Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0: Subtle Differences


Today, we’re going to discuss words that basically mean the same, but have subtle differences, like repellent and repulsive or contagious and infectious. These slight distinctions can elevate the quality of your writing.

Contagious, infectious

Contagious and infectious both basically describe a disease that is communicable, according to the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS). However, it notes that a “contagious disease spreads by direct contact with an infected person or animal,” while “an infectious disease is spread by germs on a contaminated object or element.”

Partly, partially

CMS explains that both “convey the sense ‘to some extent; in part,” such as in the phrase “partly responsible.” Partially “has the additional senses of ‘incompletely,’ as in 'partially cooked' and ‘unfairly, in a way that shows bias toward one side,” as in “he treats his friends partially.”

 Repellent, repulsive

Both words refer to the state of driving people away, but CMS brin…

Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0: Was or Were?


“If I was...” or “If I were...” 

Which is correct?

After doing some research, I found it is a matter of subjunctive versus indicative mood. 

The subjunctive is used to express wishful thinking. 

The indicative should be used for statements of fact.


If I were president, I would invest in infrastructure.

If you have a hard time remembering this, think of “If I Were a Rich Man,” the famous song from the musical Fiddler on the Roof
Handy, right?

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These books are on my desk at all times. Maybe they'll help you as well.

The Associated Press Stylebook, 2017 edition
The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition
Strunk and White's The Elements of Style
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th…

Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0: V, Not Just for Vendetta


Although it is a great movie, the letter, V, covers so much more than just the word vendetta.

It’s been a bit since we’ve done one of our individual letters of the alphabet days, so today, let’s talk about words that begin with the letter, V


One of the red-flag words, vacuum has a double u in the middle.


Although not hard to spell at all, you might be interested to know it should be capitalized only as part of a full name, such as Mississippi Valley. The Associated Press Stylebook (AP) recommends to lowercase it in plural uses, like the Missouri and Mississippi valleys.

V-E Day, V-J Day

Get these two days mixed up? You’re not the only one.

V-E Day is May 8, 1945, the day the surrender of Germany was announced officially ending the European phase of World War II, according to AP.

V-J Day is September 2, 1945, when Japan formally surrendered to the Allied forces. AP states that “some commemorate V-J Day on August 14, 1945, when fighting with Jap…

Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0: Adventures in Punditry


Here are some words thrown around by TV political pundits and the comedians who mock them. All definitions are taken from the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition, and No matter what you are writing, it's important not to use the correct terms when referring to economic systems. 


This word means “government by the wealthy” or a “controlling class of the wealthy.” It also can mean a group of people exercising power or influence by virtue of its wealth.


Slightly different from plutocracy, an oligarchy is a government in which a small group exercises control and has all of the power. Government by the few rather than the majority. Webster adds this small group usually wields their power for selfish and corrupt purposes.


Capitalism is “an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods or investments that are determined by private decision rather th…

Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0: Christianity Edition


Every Wednesday, Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0 features handy tips to enhance all of our writing, from daily emails to articles to books. After all, everyone needs to write, right?

Since Sunday is Easter for Christians around the globe, I thought it would be a good time to cover some words and traditions that are specific to Christianity. We've already covered Judaism for Hannukah and Islam for Eid and in previous posts.

One of the Abrahamic monotheistic religions, Christianity is based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Christians believe that Jesus, or Christ, is the son of God and a savior of those who believe in him. The world’s largest religion, it has more than 2.4 billion followers.

The three main branches of Christianity are Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodox. The other denominations include Anglican (or Church of England), Baptist, Church of Christ, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormons), Coptic, Easte…

Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0: Italics or Not?


Every Wednesday, Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0 features handy tips to enhance all of our writing, from daily emails to articles to books. After all, everyone needs to write, right?

When referring to movies or books in your writing, do you put quotation marks around the titles or should they be italicized?

Do you capitalize all of the words and articles in a title? 

What about a particular song in a part of an album, opera, or symphony?

How about paintings? Video games? Television shows? Plays?

What if your character is watching Modern Family or playing Fortnite?

What do I do with the articles?

Well, it depends what you are writing. 

In all cases, the main words of the title should be capitalized. Do not capitalize articles, such as a, and, the, or an, unless they are the first word of the work’s title. Nothing should appear in full caps but acronyms, such as computer programming languages or association names.

Magazines or newspapers

If you're writ…

Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0: Red-Flag Words


Every Wednesday, Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0 features handy tips to enhance all of our writing, from daily emails to articles to books. After all, everyone needs to write, right?

Everybody has them. No matter how many times you write or type these words, you pause for a second.

Hmmm…does that look right? 

Here is a list of words to watch out for, all of which should set off a wee alarm in your head while you edit your work.

Red-Flag Words

Desperate (not desparate)

Disastrous (not disasterous)

Explanation (not explaination)

Fourth (not forth for the number placement)


Embarrass (Go figure?!? Why would harass have one “r” and embarrass two?)

Miscellaneous (Using misc. is not appropriate and does not let you off the hook.)

Privilege (not priviledge)

One of mine is vacuum. One "u" or two? Is it "cc" or not? I never know.

What are some words you just can't seem to remember how to spell?

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Love all the grammar tips, but don’t …