Don’t’s or don’ts

Don't is a contraction of the words do not which means not to perform or complete an action. A don't is something that should not be accomplished or completed. The common phrase with the plural is spelled dos and don'ts. While dos has an alternate spelling (both dos and do's is accepted by different people), don'ts is always don'ts and never don't's. Interestingly, in the past it was the accepted contraction for does not as well, as in She don't live here. Nowadays this is seen as incorrect … [Read more...]

Dos or do’s

Do is a verb meaning to complete or perform an action. A to-do list is something that outlines all of the things one needs to accomplish in a certain amount of time. Another phrase is the dos of something or the things that are good or correct to perform within a certain area. Do's is a sometimes accepted spelling variation. The preferrence between the two spellings depends largely on the type of publication one is writing for. Dos or do's are accepted plural spellings of the word do when … [Read more...]

Sub rosa vs sub-rosa

Sub-rosa is an adjective that describes an event as having been accomplished in secret or hiding. It is one of the few sub- words that has a hyphen as the preferred spelling inside North America. In British English the preferred spelling is two words, without the hyphen. Sub rosa, without the hyphen, can also be an adverb that describes an action as having been in secrecy. This non-hyphenated form is the preferred form everywhere. This follows the general hyphen rule that compound … [Read more...]

Matter of fact or matter-of-fact

The adjective matter-of-fact is hyphenated and describes something or someone as having little to no dramatic emotion when speaking about potentially upsetting things. Note that this does not mean a lack of all emotion, but it means that the individual is not letting his or her emotions get the better of him or her. The adverb form is matter-of-factly and the noun form is matter-of-factness. An alternate noun form is matter of fact. This is used for things that are not opinion or up for … [Read more...]

Trainer or trainor

The correct spelling is trainer as the noun for a person who guides another in learning a new skill or who is responsible for the physical workouts of an individual or team. It is also the name for those who work with animals, particularly those animals that are taught specific tricks or skills. This word is also the name for sneakers or tennis shoes in British English. The confusion in spelling stems from the fact that this word has taken an action and made a noun form for an occupation. … [Read more...]

Toweled or towelled

A towel is something used to absorb liquid, usually made of paper or fabric. It should be noted here that in British English this can also be a term for a pad or sanitary napkin. As a verb, to towel something is to use a towel to clear it of liquid. It is almost always used in the phrases towel dry or towel off. Inside the United States, the conjugations are spelled towels, toweled, and toweling. Outside the United States they are spelled towels, towelled, and towelling. Be aware that the … [Read more...]

Them’s the breaks or brakes

This phrase comes from North America and has several variations. Them's the breaks or that's the breaks or them's da breaks, with the first spelling being the most popular and the last being the least (and also most informal). It is never spelled brakes. The phrase means that sometimes the outcome to a situation isn't what one wanted or expected, and most especially, that there isn't much to be done about it so one might as well accept it and move on. A common synonym that is also a phrase … [Read more...]

Through and through or thru and thru

Through and through is an adverb and means to do something completely, in any manner possible. A good synonym is thoroughly. Sometimes this phrase is used as an adjective with regard to bullet wounds. A through and through is something that goes in one side of something or someone and comes out the other side, as opposed to staying inside the body or object. Thru is an alternative spelling to through and has its own listing in the dictionary. Though some European dictionaries list it as … [Read more...]

Threshold or threshhold

Threshhold is a common misspelling. The correct spelling is threshold with no double h. A threshold is a border between rooms that you walk over to change from one area to another. Another, more figurative, definition is that a threshold can be the moment when some quality or amount begins to change. This can be either a physical or psychological quality. The change can also mean that a condition is met when something goes above the threshold and another action can take … [Read more...]

Riffle vs rifle

To riffle, pronounced with a short i sound, is to peruse something quickly, usually by flipping through the items. It can also be used for shuffling playing cards or flipping the pages of a book or stack of papers. Common synonyms are ruffle and shuffle. A riffle is anything that causes water to ripple, either on a riverbed or in a machine, this is mostly in North America though. It can also be a group if ripples or the act of shuffling. To rifle, pronounced with the long i sound, is to … [Read more...]

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