Quick entries: J, K, L

  • Note: Many of the entries here will eventually become full-length posts. Some are rough and have not been well researched. If you have any corrections or would like to add anything, please comment.


    Jam: One’s jam is a song, especially one that is soulful or has a beat, that has special meaning, inspires deep feelings, or inspires dancing.

    Jinx: to give bad luck.

    Jones: to have a strong desire for something. One who is jonesing for something is filled with obsessive want. The word is somewhat new and slangy, so dictionaries and spell-check might not yet approve. Ignore them. Whether Jones is a strong desire or a name, its plural is Joneses, and its possessive is Jones’s.

    Joyful vs. joyous: There is no significant difference between them, and neither is significantly more common than the other.

    Kludge: a clumsy solution or an assemblage of mismatched parts meant to temporarily solve a problem.

    Knave vs. nave: A knave is an unprincipled fellow who uses craftiness to get what he wants. A nave is the central part of a church.

    Kneeled vs. knelt: Kneeled is the original form, but knelt gained prominence in the 19th century and is far more common today. Neither is inherently more right or wrong.

    Knowledgeable: with the second eKnowledgable is a misspelling.

    Ladder vs. latter: Ladder: something you climb. Latter: the second of two (and no more than two) things.

    Laid: not layed.

    Laundry list: figuratively, an exhaustive list, often of unpleasant or tedious items.

    Lay of the land: the current situation or disposition of something.

    Lay out vs. layout: Lay out is a verb. Layout is a noun and an adjective.

    Leaned vs. leant: Both forms go back centuries, but leaned is preferred in all main varieties of modern English.

    Learnings: Many people find this word objectionable. If you don’t want to raise their ire, try lessons or any of its many synonyms.

    Leary vs. leery: Leery means distrustful or waryLeary is a surname.

    Legislator vs. legislature: A legislator is a member of a legislative body. The legislature is the legislative body.


    Lesser vs. lessor: Lesser: littler or fewer—often bears replacement with less. Lessor: one who leases something.

    Liaise: to communicate or to serve as a go-between for communicating parties. It’s a back-formation from liaison.

    Lifestyle vs. way of life: Some consider one or the other offensive in certain uses, but there is no consistency on the issue, and both are generally used interchangeably.

    Lifetime: one word; plural lifetimes.

    Like vs. such as: They are effectively the same. Some writers switch between them to avoid repetitiveness. Don’t listen to anyone who says such as should always be used in place of likeLike has multiple meanings, one of which is such as.

    Lilliputian: very small.

    (In the) limelight: a focus of public attention. The phrase comes from theater, where a limelight is an especially bright light used to highlight important actors.

    Line up, lineup, line-up: Line up is a phrasal verb meaning, primarily, to make a lineLineup is a noun and an adjective. Line-up is an alternative form of line-up.

    Lion’s share: the majority or an especially large share of something.

    Little to no: no hyphens necessary.

    Livable vs. liveable: livable is preferred in the U.S.; elsewhere, both appear about equally.

    Lock out vs. lockout: Make it two words when it functions as a verb. Make it one word (some publications hyphenate it) when it functions as an adjective or a noun.

    Long in the tooth: old or becoming old.

    Loop-the-loop: not loop-de-loop. 

    Loquacious: very talkative.

    Losing battle, lost cause: A losing battle is fought. A lost cause is fought for (or against).

    Lots of vs. a lot of: They mean the same, but lots of is plural and a lot of is singular.

    Luncheon: a formal lunch or an afternoon party where lunch is served. Not lunch-in.


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