If you will

If you will, meaning if you will allow me to use this phrase, is a hedge phrase, and it could usually be removed. Writers often use it to apologize for a weak phrase---often a bad metaphor, a corny coinage, or a phrase the writer is reluctant to use. And sometimes it's used when a writer doesn't trust his or her readers to understand a metaphor---for example: A musical chairs with cars, if you will. [Savannah Now] [It] becomes your filing cabinet, if you will, for all those end-of-life … [Read more...]

Incomparable vs. uncomparable

Two or more things that can't be compared with each other are uncomparable. Something that is so good that it is beyond comparison is incomparable. Some dictionaries don't list uncomparable, and your spell check might say it's wrong, but it's a perfectly good, useful word. It fills a role not conventionally filled by incomparable. Examples Today it is cattle grazing on private ranches that preserves 20 million acres of incomparable landscape. [San Francisco Chronicle] With some words the … [Read more...]


The first century consisted of the years 1 through 100. Therefore, the second century consisted of 101 through 200, the third century 201 through 300, and so on. That's why the 19th century, for example, consists of the 1800s instead of the 1900s. Centuries aren't normally capitalized. Some publications spell out centuries (e.g., twentieth century), while others use numerals (e.g., 20th century) for centuries after the tenth. It's a matter of preference, so neither is inherently right or … [Read more...]

Quash vs. squash

As a verb, squash means to beat, squeeze, press, or crush something into a flattened mass. As a noun it denotes the family of tendril-bearing plants with leathery rinds and edible fruit, while squash is also racket game played in a closed-walled court with a rubber ball. Quash means (1) to set aside or annul by judicial action, and (2) to suppress forcibly and completely. When squash is used figuratively, its meaning can come very close to quash in the second sense. Examples Squash Once … [Read more...]

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...]

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