Tag Archive - grammar tips

Eradicating Zombie Nouns

Zombies are big in movies and TV these days. But zombie nouns have been the bane of good writers for much longer. We know zombies as dead or inanimate objects come to life. Zombie nouns, also known as abstract nouns, suck the life out of good writing. It happens when parts of speech—most often verbs and adjectives—get turned into nouns. We call it nominalization.

It’s an easy enough process. You simply add a suffix like ion, ate, or ize to an adjective or verb and it becomes a noun.

  • The verb complete becomes the noun completion.
  • The verb study becomes the noun (gerund) studying.
  • The adjectives happy and sad become the nouns happiness and sadness.

Continue Reading…

Are You Different From or Different Than?

Comparisons. We live in a world in which we are often called upon to make comparisons. Does WalMart or Target have the better price on something? Is Brad Pitt a better actor than Paul Rudd? Are you comparing these with or to each other?

It seems like a small distinction, but most writers guides agree that if you are noting the similarities between two things, comparing to is the correct terminology. If you’re pointing out differences, you use compared with.

  • Robert compared Barnes and Nobles’s prices to Amazon’s. (comparing similar things)
  • Australia is in a good economic position compared with other many other countries. (comparing one country with another)

Speaking of differences, is there a difference between different from and different than? A slight one, most grammarians agree, though for much of history they have been used interchangeably. Different from means “not the same.” Use it to convey contrast. Continue Reading…

I Both Anticipate and Expect a Reaction

Two words that share similar nuances are anticipate and expect. Both mean “to look forward to.” But anticipate also carries the idea of taking action in expectation or preparation for a future event. Expect carries more certainty and does not require action.

  • The Johnsons anticipated a long winter. (They took steps to prepare, perhaps stocking a cellar with canned goods, having supplies of heating fuel, etc.)
  • The Morgans expected a long winter. (They are certain of what lies ahead, but the sentence implies no preparations.)

Expect also has other meanings. Expecting is often used to refer to pregnancy. A couple who is planning to start a family, may anticipate being pregnant by a certain time, but once the pregnancy is certain, we talk about expecting a baby. Barring any complications, the arrival of a baby is an almost certain probability.

Expect can also mean something that is required.

  • I expect your chores to be done when I come home.
  • His parents expected him to excel in school.

Now that you know the difference, I expect you will use these terms correctly in the future.