A great vocabulary should be in every writer’s toolbox.
Using new words can turn dull, listless writing into something far more readable.
Early this month, we had a quiz testing your vocabulary by looking at commonly confused words.
As we end January, let’s have another quiz, this time about commonly misused words. You know…words we use that we don’t know the real meaning of.
One name: Iñigo Montoya.
Let’s have a bit of fun today with this short quiz testing your vocabulary and word usage.
This should be a piece of cake. Enjoy!
So what did you get? Feel free to share it with your friends and find out who’s better! (No, we’re not competitive at all.)
How do you annoy a writer?
The list is to long too fit hear.
I do have an infographic for you that isn’t too long. It lists down 10 of the most annoying writing mistakes – according to Lawrence Ragan Communications. The group conducted a survey with LinkedIn users as the respondents. Whether that’s a good measure of “most annoying writing mistakes” or not is up for debate in points. [Read more…]
I have hired dozens of freelance writers in my role as an in-house copywriter for a content conversion firm, and it never ceases to amaze me how many writers lack basic writing skills. Whether you’ve been a freelance writer for two months or ten years, there are always ways to improve your craft. Here are some specifics things writers can do to strengthen their writing:
Use “is” Sparingly
The most valuable lesson I took away from my upper graduate English coursework involves use of the word “is.” Here’s how it goes: if you can rework a sentence to remove use of the word “is,” you will create a stronger sentence. Consider the following examples:
Placing the adjective before the noun creates a clause, making the sentence more complex and descriptive.
The first example above uses the dreaded passive voice. By removing “is given” and changing the verb to the present tense, we remove passive voice and get a clearer sentence.
Just Say no to “due to” and “because of”
Removing these two weak phrases will vastly improve your writing. Take the noun or phrase that follows “due to” or “because of” and make it the subject of your sentence.
The last example is the best sentence because it answers the reason why John had to foreclose on his house.
Be Clear and Concise
Clearly communicating ideas is a key goal for every writer. We live in a fast-paced, information packed world. As writers, we have to quickly convert people to read our content. If readers have to work to figure out what you’re trying to say, you’ve lost them. If people won’t read our words, they won’t click where we want them to, like our latest article, or buy our work.
Tip: If a sentences doesn’t flow naturally when you read it aloud, odds are it won’t make sense to your reader.
Have you ever had an editor write “fluff” or “too wordy” in the margin of your writing? I have. While it is difficult criticism to take, your editor isn’t saying you’re too wordy to criticize your writing – she’s trying to help you improve.
One quick way to reduce wordiness is to use adverbs (words ending in ly) sparingly. Most of the time these qualifiers aren’t necessary. If you are going to use them, make sure they have a purpose. When you eliminate adverbs, your point comes across stronger and more direct. Take a look at this short list of fluffy words to avoid:
Too Many Prepositions
Prepositions have their place in writing, but frequent use forces the reader to struggle to figure out your point. Examples of prepositions include:
Combat overuse of prepositions by circling each one. Once you have identified and circled the offenders, ask yourself what the point of the sentence is and reword with fewer prepositions identify the sentence’s point and reword.
What tips have you received from an editor that helped you improve your writing?
Sarah is the Content Manager and a Writer at Virtual Vocations, the one-stop shop for telecommuters looking for legit jobs. With several years of marketing and writing experience, Sarah managed a group of freelance writers for a marketing firm before venturing out into the telecommute world. Follow Sarah on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.
In spite of working online, I do have a tendency to be the last to know about the latest things to go viral. Remember Gangnam Style? I think my mom know about it before I did! Then there’s Harlem Shake, which I totally don’t get.
“Friend zone” probably takes the cake, though, as I only really learned the “official” definition today, thanks to the February 2013 update of the Oxford Dictionaries. Last year, I was pleasantly surprised with the addition of “Whovian”, Dr. Who fan that I am. Some of you expressed your distaste at certain additions (see the comments in that previous post about the Oxford Online Dictionaries update). Will this year’s additions make you feel the same? Let’s take a look at my picks.
Definition: a cocktail consisting of vodka mixed with apple juice, apple liqueur, or cider: in the absence of margaritas the drink of choice was appletinis.
I don’t know about you, but I think it’s about time this was considered a real word!
Definition: a basic mobile phone that lacks the advanced functionality characteristic of a smartphone: there are still six dumbphones out there for every smartphone
If there is such a thing as a smartphone, I suppose a dumbphone is easy enough to grasp. I personally don’t feel comfortable using the term, though. Nokia’s old phones with Snake and Snake 2 may have been dumb, but they were pretty fun and sturdy!
Definition: a situation in which a platonic relationship exists between two people, one of whom has an undeclared romantic or sexual interest in the other: I always wind up in the friend zone, watching them pursue other guys
Actually, I realize that I have known about the underlying concept of the term (probably dating back to high school?). I don’t get how this term has become so popular in recent times, though.
Definition: suitable for posting on the social media site Twitter: the president delivered a great collection of tweetable lines this morning
This term is constantly used in my circles, thanks to having to work online. Have you used this term before? Are you comfortable using it?
To know more words added in quarterly update of the ODO, take a look at the blog announcement. In the meantime, tell us what you think of the words above!
Note: All definitions and images are from ODO.
I don’t know if you’ve checked the Oxford Dictionaries Online (ODO) lately, but they added new words in May, and boy, did I have a blast going through the list! To be honest, of the three words I used in the title, I am (was) familiar only with the last one.
Just in case you felt lost while reading the title of this post, let’s take a quick look at the definitions of these now officially recognized words.
Frankenfood refers to genetically modified food and is used in a derogatory manner. If you steer clear of anything remotely related to GMOs, then this noun might just do it for you! Just so you know, the ODO lists this word as both a mass noun and a count noun. I am not so sure I’ll be using it in the near future, though. You?
Guyliner is simply eyeliner that is used by men. No brainer. Are there specific products that are called guyliners or does eyeliner simply become guyliner when a man uses it?
Whovian refers to a fan of Doctor Who, the British science fiction TV series that blows me (and countless others) away. I guess I am a Whovian. Who else is?
I have said it before, and I will say it again. Language is dynamic.
Some people might cringe or even throw a tantrum at the addition of certain words – guyliner, really??? – to the dictionary. This simply goes back to the age old argument of language defining usage or the other way around. I’ll go along with the changes that occur, but there are certain things that I just might never get used to. (That’s probably along the lines of basic grammar rules, though, and not really words and their usage.)
In any case, here are a few more new additions to the ODO that I find amusing.
Alpha geek – a person who has great expertise in computing and related technology
Droolworthy – extremely attractive or desirable ((Confession: I have been using this word for ages. Richard Gere in “An Officer and a Gentleman”!))
Enabler – a person or thing that makes something possible ((I took note of this simply because I always thought that it was an official word! I guess I was wrong.))
Do you want to find out the other words that made it to the latest ODO update? Visit the Oxford Dictionaries Blog. If you’re a traditionalist, and you don’t want to ruin your day, I suggest you stay away. Otherwise, have fun!
Image via Houston Press
Do you find yourself checking the thesaurus often lately? I don’t know about you, but I do love checking for new words to use regularly. This is especially true for when I find myself using the same words too much. Sometimes, I am not even aware of that fact, but the thesaurus does help! Of course, I still believe that nothing beats reading voraciously when it comes to vocabulary expansion.
I found this infographic that presents 10
supposedly unusual collective nouns, which some of you might find interesting. To be honest, I don’t really think that the collective nouns in the infographic are all that unusual. However, information of this kind is always welcome – if not for its novel nature, it can always serve as a refresher.
So what are these 10 collection nouns?
So tell me, do you find these collective nouns unusual at all? Do you use them in your work regularly?
On another note, I have a more fun and alternative way for you to discover new words. If you have an iPhone (or iPod Touch or iPad), and you like playing games in your free time, I suggest that you check out W.E.L.D.E.R. – if you are not playing it already. This word game is reminiscent of other puzzle/word games out there, but it can be rather difficult. More than the enjoyably challenging experience, what I like about this game is that you get to discover a whole lot of new words. Why don’t you give it a try?
The English language is such a beautiful thing, isn’t it? That is not to say that it is always simple. In fact, even native speakers make mistakes now and then. Even professional writers have their Waterloo.
The good thing is that as long as we are open to correction and learning, we can only become better. Today’s grammar post is all about words that are often used interchangeably, often incorrectly. We already took a look at some word pairs that give people problems some time last year. Remember ingenuous and ingenious?
This time around, let us take a look at other word pairs. You might discover a thing or two!
These two words are often considered to be synonyms, but they are not. Here are their definitions, courtesy of Merriam-Webster.
DISINTERESTED: free from selfish motive or interest : unbiased (a disinterested decision)
UNINTERESTED: not interested : not having the mind or feelings engaged (the teacher decided to make a career change after having to teach yet another class of uninterested teens)
See the difference? The first one is all about being impartial, while the second refers to not caring about something.
It is good to delve a little deeper, however, and look at popular usage paired with the history of the words. Merriam-Webster gives a clear idea of how these two words may be interchanged, especially if you know what you are doing. I think that is the license that the great writers have!
In any case, if you are simply referring to an unbiased state, go for “disinterested”.
I cannot count the number of times I have heard or seen these two words used interchangeably. My more outspoken friends have even called out people for doing so. Not that I am saying it’s correct to use one in lieu of the other, but calling out people on Facebook (or some other public venue) can result in a complicated mess. I agree with pointing out mistakes constructively, but I think it should be done tastefully. In any case, I digress.
“Farther” and “further” are very similar. However, the former refers to physical or measurable distance. The latter refers to metaphorical or abstract concepts. Take a look at the two examples below.
My feet are killing me. I cannot walk any farther.
I don’t want to argue. Let’s not discuss this any further.
Simple, isn’t it?
It’s the month of love, so I suppose that a short discussion of these two words is appropriate. The difference is slight. We use “envy” to refer to the feeling we experience when we long for what others possess or experience. You may have envy of someone else’s success. “Jealousy”, on the other hand, has a little more negative connotation, and is often used in relationships (though not exclusively). It is also used for situations wherein a person fears competition strongly, as in “jealous rivalries in the corporate scene”.
Image via Amanda
Halfway into the first month of 2012, we have several words to consider as Word of the Year for 2011. A simple search on Google using that phrase yielded several results, three of which we will take a look at in this week’s grammar post.
“Pragmatic” is a commonly used word, isn’t it? Merriam-Webster’s official definition ((Pragmatic)):
Relating to matters of fact or practical affairs often to the exclusion of intellectual or artistic matters : practical as opposed to idealistic [pragmatic men of power have had no time or inclination to deal with … social morality — K. B. Clark]
So why is this Merriam-Webster’s choice? According to the panel, “pragmatic” was looked up so often via the online portal. Hence, it was the pragmatic choice for 2011 Word of the Year. I guess we cannot contest that!
I do find myself thinking about the underlying reasons people looked up “pragmatic” so much in 2011. Obviously, those people were not sure about the meaning of the word, but I can only guess what prompted those searches. Did news anchors and other similar personalities use pragmatic a lot? What do you think?
If Merriam-Webster chose a common word, Oxford Dictionaries chose something that is relatively uncommon. To be honest, I think that I had never encountered this term prior to doing the research for this post. Have you? Then again, I am more exposed to American English (no judgement here), so my ignorance of this term is understandable.
Based on the OD blog post about their chosen Word of the Year, “squeezed middle” refers to “those seen as bearing the brunt of government tax burdens whilst having the least with which to relieve it”. The reason for the choice? The use of the term spread very quickly. Also, with the economic situation presumably not improving drastically in the near future, the use of the term is likely to continue.
Last, but definitely not the least, we have the 2011 Word of the Year as chosen by Dictionary.com. Now I know some people who would rather die than admit that they refer to this site, but I shall not be as picky as they are. Sure, I have Merriam-Webster as my default, but I do visit Dictionary.com now and then.
So who has heard/read/used the word “tergiversate”? Not me. Here’s the definition of the word ((Tergiversate)):
To change repeatedly one’s attitude or opinions with respect to a cause, subject, etc.; equivocate.
I laughed when I read the definition, because it is so simple, as opposed to actually pronouncing “tergiversate”! I will tell you now, though, that I am making it a point to use this word before the month ends – both in writing and (God help me) in speaking.
What do you think of the choices for 2011 Word of the Year? Are they appropriate to what happened in the past year? What would you have voted for if you were asked to nominate a word?