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.

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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.)

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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.
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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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Common Christmas Misspellings

two elves sitting together and the words Common Christmas Misspellings

Don’t mess with the elf on the shelf. Learn how to spell these words.

Today I’m writing about some confusing Christmas words and common Christmas misspellings so you can write your holiday cards and family newsletters with peace of mind (and peace on earth).

Christmastime is one word.

Christmassy can take one S or two.

Ho ho ho! has one exclamation point after the last ho.

Santa Claus has no E at the end.

Noel has no dots over the E, unless you want to spell it the French way.

Xmas does not have a hyphen after the X.

Sugarplum is one word.

Mistletoe has a T in the middle that we don’t pronounce (because English).

Gingerbread is one word.

Eggnog is also one word.

Bough is spelled this way, not bow, regardless if you deck the halls with boughs of holly.

These are all according to Merriam-Webster.

And if you want to add some international flair to your season’s greetings, here is how to say “Merry Christmas” in other languages:

Danish: Glædelig Jul

French: Joyeux Noël

German: Fröhliche Weihnachten

Italian: Buon Natale

Spanish: Feliz Navidad

Swedish: God Jul

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 It Whose or Who’s?

image of owl and the words whose or who's

Whooo will know the difference between “whose” and “who’s” after reading this post? You will!

The rules of when to use whose and when to use who’s are simple, but they can be difficult to remember because they seem to violate how apostrophes usually work. Don’t worry—we’ll teach you a trick to remember the difference whose and who’s in this post.

While words ending with an apostrophe and an S (i.e., the man’s car) are usually possessive, in the case of whose vs. who’s, whose is actually the possessive form.

Whose is a possessive adjective, which means it describes who owns something.

Who’s is a contraction of either who is or who has.

How to remember the difference
A good way to tell whether you should use whose or who’s is to substitute who is or who has in their place. If the sentence makes sense with this substitution, then you should use who’s. If it doesn’t, then you should go with whose. Here are some examples:

math gif.gif

Whoa. Math.

  • “Who’s the best at math?”

This sentence uses who’s because you can substitute who is. “Who is the best at math?” still makes sense.

  • “Whose math homework is this?”

This sentence uses whose because it doesn’t make sense when you substitute who is and get “Who is math homework is this?” Whose, in this case, is asking who the math homework belongs to.

Whose vs. who’s seems complicated, but once you know the rules, it’s easy to tell when to use which. Who’s got the power to tell the difference between whose and who’s? You do!

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This post was written by Maud Grauer. She is a content creator and book editor for Dot and Dash. You can read more of her writing on the Dot and Dash blog: www.dotanddashllc.com/blog

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