Feb 02

Writing Tip 157: “Waiver” vs. “Waver”

"waiver" vs. "waver" waveJust because spell-check doesn’t flag “waiver” doesn’t mean that it’s the correct word for your sentence.

If you’re feeling weak in the knees, you’re “wavering” not “waivering”—unless, of course, at that moment you are also signing away some prior held privilege. In this case, maybe you’re wavering while you’re waivering? No, that’s still not right. Let’s explore “waiver” vs. “waver” further.

  • “Waiver” is a noun, meaning an intentional surrendering of a right, interest, or privilege or the written statement detailing this relinquishment.
  • “Waver” is most commonly a verb, meaning to sway or become unsteady. It can also mean to show indecision.

If you were hit by a wave, maybe you’d waver.

If you’re being indecisive, there’s no need to bring legal documents into it.

Just my two cents. Know what you’re saying. Don’t just trust spellcheck, people.

Jan 26

Writing Tip 156: Starting Sentences with a Conjunction

Starting sentences with conjunctionsPsst… I have a secret your old high school English teacher didn’t want you to know. It’s okay to begin with “And” or “But.”

There’s a good reason your English teachers didn’t want you starting sentences with a conjunction. Developing strong writing skills is all about learning clarity and precision, and academic writing especially requires a certain language formalitythe same formality that requires the proper usage of who vs. whom and semicolons. When students grow up and write professional correspondences, being in the habit of starting sentences in ways other than a conjunction will be a benefit to them.

But, of course, avoiding conjunctions at the start of sentences isn’t a hard rule. Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 19

Writing Tip 155: “Deep-seated” vs. “Deep seeded”

Deep seeded vs deep-seated

Maybe the only way this flower is alive in the snow and ice is because it’s deep-seeded. No? Yeah, I don’t think so either.

No matter how much the weather makes you feel like gardening (or perhaps not…), there is nothing tracing back to seeds, roots, or things buried far within the dirt with this idiom.

If you have a belief that is held deep in your core, it is “deep-seated”—as in seated deeply within your heart. (Note, there’s a hyphen present since these two words are combining to become an adjective.)

You don’t want to bury your seeds too deeply or they won’t grow. The same goes for this idiom. No more deep seeding, everyone. “Deep-seated” is the way to go.

Jan 12

Writing Tip 154: “Equally” vs. “Equally As”

Kermit doesn't like extra words in sentences either.

Kermit doesn’t like extra words in sentences either.

Words are so much fun sometimes that we often add them in nonsensically, letting them land where they may. Sometimes we stick extra words into sentences where they really have no point. That’s exactly the case when it comes to “equally as.”

Hint: There’s no point to the word “as” next to the word “equally” in most instances. Please clean it up if it spills onto your keyboard.

For example:

  • The twins were equally tall.
  • The racing snails were equally fast.
  • The muppets were equally hilarious. (Strike that sentence; it’s not true. Sorry, Fozzy.)

Do you see how “as” is never needed in these cases? Yet writers add this little word in all of the time. Why is that? Where did it start? When will it stop?

Admittedly, in instances where you are writing “equally as (adjective) as ____,” making a comparison in the latter half of the sentence, the “as” works–though in this case, there would be two “as”es in the sentence, never just one. I repeat, never just one. Here’s a little grammatical instance of how change can start with you.

Jan 06

Writing Tip #153: “Compose” vs. “Comprise”

Compose vs. comprise

Mozart composed the Prague Symphony, and many stones compose this bridge in Prague.

100 writing tips compose my book, Alright? Not All Right. My book comprises 100 writing tips. There’s a subtle difference between these words that is essential in mastering their usage. Are you getting them right?

  • Ignoring other meanings for a moment, let’s focus on when “compose” means “to come together to form something.” Thus, little pieces come together to make something big. Words compose a page; planets compose the solar system; trees compose a forest.
  • To comprise means “to contain,” so to use it properly, something big must contain smaller parts. The library comprises books; molecules comprise atoms; the “dead poets society” did not comprise dead poets (or maybe it did have one. Oh, I just got sad… good movie).

Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 02

Does your book club want to dive down the rabbit hole?

Chase the White Rabbit-book club discussionsIt’s been 150 years since her first readers discovered her, but Alice and her adventures in Wonderland are as fascinating as ever. I’m scheduling book talks, workshops, and discussions throughout the year. Do you and your book club want to join in on the fun? Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 29

Writing Tip #152: Overusing “Then”

then and then and thenThere was a chase. And then the good guy jumped over the fence, and then the bad guy saw the gate unlocked and ran through it after her (What? Who says the “good guy” can’t be a girl?). Then he caught up to her and grabbed her arm. Then she unleashed her inner woman warrior she’d tapped into in a recent self-defense class. He gasped and then groaned as he fell to the ground.

You know what’s wrong with this scene? Sure, many things, but one was exaggerated to make a point. We are over-using the word “then,” people! Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 22

Writing Tip #151: Misleading Quotation Marks

Beware. Coffee is "hot." (Or is it?)

Beware. Coffee is “hot.” (Or is it?)

Quotation marks never create emphasis. They only cause confusion. Are you using yours properly?

It makes me smile every time I see bungled quotation marks on store signage, business marketing materials, or even in personal communications. Please don’t continue this downward trend. If you want to emphasize your language, use bold, italics, an underline, or even surround something with *asterisks* if you must, but do not—I beg you—use quotation marks.

Besides where to put them around other punctuation and when to use single versus double quotes (which we’ve already covered), here’s … Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 16

Writing Tip #150: Myself (and the Reflexive Pronouns)


I’m convinced that swans think deep thoughts. Perhaps the usage of the reflexive pronoun is one of them. No? You don’t agree?

We’ve addressed prickly “I” versus “me” usage, but “myself” needs its own moment in the editorial spotlight. Sure, it can be egotistical or dramatic, but it’s time that “myself” is finally understood. Are you with me?

Above all else, remember that “myself” is not interchangeable with “I” or “me.”

  • The painter and myself didn’t choose our palette (yikes!)
  • No one went to the library with my friend and myself (no!)

Neither of these sentences is correct. If you’re not sure why, return to that “I” versus “me” refresher. Here’s what you do need to know about this tricky word—and let’s add “yourself,” “himself,” “herself,” “itself,” “ourselves,” “yourselves,” and “themselves” to this conversation too. (These are all reflexive pronouns, but I’ll whisper the grammar jargon so as not to scare you away). Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 09

Writing Tip #149: Lay vs. Lie (Past Tense Edition)

lay-lie past tense

Does this “lay” vs. “lie” confusion make me want to lie down? Some days.

Perhaps my favorite past writing tip is the one that answers the question “Why Bob Dylan & Snow Patrol Aren’t Grammarians; Why Sophie B. Hawkins & Bon Jovi Are,” and today, we’re going to take that “lay” vs. “lie” conversation a step further. Are you ready for this?

Of course, you recall that one lies down (the subject taking the action) or one could lay down a rug (the direct object having something done to it). Now, what happens if this laying and lying happened yesterday?

Suddenly, Bob Dylan’s “Lay, Lady, Lay” is perfectly grammatical! Nonsensical, perhaps, but indeed grammatical. If Bob Dylan somehow is telling this lady to time travel and attempt the actions of yesterday all over again, this “lay” might work. Confusing? Sure. Am I trying too hard? Maybe. Let me elaborate. Read the rest of this entry »

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