Posts tagged: words

Jul 11 2016

Writing Tips :: Plural vs Singular

If you have more than one of something, that is plural. If you have just one of something, that is singular.

I know this seems really simple, and it is; the thing is, there are little rules that apply when you write about more than one thing.

For example, you do need to pay attention to your verb conjugation. I touched on this in the verb conjugation post back in January.

You also need to make sure you pluralize your nouns properly. Most words can be pluralized by adding an “s” to the end, but some are irregular in this regard. For example, moose = moose; goose = geese; man = men; child = children; and mouse = mice. Meanwhile, noose = nooses; can = cans; and house = houses.

Adjectives don’t need to be adjusted, though. “The green tree blew in the wind.” is just as correct as “The green trees blew in the wind.”

It’s funny how things that we think of as being really easy can turn out to be really difficult!

Jun 20 2016

Word Addiction :: Systemic vs Systematic

I see people saying “systematic oppression” when I am pretty sure (based on context) they men “systemic oppression.”

Systemic oppression is oppression by the system, due to the way the system works.

Systematic oppression is oppression that happens regularly in a particular way.

So systemic oppression can be systematic.

But yeah, when you’re talking about ableism due to the way society thinks of disability, that’s systemic oppression because it’s from/by the system.

I know, confusing. And go ahead and keep using the word that works for you. I just know some people will care and will appreciate the information. 🙂

May 30 2016

When Writing is Hard

I post here about words, about my addiction to words, about how to use words and punctuation to communicate. I try to educate my readers, to help them become better at communicating via the written word. And I talk sometimes about my personal projects, the writing I do for myself that someday will be released to the world.

When I was in school, I wrote all the time. If I wasn’t writing, I was reading. I used to write stories in Chemistry class in high school. I was adept at both hiding a book below my desktop and reading it in my lap during class and walking from one class to the next while reading. The story ideas came fast and furious. I always had characters to write about and stories to tell.

At some point in university, that began to change. I wrote my second novel in first year and then gradually I stopped writing. Reading was replaced with TV by third year.

I suppose “stopped” isn’t quite right. I still wrote stories and poems, and I continued to read books (both fiction and non-fiction, for fun). They just weren’t activities that I did every spare moment anymore. Other things began to take up my time, like the internet and TV and so on. But I did also begin journalling more, so maybe my creativity was being expended in my schooling (I was a composition major, after all) and in writing out all of my thoughts about my life.

I started reading and writing more often a few years ago (not ten years ago, but I think more than five years ago). I made a point of writing all year, not just during November. I started going to the library and to the book store more often and did my best to make the time for both activities. (You can’t be a writer if you are not also a reader, after all.) Doing things like this requires mindfulness and purpose, neither of which I am consistently great at. But I try.

Writing is still my joy. I love words. I love finding new ways to say what I need to say, the combination of words that will get the story right.

If I am honest, I will say that I have not written any fiction in over a week. I have many projects on the go and many more waiting in the wings, because the ideas keep coming. But actually making the writing happen is very hard.

I thought I would confess this now because I think authors do our readers a disservice if we pretend that it is easy to make words happen. Sometimes words are not coming because we are having trouble figuring out what we want to say or how to say it; sometimes words are not coming because we are not making the time to put them on the page. Life happens to everyone, usually at the most inopportune moments. And it is good that it does happen, because that is how we get the experiences we need in order to be able to write real stories, to speak Truth through our writing.

But it can be so frustrating when the words are rattling around inside, aching to get out, and it just isn’t happening.

I hope to let more of mine out soon.

May 16 2016

Word Addiction :: Role model vs modelling behaviour

A role model can model behaviour, but nobody can “role model” behaviour. The reason is that the term “role model” is a noun (i.e., a person, place, or thing), not a verb (i.e., an action). The word “model” can be either a noun or a verb. People model clothing for catalogues, and they are called models. Once you modify the word “model” and turn it into “role model,” however, you have made it a noun, and it cannot be used as a verb, because that is not its grammatical function.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Here are the definitions of both terms, from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:

role model noun: a person whose behavior in a particular role is imitated by others
Examples of ROLE MODEL
Athletes should remember that they are role models.
First Known Use of ROLE MODEL
model noun
1 obsolete : a set of plans for a building
2 dialect British : copy, image
3 : structural design <a home on the model of an old farmhouse>
4 : a usually miniature representation of something; also : a pattern of something to be made
5 : an example for imitation or emulation
6 : a person or thing that serves as a pattern for an artist; especially : one who poses for an artist
7 : archetype
8 : an organism whose appearance a mimic imitates
9 : one who is employed to display clothes or other merchandise
10 a : a type or design of clothing; b : a type or design of product (as a car)
11 : a description or analogy used to help visualize something (as an atom) that cannot be directly observed
12 : a system of postulates, data, and inferences presented as a mathematical description of an entity or state of affairs; also : a computer simulation based on such a system <climate models>
13 : version 3
14 : animal model
Examples of MODEL
She’s building a model of the Earth for science class.
a plastic model of the human heart
We’ve improved on last year’s model, making the car safer and easier to control.
He bought one of the old 1965 models.
We couldn’t afford one of the fancy TVs and had to buy the standard model.
We’ve developed a computer model of the economy to predict what will happen in the future.
Companies are developing new business models.
First Known Use of MODEL
model transitive verb
1 : to plan or form after a pattern : shape
2 archaic : to make into an organization (as an army, government, or parish)
3 a : to shape or fashion in a plastic material; b : to produce a representation or simulation of <using a computer to model a problem>
4 : to construct or fashion in imitation of a particular model <modeled its constitution on that of the United States>
5 : to display by wearing, using, or posing with <modeled gowns>
intransitive verb
1 : to design or imitate forms : make a pattern <enjoys modeling in clay>
2 : to work or act as a fashion or art model
Examples of MODEL
The faces of the gods were modeled in white stone.
They’re modeling this year’s new spring fashions.
She got a job modeling shoes for a catalog company.
a fashion model who has angered animal lovers by modeling fur coats
First Known Use of MODEL
model adj
1 : serving as or capable of serving as a pattern <a model student>
2 : being a usually miniature representation of something <a model airplane>
Examples of MODEL
Our university has a model program for training its athletes.
<why can’t you be like your sister, who is such a well-behaved model child?>
First Known Use of MODEL
Feb 16 2016

Word Addiction :: Broach vs Brooch

The word “broach” is a verb, meaning “to bring up” (and other similar things). It is not a noun. It is never a noun.

When you are talking about a large pin, the word you are looking for is “brooch.” It is a noun. It is always a noun.

Jan 18 2016

Word Addiction :: Weary vs Wary

“Weary” means “tired.”

Most of the time when you tell someone to be “weary” what you actually mean is for them to be “wary.”

“Wary” means “careful” or “aware of danger.”

As you can see, these two words are nowhere near related.

Dec 21 2015

Word Addiction :: Walla vs Voilà

“Walla” is probably not the word you’re looking for.

What you mean is “voilà.”

Voilà is a French word, which means “Presto!” or “There it is!”

I am sure you are confused since the “v” sound is often pronounced very softly by native French speakers (and presumed absent in Canadian French; any Québécois out there able to shed some light on this one?), but I assure you it is there.

According to my research, “walla” is a sound effect that imitates the general hubbub of a crowd of people in a movie or TV show.

It apparently could also be a bowdlerization of the Arabic term for God or requesting God’s blessing.

Regardless, most situations in which I see “walla” being used are obviously situations in which the author is looking for the word “voilà.“

Nov 16 2015

Word Addiction :: Tenant vs Tenet

If you are talking about a person who rents an apartment or a house, or a business that rents a shop front, then okay, “tenant” is the word you’re looking for.


If you are talking about core beliefs or principles, the word you are looking for is “tenets.”

Oct 19 2015

Word Addiction :: Peak vs Pique vs Peek

When you are showing off your wares, you are offering a “sneak peek,” not a “sneak peak.”

A peek is a look at something.

A peak is the top of a mountain.

And just so you know, when you’re increasing someone’s interest in something…

…you’re “piquing” it, not “peaking” it, and certainly not “peeking” it. (Present tense of that homonym is “pique.”)

May 02 2014

Creating Your Own Artful Words

The following are a few tips I’ve shared on Twitter recently. If you’d like me to expand on some of these tips, please let me know!

Tip: “Within” is not hyphenated.

Tip: Put a space after your comma. Just one, it doesn’t take very long. It will keep your editor happier.

Tip: Semi-colons (;) are not the same as colons (:). They do different things to your sentence.

Tip: If you’re talking about how you do something, you should probably follow the word “by” with a verb.

Tip: “Commenced” means the same thing as “began”; sometimes using the simpler word is a better choice.

Tip: “Database” is one word. Just one. Do not make it two. “Data base” just looks silly.

Tip: There should be punctuation at the end of a sentence. Periods are usually a good choice.

Tip: Putting two words in close proximity that have the same root is probably redundant (e.g., pertinent information pertaining to).

Tip: An Executor is not the same thing as an Executive. Always double-check your spelling!

Tip: If you’re putting “along with” and “as well as” in the same sentence (esp. more than once) it’s a run-on. 

Tip: The plural of “incident” is “incidents,” not “incidences.” I know they kind of sound the same, but they mean really different things.

Tip: The word “pictorial” is not a noun, it is an adjective. If you want to use a noun, just go with “picture.”

Tip: If you are writing in Canada, for Canadians, use Canadian spellings. It’s not exactly the same as British, but close.

Tip: If you are Canadian, please remember to spell things like “colour” and “behaviour” with a “u.”

Tip: Only proper nouns should be capitalized. Those are things like titles or names of people or places.

Tip: “Doctor” is only a proper noun if it is being used as a form of address or as part of a name (e.g., Doctor Who).

Tip: “Unhealthy” is an adjective, so it needs a noun to modify.

Tip: In formal writing, write out the full word. “Dr.” is unprofessional unless you are talking about a specific doctor.

Tip: “Aide” is a person. It is never a procedure or a description of something helpful; that is an “aid.”

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