Tag Archive - usage tips

When You’re (Missing) a Word in a Comparison

Writers sometimes leave out small necessary words when making comparisons. Sometimes sentences look just fine to our eyes at first glance, but a deeper examination reveals a problem.

Take a look at these sentences and see if they seem structurally correct to you:

  • Tech employees fear layoffs less than bus drivers.
  • The district attorney considers those vigilantes more dangerous than the criminals.
  • This book deals more with the mysteries of the universe than the laws of physics.
  • Our profits were higher this year than 2014.
  • The US imports more oil from the Middle East than Mexico.

Can you think of what words are missing from those sentences? Sometimes you need to put in a verb or preposition to make the sentence structurally correct. Continue Reading…

More or Less

Who would imagine a little word like less could be less than simple to use correctly?

As an adjective, less can be used before a singular noun only:

  • I would like less cream in my coffee.

But lesser (not as great in quantity, size, or value) is used before a plural noun:

  • Lesser men have attempted that climb.

You can be given “a lesser” job (which does not mean “smaller”), but you can’t use the article a with less.

  • He was given less responsibility.

However, if less is used as an adverb, you can use a:

  • She has a less prominent position than before.

Continue Reading…

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…

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