Estimate vs. estimation

An estimate is an approximate calculation or evaluation, and an estimation is the process of approximately calculating or evaluating. So an estimate is the result of estimation. Examples If the U.S. Census Bureau's estimates are correct, Freeborn County lost about 1,700 people in the past 10 years. [Albert Lea Tribune]Now, in the first reliable estimation of how long the volcano will continue erupting for, experts believe Lusi will not rest until 2037. [Daily Mail]Whalen cut his … [Read more...]


The suffix -esque, similar to the suffix -like, means in a manner of or resembling. It is in the category of English suffixes that we can attach to virtually any English noun without using a hyphen. Yet since the rise of software spell-check, which erroneously marks many -esque coinages as incorrect, writers have grown timid about attaching -esque without the hyphen. For example, the hyphen is not needed in any of these cases: Ever since he showed up on the music scene as a marvelously talented … [Read more...]

Moot vs. mute

As an adjective, moot originally meant arguable or subject to debate. With this sense of moot, a moot point was something that was open to debate. But, since around 1900, the adjective has gradually come to mean of no importance or merely hypothetical. This usage arose out of an exercise in U.S. law schools involving the discussion of "moot" cases to practice argumentation.In the common phrase moot point, moot means (1) of no importance or (2) merely hypothetical. This is where moot most … [Read more...]

Advice vs. advise

Advice is a noun meaning information about what could or should be done. Advise is only a verb. It means to give advice. The distinction applies in all varieties of English. The words are never interchangeable. Examples The words are often mixed up---for example: I was adviced strictly not to travel in the Tube train after dusk. [Daily Mirror]Officers from the sexual offence unit and drug unit also gave advise on crime prevention. [Fiji Times] And these writers use advice and advise … [Read more...]

Apologise vs. apologize

Apologize is the preferred spelling in American and Canadian English, and apologise is preferred in varieties of English from outside North America. This is the case despite the fact that apologize is the original form and was once standard even in British English (and is still used by some British publishers).Traditionally, verbs whose roots have origins in Greek take the -ize suffix, and apology is of Greek origin, so it took -ize when it first came to English in the 16th century. … [Read more...]


Humorousness is an old word bearing the sense jocularity or funniness. It often bears replacement with the shorter, reliable noun humor (humour outside the U.S.), but it works when speaking of funniness in abstract terms or in terms of degrees. Something that has humorousness is funny in perhaps some accidental way, while something that has humor is one that involves intentional funniness. A comedic movie, for instance, has humor, while an awful dramatic movie might have an unintentional … [Read more...]

Pretence vs. pretense

Pretence and pretense are different spellings of the same word. Pretense is preferred in American English, while pretence is the preferred spelling in most other varieties of English, including British and Australian English. Canadian English generally favors pretence over pretense, but the latter appears about a third of the time. Examples U.S. Senior year of high school we once convinced our parents to get us out of school for a day under the pretense that we were sick. [Wall Street … [Read more...]

So to speak

Like the similar hedging phrase if you will, so to speak often appears where it adds nothing. The phrase, meaning as the saying goes or in a manner of speaking, is most useful when it indicates that an expression is not to be taken literally. Instead, many writers use so to speak to dull the impact of perfectly good expressions.For instance, so to speak is unnecessary when the expression it refers to is obviously not meant literally. In each of these sentences, the phrase could be … [Read more...]


Spell check may have no problem with acquaintanceship, but the word in superfluous. The older and shorter (and easier to spell) acquaintance covers all acquaintanceship's conceivable territory. The suffix -ship adds nothing. Examples Acquaintanceship could be shortened to acquaintance in each of these examples: Sanford said the most significant influence on his life was his acquaintanceship with men in the factory. [Schenectady Gazette]No marriage is required to accomplish this, not even … [Read more...]

Foreword vs. forward

Forward has several adjectival and adverbial definitions, including (1) at, near, or belonging to the front, (2) going toward the front, and (3) tending to the front. It's also a noun denoting a few sports positions. The noun foreword has only one meaning in today's English: a preface or introductory note. Book prefaces are usually written by the author, while forewords are often contributed by someone other than the author. Forword and foreward are not dictionary-recognized … [Read more...]

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