Category Archives: Writing tips

A screenshot of a message from Stylebot on Slack that reads: Although "irregardless" is a word, it's not very common in writing. Avoid it except in quoted material: "He said he wanted to move forward 'irregardless of the consequences.'"
A screenshot of a message from Stylebot on Slack that reads: The phrase is "wreak havoc," not "wreck havoc." The past tense is "wreaked havoc": "The storm wreaked havoc on the small island."

Do you bring about havoc or ruin it?

A screenshot of a message from Stylebot on Google Chrome that reads: "Rack" and "wrack" are sometimes used interchangeably, but they have different meanings. One of the meanings of "rack" is to stretch violently or torture, while "wrack" means to destroy. So the correct sayings are "nerve-racking" and "rack your brain": "She spent two nerve-racking hours before the interview racking her brain to recall specific examples from her past work that would help her answer the questions she anticipated."

Off the rack

A screenshot of a message from Stylebot on Slack that reads: "The idiom "if worse comes to worst" originated as "if worst comes to worst," and both can be used. But "worse comes to worst" is more common in modern usage: "If worse comes to worst, we can drive instead of fly."

It’s come to worse

A screenshot of a message from Stylebot on Slack that reads: "Ensure" and "insure" are closely related, but use "ensure" to mean to make certain: "He did his best to ensure that he got an A on the paper." Reserve "insure" for references to insurance: "She is insured by State Farm." "Assure" should be used to mean "to give confidence": "She assured him it would be OK."

Are you sure?

A screenshot of a message from Stylebot on Slack that reads: Use a numeral for times of day, and use "a.m." and "p.m.": "His class starts at 4 p.m." You can use "noon" or "midnight" rather than 12 p.m. or 12 a.m. Spell out numbers less than 10 when writing about a period of time (rather than a time of day): "She was used to working nine-hour days." Write out phrases such as "a year and a half" rather than writing "1.5 years." Use "and" or "to" instead of a hyphen when writing a time range: "The museum's exhibit was free from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m."

Ante up

A screenshot of a message from Stylebot on Slack that reads: "Extra" is an adjective, adverb, noun and prefix. As a prefix, it means outside or beyond. When you're using it that way, you generally do not need a hyphen, unless the following word begins with another vowel: "They accused the government of carrying out extrajudicial punishments." When you're using it to mean additional or excessive, you don't need a hyphen unless you're using it as a compound modifier: "She thought she deserved extra credit for her extra-large drawing."

That’s so extra

A screenshot of a message from Stylebot on Slack that reads: Avoid the terms "drug abuse" and "substance abuse." Instead of "abuse," use "use" or "misuse": "Her drug misuse began when she started taking medication that wasn't prescribed to her." Default to person-first language instead of using terms such as "addict" or "alcoholic" unless a person prefers that term.

A better understanding

A screenshot of a message from Stylebot on Slack that reads: The phrase is "pore over," not "pour over": "He was still poring over his textbook as the teacher was handing out exams." While it seems intuitive to adapt the word "pour" to this phrase, one of the meanings of "pore" is to study intently.
A screenshot of a message from Stylebot on Slack that reads: "Utmost" and "upmost" are not interchangeable, though they do have similar meanings. "Utmost" means to a great degree or at a distant point: "She said she had the utmost respect for Michelle Obama." Meanwhile, "upmost" is a synonym of "uppermost," meaning the highest position: "The cake's upmost layer resembled snow."

On the up and ut