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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