Stationary vs. Stationery

 

Stationary vs. stationeryIt’s tricky to keep the difference between stationary and stationery straight. They’re homophones, which means they’re two words that sound the same but have different meanings (think flour and flower or principle and principal).

Stationary is an adjective describing something that isn’t moving:

  • All the cars were stationary at the red light.
  • I didn’t want to wake up this morning, so I just lay stationary in my bed.

Stationery is a noun that refers to special paper you use for writing:

  • She had stationery with matching blue envelopes and paper.
  • Her monogram was emblazoned at the top of her stationery.

How to remember the difference: 

Paper ends in ER. So you can remember: Stationery is made of paper

Here’s a fun fact: stationary is etymologically related to stationery. They both originally come from the latin word stationarius, which can mean either a fixed military position or, starting in the 14th century, a tradesman who sells from a post or shop.

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of book editing, author coaching, and social media packages.

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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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Compliment vs. Complement

compliment vs. complementCompliment and complement sound the same but are spelled differently, so it’s easy to get the two confused in your writing. In this blog post, we’ll discuss their definitions and learn how to remember the two spellings.

Compliment as a verb means saying something nice. As a noun, it means the nice thing that is said.

Examples
Verb: The rat complimented the mouse’s suspenders.
Noun: The rat’s compliment made the mouse smile.

Complement as a verb means to complete. As a noun, it means something that completes.

Examples
Verb: The mouse’s suspenders complemented his outfit.
Noun: The suspenders were the perfect complement to his outfit.

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How to remember the difference
Complement sort of looks like the word complete, and it means to complete.

Think complement = complete.

You can also note that both words have an E in the middle (rather than an I).

Quiz
Fill in the blanks below with compliment or complement. The answers are below.

1. Rupert’s jeweled brooch _______s his look.
2. The expensive car was the _______ to her “perfect” life.
3. Tina _______ed her by saying, “You look hotter than a dead raccoon in the afternoon sun.”
4. Hilda hoped to get an A on the test, which would _______ her semester’s perfect grades.
5. The suitor’s _______ was her favorite part of their date.
Answers:
1. complement 2. complement 3. compliment 4. complement 5. compliment

 

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of book editing, author coaching, and social media packages.

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Capital vs. Capitol

capitol building with dome against blue sky

Photo by Caleb Perez on Unsplash

Today we’re going to learn the difference between capital and capitol and a method to remember which is which.

Capital means the city that houses a state or country’s main government. It also means money and business assets and the type of letter that is not lowercased. In this post, however, we will be using the first definition.

Examples:
London is the capital of England.
Atlanta is the capital of Georgia

Capitol means the building in which a legislature meets. A legislature is the group of politicians that has the power to make laws.

Examples:
The Capitol Building in Washington, DC, has an iconic dome.
The politicians debated a bill at the capitol well into the night.

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How to remember the difference:

“Capital” has an A.
A = Atlanta (capital of the state of Georgia)
OR
A = Athens (capital of Greece)

“Capitol” has an O.
O = dOme
Capitols are often in buildings with domes.

Erin Servais is a book editor, author coach, and founder of Dot and Dash LLC, an author-services company that focuses on women author-entrepreneurs. To learn how she can help you with your next writing project, check out her website.

You can also read her blog about writing here.

Follow Erin on social media:

Twitter: @GrammarParty
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What Are Mass Nouns?

a guide to mass nouns

Mass nouns, also called “uncountable nouns”  and “noncount nouns,” are substances, objects, and concepts that cannot be divided into separate parts. By their nature, they can only be plural.

Think about emotions. Let’s take happiness, for instance. Happiness exists as a general idea. You can’t break happiness down into its particles. You cannot hold in your hand one happiness or two happinesses. Thus, it is a mass noun.

The same goes with “sand.” There are beaches filled with sand, but you can’t find one sand. However, you can dig your hand into the ground and come up with grains of sand. This illustrates one of the rules with mass nouns.

You explain how much of a mass noun exists by placing a describing word in front of it.

  • a grain of sand
  • a piece of news
  • a gallon of water

Another rule is that English treats mass nouns as if they were singular, even though they are plural. For instance, instead of using the verb “are,” use “is.”

Correct: This juice is delicious.
Incorrect: This juice are delicious
Correct: Greed is dangerous.
Incorrect: Greed are dangerous

And if a verb drops an “s” with plural nouns, it will keep the “s” for mass nouns.

Correct: The cheese tastes yummy.
Incorrect: The cheese taste yummy
Correct: Your jewelry looks expensive.
Incorrect: Your jewelry look expensive.

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Types of Mass Nouns
Here are some of the categories mass nouns fall into with examples:

  • weather: rain, snow, sleet, sunshine
  • feelings: anger, happiness, fear, courage
  • liquids: orange juice, tea, water
  • gasses: air, helium, argon
  • states of existence: childhood, sleep, sickness
  • ideas: advice, motivation, existentialism
  • powder: flour, makeup powder, powdered sugar
  • foods: cheese, rice, pudding, butter

Other Examples

  • traffic
  • art
  • chaos
  • currency
  • education
  • furniture
  • information
  • luggage
  • marketing
  • livestock
  • music
  • patriotism
  • power
  • wood

Erin Servais is a book editor, author coach, and founder of Dot and Dash LLC, an author-services company that focuses on women author-entrepreneurs. To learn how she can help you with your next writing project, check out her website.

You can also read her blog about writing here.

Follow Erin on social media:

Twitter: @GrammarParty
Instagram: @dot_and_dash_llc
Facebook: facebook.com/dotanddashllc

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