Guaranteed to improve your English

Mistakes, She’s Made (More Than) a Few

I received the following email. Let’s just say that I won’t be responding, and neither should you. The number of mistakes boggles my mind.

Hope you caught the song-lyric reference in the title.

Until next time! Use the right words!

Attn: Beloved,
Good morning,

Greetings in the name of humanity, I am Mrs. Deborah Calvert Herman a citizen of Australia but presently in the Malaysia,used to beworking for the federal government, I am 50 years old, I am now anew Christian but from all indication, my health condition is really deteriorating and it is quite severe because i been suffering for a long time from cancer of the Lungs, from obvious diagnosis,I won't live more than 1 year, according to my doctors, this is because the cancer stage has gotten to a very bad stage.

My late husband died last five years ago, and during the period of our marriage we couldn't produce any child. My late husband was very wealthy and after his death, I inherited all his business and wealth.

The doctors has advised me that I may not live for more than 1 year, so I now decided to divide the part of this wealth to contribute to the development of the church in Africa, America Asia, and Europe.

I selected you after visiting the website and I prayed over it. I am willing to donate the sum of $25,000.000.00u.usd (twenty five million United States dollars) to the less privileged.

Please I want you to note that this fund is lying in a security company in Malaysia. Once i hear from you, I will forward to you all the information you will use to get fund released from the security company and to be transferred to your account.

I honestly pray that this money when transferred to your account will be used for the said purpose, because I have come to find out that wealth acquisition without humility, all is vanity.

Please provide me with the following information so I can forward it to a church attorney who used to work at times for my late husband's lawyer.

He is diligent and a Christian so I am confident he is going to handle the transaction with you and lead, advice you on how to secure the funds in your favor.

Information needed:
Full name...................................
Full address......................................
Company and address:...........................
Marital status:...............................
Fax no..............................................
Phone no:............................................

I await your urgent reply. (
Your sister
Mrs. Deborah Calvert Herman

May 23, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yes, They Really Said That

You never believe that people will misspeak — until they do. Here are four examples I have heard at networking meetings.

You can pay on the last day of the month, which I think is the 28th — This is April. The last day of the month is the 30th.

Prevention is the key to life — I have found sayings that prevention is the key to success,  kidney health, fighting Zika, a safer life, solving health care and a healthy life. Stevie Wonder would say songs are the key to life.

I’m currently working in an office in Tarzana — No, you’re currently standing in front of me in Chatsworth. (For those of you who don’t know, Tarzana and Chatsworth are in the San Fernando Valley.)

Some of these items are priced really well — And some aren’t?

Until next time! Use the right words!

April 4, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Support Breast Cancer?

When I walk into my gym, I see a whiteboard with drawings and words and sayings on it. Sometimes, they’re clever: “If Johnny has 32 pieces of candy and he eats 28 of them, what does he have? Diabetes.”

But sometimes, they’re wrong.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (also called National Breast Cancer Awareness Month), and so many get into the spirit of things by wearing pink clothes and “Save the Ta-tas” shirts. When I referee, I use a pink whistle with a pink lanyard and wear a pink Susan G. Komen For the Cure bracelet.

The whiteboard today read: “Support Breast Cancer.”

I don’t know anybody who really wants to do that. No one’s giving money to help breast cancer spread, no one’s cheering, “Breast Cancer on Three! One! Two! Three! BREAST CANCER!”

It should have said, “Support Breast Cancer Research.

I’ve seen mistakes like this before. When I was starting off in journalism, I remember writing a headline that mentioned “fighting literacy” instead of illiteracy.

Until next time! Use the right words!


October 4, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beware the Unnecessary New Words

It’s not an official word yet, but in reading this week’s Time magazine article about electronic cigarettes, the author uses vape and vaper instead of smoke and cigarette.

The given explanation makes sense: An electronic cigarette is not a real cigarette because there’s no plant material (tobacco, marijuana), so one can’t smoke because to smoke is to inhale and exhale burning plant material.

But here is a word that already exists: vaporize. It means “to convert (as by the application of heat or by spraying) into vapor.” The Time article explains that one e-cigarette heats a tiny metal coil which vaporizes the liquid nicotine.

Sounds like vaporize to me. So, why use vape and vaper?

Until next time! Use the right words!


September 26, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Seem to Remember “In The Back of My Mind …”

Recently, I heard someone use the term “back of my mind.” This made me wonder if the brain functions associated with the saying, worry and memory, are really in the back of the brain.

In my experiences with something in the back of my mind, I’m usually trying to remember something. It might be a neutral fact, or it might be something that causes me to pause and express concern, worry or anxiety.

Well, I looked online to find which brain parts control worry and memory. Both are controlled in the part of the brain called the limbic system. Inside it is the amygdala, which is the part that comes alive when we worry; and the hippocampus, which controls all or memory functions: sensory, short-term and long-term.

(Incidentally, hippocampus gets its name from its shape: It looks like a seahorse, and hippocampus is Greek for “coiled horse.”)

The only problem: the limbic system is in the middle of the brain, not the back.

Until next time! Use the right words!

August 22, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Debating the “Accidental” Pregnancy

Our birthdays (or the anniversaries of our births, as written previously) come around once a year. My parents planned for my birth, but I’ve heard people talk about how they or their children were “accidents” or “happy little accidents.”

I argue that, despite the definition of accident and accidental, there really is no such thing as an “accidental pregnancy.”

The sperm meets the egg and fertilizes it. That’s no accident. If it was, we weren’t be here now.

Accident has six definitions. The first: “an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance.” My take: If you can’t foresee a sperm and egg meeting, then  you don’t understand the concept of sexual reproduction.

The second definition: “lack of intention or necessity; chance.” My take: Sexual reproduction is a necessity and is not left to chance. If it was, we as a race would have died out eons ago.

Definition 4: “an unexpected happening causing loss or injury which is not due to any fault or misconduct on the part of the person injured but for which legal relief may be sought.” My take: This might sound like it doesn’t apply, but think of  it as a paternity test, which is no accident.

The fifth definition: “a nonessential property or quality of an entity or circumstance.” I don’t see how this applies.

Accidental has three definitions: “incidental,” “occurring unexpectedly or by chance” and “happening without intent or through carelessness and often with unfortunate results.” You could argue that the second and third definitions work, but I repeat: it’s not by chance that the sperm and egg meet. Nor does it happen without intent:  reproduction is intentional.

This leaves the third definition of accident: “an unfortunate event resulting from carelessness or ignorance.” People really are that ignorant about sperm-meets-egg outcomes. They don’t think this sexual congress will cause a pregnancy.

But it’s like I’ve said: It’s no accident: The sperm and egg are supposed to meet. It would be an accident if they met and nothing happened, or if they didn’t meet.

So, enjoy the birthday and the many anniversaries of it.

Until next time! Use the right words!


August 14, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Do Yoga Instructors Get “Vertebra” Wrong?

I do yoga twice a week. Have done so for years, though lately I’m not certain if it’s doing any good. I don’t sense I’m getting more limber or flexible.

But my ears don’t deceive me: All of the instructors I’ve had over the years have incorrectly used vertebrae.

They all misuse the same way: We’re in a forward bend, and the yogi tells us to slowly rise “one vertebrae at a time.”

Except the singular form is vertebra, and it refers to “any of the bones or segments composing the spinal column.”

I don’t think rising up two vertebrae at a time is what the instructors have in mind, especially when they next say, “Head is the last to come up.” Head is singular, thereby inferring that the bones in the spine rise one at a time, starting with the closest to the waist (the sacrum) and continuing through the lumbar and up to the neck and head.

I wish my “downward-facing dog” could be fixed as easily.

Until next time! Use the right words!


June 21, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

When to Include “Include”

I consider include a useful word. When you have a long list of items and you don’t want to list all of them, you use include.

However, some people don’t get that. They use include when mentioning every item. For example: My shopping list includes milk, bread and eggs, and nothing else.

The correct word you want is comprise, as in My shopping list comprises milk, bread and eggs. Or you could simply say, I need milk, bread and eggs.

It’s too bad people don’t consult dictionaries often enough, for the correct usage of include is right there: “Include suggests the containment of something … of a larger whole.” (italics added)

Unfortunately, our language continues to be mangled online. It doesn’t have to be that way.


Until next time! Use the right words!


June 14, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Gray Hair “Distinctive” or “Distinguished”?

I’m balding; one friend of mine isn’t, which pleases his wife.

Over the weekend, she and I discussed her husband’s graying hair. She said his hair was distinctive. Then she corrected herself and said it was distinguished.

I started graying long before my hair thinned. I remember hearing that graying temples makes one look distinguished.

But is that right? I went to the dictionary.

Distinctive means “serving to distinguish.” It lists as a synonym characteristic.

On the same page, distinguish means “to perceive a difference in,” “to mark as separate or different,” “to set apart into kinds, classes, or categories” and “to single out: take special notice of.”

So, it appears both can be correct: Gray hair can be distinguished, but hair that is graying can be distinctive.

I love those fine lines, like fine hair.

Thanks to Sue S. for the utterances.

Until next time! Use the right words!

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is It “Libel” or “Slander?” It’s “Defamation”

Last week, my condo association owners meeting got really weird. Board members started yelling at each other, police arrested a board member for violating a restraining order against another board member, other board members openly attacked former board members … it was surreal.

At one point, an owner accused the board of dereliction of duty — specifically, failing to abide by the code of ethics set forth in the CC&Rs. She accused the board of publishing her complaint and libeling her in an email that outed her as the one complaining.

That got me thinking, is an email libel or slander?

In pre-Internet days, it was clear: Slander occurred when the false communication was spoken and heard. Libel occurred when the false communication was written and seen. The laws governing libel and slander, which are collectively known as defamation, are identical.

From what I can gather online, defamation in an email is libel. However, since I am not an attorney, I suggest anyone who believes they have suffered defamation should check their state law.

Until next time! Use the right words!

May 13, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: