There, Their, They’re – Using the Correct Form of There Will Get Their Attention When They’re Reading Your Work

There, Their, They’re – Using the Correct Form of There Will Get Their Attention When They’re Reading Your Work

Apr 11

It is one of the easiest words to confuse in English writing; taking three separate forms all sounding the same with three very different uses from three different parts of writing. We’ll Start With There The word is an adverb, used to enhance a verb in regards to location. In a sentence if the verb begs the question: “in, at or to that place or position,” the appropriate enhancement to that verb is “there.”  “We stayed there for three weeks.” “She will go in there.” In some cases it may appear that “there” takes the place of a pronoun- where in the sentence above one could say “She will go in the cave,” but instead you have substituted an adverb as a pronoun— the word which replaces the noun— “She will go in there.” In this instance, the word serves as both an adverb because it describes where the action of the verb is taking place, and it serves as a pronoun, informally replacing the noun to avoid repetition. So let us take the pronoun and leap to the next version of the word. “Their” Is a Possessive Pronoun It is always used to replace two or more nouns in the sense of possession. Instead of saying “That is Susie and Joe’s dog,” you could use “their” and say “That is their dog” or instead of saying “Please don’t touch Bobby and Amy’s painting it isn’t finished yet,” you would use their and say “Please don’t touch their painting it isn’t finished yet.” “Their” is also used as a unisex possessive, when the gender of the owner is unclear.  “Bob heard someone blowing their nose loudly.” “Their” is sometimes considered to be an adjective because of the way it is used to describe something. It replaces a noun and describes a second noun, serving the dual purpose of pronoun and adjective. And the final word is not actually one word but two. “They’re” Is a Contraction The combination of the words they and are. The apostrophe replaces the ‘a’ in the word and brings the two words together and is used commonly to shorten the sentence. “They’re going on vacation” or “Please wait until they’re finished before clearing the table.” That is all you really need to know in regards to the three different uses of that word. There will always be people who forget their ability to distinguish...

Continually Versus Continuously – A Continuous Mistake

Continually Versus Continuously – A Continuous Mistake

Oct 04

We travel today once again down the road of misused words. In this case, it is another set that have similar meanings, spellings and sounds that are often used interchangeably. But they were never meant to be thrown casually about as though they were the same, because they aren’t. The mistake is a pretty understandable one. Not only are the spellings similar, but they have the same word contained within: continue. They also both end the same, and so the shift is so imperceptible that it is hard to see without breaking down each. But the ‘ally’ versus the ‘uously’ makes all the difference. Continually The word continually does mean for something to continue. However, there are two main distinctions. First, it continues for a very long time, though the actual length is subjective, and so explained through context. It might be a long time in a real sense, such as several years: The concerned homeowner continually pestered the council for two years about the pothole before it was fixed. Or, it might be a long time for a certain situation: She continually pulled at the loose string as we spoke, until after several days of on-again, off-again manipulation it unraveled from the seam. But what really distinguishes this word from the other is that there a break between instances. The man in the first sentence was not living on the steps of Town Hall, and the woman in the second didn’t sit for days playing with the string. Both stopped, and then started again. This implied interruption changes the meaning. Continuously The second word, continuously, also has the meaning of continuing over a long period of time. Like the first, it can mean years, minutes, seconds…any amount of time that in context seems excessive of impressive. But the key difference is that it means a constant, never ending description. The absolute nature of the definition means you have to be more careful using continuously than continually. If you don’t mean to describe something constant, then it should be avoided. They went on to live continuously in that little cabin, miles away from the stresses of modern civilization. Notice how you can say that their living situation was continuous because there is no reason to suggest that they lived anywhere else. They kept their home, which gives it a sense of permanence. Using Both While you could technically come...

An Inquiry: Which Is It? Enquire vs Inquire

An Inquiry: Which Is It? Enquire vs Inquire

Apr 29

There are some words that are genuinely interchangeable. Usually, they are different enough that we just list them under synonyms and barely connect them in our minds. But when it comes to ‘enquire’ versus ‘inquire’, there is more confusion. Especially if you use Firefox or an American English spell check, and so the former comes up as misspelled. But it isn’t a typo. Both words are actually the same, and either can be correct. However, one will seem more natural than the other, depending on what version of English you learned. For those who speak British English, enquire will be more common. This means to ask a question, no matter what kind of question it might be. Inquire is used, but usually for an official or formal inquiry, such as a criminal investigation. In American English, you would normally use inquire for anything, including a formal or casual question or investigation. Enquire is still correct, but rarely applied. Which Is Dominant? We tend to assume that anything more common in British English will be dominant over the American spelling. This is for a rather simple reason: the language originated with the Anglo-Saxons, and so all English takes its cues from there. But in this case, it is surprising to know that, technically, the American spelling takes precedence. According to dictionary sources, enquire is an alternative or secondary meaning, and inquire is the primary word. Both have the same meanings, whether it is casual or formal, though inquire is probably going to be used. Which Is Better? The short answer: neither. Both can be used at any time, and neither is technically incorrect. So when trying to decide what to use, you will be going purely with a matter of personal preference. Not many words are like that, making enquire and inquire unique. But if you want a rule of thumb, you can go with the average usage: enquire for casual questions, inquire for formal. Some examples of these uses are: She sent him an email to enquire after his address the day before the party. Martin had enquired after her name, learning that was called Susan, but preferred Susie. Her inquiry into the matter yielded few answers. We will be launching an official inquiry into the events of June 14, 2009. When you are writing for an actual publication, or even a class, you might want to take a...

Verbage Or Verbiage?

Verbage Or Verbiage?

Apr 19

When you have words that look and sound the same, you can be in for a lot of confusion. But what happens when you have two words that have different spellings and the same meaning? That can be more than confusing; it can lead to a lot of mistakes. The verbage vs verbiage issue is a good example of this. The two tend to be used interchangeably, and that is a big problem. Because only one of them is actually a word to be begin with. Verbage It might surprise you to know that ‘verbage’ is not a word. In fact, it is a common misspelling based on an improper pronunciation. So not only is it incorrect in spelling and use, but also just in spoken word. Because the ‘i’ is commonly left unsaid, it changes the sound of the word. Think of it as the same kind of sound as ‘foliage’, where it will often be pronounced as ‘folage’. It is incorrect, but in that case, people don’t assume the two are different words. Verbiage The correct word to use in any instance is ‘verbiage’. This is said with a long ‘e’ sound, due to the silent ‘e’ at the end of the word. But what, then, does ‘verbiage’ mean? There are two accepted dictionary definitions: 1) an excess of words, as in writing or speech. 2). a manner of expressing something in words. Misuse The word ‘verbiage’ is one of the most frequently misused in the English language. Because it can mean something being expressed in an official way, it is put into a similar context that might not be completely correct. The second definition is a difficult one to pull of. It doesn’t mean something is “wordy”, but rather the manner of language used is highly technical, usually to an unnecessary degree. If using verbiage in the more common context, it means a serious overabundance of complicated or formal language. There are just too many words to describe a much simpler idea. Verbage or Verbiage — Exceptions? Unlike other examples, there are no exceptions where you can use verbage, because it is nothing more than a typo that got seriously out of hand. When writing, you have to make sure that the ‘i’ is included to make it correct. When speaking, however, you can say ‘verbage’ and still be understood. It is a mistaken pronunciation, but...

Past vs. Passed: Getting Past the Confusion

Past vs. Passed: Getting Past the Confusion

Apr 09

Here we are again, looking at one of the many word duos that are commonly confused. In fact, ‘past’ and ‘passed’ are misused more often than even ‘advise’ and ‘advice’, which you might remember as having been our last set of words outed and explained on this blog. But if you were to compare it to another word couple that we have addressed here at Outstanding Writing Tips, it would be more like ‘lose’ and ‘loose’, two words with completely different meanings that look so much the same that even a mere typo can occur and throw off the entire context of your sentence. Let’s look at each one separately to get a feel for the words. First, we have past. According to our trusty friend the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, past is “having existed or taken place in a period before the present.” In other words, it is a time that has since elapsed. This puts the word in the context of time, such as in the past, present and future. You would use it to specifically refer to some moment prior to the one you are experiencing. However, you can also use ‘past’ to describe a location of a place or object, such in: It is past the corner store on Buckley Street. You will notice that the way it is used changes the context of the word, making it necessary to pay attention to the words surrounding it for a complete look at the sentence and its meaning. There are other ways in which you can use ‘past’, but they are less common, and so we won’t address them here. Second, we have passed. This word is much more specific, and has fewer applications. The definition is something that has completed a movement, shifting past something (see what I did there?). This can be a direct or a more abstract concept. For example, when you finish a college course you have “passed the class”. When you are ill with a kidney stone and it moves out of your system, they say you “”passed the stone”. If someone you love has recently died, they might say they have “passed away”. I tend to think of ‘passed’ as a much softer word than ‘past’. The meaning is more direct in its usage, and yet not as concrete as the applications for the latter. Of course, when you take off the...

Advise Vs. Advice: Adding to the List of Most Commonly Used Words That Confuse

Advise Vs. Advice: Adding to the List of Most Commonly Used Words That Confuse

Mar 28

Come hither dear reader and I advise you to take my advice. Aha! There I go acting all clever again. I rate the advice vs. advise dilemma as being a rather easy one to solve. Despite that, I confess to have made this mistake too. This despite the fact that I have no doubt about the difference between advise vs. advice. But for those who do not know it, note that there are two different spellings! We have seen many misused words but in most cases both the words have totally different meaning as in the case of: desert vs. dessert loose vs. lose affected vs. effected then vs. than But advise vs. advice does not come in the same category because the context and meaning for both the words is almost the same. So why do we have a different spelling? One word is a noun while the other is a verb. I admit it is confusing but once you know which one is the noun and verb you can easily use it in sentences with some simple memory aids. Advice with a ‘c’ is a noun. It means counsel, recommendation, or an opinion. For example: “I do not need your advice; I can make up my own mind.” Advise with an ‘s’ is a verb. It is an act of giving counsel, recommendation or opinion. For example: I advise you to take your studies seriously if you wish to pass this year. I have come across many tips to distinguish advice from advise. One easy method is: ‘Advice’ has the word ‘ice’ in it which is an object and hence a noun and the word ‘Advise’ has he word ‘is’ in it which is a verb. I know what you are thinking, that was not easy at all. Another method is based on they are pronounced: Advise (verb) pronounced advi[z]e I advi(z)e you to listen to me. Advice (noun) pronounced advi(s)e I always give sound financial advi(s)e How have you liked my series of commonly confused words? Though there are many more, I will take a small break from confusing words and move on to other interesting aspects of the English language before coming...