May vs. Might

wish I may

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.

Examples:
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.

Quiz:

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!

Answers:
1) might 2) may 3) might 4) might 5) may

Erin Servais is a book editor who can make your manuscript look polished and professional. To learn more about how she can help you, visit www.dotanddashllc.com.

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Immigrate vs. Emigrate

passport

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.

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.

chickens

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: www.dotanddashllc.com.

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.

Hanger vs. Hangar

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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.

Examples:

  • 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.