Idioms and Expressions That Refer to Eating

Idioms and Expressions That Refer to Eating

This post discusses a number of idiomatic expressions that refer literally or figuratively to consuming food and include some form of the word eat. To say that someone will eat someone else for breakfast is to convey that the first person will easily defeat the other in whatever competition or rivalry they are engaged in. Meanwhile, a dog-eat-dog environment is a highly competitive one, with a hyperbolic notion that people within it are so ruthless that they are like animals…

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A Guide to In-Line Lists

A Guide to In-Line Lists

This post describes how to organize in-line lists, those that occur within a sentence, as compared to vertical lists, those organized by setting the items on the list apart from each other, distinguished by numbers, letters, or other symbols, on consecutive lines. (Vertical lists will be described in a separate post.) An in-line list may consist of a set of words, phrases, or clauses, or a combination of the three. The simplest in-line list is one that consists of one-word…

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Compounds Based on “Port”

Compounds Based on “Port”

This post lists and defines compound words in which the second element is the word port, derived from the Latin word portare, meaning “carry.” Airport, carport, heliport, and seaport refer to locations where the vehicles and vessels implied by the respective prefixes embark and return (and remain between uses). To apport (literally, “carry to”) is to move or produce something through supernatural means, and an apport is something so moved. To comport (“carry with”) is to agree or to behave….

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A Complete Guide to Parentheses and Brackets

A Complete Guide to Parentheses and Brackets

This post discusses the functions of parentheses and brackets, which are used to set off portions of text from the whole for various purposes. Parentheses, almost exclusively appearing in pairs, are usually employed in the same manner as a pair of commas or dashes, though they suggest de-emphasis of the content within (as opposed to commas, which convey a neutral insertion of information, and dashes, which highlight the text between them). Parentheses, in addition to being employed to interject examples…

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Coordination of Conjunctions and Punctuation

Coordination of Conjunctions and Punctuation

When a conjunction is inserted into a sentence to separate two cumulative elements of the sentence, where commas, if any, are correctly positioned depends on the syntactical structure of the sentence regardless of whether a parenthetical phrase complicates the sentence. In each sentence with parenthesis below, the punctuation is not appropriate for the syntax. Discussion after each example explains the problem, and a revision provides a solution. 1. That debate could place everything on the table and, for that reason,…

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3 Variations of Misplaced Modifiers

3 Variations of Misplaced Modifiers

When information is added to the main clause of a sentence to provide more detail, whether it is inserted directly or parenthetically, careful placement enhances comprehension. In each of the following sentences, modifying phrases are clumsily included. Discussion after each example explains the problem, and a revision demonstrates a solution. 1. Smith played Bozo the Clown from 1959 to 1970, a clown character particularly popular in the U.S. in the 1960s because of widespread franchising in television. This sentence’s subordinate…

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3 More Types of Hyphenation Errors with Numbers

3 More Types of Hyphenation Errors with Numbers

Confusion about the relationship between hyphens and numbers, whether they appear in numeral or spelled-out form, is rampant. Each of the following examples erroneously employs hyphens; discussion after each sentence explains the error, and a revision corrects it. 1. Because of concussions, he had played just sixty-nine games in two seasons between 2010-2012. Using a hyphen rather than an en dash in a number range is generally an error of ignorance (though some publications, with full awareness of the distinction…

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The Many Ways of “Via”

The Many Ways of “Via”

Via, the Latin word for “way,” is also the basis of many words, many of them disguised, that refer to movement or the way things move (or act). This post lists and defines terms derived from via. In English, via itself often replaces “by way of” in writing in reference to traveling, though it is seldom employed in conversation. Words in which via is the first element include viaduct, which describes a raised watercourse, and viaticum, which refers to an…

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Grammar Quiz #24: Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers

Grammar Quiz #24: Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers

A participial phrase is said to be “dangling” when the noun it is intended to modify is missing from the sentence. Similarly a modifier is said to be misplaced when it is separated from the word it modifies. Edit the following sentences to eliminate such errors. 1. Looking from my bedroom window, the horses frolicked in the meadow. 2. This bank accepts deposits from elementary school children of any size. 3. The professor made some astounding comments about politics rising…

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Betters and Bettors

Betters and Bettors

Is there a connection between better, which is sometimes employed as a noun, among other parts of speech, and the noun bettor? This post explains their etymological origins and lists and defines related words. Better is primarily an adjective, from Old English bettra (and, previously, betera), meaning “superior.” It can also mean “more advantageous or favorable,” “improved,” or “greater than half” (as in “the better part of an hour”). The adjective better pertains to doing something to a greater degree…

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