Tagged With vocabulary

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I might be Lifehacker’s parenting editor, but I also took on the unofficial role of the site’s grammar writer this year. Whenever I had to double-check the usage of a word or phrase or recalled a mnemonic device I found useful, I wrote about it. And then I’d get specific reader requests, like, “Can you please write a post telling people that ‘verbage’ is not a word?” or “can you do ‘comprise’ next?” and I was clearly all-too-happy to oblige.

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I was writing a sentence the other day that included the sentiment that something was of “the utmost importance.” And I paused. Was it utmost? Or was it upmost? I was pretty sure it was “utmost,” but I was also pretty sure I’d seen/heard “upmost” at some point in my life. What’s the difference? 

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Merriam-Webster is at it again, adding hundreds of new words to its English dictionary, a process it refers to as “a happy fact of life for a living language”.

We happen to share in their excitement over new words. It is a happy fact, after all, that they’ve finally expanded the definition of they to include being “used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary”. That was over-due.

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No one can recognise our relentless misuse of the English language quite like an editor. Misplace a modifier, and your editor will (hopefully) let you know. Over-use intensifiers such as “very,” “just,” and “really,” and your editor will tell you that you’re not doing your writing any favours. My editor here at Lifehacker has officially broken me of the overuse of “oftentimes,” which, as she pointed out, isn’t exactly wrong, but is just a longer way of saying “often.”

And now Laura Helmuth, health and science editor at The Washington Post, is here to help us with a bunch of other ways we’re mucking up the English language.

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Every time I write either “affect” or “effect,” I have to pause for a second to double-check myself. Their meanings are related, their spellings are similar. Even their pronunciation is nearly the same. But one of them causes something and the other is the result. And knowing the difference is a good thing.

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Don't you love the internet? It's given people a place to spread their opinions far and wide, no matter how much or little they actually know about what they're saying. On the internet, everyone can pretend to be an expert. There's some good news among all these depressing truths, however: we've dug up the perfect word to be used against these people next time they try to argue with you.

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Everyone's familiar with déjà vu - everyone would have experienced it at some stage in your life. It's a disconcerting flash of recognition of something you know you've never seen before, yet still feels all too familiar. Less people know about this term's sister, jamais vu: but it's a great descriptor for another weird mind trick that's just as trippy to experience.

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Our English teachers told us to avoid the word "very" because it's weak and vague. They were right, and many times, we use "very" as a modifier for a word that could easily be replaced with a stronger, more accurate word. This infographic tells you what to use instead.