarkets. Many people regard this use as wrong, arguing that as the word originally meant ‘crime, wickedness’ it should only be used in a negative sense, but the newer use is, now broadly accepted in standard English.
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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

End of the day - English editing.

At the end of the day is one of the less attractive clich├ęs of the 20th century. It is first recorded in 1974 and means no more than ‘eventually’ or ‘when all’s said and done’. It is now wildly overused in speech as a ‘filler’ and tends to creep into almost any conversation. It is not good style to use it in writing.
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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Empathy - English editing

Confusion often arises between the words empathy and sympathy, with empathy often being used where sympathy is more appropriate. Empathy means ‘the ability to understand and share the feeling of another’, as in both authors have the skill to make you feel empathy with their heroines. Sympathy means ‘feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune’, as in they had great sympathy for the flood victims.
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Monday, June 28, 2010

Emotive - English editing.

The words emotive and emotional are similar but are not simply interchangeable. Emotive is used to mean ‘arousing intense feeling’, while emotional tends to mean ‘characterized by intense feeling’. Thus an emotive issue is one which is likely to arouse people’s passions, while an emotional response is one which is itself full of passion.
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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Elicit - English editing.

Elicit is sometimes confused with illicit because both words are pronounced the same way (/i-liss-it/). Elicit is a verb meaning ‘to extract (an answer, admission, etc.)’ whereas illicit is an adjective meaning ‘unlawful, forbidden’, as in illicit drinking.
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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Either - English editing.

1.In good English writing style, it is important that either and or are correctly placed so that the structures following each word balance and mirror each other. Thus, sentences such as either I accompany you or I wait here and I’m going to buy either a new camera or a new video are correct, whereas sentences such as either I accompany you or John and I’m either going to buy a new camera or a video are not well-balanced sentences and should not be used in written English.
2.Either can be pronounced /I-thuh/or/ee-thuh/: both are correct.
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Egregious - English editing.

Egregious is an unusual word because its original meaning of ‘remarkably good, distinguished’ has been ousted by the exact opposite, ‘outstandingly bad, shocking’. The word comes from Latin grex meaning ‘flock’, and originally meant ‘towering above the flock’, i.e. ‘prominent’. Now it means ‘prominent because bad’: egregious abuses of copyright.
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Economic, Economical - English editing.

People sometimes describe something as economic when they mean economical. Economic means ‘concerning economics’; he’s rebuilding a solid economic base for the country’s future. Economical means ‘thrifty, avoiding waste’: small cars should be inexpensive to buy and economical to run.
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Monday, June 21, 2010

Due - English editing.

Due to in the sense ‘because of’, as in he had to retire due to an injury, has been condemned as incorrect on the grounds that due is an adjective, and should therefore refer to a noun or pronoun, e.g. an illness due to old age. According to this view, it should not refer to a verb, such as retire in the first example above; owing to is often recommended as a better alternative. However, the use with a verb, first recorded at the end of the 19th century, is now common in all types of literature and is regarded as part of standard English.
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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dwarf - English editing.

In the sense ‘an abnormally small person’,dwarf is normally considered offensive. However, there are no accepted alternatives in the general language, since terms such as person of restricted growth have gained little currency.
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Friday, June 18, 2010

Dumb - English editing.

Although ‘not able to speak’ is the older sense of dumb, it has been so overwhelmed by the newer sense of ‘stupid’ that the use of the first sense is now almost certain to cause offence. Alternatives such as ‘having a speech disorder’ are more appropriate.
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dream - English editing.

For the past tense and past participle of dream, dreamt and dreamed are both used and are both correct. Dreamed is pronounced/dreemd/ (and occasionally/dremt/) and dreamt is pronounced/dremt/. For the past tense in British English dreamt and dreamed are equally common, but in US English dreamed is more often used. For the past participle, dreamed is used more often in Britain and the US.
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Downward, Downwards - English editing.

The only correct form for the adjective is downward (a downward spiral, a downward trend), but downward and downwards are both used for the adverb, e.g. the floor sloped downward/downwards, with a marked preference for downwards in British English and downward in American English.
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Monday, June 14, 2010

Down's syndrome - English editing.

Of relatively recent coinage, Down’s syndrome (or, increasingly frequently, Down syndrome) is the accepted term in modern use, and former terms, such as mongol and mongolism, should be avoided as they are highly likely to cause offence. A person with the syndrome is best called exactly that, a person with Down’s syndrome.
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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dive, Dove - English editing.

In British English the standard past tense is dived, as in he ran past us and dived into the water. In the 19th century dove (rhyming with stove) occurred in British and American dialect and it remains in regular use. It is more frequent than dived in the US and Canada. In Britain it should still be avoided in careful writing.
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Friday, June 11, 2010

Distribute - English editing.

The word distribute is pronounced either as /dis-trib-yoot/, with the stress on the second syllable, or as /dis-tri-byoot/, with the stress on the first. Until recently, /dis-tri-byoot/ was considered incorrect in standard British English, but now both pronunciations are standard.
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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Disinterested - English editing.

Nowhere are the battle lines more deeply drawn in usage questions than over the difference between disinterested and uninterested. According to traditional guidelines, disinterested should never be used to mean ‘not interested’ but only to mean ‘impartial’, as in the judgements of disinterested outsiders are likely to be more useful. Following this view, only uninterested means ‘not interested’, but the ‘incorrect’ use of disinterested is widespread. Nevertheless, in careful writing it is advisable to avoid using it to mean ‘not interested’ as many people will judge that use to be incorrect.
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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Discreet, Discrete - English editing.

The word discrete and discreet are pronounced in the same way and share the same origin but they do not mean the same thing. Discrete means ‘separate’, as in a finite number of discrete categories, while discreet means ‘careful and circumspect’, as in you can rely on him to be discreet.
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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Disc, Disk - English editing.

Generally speaking, the preferred British spelling is disc and the preferred US spelling is disk, although there is much overlap and variation between the two. In particular, the spelling for senses relating to computers is nearly always disk, as in floppy disk, disk drive, and so on. In compact disc, however, the spelling with a c is more usual.
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Monday, June 7, 2010

Disassociate - English editing.

Disassociate is slightly older than its variant dissociate, which is first recorded in 1623. Disassociate is, however, regarded by some people as an ignorant mistake, being formed regularly like disassemble, and it is therefore occasionally best avoided.
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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Diphtheria, Diphthong - English editing.

In the past, diphtheria was pronounced with an f sound representing the two letters ph (as in telephone, physics, and other ‘ph-‘ words derived from Greek). Today the most common pronunciation is with a p sound, and it is no longer considered incorrect in standard English. A very similar shift has taken place with the word diphthong, which is now also widely pronounced /dip-/ rather than /dif-/.
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Friday, June 4, 2010

Dilemma - English editing.

At its core, a dilemma is a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between equally undesirable alternatives. Informally, it can be used of any difficult situation or problem (as in the insoluble dilemma of adolescence), and some people regard this weakened sense as unacceptable. However, the usage is recorded as early as the first part of the 17th century and is now widespread and becoming far more acceptable, although it is best avoided in formal contexts.
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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Diffuse, Defuse - English editing.

The verb diffuse and defuse sound similar but have different meanings. Diffuse means, broadly, ‘to disperse’, while defuse means ‘to reduce the danger or tension in’. Thus sentences such as they successfully diffused the situation are wrong, while they successfully defused the situation is correct. The literal meaning of defuse, that is ‘taking out (de-) the fuse’.
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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Differently abled - English editing.

Differently abled was first proposed in the 1980s as an alternative to disabled, handicapped, etc. On the grounds that it gave a more positive message and so avoided discrimination towards people with disabilities. The term has gained little currency, however, and has been criticized as both overeuphemistic and condescending. The accepted term in general use is still disabled.
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Monday, May 31, 2010

Different - English editing.

Different from, different than, and different to: many people wonder if there is any distinction between these three phrases, and whether one is more correct than the others. In practice, different from is by far the most common structure, both in the UK and North America, while different than is almost exclusively used in North America. Different to is also correct, but is not used as often as either different from or different than. Since the 18th century, different than has been singled out by critics as incorrect, but it is difficult to sustain the view in modern standard English that one version is more correct than the others. There is little difference in sense between the three, and all of them are used by respected writers.
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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dice, Die - English editing.

Historically, dice is the plural of die, but in modern standard English dice is both the singular and the plural: throw the dice could refer to either one or more than one dice.
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Friday, May 28, 2010

Derisory - English proofreading.

Although the words derisory and derisive share similar roots, they have different core meanings. Derisory usually means ‘ridiculously small or inadequate’, as in a derisory pay offer or the security arrangements were derisory. Derisive, on the other hand, is used to mean ‘expressing contempt’. The proper reaction to a derisory salary increase is a derisive laugh.
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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Deprecate, Depreciate - English editing.

The similarity of spelling and meaning of deprecate and depreciate has led to confusions in the use, with deprecate being used simply as a synonym for depreciate in the sense ‘disparage or belittle’. This use is now well established and is widely accepted in standard English. In particular, the phrases self-deprecating and self-deprecatory are far more common than the alternatives self-depreciating and self-depreciatory.
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dependant, Dependent - English editing.

Until recently, the only correct spelling of the noun in British English was dependant, as in a single man with no dependants. However, in modern British English (and in US English), dependent is now a standard alternative. The adjective is always spelled -ent, never -ant, as in we are dependent on his goodwill.
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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Depends - English editing.

In formal use, it is quite common for the on to be dropped in sentences such as it all depends how you look at it (rather than it all depends on how you look at it), but in well-formed written English the on should always be retained.
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Monday, May 24, 2010

Definite, Definitive - English editing.

Definitive is often used, rather imprecisely, when definite is actually intended, to mean simply ‘clearly decided’. Although definitive and definite have a clear overlap in meaning, definitive has the additional sense of ‘having an authoritative basis’. Thus, a definitive decision is one which is not only conclusive but also carries the stamp of authority or is a benchmark for the future, while a definite decision is simply one which has been made clearly and is without doubt.
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Friday, May 21, 2010

Deceptively - English editing.

Deceptively belongs to a very small set of words whose meaning is genuinely ambiguous in that it can be used in similar contexts to mean either one thing or its complete opposite. A deceptively smooth surface is one which appears smooth but in fact is not smooth at all, while a deceptively spacious room is one that does not look spacious but is in fact more spacious than it appears. But confusion sets in with phrases such as a deceptively steep gradient – is it steep without appearing to be, or does it look gentle but turn out to be steep? And what is a person who is deceptively strong? To avoid confusion, it is probably best not to use deceptively at all when it can be ambiguous.
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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Decade - English editing.

There are two possible pronunciations for decade: one puts the stress on the first syllable (/dek-ayd/) while the other puts the stress on the second syllable (/di-kayd/, like decayed). The second pronunciation is disapproved of by some traditionalists but is now regarded as a standard, acceptable alternative.
It is good style not to write individual decades with an apostrophe: during the eighties or the 80s, not the ‘eighties or the 80s.
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Deaf mute - English editing.

In modern use deaf mute has acquired offensive connotations (implying, wrongly, that such people are without the capacity for communication). It should be avoided in favour of other terms such as ‘deaf without speech’.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Data - English editing.

In Latin, data is the plural of datum and, historically and in specialized scientific fields, it is also treated as a plural in English, taking a plural verb, as in the data were collected and classified. In modern non-scientific use, however, it is treated as a mass noun, similar to a word like information, which cannot normally have a plural and which takes a singular verb. Sentences such as data was collected over a number of years are now the norm in standard English and are perfectly correct.
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Monday, May 17, 2010

Critique - English editing.

Critique is pronounced with stress on the second syllable, /kri-teek/, and means ‘a detailed critical essay or analysis’ especially of a literary, political, or philosophical theory: Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Although it may not be liked by some, critique is now also regularly used as a verb, especially in the arts world, in a general sense of ‘to review’ or even just ‘to criticize’, as in my writing has been critiqued as being too academic.
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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Criterion - English editing.

The traditional singular form is criterion, and the plural form is criteria. It is a common mistake, however, to use criteria as if it were a singular, as in a further criteria needs to be considered, and this use is best avoided.
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Friday, May 14, 2010

Cripple - English editing.

The word cripple has long been in use and is recorded in the Lindisfarne Gospels as early as AD 950. The term has now acquired offensive connotations and has been largely replaced by broader terms such as ‘person with disabilities’. Similar changes have affected crippled.
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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Crescendo - English editing.

Crescendo in Italian means literally ‘growing’, and was originally a musical term for a gradual increase in loudness, building to a climax. Its use has since developed further to mean the resulting state and is thus widely used as a synonym for peak or climax: demands for a public inquiry rose to a crescendo last week. Some traditionalists are against this extension of its meaning, but it is now well established.
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Credible, Creditable - English editing.

Confusion often arises between the words credible and creditable. Credible chiefly means ‘convincing’ (few people found his story credible), while creditable means ‘praiseworthy’ (their 32nd placing was still a creditable performance, considering they had one of the smallest boats).
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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Covert - English editing.

In British English, covert, meaning ‘secret, disguised’, is traditionally pronounced like cover (/kuv-ert/), although the US pronunciation like over (/koh-vert/) is gaining ground in Britain and elsewhere.
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Monday, May 10, 2010

Councillor, Counsellor - English editing.

Confusion often arises between the words counsellor and councillor. A counsellor is a person who gives advice or counsel, especially on personal problems (a marriage counsellor), whereas a councillor is a member of a city, county, or other council (she stood as a Labour candidates for city councillor).
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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Convince - English editing.

Convince used with an infinite as a synonym for persuade first became common in the 1950s in the US, as in she convinced my father to branch out on his own. Some traditionalists deplore the blurring of the distinction between convince and persuade, maintaining that convince should be reserved for situations in which someone’s belief is changed but no action is taken as a result (he convinced me that he was right) while persuade should be used for situations in which action results (he persuaded me rather than he convinced me to seek more advice). In practice, convince someone to do something is well established, and few people will be vexed by its use.
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Friday, May 7, 2010

Controversy - English editing.

There are two possible pronunciations of the word controversy in British English: /kon-truh-ver-si/ and /Kuhn-trov-uh-si/. The latter, though common, is still widely held to be incorrect in standard English.
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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Contribute - English editing.

In British English there are two possible pronunciations of the word contribute, one which stresses the first syllable (/kuhn-trib-yoot/) and one which stresses the second syllable (/kon-trib-yoot/); /Kuhn-trib-yoot/ is held to be the standard, correct pronunciation, even though /kon-trib-yoot/ is older.
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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Contagious - English editing.

In practice, there is little or no difference in meaning between contagious and infectious when applied to disease: both mean, roughly, ‘communicable’. There is, however, a difference in emphasis or focus between the two words. Contagious tends to be focused on the person or animal affected by the disease (precautions are taken with anyone who seems contagious), while infectious emphasizes the agent or organism which carries the disease.
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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

English Usage - Consummate - English editing.

Consummate is pronounced /kon-syuu-mayt/ as a verb, e.g. the marriage was never consummated. As an adjective meaning ‘complete, perfect’, e.g. a consummate liar; consummate elegance it is traditionally pronounced /kun-sum-uht/, with the stress on the second syllable, but the pronunciation /kon-syuu-muht/, with the stress on the first syllable, is equally correct.
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Monday, May 3, 2010

English Usage - Connote - English editing.

Connote does not mean the same as denote. Denote refers to the literal, primary meaning of something, while connote refers to other characteristics suggested or implied by that thing. Thus, you might say that a word like mother denotes a woman who is a parent but connotes qualities such as protection and affection.
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Saturday, May 1, 2010

English Usage - Conjoined twins - English editing.

The more accurate and correct term conjoined twins has supplanted the older term Siamese twins in all contexts other than informal conversation.
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Friday, April 30, 2010

English Usage - Concerned - English editing.

The idiomatic expression as far as . . . is/are concerned is well established and is a useful way of introducing a new topic or theme or of stating your opinion, especially in conversation. But it can also sometimes be unnecessary or long-winded: for example, the punishment does not seem to have any effect so far as the prisoners are concerned could be more economically expressed as the punishment does not seem to have any effect on the prisoners.
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Thursday, April 29, 2010

English Usage - Compound - English reading.

The sense of the verb compound meaning ‘to make something bad worse’, as in this compounds their problems, has an interesting history. It arose through a misinterpretation of the legal phrase compound a felony, which, strictly speaking, means ‘not to prosecute a felony, in exchange for money or some other consideration’. This led to the use of compound in legal contexts to means ‘make something bad worse’, which then became accepted in general usage as well.
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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

English Usage - Complacent, Complaisant - English editing.

Complacent and Complaisant are two words which are similar in pronunciation and which both come from the Latin verb complacere ‘to please’, but which in English do not mean the same thing. Complacent is the commoner word and means ‘smug and self-satisfied’. Complaisant, on the other hand, means ‘willing to please’, as in the local people proved complaisant and cordial.
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

English Usage - Comparatively - English editing.

The use of comparatively in contexts such as there were comparatively few casualties has been criticized in the past on the grounds that there is no explicit comparison being made. Even so, there is an implicit one, even if very vague: for instance, in the example above, the comparison is presumably with other incidents or battles. Comparatively has been used in this way since the early 19th century and to use it thus is acceptable in standard English.
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Monday, April 26, 2010

English Usage - Compact - English editing.

Compact as an adjective can be stressed on the first or second syllable: /kom-pakt/ or /kuhm-pakt/. Both are correct, but there is a preference for the first in the phrase compact disc.
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Saturday, April 24, 2010

English Usage - Comparable - English editing.

Although the traditional pronunciation of comparable in standard British English is with the stress on the first syllable rather than the second (/kom-pruh-b’l), an alternative pronunciation with the stress on the second syllable (/kuhm-pa-ruh-b’l) is gaining in currency. Both pronunciations are used in American English.
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Friday, April 23, 2010

English Usage - Coloured - English editing.

The use of coloured to refer to skin colour is first recorded in the early 17th century and was adopted by emancipated slaves in the US as a term of racial pride after the American Civil War. IN Britain it was the accepted term until the 1960s, when it was superseded (as in the US) by black. The term coloured lost favour among blacks during this period and is now widely regarded as offensive except in historical contexts. In South Africa, the term coloured (also written Coloured) has a different history. It is used to refer to people of mixed-race parentage rather than, as elsewhere, African peoples and their descendants. In modern use in this context the term is not considered offensive or derogatory.
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

English Usage - Collective noun - English editing.

A collective noun is a singular noun which refers to a group of people, such as family, committee, government, BBC, NATO. Collective nouns can be used with either a singular or a plural verb: my family was always hard-working; his family were disappointed in him. With a singular verb you are emphasizing the group; with a plural verb, the individuals in the group. Generally speaking, in the US it is more usual for collective nouns to be followed by a singular verb. Bear in mind that any following pronouns or adjectives must be singular or plural like the verb: the government is prepared to act, but not until it knows the outcome of the latest talks (not . . . until they know the outcome . . .): the family have all moved back into their former home.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

English Usage - Coleslaw - English editing.

The first part of this word is correctly spelled cole-, not cold-. Cole- is from Dutch kool ‘cabbage’. It has been replaced by cold through a process of Folk Etymology.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

English Usage - Cohort - English editing.

The earliest sense of cohort is ‘a unit of men within the Roman army’. From this it developed the meanings of ‘a group of people with a shared characteristic’, e.g. the Church in Ireland still has a vast cohort of weekly churchgoers. From the 1950s onwards a new sense developed in the US, meaning ‘a companion or colleague’, as in young Jack arrived with three of his cohorts. Although this meaning is well established, there are still some people who object to it on the grounds that cohort should only be used for group of people (as in its extended sense), never for individuals.
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Monday, April 19, 2010

English Usage - Co-. English editing.

In modern American English, the tendency increasingly is to write compound words beginning with co- without hyphenation, as in costar, cosignatory, and coproduce. British usage generally shows a preference for the hyphenated spelling, but even in Britain the trend seems to be in favour of less hyphenation than in the past. In both the US and the UK, for example, the spellings of coordinate and coed are encountered with or without hyphenation, but the more common choice for either word in either country is without the hyphen.
Co- with the hyphen is often used to prevent a mistaken first impression (co-driver – because codriver could be mistaken for cod river, and coworker initially looks like something to do with a cow), or simply to avoid an awkward spelling (co-own is clearly preferable to coown). There are also some relatively less common terms, such as co-respondent (in a divorce suit), where the hyphenated spelling distinguishes the word’s meaning and pronunciation from that of the more common correspondent.
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