In a writing class last week, a participant was surprised to learn of the existence of the word complement. Like many professionals, she had thought compliment was the only form. But often the word we want is complement. Details: Complement and complementary relate to completing. When people or things...
Minutes ago I picked up my home phone. The "caller" was a recorded message. The unheeding voice said, "We hope you are enjoying our holiday catazine you received in the mail." Catazine? Of course! It must be a combination catalog-magazine. And here I had thought it was only a...
Don't despair that your teenage son's vocabulary seems limited to Uh huh, Sweet! and 'sup (for "What's up?"). And don't fret that smiley faces have replaced perfectly fine words in email. The English language is still breathing and evolving. Consider these new words and expressions, made legitimate by their...
In a recent post, I referred to CEO as an acronym, but it's not. Now that I have been corrected, I'll share my learning with you. CEO (for Chief Executive Officer) is an initialism--not an acronym. We pronounce each letter, just as we do with ATM, LCD, and FDA. NOW...
A client wrote recently asking me to explain the difference between lie and lay. The question brought back fond memories. Although those fearsome verbs used to come up often in classes, no one asks about lie and lay anymore. In fact, my client was asking months after the class...
Our local business journal ran a headline in its online version this week: "Home sales last month were august." At first, I thought I had stumbled on a typo. Reading the first sentence, I was certain I had: "Western Washington home sales and prices continued to soar in August,...
Acronyms deserve their bad reputation. Those TLAs (three-letter acronyms) are guilty of excluding, confusing, and delaying readers. And what's worse--many times we can't agree on what they stand for. Nevertheless, like carbohydrates, snowmobiles, and pigeons, there's a place for them. For example, CEO is just right in the title...
Podcasting, adware, RSS feeds, firewall--these terms are all commonly found in blogs, on high-tech web sites, in consumer-focused articles, and in PowerPoint presentations across the globe. But do readers know what these words mean? According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, many do not. Here are some...
Driving from Portland to Seattle today, I heard an on-air radio apology about--of all things--grammar. Steve Scher, host of KUOW's Weekday, had said something like this on air: "Call in with your questions for Carl or I." A listener then emailed Steve a strongly worded correction, letting him know it...
For a business writing class I will teach later today, I asked participants to let me know what they would like to be able do better in their writing. Among those responding, two participants wanted to "use better verbiage" and "use more powerful verbiage." Being an advocate of clear business...