Purple prose

Purple prose is a noun phrase used to describe prose that is showy, elaborate, or overemotional. The term is used particularly when the writing gets in the way of the reader's experience. It does not need quotation marks or a hyphen. History The term is attributed to the Roman poet Horace, who died in 8 BC. The Latin words professis purpureus have been translated as purple patches, purple cloth, or purple prose. In that time period purple was specifically associated with … [Read more...]

Interview with Craig Silverman

Grammarist is pleased to introduce, Craig Silverman, an award-winning journalist and the founder of Regret the Error, a blog that reports on media errors and corrections, and trends regarding accuracy and verification. The blog moved to The Poynter Institute in December 2011, and he joined as Adjunct Faculty. How did you first start blogging? I was reading a ton of blogs back in the early 2000s and wanted to start one of my own. I was a freelance journalist at the time, and wanted to do … [Read more...]

Smokey vs. smoky

Smokey is a proper noun and first name, whereas smoky is an adjective referring to an object being filled with or smelling of smoke. Until recently smokey was an accepted spelling of smoky in the Oxford English Dictionary. However, it is now thought of as old-fashioned.   Examples Elsewhere, the choice ran from interesting daily specials, such as lamb kofta, to tasty, fashionable sandwiches, such as a New York deli-style pastrami, or the Smokey Jo – smoked pork, smoked cheese, … [Read more...]


A McJob is a low-paying job that requires little to no education and has no opportunity of advancement. It may also refer to a position filled by someone who is extremely overqualified. History In 1983 McDonald's coined the term McJob to promote a program they had designed to help affirmative action for disabled employees. However, the term was quickly redefined into its current definition. It was a buzzword of the 90's in the United States and used by many to detail the economic shift toward … [Read more...]


Headwind is a wind that blows directly opposite of forward motion, or from the front. Headwind can also be used to describe anything that opposes growth or movement. It should always be spelled as one word, but can be singular or plural depending on context. The antonym for headwind is tailwind, which blows from behind or directly in line with forward motion. It can describe anything that promotes growth or movement.   Examples But trade will likely remain a headwind to U.S. … [Read more...]


Feckless is an adjective to describe something that is worthless or irresponsible. Its root, feck, comes from the Scottish word for effect. So feckless could be thought of as something or someone that is without effect. It also can be used as a noun or adverb, fecklessness and fecklessly, however, use in this forms is not common.   Examples A new book claims that former Secretary of State and potential presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton called President Barack Obama "incompetent … [Read more...]

Machine gun vs. machine-gun

Machine gun is a noun phrase that is defined as a weapon that fires bullets rapidly as long as the trigger is held down. When hyphenated, as machine-gun, the word becomes an adjective used to describe things that happen very quickly. Machine-gun can also be a verb, to shoot something with a machine gun. However, in practice, the common spelling is machine gun for both verb and adjective forms.   Examples A policewoman was under investigation today after her machine gun went off … [Read more...]


Machiavellian is an adjective used to describe conduct that is clever and dishonest, usually within politics. It can also describe a setting where people might use cunning and trickery to obtain a goal, such as a battle or election. History Niccolo Machiavelli was an Italian diplomat and writer of political science. His most famous work was published in 1532, The Prince, in which he describes the immoral behavior of powerful men as acceptable or even encouraged. The word Machiavellian grew in … [Read more...]

Absorption vs. adsorption

Absorption is the process by which things are absorbed. Adsorption, on the other hand, describes the act of gas or liquid molecules adhering to a surface. Both words are commonly misspelled as absorbtion and adsorbtion. This spelling error is usually corrected automatically by a computer's spell check. The spelling change comes from pronunciation over time. The voiced consonant of /b/ is grouped with the voiceless /tion/. Another example are the words describe and … [Read more...]

Dark horse

A dark horse is something or someone that is perceived to be an unlikely winner and does, in fact, succeed, usually in a competition. It should always be spelled as two words, and does not need to be set apart by quotation marks. The term was, unsurprisingly, coined in horse racing when the winner was unknown to the gamblers, sometimes by the design of the jockeys and trainers. It first appeared in print in 1831, but by 1844 it was used in the United States for political candidates who won … [Read more...]

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