Back up vs. backup

The one-word backup works only as an adjective or a noun. When you need a verb, use the two-word phrasal verb back up. For example, when an American football team needs a player to back up their aging quarterback, they might trade for a good backup. Examples Below, backup is a noun in the first and third examples, and it's an adjective in the second: Stopping the vehicle, the deputy detected the odor of marijuana from inside and called for backup. [Ocala] Backup lineman Lennie Friedman … [Read more...]

Habeas corpus

Habeas corpus is a Latin loan phrase meaning, literally, "you shall have the body." In modern usage, habeas corpus refers to the right of a detained individual to be brought before a court or judge to determine whether the imprisonment is legal and justified. Habeas corpus is considered an indispensible right in many modern societies, but it's sometimes suspended under extreme circumstances. For example, Abraham Lincoln famously suspended habeas corpus during the American Civil War so … [Read more...]

Uncomparable adjectives

Uncomparable adjectives describe absolute states or conditions. Modifiers like more and less do not apply to them, and they don't have comparative and superlative forms. Here are some of the most common uncomparable … [Read more...]


Synecdoche (from Greek, meaning literally simultaneous understanding) is a figure of speech in which one of the following occurs: A part of something is used for the whole (e.g., hands for sailors, Ol' Blue Eyes for Frank Sinatra). A whole is used for a part (e.g., the law for police). A specific is thing is used for a general thing (e.g., John Hancock for signature, Coke for all colas, Wall Street for the financial industry). A non-specific term is used for a specific thing (e.g., the … [Read more...]

Stock, shares

In their strictest financial senses, stock is a mass noun (meaning it can't be plural), and share is a count noun (it can be plural). Shares are units of stock. These writers, for instance, abide by this distinction: Last year, Quest repurchased about 15 million shares of common stock for $750 million. [Dow Jones Newswires] President & CEO Oleg Khaykin sold 6,870 shares of IRF stock on 12/01/2010 at the average price of 28.77. [Guru Focus] Nektar Therapeutics Inc. sold 19 million … [Read more...]

Hardy vs. hearty

Hardy means strong, bold, or capable of prevailing through tough conditions. If it wouldn't make sense to replace hardy with strong or bold, then you probably want hearty, whose main meanings are (1) expressed warmly, (2) providing abundant nourishment, and (3) unequivocal. Think of hardy as related to hard, and hearty as related to heart. Things that are hardy are strong and hard, while things that are hearty often come from the heart, warm the heart, or give heart. It might also help to … [Read more...]

Ax vs. axe

Ax and axe are different spellings of the same word. Axe is standard in varieties of English from outside the U.S. Axe also appears in American English, but the newer spelling, ax, has gained ground over the last half century and is now more common. The distinction extends to compounds involving ax and axe. For instance, Americans often use pickax and broadax, while English speakers elsewhere use pickaxe and broadaxe. Examples For example, these American publications use ax: Legislature: … [Read more...]

Respective, respectively

Both respective (meaning each separately according to its own situation) and its adverbial form, respectively, are often used unnecessarily. The words are called for when the distinction matters, or when not including them could cause confusion---for example: Glen Mazzara and Adam Fierro complete the line-up, writing episodes five and six respectively. [Digital Spy] This respectively is useful because it tells us that the two writers are working separately on these episodes rather than … [Read more...]

Animal adjectives

adjective  accipitrine animal  hawk anserine goose aquiline eagle asinine ass avine bird bovine cow bubaline buffalo cameline camel cancrine crab canine dog caprine goat corvine deer corvine crow, raven crocodiline crocodile elephantine elephant equine horse falconine falcon feline cat ferine any wild … [Read more...]


Data is often treated as a plural noun in writing related to science, mathematics, finance, and computing. Elsewhere, most English speakers treat it as a singular mass noun. This convention is well established and widely followed in both edited and unedited writing. Keep in mind, though, that some people consider the singular data incorrect. This view is based on a misunderstanding of how English develops, but those who hold it tend to feel strongly about it, so we might approach data with … [Read more...]

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