Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0: To B or Not to B

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?


Is there anything more embarrassing than using the wrong word? It happens to us all, of course, but it's also a surefire way for you and your writing to lose credibility. Today, Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0 focuses on some tricky word pairings, which start with the letter "B," that can trip up even the best of us.

Baloney, bologna

Baloney is ridiculous or foolish talk, nonsense.

And although the dictionary lists bologna as a variation of baloney, AP Style states bologna is the word for sausage or lunchmeat. 

Beside, besides

Beside means at the side of. 

Besides means as well or in addition to.

Biannual, biennial

Biannual is twice a year.

Biennial is every two years. 

Boats, ships

Boat refers to any small watercraft. Ship means a large, seagoing vessel, with the exception of a ferryboat, which has boat in its name just to screw with us, but is, in fact, a larger craft.

Boycott, embargo

According to AP Style, "a boycott is an organized refusal to buy a particular product or service, or to deal with a particular merchant or group of merchants."

AP states an embargo is legal restriction against trade, usually prohibiting goods from entering or leaving a country. It goes on to add the plural is embargoes.

Brahman, Brahmin

Brahman refers to the priestly Hindu caste, as well as a breed of cattle.

Brahmin, spelled with an i, can be used to describe aristocracy in general, like when people use the term "Boston Brahmin" when speaking of elite members of Boston's traditional upper class, particularly in the 19th century.


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

Grammar Nerd Question of the Week: 

Which is the word for "a fair or market," bizarre or bazaar?


A professional writer/editor for almost 30 years, Karen Wojcik Berner's wide and varied experience includes such topics as grammar, blog content, book reviews, corporate communications, the arts, paint and coatings, real estate, the fire service, writing and literature, research, and publishing. An award-winning journalist, her work has appeared in several magazines, newspapers, and blogs, including the Chicago Tribune, Writer Unboxed, Women's Fiction Writers, Naperville Magazine, and Fresh Fiction. She also is the author of three contemporary women's fiction novels and is a member of the Chicago Writers’ Association. For more information on Karen, please visit www.karenberner.com.


I'm glad you're posting these. I cringe when I see meme's with errors like these. I don't care how funny they might be. I can't post anything that has a grammatical error.
R. Doug Wicker said…
Still lovin' your Grammarphobes, Karen. One additional point on the boat vs. ship thing. I don't know why this is, but all submarines regardless of size (and there are some HUGE ones out there) are referred to as "boats".
I didn't know that, R. Doug. Thanks!
Can you imagine having that tattoo? I would blow a gasket.

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