I’m sure there was some point in your elementary school English classes when your teacher went over the absolute rules for what words you capitalize and what words you don’t.
If you’ve been reading my blog for long, I doubt you’ll be surprised by what I have to say to that. The rules aren’t as cut and dried as your English teacher told you.
To be fair, the rules they taught you are generally true. For example, the names of people, cities, states, and countries are usually considered proper nouns and capitalized, even when used as an adjective.
However, there are exceptions to every rule, and that’s where style comes in.
Several months ago, I posted a list of commonly misspelled words most spelling checkers don’t flag because the misspellings are legitimate words themselves. They’re just not the word you were going for.
Recently, an online discussion among my fellow editors provided me with a wealth of new words to add to that list. So, with my thanks to my colleagues around the world, I’ve listed the new additions here for everyone to access freely. Enjoy.
*At the bottom of this post, I’ve included links to download the PDF versions of the list of these new additions, the original list, and a combined list of all of the words I’ve gathered so far.
We’ve all seen that text message or social media post where it looks like the writer hit the Caps Lock key and couldn’t figure out how to turn it off. People often laugh about it as a marker of older generations, but the truth is that all caps is often overused in writing, regardless of the age of the writer.
But all caps (also known as shouty caps) does have its place and and purpose.
Back in June, I wrote a blog post about lay and lie and their correct usage under standard grammar rules. But those aren’t the only set of words that creates headaches for many writers.
Sit and set get mixed up nearly as often. The problem is that in many American spoken dialects, people use set almost exclusively, probably due to accent.
But in written English they are still considered distinct words with distinct usages and meanings.
Onomatopoeia is a fancy grammar term for words that sound like what they represent. One class of onomatopoeia contains words like meow and bang.
Then, there are others that function as sound interjections and may or may not be found in the dictionary: ah/aah/aw or mmm/hmm/hmph.
These sound words give writers a particularly hard time, especially in the case of ah, aw, and the like because they all represent essentially the same sound. However, each one carries a slightly different inflection that changes the meaning.
In this world of social media and texting, these three words have started to meld into one. But though they all essentially mean yes, they’re each distinct words with distinct pronunciations and nuances of meaning.
And while we can get away with carelessness in social media, which is essentially visible speech, in the moment and unedited, we need to be more intentional with our writing.
The goal is, after all, to communicate clearly with readers.
In this modern world of social media and texting, we’re all familiar with the exclamation point, that little stroke of punctuation that takes a flat declaration and gives it emotion, pizzazz if you will.
Most of us use exclamation points on a daily basis, so we must have it mastered, right? What more could I possibly have to say?
Is it everyday or every day? Onto or on to?
English is a funny, complicated language, full of these little questions that trip us all up. As the language changes and evolves, some words get split up or morph into completely new words, while others get glued together to form compounds.
There are four in particular that stump us over and over: everyday/every day, anymore/any more, into/in to, and onto/on to. The problem is that each one can be written as one word or two, depending on the usage.
The lowly comma might be one of the most frequently used (and misused) pieces of punctuation in the English language. It has so many uses that it can get confusing trying to keep straight how to use it and how not to.
One of the ways people often get into trouble with comma usage is in joining sentences. Varying your sentence length and complexity is a great way to control the pacing and flow of your writing.
*Warning—I try to keep it academic and classy, but this article does, by necessity, contain adult language.
Profanity, cussing, cursing, swearing, obscenity—whatever word you use to describe it, adult language has become prevalent in our daily lives, in everything from television to social media. Some people seem to drop the f-bomb every other word, while others are horrified by even the mildest terms.
When we write, we try to speak to and reflect the culture of our readers, and there’s no denying that such language is a part of that culture. So, how do we decide what’s appropriate to include in our writing?
Rebecca has a passion for helping you fill the world with great literature and making sure said literature doesn't get passed over for the lack of a little editing.