It’s getting to be that time of year when children close their eyes and fantasize about an old, fat man breaking into their house while they sleep naïvely in false security in their bedrooms.
“Ho! Ho! Ho!” the man says to himself as he places consumer goods under a tree that for some reason has been moved to their living room.
Wait. Perhaps he says “Ho ho ho!” instead. Just how many exclamation points does this slavemaster of reindeer use?
Let’s turn to the authorities. Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say:
There you have it. Three hos and one exclamation point.
Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas (etc.) to you!
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Well, how obviously amazing is this cat?!
Well, how obviously amazing!
That’s my mnemonic device to remember how to spell “whoa.”
It works because something that is obviously amazing would make you stop and say “whoa.”
It is common to misspell this as “woah,” with the H at the end. Don’t feel bad if that’s what you used to do. I know a certain editor who writes a certain grammar blog who may or may not have also made this mistake. For years. We’re only human . . . even the editors among us (though I suspect authors sometimes think otherwise). And now you know the correct way to spell it. Well, how obviously amazing is that?
Erin Servais is a longtime book editor who is friendly and won’t make you feel dumb, even if you make a silly spelling mistake. To learn more about her services, visit her website: www.dotanddashllc.com
* Okay. Technically . . . the Oxford English Dictionary lists “woah” as a secondary spelling. However, Merriam-Webster has come out publicly against this spelling, and I have personally been dinged rather embarrassingly in public for using it, so I really suggest you stick with “whoa.”
When determining whether to use bring or take, consider movement.
Use bring when moving something toward a specific place or person.
Sally brings the potato salad to Jerry.
Frieda is bringing her salsa-dancing skills to the stage.
The dog brought his human to the park.
Use take when moving something away from a specific place or person.
Dolly takes the books from the library.
Marge is taking her favorite sweater back from Nina.
Larry took advice from his boss.
Casual speech: When speaking with friends and others using informal speech, bring and take are often used interchangeably. However, it’s good to know the difference when the situation calls for formal speech or writing.
Choose either bring or take to fill in the blanks below.
- In the past, Marty always ______ his famous nacho cheese dip to the party.
- The dog ______ her leash to her human when she wants to go out.
- “I can’t stand Charles anymore,” she said. “All he does is ______ things from me!”
- Tracy is _______ what she learned in the classroom and is _______ it to the real world.
- Layla ______ her second-place trophy from the award table.
Answers: 1) brought 2) brings 3) take 4) taking, bringing 5) took
In casual usage, people interchange may and might. However, there is a slight difference that is useful to know.
May means something is more likely to happen.
Might means something is less likely to happen.
There may be food at the party.
There might be someone dressed in a killer whale costume at the party.
What’s a party without food? It’s very likely there would at least be hors d’oeuvres there; that’s why we use may. But, I know I have never been to a party where someone was dressed as a killer whale. It’s safe to say you’d be less likely to encounter that (unless you were going to a killer whale costume party), which is why we use might.
Think of degrees of likelihood. The closer the situation is to “will happen,” use may. The closer it is to “won’t happen,” use might.
Note that this does not apply to past tense. The past tense of may is might. Why? Because English loves to be confusing! So, if you are writing or speaking in the past tense, always use might.
Choose may or might for each sentence.
1) I’m feeling lucky today. I _____ win the big jackpot.
2) I _____ eat a cookie today, just as I do every day.
3) There _____ be a huge asteroid careening toward Earth that will land on my front lawn.
4) Eight hundred higher-qualified candidates applied for the job, but Clyde _____ get the position.
5) Clyde is the only person who applied for the job. He _____ just get it!
1) might 2) may 3) might 4) might 5) may
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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: www.dotanddashllc.com.