The good news is that there is solid reasoning behind when you use the prefix of “in-” versus when you use “un-”; the bad news is that this logic will only help you if you have a solid understanding of language history.
In all cases discussed here, these prefixes mean “not” or the opposite of something. We see them in action all of the time:
I don’t want to get all up in your business, but no matter how busy you are, make sure you know the difference between “business” vs. “busyness.”
I see the logic of this typo. After all, when you’re talking about the state of being happy, the word is “happiness”; when you mention how someone is savvy, you talk about their “savviness”; when you refer to how something is silly, you mention its “silliness.”
This “-y” to “-iness” transformation is a natural part of our everyday spelling.
The problem is that “business” is already a word.
Therefore, the correct word to use when thinking about the busy nature of your day-to-day is “busyness.”
Side note: When did it become so common for the response to “How are you?” to be “Busy”?
I’ll momentarily forgive the adjective vs. adverb slip, considering a “how” question should be answered with an adverb, but why is this the answer we all give and hear so often? A while back, I made a resolution to stop answering this way myself, not because I wasn’t busy, but because it doesn’t really answer the question, does it? Whether you’re busy or not, you could be doing wonderfully or terribly, after all. The “busy” answer has a variety of meanings too, from stressed to overjoyed, so why don’t we start answering this question a bit more precisely? We’re all busy.
Just a thought. You know editors always have side thoughts on everyday language use…
In the end, though, I hope all is well with you amidst your busyness, whether it’s busyness with your business or otherwise.
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Something we really need to nip in the bud is the typo “nip in the butt.” I promise you, that’s not the correct version of this idiom.
This expression goes back to gardening. If you’re trimming back something problematic, you nip it in the bud, removing the buds before they grew into something bigger, wilder, havoc-wreaking, and generally other than what you wanted. More
If you’re writing about a “faux pa,” I’m tempted to ask, who’s you’re daddy? Though, maybe I should back up…
Remember, the phrase you’re looking for seeped into English from French. Phonetic spelling never works in such instances. It’s not “fo pah” or “faux pa.” The correct form of this expression is “faux pas” More
Do you feel the earth move under your feet? How about the sky tumbling down, tumbling down?
Are you singing along in your head, or are you really just nervous about your grammar? Do you know when to capitalize the “e” in “Earth” or when to leave it in lowercase?
We all know the name of the third planet from the sun, but the proper noun vs. common noun confusion is an understandable one. Sometimes, we see it written as “Earth,” and sometimes, it’s just plain “earth.”
Here’s the quick “earth” capitalization breakdown:
Once and for all, is it “axe” or “ax”? Has this question ever bothered you too?
I hope you don’t have an ax/axe to grind about words that have two correct spellings. I’ve talked about “imposter” vs. “impostor,” “preventative” vs. “preventive,” and “advisor” vs. “adviser” before–among others–but here’s another one to add to that list. More
When I came across one version of this word recently, I did a double-take. It simply didn’t look right to me, and as an editor, I like to be thorough. I can’t let typos slip through my grasp—even if Microsoft Word allows them. (It happens more than you might think.)
So I did my research and learned “imposter” was not the impostor I thought it was. It’s entirely acceptable. Both the “impostor” and “imposter” spellings are considered correct, and “imposter” even has an edge in Australia and New Zealand. More