Tad bit vs tidbit

Tad bit means a little amount of something and is synonymous with tidbit and titbit. Though it is always spelled as two words.  Tad and bit can both be used on their own for a similar meaning. The use of both may seem redundant, however, it is an accepted phrase. It should not be used with another size adjective (e.g., a little tad bit or tad bit little). All terms are usually used with the article a. The phrase a bit can also signify a small amount of time or distance. Be aware … [Read more...]

Mom vs mom

Capitalization is required for proper nouns, such as names, but sometimes words can be proper nouns or common nouns. Family titles, such as mom and dad, fit into this category. The general rule is to capitalize a family name when it is used as a name, and not to capitalize when it is a common noun. A good tip is to look if there is a pronoun or article (e.g., the, your, his, etc.) preceding the title. If an article or pronoun is there, don't capitalize (e.g., your mother is pretty). If there … [Read more...]

Garrote, garrotte, or garotte

To garrote someone is to strangle him or her with a cord or wire. Outside the United States it is spelled garrotte. A garrote is also the device with which someone is strangled. It is a wire with a handle at each end that is wrapped around the neck and twisted to make tight. Oddly, the spelling garotte is also acceptable, but in practice it will be seen as a misspelling by most readers. Originally the strangulation device was attached to a chair and tightened by turning a stick, and was … [Read more...]

At wits’ end

The idiom at wits’ end means to be very upset, or at the limits of one’s emotional or mental limitations. It’s commonly spelled at wit’s end, but we say at the end of my wits, not at the end of my wit, so at wits’ end makes more sense. Examples Jenette said her family could not believe what was happening and were eventually at wits’ end. [IOL News] Alluding to Russian involvement in the jet's downing as alleged by Washington, Rutte conveyed the rage and frustration of the Dutch who he … [Read more...]

Addenda or addendums

An addendum is an additional item listed at the end of a document or book. The dictionary-approved plural is addenda. However, both addenda and  addendums are both widely used. Addendum, though Latin in origin, is a long-established English word, so we can pluralize it in the English manner. Examples Proposed addendum b is one of six addenda to ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2013, Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality, now open for public comment until Oct. 5, 2014. [ACHR News] You'll … [Read more...]

Vale, vail, or veil

A vale is a valley, also a common township name in Wales. To vail is to take off your hat in a sign of respect. It is so archaic we were not able to find modern examples of its use. In the U.S., the word is more commonly associated with the Vail ski resort in Colorado. A veil is a piece of cloth worn over the head and sometimes face, normally associated with women and brides. To veil something is to obscure it or hide it, as a veil does.   Examples Near it hangs an oil sketch, … [Read more...]

Bough or bow

A bough (pronounced /bau/) is a main branch of a tree. Its homonym bow has several meanings including: to quit a competition, to bend the body in an act of submission or reverence, to acknowledge applause, or debut. Bow can be pronounced /bo/ and has an alternate meaning. It can be a tie of a ribbon, a weapon made to shoot arrows, or a rod strung with hair to play a stringed instrument. Examples There is an instinctive fear in all of us, probably dating back to primeaval times, when it … [Read more...]

Moose vs. mooses

A moose is a large animal with antlers that is found in the northern forests of America, Europe, and Asia. Its plural is moose, not mooses. Though Mooses is a surname. Examples Moose are less likely to move from the road than deer, so drivers are advised to brake when they see a moose in or near the road. Their long legs and top-heavy bodies make moose very dangerous to motorists when struck. [Boston Herald] It was a taste of things to come, as Northern Ontario is famed for its natural … [Read more...]


An accoutrement  is a clothing or equipment accessory. The French pronunciation is ackoo-truh-mahn, but the word has been adopted into the English language for centuries, so the anglicized pronunciation ackoo-treh-ment. Examples You could live in the inner city in an apartment shaped by clean, minimalist European lines and immerse yourself within the cultural delights of the city’s finest institutions and cultural accoutrement. [The Australian] The imagery links together the bridge, among … [Read more...]

Civilise vs. civilize

Outside North America, civilise is the spelling for the word which means to bring a place or people to a stage of increased social standards. In North America, it is spelled civilize. The spelling change runs throughout all forms of the word. Examples According to a study published in Current Anthropology, our transition into modern civilization might have coincided with our species' drop in testosterone. [Washington Post] A thousand years before Rome or Christ or Buddha, there existed a … [Read more...]

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