Talking Chairs
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7 more perplexing word combinations

Continuing our look at confusing word pairs, here are a few more to pay attention to. Don’t let these trip you up. 1. Garnish and garner Garnish—to decorate or embellish; to decorate food. I never know if you’re supposed to eat the garnish. Garner—to gather, collect or accumulate; to gather into storage. We garnered our books and created a library of science fiction and 19th-century literature. 2. Incredible and incredulous Incredible—difficult or impossible to believe; astonishing. The number of roadblocks we’ve experienced with this project is...
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8 confounding word combinations

Look-alike and sound-alike words continue to bewilder many — even those who write for a living. I recently had trouble explaining the difference between “epigraph,” “epigram,” “epithet” and “epitaph.” (More on those later.) To cut down on the confusion, I demystify eight perplexing combinations. 1. Accede and exceed Accede means to agree to a request; to give consent. I will not accede to your request to put a video of dancing kittens on the website. Exceed means to be greater or more than something; to extend beyond or outside of. The results from our...
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Quiz: commonly misused or misspelled wor...

I’ve written more posts than I can count about confusing word pairs, words that are hard to spell and words that aren’t really words. Instead of another article about usage, let’s see how you fare with a quiz. Read the list below and make note of which words or phrases are incorrect—either from misspelling or from misstatement. Check your answers at the end. Definitions and usage guidance came from Oxford Dictionaries, Dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster. Alterior motive Augurs well for the project Brussel sprout Caddy-corner Center around Conversate Coursing...
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Write it out — 41 ways to express frustr...

I’ve had a rough time at work over the past couple of weeks: roadblocks, stonewalling, purposeful lack of communication, siloed behavior. It makes me long for the days when my job just involved writing and editing. Let me correct some serial commas—please. I thought I would try a little writing therapy. Below are idioms and words that describe the frustration I’ve felt lately. I’ve been “at my wit’s end” and “in a stew,” but I’ve also felt bewildered, incensed and riled. How many of these can you relate to? At your wit’s end At the end of your...
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8 resources for finding that perfect wor...

I once worked with someone who used the word “secure” continually. He would write: • “We need to secure advertisers.” • “Have you secured a printer for the annual report yet?” • “I’m not feeling secure about our chances of securing this contract.” I often found myself correcting his writing and replacing “secure” with alternatives such as “obtain,” “get,” “acquire” and “find,” but he was set on the word “secure” and would often change it back. The importance of varying our words to keep readers interested cannot be...
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49 unbeatable words for the game “...

Anyone who spends time with kids knows their patience is truly a virtue. Whether it’s standing in line at the grocery store or waiting for food at a restaurant, kids complain about being bored within milliseconds. Mine are no exception. Rather than reflexively pulling out my phone to keep them entertained, though, we often play an old-fashioned game of “hangman.” In case you don’t remember, the game goes like this: One player chooses a word and the other players try to guess it by asking which letters it contains. Every wrong guess brings the guessing players a...
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6 ways communicators can say “no&#...

Between staffing constraints, workloads and outlandish demands from clients and executives, communications pros are universally overworked. We’re increasingly being asked to do more with less, but sometimes we have to say “no” to a project or offer that cannot be accomplished. Here are six ways you can decline politely, but firmly: 1. Just say “no.” This is easier said than done. I once worked in a department where the director told her staff that they couldn’t say “no” to anything. Many of her employees organized parties and ordered refreshments along...
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Why use “utilize” when ̶...

Most corporate writing is full of weak, meaningless verbs. Consider “implement,” “leverage,” “disseminate,” “promulgate” and the most impotent verb of them all, “utilize.” Like many PR Daily readers, I’ve spent much of my career translating corporate-speak into clear, comprehensible English. I’ve changed “utilize” to “use” more times than I can count. No matter how many times I explain that “use” is preferred—that it’s simpler and less pretentious—someone insists on using “utilize” because it “sounds better.” The “bigger...