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A Riddle I Can Appreciate

When I go to networking meetings, I expect to hear some kind of nonsense coming out of people’s mouths. But recently, one guy got up and offered a riddle: What is an eight-letter word in which you take away one letter, it leaves you with a different word, and then if you take away another letter, it leaves you with yet another word, and so on?

Actually, this guy usually offers riddles: “Who makes it has no need of it. Who buys it has no use for it. Who uses it can neither see nor feel it. What is it?” (A coffin)

Or “What is light as a feather but not even the strongest man in the world can hold it for more than a few minutes?” (Air)

But this one, really impressed me. The answer is starting.

Take away the second t, and you get staring;

Take away the a, and you get string;

Take away the r, and you get sting;

Take away the t, and you get sing;

Take away the g, and you get sin;

Take away the s, and you get in;

Take away the n, and you get I.

Until next time! Use the right words!


January 25, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Words That Are Their Own Opposite

I always write about using the right words, but here is a chance to use the right words in two different ways, courtesy of  mental

Dust — As a verb, it can mean to either add to or remove: Are you dusting the crops or dusting the table?

Help — It means to assist or prevent: I can’t help it if you want to help someone.

Left — It can mean either departed or remaining: He left, so who’s left?

Off — It can either mean to activate or deactivate: As I turned off the light, the alarm went off.

Resign — It could mean either to quit or sign up again, depending on its context and how you pronounce it.

SanctionIt means either to give approval or impose a penalty: His government sanctions the sanctions.

Screen — It means to either show or hide: Please screen the movie but screen it from my children.

Seed — It can mean to add or remove: I’m going to seed my garden, but later I will seed the tomato.

Until next time! Use the right words!

December 28, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

How Long Have You Wanted to Live There?

I attended a networking meeting last week and heard a fellow attendee talk about her new home. “It’s always where I wanted to live, for the last couple of months.”


The truth is everybody misuses the word always because we are incapable of doing/wanting/seeking/(your verb here) something always. We can’t (your verb here) something always because we’re not always aware of that something. I remember when I got my first bicycle, I cried, “It’s what I always wanted.”

Always means “at all times, invariably, forever, perpetually.” Since humans are unable to exist/live/be/(your verb here) always, we’re destined to almost always misuse the word.

In this example, it would have been better to say, “It’s where I’ve wanted to live for the last couple of months.” I should have said of the bicycle, “It’s what I’ve wanted.” But I was about 10, so what do you want from me? Perfection.

Nope. Not possible. I’m always going to fall short, and so are you.

Until next time! Use the right words!


May 28, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Input” or “Imput?” My Ears Deceived Me

The answer to the above question should be obvious: Only one of them is a real word.

But when I was younger, I genuinely couldn’t tell if the person said input or imput. Regardless, I knew the word meant “advice, comment, opinion.”

Over time, I came to know another definition: “something that is put in.”

Then I learned about prefixes. In- means “in.” Im- is a variant of in-. I still didn’t know the correct word.

I’m not sure when I figured it out, but eventually I realized the correct word is input. But I still hear people say imput, so I looked it up in the dictionary.

The closest word is impute, which means “to lay the responsibility or blame falsely or unjustly.”

Those of you who say imput when you mean input, the responsibility of saying it correctly is yours. The responsibility of hearing it is mine.

Until next time! Use the right words!


April 15, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Don’t “Second-Guess” the “Second-Guesser” With a “Second Guess”


From:  the one-word-is-a-verb-but-two-words-is-a-noun department

Re: Use of second guess/second-guess

I realize many of you missed my previous poem about how often you use one word for a verb and two words for a noun or adjective or adverb. That is completely unacceptable. But your word snob of a boss is compassionate and benevolent, so I will give you a second chance.

The rule applies here: second-guess is a verb, and second guess is a noun (with second also acting as an adjective to modify guess).

That should cover it. But understand this: There will be no second-guessers — second-guesser being an exception to the rule.

Thank you. You now may return to your regularly scheduled liking and joining of this blog.

Until next time! Use the right words!



December 6, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Two if by Verb; One if by Noun or Adjective

Listen, my children and you shall hear,

of many words that far and near

get misused because people don’t know

the proper usage, that they blow.

Take trade in, my friend, and trade-off, too,

take over and speed up, on those you can chew.

How many times have you seen with no doubt

these words used wrongly, you find out?

Well, here is a clue for all of you:

It’s two words for verb, I tell you this blurb.

“So when is it one?” you dutifully ask,

and I respond because it’s my task,

“One is an adjective, one is a noun.

Hyphenate if needed, you silly old clown!”

So please take you note of what I have said,

and use the words right before you are dead.

Until next time! Use the right words!




November 27, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Am I Literally Misusing “Literally” in this Title?

We use many intensifiers in our everyday language. One such example is literally.

A person might say something such as, “I literally am up the creek without a paddle.” Unless that person at that moment finds himself in some sort of canoe or boat in a natural stream of water normally smaller than a river, he is misusing the word.

Literally describes something free from exaggeration or embellishment. I literally walked down the street is a correct, albeit boring, usage.

The speaker uttering that tired cliché should have used the word figuratively. Or he should have left out the word.

Literally is not a good choice for an intensifier. That’s my opinion. Literally.

Thanks to

Until next time! Use the right words!


October 30, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Unnecessary Use of “Up”

I got an email today from someone discussing the word up. It said that up has more definitions than any other two-letter word and that it is listed as five different parts of speech. My dictionary has 27 definitions of up as an adverb, 23 as an adjective (plus three more definitions of up to), five as a preposition, four as a noun and eight as a verb.

The email goes on to list 20 different uses for the word. What really struck me was how many times one could remove the up and still make sense, proving up to be unnecessary.

Examples: write up a report, call up our friends, brighten up a room, polish up the silver, warm up the food, clean up the kitchen, open up a store and close it up at night.

Regarding rain, the sky doesn’t have to clear up after a storm, the rain doesn’t soak up the earth, and things don’t dry up when it stops raining.

There’s no need to lock up the house, fix up the car, build up a list, or take up a lot of your time.

OK? My time’s up.

Until next time! Use the right words!


August 2, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What to do About “Injuries”

Injuries are part of life, especially for the athletes among we the weekend warriors, Olympians or otherwise. Injuries also often are the object of a sentence, and we often don’t seem to know what verb to use with it.

The most common choices I see are sustain, receive and suffer. One is clearly incorrect, one could be correct, and one is clearly correct.

Writers and speakers who use sustain are misusing the word. In my dictionary, sustain has numerous definitions, including definition 6b: to suffer. However, to sustain an injury means to support it, nourish it and prolong it. Can you imagine anyone wanting to sustain an injury?

Receive  infers that, in this case, someone gave you the injury that you received. You could receive an injury, but the word isn’t the best choice because it’s too neutral a word to use for something that usually hurts a great deal.

So, go with suffer. When the word is a definition for another word (e.g. sustain), that’s a pretty good indication it’s the right word to use. Besides, suffer means “to submit to or be forced to bear” and “to feel keenly.”

I hope this post didn’t cause anyone to suffer.

Until next time! Use the right words!




August 1, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fewer” Times Do People Misuse “Less”

I don’t think my headline is true. Otherwise, why would I use it?

I also am not sure I use fewer and less correctly. I use these words so interchangeably, and I wasn’t aware of any such rule. When I looked up fewer in my dictionary, its definition was “a smaller number of persons or things.” It  also said to see less for a usage explanation.

My dictionary’s definition of less: “constituting a more limited number.” So, it seemed to me that fewer is more specific and less more general.

To sum up what my dictionary said about less: Use less with matters of degree, value or amount, and use fewer for numbers and plural nouns. My Associated Press stylebook says basically the same thing: Use less for bulk or quantity and use fewer for individual items.

So, the following two sentences are correct: She had less than $50 in her pocket. He had fewer than 50 $1 bills in his pocket.

It seems like a fine line exists, but it’s clearly drawn.

I’ll need to watch myself to see if I’m misusing less and fewer. You should, too.

Until next time! Use the right words!

June 28, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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