How to assure you distinguish between insure and ensure

This trio – assure, ensure, insure – is another example of words that appear on many lists of words often confused. As with earlier pairs discussed, such as alright vs. all right and anxious vs. eager, the usage guidelines vary since, as merriam-webster.com asserts, “there is no unanimity of opinion as to what is correct” …

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Wordplay: allude, elude; allusion, illusion, delusion

Although some language experts dislike when the words in this entry are confused or misused, these pairs of words have a playful connection and do not hold the same intense controversy as other pairs, such as all right and alright or anxious and eager. (These words share the Latin root word ludere which means “to …

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Are you discombobulate when you see combobulate and recombobulate?

Discombobulate, like disgruntled, nondescript, unkempt, and unruly, is a part of a category of words with a “lost positive” – “one of those interesting negatives without a corresponding positive word” (Garner’s 806). It is also considered an American regionalism by The Oxford English Dictionary. In addition, the word is recent, first appearing in 1916 according …

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Mixing up words like alot vs. a lot and anxious vs. eager

The Writingessentialsbyellen.com blog has a new “look”: posts will be shorter so that readers can get the essential questions answered quickly, but links will be provided to previous and new essays that go deeper into the language usage and controversy points. Reply to the post to let me know how you like the new format. …

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What is pronoun antecedent agreement?

In the previous post on vague pronoun reference, we discussed the role of pronouns in taking the place of nouns that preceded them, which are called their antecedents. The traditional usage rule for pronoun-antecedent agreement is that pronouns must match their antecedents in gender, person, number, and case. Gender refers to masculine or feminine; person to the first, second, third; number to …

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Why bother about aggravate vs exasperate vs exacerbate?

For the first time in over 2 years my blog is being posted later in the day than usual – a busy week, notwithstanding increased discussion about blogs being “so yesterday’s medium.” As I evaluate and explore options for Writingessentialsbyellen.com and its blog, new posts continue on hiatus. Meanwhile, favorite posts will be published with …

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Making sentence structures parallel

Note: The WritingEssentials blog is on hiatus. Meanwhile, favorite posts will be published with updates. Ellen ~~ Nearly 100 posts ago, we looked at parallelism, or parallel sentence structure. I’m revisiting this post after reviewing some writing of a Sprint group participant who had composed a list for a piece she submitted for publication. What …

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