Tag Archive - grammar tips

Inflammatory Distinctions

Logic would tell us that flammable might be the opposite of inflammable. But we all know the English language is often not logical. And if you read the post on semimonthly and bimonthly, you’ll know what I’m talking about!

So, in keeping with the ridiculous, those two words mean the same thing (whereas bimonthly might mean two completely different things).

Most warning labels, therefore, use flammable when stating to use care with a product. Too often people assume—logically—that inflammable must mean an object won’t catch on fire. Continue Reading…

We Have Mutual, Common, and Reciprocal Interests

What we have in common, we share mutually. Some purists argue that mutual means something experienced or expressed by two people about each other, and so it is wrong to speak of something such as “our mutual enemy.” Their argument is that if you and I have an enemy in common, that adds up to a total of three people, and three is not two.

In the same manner, some believe  it’s incorrect to refer to more than two people as making an agreement to their mutual benefit.  The correct word, they say, is common (which I used as an example above).

However, not all of us are purists, and as word usage changes in society, those purists lose ground. Not many editors or grammarians are going to scream “violation!” if you use mutual for three or more people or things. Continue Reading…

Moral and Ethical Ethics 

We often hear the words ethics and morals used interchangeably or paired as if either meaning the same thing or needing to go together.

Let’s look at the difference between these two words:

  • Morals have to do with personal conduct. They are generally recognized principles of good and bad and are often used when speaking of sexual conduct.
  • Ethics are rules of correct behavior, usually recognized or defined by a group. For example, research scientists might have a code of ethics regarding the use of animals in product testing.

An ethic is a moral rule that might be observed by some but disregarded by others. Your work ethic might be to put in at least eight hours of hard work each day, whereas your brother’s work ethic might be to put in a token effort, then spend the rest of the day watching the ballgame with a beer in hand.

  • Moral support is support in principle (not necessary practical).
  • Moral victory is success of good over bad.
  • Moral obligation is a duty to do what is considered right, regardless of other factors.

Morale is a sense of confidence, pride, high spirits, feeling valued.  When things look grim, we try to keep our morale up. A person can be amoral (without morals), but she can’t be amorale (without morale), because moral/amoral are adjectives and morale is a noun.

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