30 Sports Idioms

30 Sports Idioms

This post lists and defines terms derived from two or more distinct sports that by extension serve as idioms in other realms of endeavor outside athletics. (The original meaning is provided in parentheses.) 1. ace: accomplish something with ease (slang term for when an opposing player or team fails to return a serve) 2. bench: keep someone from participating; as a noun, a figurative reference to the members of a group as a whole or to the depth of talent…

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Holding Back Your Backstory

Holding Back Your Backstory

Authors call the hidden part of a character’s life their “backstory.” When I was acting in plays, directors might ask me to decide what my character was doing before the scene began. Since my character is supposed to be a real human being, he has a life outside of what appears on the stage or on the page. Every character is like an iceberg – there is more to the character than appears on the surface. If it’s a minor…

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28 Good Words from Latin and Greek

28 Good Words from Latin and Greek

Let’s talk about something good. Here is a variety of words for good things, based on ancient words for “good”: Latin bonus and Greek eu. Good words from Latin In Rome, bonus was the Latin word for “good, noble, kind, honest, brave.” Since Latin gave birth to the Romance languages of Europe, words such as bon, bien, bueno and buon are found today in French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian. English speakers commonly use the French expressions “bon voyage” (“Have…

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What is an Anagram?

What is an Anagram?

To create an anagram, you rearrange the letters of a word or phrase to form a different word or phrase. For example, the word section is an anagram for notices and vice versa. A “perfect” anagram uses all the letters, no more, no less. But sometimes letters are repeated or omitted. Before the modern alphabet was formalized, let alone modern spelling, anagrams could be less formal too, since I and J or U and V were still interchangeable. The anagram…

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More Names of Plants, Food, and Drinks Formed by Folk Etymology

More Names of Plants, Food, and Drinks Formed by Folk Etymology

This post lists words derived from words in other languages as a result of folk etymology, a process by which speakers adopt the foreign terms after revising them by using existing elements from their native language. acorn: This word is descended from the Old English term aecerne, meaning “tree nut” but originally referring in various forms in Germanic languages to the trunk of a tree; by folk etymology, the current spelling derived from a false association with ac (“oak”) and…

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7 Examples of Incorrect Punctuation with Quotation Marks

7 Examples of Incorrect Punctuation with Quotation Marks

This post points out common errors committed when reporting what has been said or written. Each example is followed by a discussion of the problem and a revision that provides a solution. 1. She pointed out that, “Speed matters — the faster an organization learns, the faster it evolves.” The quotation, in isolation, is a complete sentence and is properly capitalized. But when dropped into a sentence, as in the example above, it becomes part of the sentence, just as…

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48 Writing Prompts for Middle School Kids

48 Writing Prompts for Middle School Kids

Are you stuck for something to write about? Or are you looking for prompts to use in the classroom? These prompts are aimed at middle school students (roughly age 11 – 14) – but younger or older writers might enjoy trying them as well. I’ve split them into different types of prompts – imaginative prompts, non-fiction/essay prompts, short story prompts and journaling prompts – but feel free to use them in any way you like. For instance, you might choose…

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Grams and Telegrams

Grams and Telegrams

This post lists and defines words derived from the Greek term gramma, which pertains not only to a small weight, as in gram and compound words in which gram is the base, but also to letters (hence telegram) and writing (hence grammar). Words That Begin with Gramgram: a metric unit of weight equivalent to one one-thousandth of a kilogram, the base unit of weight in the metric system; gram is also an unrelated term for any of various legumes, such…

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Writing Lyrics for Songs

Writing Lyrics for Songs

It used to be that when people thought of songwriting, they didn’t think of great writing. Then Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for literature. Dylan wasn’t the first songwriter whose work has been respected by literary critics. You might be surprised how much ancient poetry was originally written to be sung. From certain vanished cultures, songs are the only literature that has survived. Before the invention of mass media technology, songs were the mass media – the original news…

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How to Improve Your English Spelling

How to Improve Your English Spelling

Addyson, a sixth grader who loves to write, asks, “How can I learn to spell better?” That’s certainly a worthy question, and over the years, we’ve given many suggestions for better spelling. I Before E, Except After C How Do I Become a Better Speller? Five Spelling Rules for “Silent Final E” The Six Spellings of “Long E” The Eight Spellings of “Long O” The Spellings of “Shun” But when young writers ask for advice on spelling or grammar, I…

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