Defence vs. defense


Defence and defense are different spellings of the same word. Defense is preferred in American English, and defence is preferred in all other main varieties of English, including Australian, British, and Canadian English. The spelling distinction extends to most derivatives of … [Read more...]

French definite articles

The English definite article the translates into three separate words in French: (1) le, the definite article for singular masculine nouns; (2) la, the definite article for singular feminine nouns; and (3) les, the definite article for plural nouns of either gender. Before a vowel When … [Read more...]

French alphabet pronunciation

French and English use the same alphabet (unlike the Spanish alphabet, for example, which has a few extra letters), but the letters are pronounced … [Read more...]


A dangler (also known as a dangling modifier or dangling participle) is a sentence element---usually a participle or a phrase anchored by one---that doesn't relate syntactically to the noun it's intended to modify. In other words, when a modifier doesn't appear where it's logically supposed to be, … [Read more...]

Bad rap vs. bad wrap

A bad wrap is an unappetizing sandwich made of fillings wrapped in a tortilla. A bad rap---otherwise known as a bum rap---is dishonor resulting from false accusations or trumped-up charges. No hyphen is needed in this noun phrase. There's also bad rep (where rep is short for reputation---an … [Read more...]

Instantly vs. instantaneously

Instantly means at once or immediately. Instantaneously is variously assigned several meanings, some of which conflict with each other, but several references sources agree on a primary definition: happening or exerted with no delay in relation to something else. For example, one can tweet … [Read more...]


An isometric poem or stanza is composed of lines of uniform length. In traditional poetry, most poems were isometric, adhering to a set line length throughout. For example, this stanza by William Blake is isometric: Phoebe dressed like beauty's queen, Jellicoe in faint pea-green--- Sitting all … [Read more...]

Rule of thumb

The idiom rule of thumb, meaning a principle that's widely useful but not strictly accurate in all circumstances, has origins in the practice of making measurements with one's thumb.1 In this idiom, rule originally carried one of its now little-used definitions---a straight-edged device used for … [Read more...]

Palindrome (poetry)

In poetry, a palindrome (from the Greek palindromos, meaning running back again) is a poem, line, or sentence that reads the same both forward and backward, either letter by letter or word by word. One early example, attributed to Gregory of Nazianuzus (329--389 A.D.), is in Latin: nipson … [Read more...]

Overnight vs. over night

Overnight is one word when it functions as an adjective or adverb, as in these examples: Cover and refrigerate overnight. [Mommy's Kitchen] His Olympic super-combined originally was set for Tuesday but an overnight snowstorm forced organizers to push the race back to Sunday. [Associated … [Read more...]

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