Immigrate vs. Emigrate


To immigrate means to enter a different country to live permanently.

To emigrate means to leave one country to go live in another country.

Remember: immigrate is about coming and emigrate is about going.

I live in the United States. Let’s pretend I decided to move to Canada. Then I would be immigrating to Canada and emigrating from the United States.

Notice that to comes after immigrating and from comes after emigrating. That’s one way you can figure out which word to use. To goes with immigrate. From goes with emigrate.

Erin Servais is a professional book editor, sensitivity reader, and fact-checker. To learn how to hire her for your next project, visit her website:


Penultimate vs. Ultimate

Many people use “penultimate” to mean “more than ultimate,” but the word actually has a very narrow (and different) definition. Here’s what Merriam-Webster says:

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So in a list, “penultimate” would refer to the next-to-last item. On a train ride, it would mean the next-to-last stop.


And in this photo of fantastic chickens, the chicken on the left would be the “penultimate chicken.”

What Does “Ultimate” Mean?
Ultimate,” however, has multiple meanings.

One is “final.”
Example: Harry’s “ultimate” destination is Mars.

Another is “eventual.”
Example: Harry’s “ultimate” goal is universal domination.

It also means “fundamental.”
Example: Harry’s “ultimate” nature is pure evil.

Now you know, and you can correct your friends much to their chagrin (just like I do)!

Erin Servais is a book editor who can help your book be the ultimate. Contact her today about your publishing goals:

Is It Handfull or Handful?

One of the ways we use the suffix –ful is to explain how much of something exists somewhere. Or, as my go-to dictionary, Merriam-Webster, puts it:

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This means in our question of “Is it handfull or handful?” the answer is handful with one L.

However, as you can see in the dictionary’s example, handful isn’t the only use of this suffix. Basically, anything that can hold something can get the –ful suffix.

For example:

roomful can hold people
bucketful can hold apples
eyeful can hold beautiful visions
oceanful can hold fish
glassful can hold juice
pocketful can hold tiny treasures
spaceshipful can hold aliens

You get the gist. Now here’s how they work in sentences:

The kitten held out a pawful of jewels to its human.
Frida unleashed a brainful of magical powers onto the bad guys.
The lizard discovered a desertful of hot sand and rocks to enjoy.

Now go forth and use your –ful suffix with vigor.

Erin Servais is a freelance copy editor who can turn your writing from phlegm to gem. Learn how you can hire her today.


Love Letter (of Sorts) to My Chicago Manual of Style, Sixteenth Edition



Every seven years, The University of Chicago Press releases a new edition of The Chicago Manual of Style. As it says on the cover, it is the essential guide for writers, editors, and publishers. When I edit a client’s book, this manual is my bible. It’s how I decide where and how to place every period, ellipsis point, italicized letter, hyphen, and en dash. My copy of the new edition came in the mail last night. I have feelings about this.

This is the third edition during my career. The fifteenth edition I only had for a few years, but the sixteenth and I were together for the full seven. That’s almost one-fifth of my lifetime. When it came out, I had only recently met the man who became my husband, and I was still in my twenties (cough). I was a different person with a different life. Now that I’ve gotten to hold the new edition and flip through its pages, I realize how worn the sixteenth had become. The binding is loose. The pages are dog-eared. The dustcover is faded. But the aging was earned. I haven’t kept exact count, but it has helped me copy edit and proofread hundreds books—even a couple of best sellers.


To be honest, what I’m going to miss most is all of the highlighting. (That’s my cat, Gene Vincent, in the background. He was “helping” me as I took the photo. He’s “helping” me as I write this, too.)

So I thought it fitting to take some time today to memorialize my copy of sixteenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style. My copy, in many ways, became like a family bible. My mother and grandmother would stick odds and ends in their bibles–usually papers from funeral and wedding ceremonies—bits that represented important moments in the lives of their loved ones. Mine’s not quite like that, but I do use a piece of the edging of my baby blanket as a bookmark.

This marked the page that explained how to write how tall a person is. I can never remember whether to write “feet” or “foot.”

And I found a flower I had pressed from my mother’s garden in Ohio, plucked during one of my trips home when I had planned a visit but I also, inconveniently, had a deadline.


The sixteenth edition was also my external brain, holding all of the detailed information I wasn’t able to remember. And I see how I would use anything I had handy to underline and highlight so I could find the answer more easily next time.

Sometimes I actually had a highlighter.


But other times it was a humble pen I used.

This must have been a rough day. I’m a black ink gal. I imagine I would only use blue in an emergency. A quotation mark emergency this must have been then. We editors can have those.

Apologies to all of the librarians out there (including my mom), but there were times necessity called for me to bend the corners of a page, in hopes the next time I could flip right to that section without consulting the index.


Bibliography information. What you can’t see in this photo are the faded tear stains on the pages. But a bibliography, when it is formatted correctly and, mostly importantly, finished, is a beautiful thing.

When the seventeenth came in the mail, I was surprised how emotional I was about it. The sixteenth and I had a good ride. (And the highlighting! Oh that beautiful neon ink…how I will miss you.) But I understand our time has come to an end, and I know one day, when it is properly highlighted, the seventeenth will be as good to me, as helpful, and as referential as the sixteenth was.

When the eighteenth edition comes out. I will be forty years old. I imagine my life will be different, just as it was different when the sixteenth was released. What I hope will be the same, though, is that I will be editing books that I love and helping authors reach their dreams—and inserting every missing serial comma along the way.


Hanger vs. Hangar


This spooky aircraft rests in a hangar when it is not flying in super secret missions.

A hangar is an enclosed shelter used to house something, such as airplanes.

A common mistake is to misspell hangar with an E.

However, a hanger is the item used to hang things, such as clothes.


  • Jim Bob piloted the mysterious, abandoned UFO into the hangar.
  • Cathy arranged her clothes hangers evenly in her closet.
  • The billionaire’s hangar held both his jet and his helicopter.
  • The driver used a bent hanger to coax the locked car door open.


Erin Servais is a book editor who enjoys teaching writers along the way. To learn about hiring her for your next project, please visit her website: Dot and Dash LLC.