Here is language advice and tips for writers and editors.

A[edit | edit source]

  • Almost everything is affordable to someone. Replace with low-cost or lower-cost if that is what you mean.
accused, alleged
  • Potentially libelous in a construction such as alleged killer. One option is who is accused of killing ...
arrested for
  • Potentially libelous. One option is who was charged with ...
  • Some attitudes are positive and some are negative. But the only people who don’t have an attitude are comatose.

C[edit | edit source]


See separate page.

  • Use to indicate a pause.
  • Use commas or other appropriate punctuation on both sides of nonessential clauses and appositives. Examples:
    • The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks killed about 3,000 people.
    • Acapulco, Guerrero, is a city and major sea port.
    • Charles, Prince of Wales, weds Camilla Parker Bowles, who is now known as the Duchess of Cornwall.
  • Slang. Spell out as condominium.
could care less
  • Incorrect.
  • Correct: couldn't care less
could of
  • Incorrect.
  • Correct: could've or could have.
crisis proportions
  • Redundant.
crisis situation
  • Redundant.

E[edit | edit source]

early-morning hours
  • Redundant
  • This is an adjective. A child may go to an elementary school, but not an elementary, or even Joe Schmuckattelli Memorial Elementary.
emergency situation
  • Redundant.
  • Limp word. Agencies or organizations is better.
epidemic proportions


exclamation point
  • Rarely appropriate in newswriting.
  • If something is expected, indicate who expects it.

F[edit | edit source]

facility, structure
  • Limp words. Better: building, campus, or center.
fatality, fatalities
  • Death or deaths is more concise.
false range
  • A range can be indicated by from ... to ... If the items listed do not form a continuum, it is a false range, and should be rewritten.
  • Examples: A to Z is a true range. Diapers to tools is a false range; there is nothing that would obviously come between them.
  • See "superlatives."
  • See troops.
from ... to
  • See false range.

G-N[edit | edit source]

general consensus
  • Redundant.
  • This is not a word! It should only rarely be used in print. The argument "We don’t change quotes" is a misapplication of a basic principle. The key is that it’s not a matter of meaning, but enunciation. Do we record all instances of nonstandard enunciation? "I dunno."
  • Often redundant, as in "early-morning hours."
in color
  • As in "The suspect fled in a car that was blue in color." What else would it be, blue in weight? Just say "a blue car."
kick off, kicked off, kicking off
  • Trite when used figuratively.
launch, launched, launching
  • Trite when used figuratively.
  • See "superlatives."
  • See "(season) months."
  • See "superlatives."
  • See "superlatives."

O-R[edit | edit source]

(season) months
  • Why not just say "winter" or whatever?
old adage
  • Redundant.
  • See "superlatives."
on the ground
  • Often adds little or no meaning.
  1. See "superlatives."
  2. Beware of improper placement.
  • In the singular, this is nonconversational. People refer to a group of parents in general or an individual's parents, but no one ever says, "Meet my parent."
  • Do not clean up grammar in quotes. Paraphrase if needed.
rain showers
  • Redundant.
  • A hermit could be "in a relationship," although he would likely relate to the forest instead of a romantic partner. In other words, probably everyone is "in a relationship."
  • Limp word. Move is shorter and usually better.
rolled out, rolling out, roll out
  • Trite. Introduce, release or start are often better.

S[edit | edit source]


Most neutral form of attribution.

  • Usually not appropriate in formal writing.
slash (/)
  • OK as part of a proper name, Web address or other appropriate computer context. Otherwise, replace it. Try and, or or at least a hyphen. Replace and/or with xxx, yyy or both" or "xxx, yyy, zzz or a combination."
  • Use only to show doubt.
  • Business buzzword. Tells readers little or nothing.
strangled to death
  • Redundant.
  • See facility.
  • If drugs or alcohol is meant, that should be specified. (If I abused mayonnaise, would you send me to a "substance abuse" counselor?)
sued for
  • Potentially libelous. One option is "sued and charged with ..."
  • Beware of superlatives and absolutes. It is often difficult to know or verify whether something is the only, first, last, newest, oldest, or most put-any-adjective-here.
  • Potentially libelous in a construction such as "suspected killer." One option is "who is suspected of killing ..."
sworn affidavit
  • Redundant.

T-Z[edit | edit source]

  • Capitalize formal titles when used before a name. Formal titles are those that a person could be addressed with, either before the name or instead of the name.
  • As a noun, this means "units of people." In Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, it’s specific. In a military context, "40,000 troops" does not mean "40,000 soldiers."
  • Even if used correctly in a military story, it’s usually too broad to be meaningful. A troop or unit might range in size from a fire team (four people) to a division in the U.S. Marine Corps (one-third of the Marines’ active-duty infantry, plus I don’t know what else).
  • Slang. Spell out tuxedo.
  • Slang. Spell out vegetables.
wait on
  • This means serve. It is not the same as wait for.

Sources and other external links[edit | edit source]

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