“Tie Me Over”–Not the Right Choice!

A reader named Max asked me to write about "tie over" and "tide over."

"Tide over" is the correct expression, at least in normal circumstances. Examples:

  • We have enough letterhead to tide us over until our office moves.
  • This food should tide me over until the weather clears and I can go shopping.
  • This snack will tide him over until dinnertime.

Definitions of "tide over":

  • "To support or enable to survive temporarily,"
    Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
  • "To support through a difficult period," The American Heritage College Dictionary
  • "Enable or help (a person) to get through esp. a difficult period," Canadian Oxford Dictionary

The expression "tie over" does not appear in any of my dictionaries. I am guessing that if my boat were approaching a dock, I could say, "Tie me over there."

Max, I hope this explanation will tide you over until you can consult a dictionary or discuss it with your coworkers.

Please excuse my weak use of "tide over" in the sentence above. Max's message to me did not suggest concerns about his survival, so "tide over" does not fit perfectly. I just felt like using it.

Please share any phrases like "tie over" that you are seeing confused with correct ones.

Syntax Training

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

10 comments on ““Tie Me Over”–Not the Right Choice!”

  • I’ve noticed that ‘couple’ usage, too. Have you heard ‘all the sudden’ instead of ‘all of a sudden’?

  • Another great post, Lynn!

    I often see the phrase “for all intents and purposes,” mangled into “for all intensive purposes”. Similarly, I sometimes hear “by the same token” turned into “on the same token”.

    By the way, Lynn, what are your thoughts on where the periods in my previous two sentences should go- before the quotation marks or after?

  • I hear so many of these but none are coming to me.

    What about a Canadian VP who uses the word “table” in the British usage? Imagine his frustration the first few months when he wanted to table the discussion on X and we all went on to another topic. Based on pay grades, he still uses the British construction – but now we all know what he means. We just titter at him behind his back about it. Excuse me, aboot it.

  • Hello, James. You asked about the periods with your quotations. In the United States, periods and commas virtually always go inside the quotation marks, according to all reference manuals I own.

    Thanks for sharing your two good examples. I can understand how people get “for all intents and purposes” wrong. It’s such an odd phrase. I have not yet seen “on the same token.” Thanks for warning me about it.


  • Hello, Jennifer. Thank you for teaching me something new. When I read your comment, I immediately turned to my “Canadian Oxford Dictionary” to read the definitions of “table” as a verb.

    Definition 1: “bring forward for discussion or consideration at a meeting.”

    I had no idea! Thanks for expanding my world.


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