Empathy vs. Sympathy

the words "empathy vs. sympathy" on a pink background

What’s the difference between empathy and sympathy? These two words are often confused, and it’s totally understandable. On the surface, they have very similar meanings. But since empathy and sympathy do mean different things, let’s dig into what those meanings are and when you should use each one.

What does sympathy mean?
Way back in the mid-1500s, sympathy meant (according to dictionary.com) “agreement or harmony in qualities between things or people.”

Sympathy’s meaning has evolved since then, and now we use it to describe feelings of pity or sorrow for people who have experienced or are experiencing misfortune.

Example: Suzie got an A on the test, but she felt sympathy for Jane, who got an F.

What does empathy mean?
Empathy entered the English lexicon in the 1800s primarily as a psychological term to describe the idea that a person could project their feelings onto an object.

Like sympathy, empathy’s meaning has also evolved over the centuries. These days, empathy is used to describe a person’s ability to imagine themselves in another’s situation and understand what that person is thinking or feeling.

Example: Suzie had empathy for Jane because they both got an F on the test.

What’s the difference?
Basically, sympathy means that you feel sorry for someone, while empathy means that you are placing yourself in another person’s shoes, feeling as they feel.

Empathy often begets sympathy, and feeling sympathy often depends on a person’s capacity for empathy. But it’s also possible to be empathetic towards someone and not feel sympathy for them, or feel sympathetic towards them but not empathetic.

Quiz
Test your skills with this quiz. Fill in the blank with either empathize or sympathize. The answers are at the bottom.

  1. I’m sorry that shark bit your hand off. I _______ with you, even though I still have both of my hands.
    2. That’s terrible that a seagull pooped on you. I can _______ because a seagull pooped on me last week.
    3. No way—an elephant stepped on your banjo? I totally _______ with you because an elephant also broke my banjo.
    4. Your dog has been howling for five days straight? I _______ with you,  but that’s why I’ll never own a dog.

1. sympathize 2. empathize 3. empathize 4. sympathize

This post was written by Erin Servais and Maud Grauer of Dot and Dash, an author-services company focusing on women authors.

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How to use a possessive apostrophe

a pink parrot below: s's

A possessive is a word that ends with an apostrophe and an S that shows someone or something possesses (has or owns) something. There are several rules involving possessives. So, in this post, we’re going to clear up any confusion by breaking down all of the ways a possessive apostrophe and S can behave.

Singular noun
This one’s pretty simple—just add an apostrophe and an S to the end of the noun. (PS: People’s names are nouns.)

John’s bedroom is blue.
The cat’s bedroom is red.

Singular noun ending in S
The same rule usually applies if the singular noun ends in an S.

Jess’s room is green.
James’s house is nicer.

(Beware! Some style guides don’t use the last S in this situation; they end the word with the apostrophe. If you’re writing for a business or publication, you’ll want to check their rules about this.)

Plural noun
This is treated the same as a singular noun. Just add an apostrophe and an S to the end.

The children’s bedrooms are on the second floor.
The sheep’s bedroom is in the barn.

Plural noun ending in S
In this case, you only add an apostrophe to the end of the word.  No S.

The parents’ bedroom is above the kitchen.
The kittens’ bowls of milk are by the door.

Make sure you check that all your apostrophes and S’s are in the right place—sometimes they’re very sneaky!

This post was written by Erin Servais and Maud Grauer of Dot and Dash, an author-services company focusing on women authors.

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What is a modal verb?

The words "modal verbs" at the top. Then below are the following words set in white circles against a pink background: may, should, will, must, can, would, might.

These are examples of modal verbs.

Modal verbs are verbs used to express ability, obligation, permission, or possibility. Common modal verbs include can, might, may, must, will, would, and should. They are a type of auxiliary verb (otherwise known as a “helping verb”), which means they have to be paired with a main verb to work. For example, in the sentence “I can park the car here,” park is the main verb and can is the modal verb paired with it. Here are some examples of modal verbs in action:

  • Can can mean either to express ability or to ask permission.
    • I can go to the store later.
    • Can I use the car today?
  • May can mean either to express possibility or to ask permission.
    • I may talk to him tomorrow.
    • May I go to the bathroom?
  • Must can mean either to express obligation or to express strong belief.
    • She must tell the truth.
    • He must be almost finished with the project by now.
  • Should means to give advice.
    • He should buy the red sweater.
  • Would means to request or offer, and it can also be used in if sentences.
    • Would you mind getting the door for me?
    • If I were her, I would.

Modal verbs don’t change their form, and they have no infinitive (the verb with the word “to” in front of it, as in to sleep or to walk) or participle (a form of a verb similar to an adjective or adverb that functions as an adjective, as in swimming or sitting).

Maud Grauer is an editor and content creator for Dot and Dash, LLC.  

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What is the plural of “no” and “yes”?

What's the plural of "yes" and "no"?

 

Wondering how to spell the plural of no and yes? The answer may not be what you think.

The plural of no is noes.

The vote got thirteen noes.
How many noes will I get before I get a yes?
I heard noes from both candidates

The plural of yes is yeses.

The vote got thirteen yeses.
The yeses outnumbered the noes.
Three yeses later, and the idea is becoming a reality.

Note: Sometimes there is more than one correct way to spell a word. (Yes, I know. I see your jaw dropping.) This is true with yes. Merriam-Webster says you can also spell yeses as yesses and noes as nos.

Example: Yesses are often better than nos.

 

 

Apostrophes and plurals
You may see them spelled as no’s and yes’s. This is incorrect. Remember: apostrophes are almost never used to make plurals.

Erin Servais is a book editor, author coach, and founder of Dot and Dash, an author-services company. To see how she can help you with your writing project, email her at Erin@dotanddashllc.com.

 
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Is “data” singular or plural?

 

Man with laptop. Word bubble says: Hey, girl. Let's check out some data together

Buckle up, folks. People have strong feelings about whether to treat “data” as a singular or plural noun. And we are going to talk all about it today.

Technically, “datum” is the singular version, and “data” is the plural version.

This means—technically—“data” takes a plural version of a verb.

Examples:

The data are correct.
The data show these numbers.
The data illustrate the findings.

But . . . these days, most people treat “data” as if it were singular. So they use a singular verb with it.

Examples:

The data is correct.
The data shows these numbers.
The data illustrates the findings.

 

 

This is where you have to make a decision. Are you going to be a stickler and fight for “data” as a plural, or are you going to buckle under peer pressure and treat it as singular?

You are entitled to your own thoughts about this. But guess what? Language does change. It evolves. For instance, we don’t use “decimate” to mean “to destroy by one tenth” anymore, right? Or what about “nice”? Once upon a time four centuries ago, it meant “foolish and ignorant.” And once upon a time seven centuries ago, “girl” meant a “small child,” whether they were female or male.

So if you want to treat “data” as a singular noun, go for it. It’s true that the times they are a-changing. And if you want to treat “data” as plural, go for it, too. You’re not incorrect, but know you may find people who think you are.

Erin Servais is a book editor, author coach, and founder of Dot and Dash LLC, an author-services company. She takes authors from the plotting and planning phase, all the way through editing and marketing. To learn more, check out her website: www.dotanddashllc.com. You can also email her at Erin@dotanddashllc.com.

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