Imminent vs. eminent

imminent: ready to take place
eminent: standing out so as to be readily perceived or noted; conspicuous
—Merriam-Webster

Imminent usage
Imminent is an adjective that describes something (such as an event) that is going to happen soon. It can be negative or positive.

Examples:
One cannot dismiss the imminent danger of climate change.
Al has only three pieces of the jigsaw puzzle left. Completion is imminent.

Eminent usage
Eminent is an adjective that describes something (such as a person) that is famous and popular (the best in a category). It is usually positive.

Examples:
Heath is the eminent researcher in his field.
The new skyscraper has become the eminent symbol of the town.

Remember the difference
To tell imminent and eminent apart, think that imminent means immediate. (In actuality, the event imminent describes doesn’t have to happen right away, but simply soon. Still, it helps as a mnemonic.)

Quiz
Test your imminent and eminent skills with a quiz. The answers are at the end.

  1. After winning the award, Dottie was known as the _______ chef in town.
  2. Daryl’s bad test score meant failing the class was _______.
  3. The thought of the _______ glee the cookies will bring made Kevin smile.
  4. The _______ product sold the most units.

Answers: 1. eminent 2. imminent 3. imminent 4. eminent

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Hair shirt

A hair shirt is as it sounds: a shirt made out of hair. Though they are rarely used today, historically people in some Christian religious orders wore them as a means of penance. The shirts were originally woven with goat hair and were worn next to the skin to keep the wearer in constant discomfort and awareness of the shirt’s presence. (The shirts evolved to contain bits of metal woven with hair. Delightful.)

Today, this item of self-torture survives in the language as a noun that means “one that irritates like a hair shirt” and as an adjective that means “austere and self-sacrificing.”

Here are some examples of hair shirt as a noun:

Uncle Harvey is such a hair shirt. I would rather drink soup from a toilet than listen to another of his “olden days” stories.

Merv thought yoga was a hair shirt until he tried it and enjoyed how limber he felt afterward.

Here are some examples of hair shirt as an adjective:

Carla felt so guilty about murdering her gardener that she chose to live a hair-shirt existence. She gave her belongings to charity and moved to the desert, where she survived by eating spiders and rats.

Getting healthy doesn’t mean living a hair-shirt lifestyle. Merv found vegetables to be delicious, and he got lots of dates from yoga class.

Fairy tale vs. fairy-tale

 

fairy tale (noun): a story (as for children) involving fantastic forces and beings (as fairies, wizards, and goblins)

fairy-tale (adjective): characteristic of or suitable to a fairy tale, marked by seemingly unreal beauty, perfection, luck, or happiness

—Merriam-Webster

It’s finally feeling like summer. The wind is carrying lovely, flowery scents (unless you live in a city—then it’s most likely pee smell). Either way, this is the season to daydream and think of fairy tales. Now let’s make sure you are using the term correctly.

When used as a noun, fairy tale is two words without a hyphen.

Example: Mom told me a fairy tale about a princess who turned into a fairy.

However, when it is used as an adjective to describe a noun, it has a hyphen and looks like this: fairy-tale.

Example: Her fairy-tale wedding must have cost a fortune.

(Here, fairy-tale describes the noun wedding.)

Quiz
Check your understanding with this quiz. Fill in either fairy tale or fairy-tale in the blanks. The answers are below.

1) Every day as he sat in his cubicle, Ralph dreamed of a new life, a _______ life.

2) The _______ involved goblins and mean elves, so Susie thought it was scary.

3) Al had a new car, a new wife, a mansion, and a raise. Could this mean his _______ was coming true?

4. The cake had chocolate chips, frosting, strawberries, and fudge. It was basically a _______ dessert.

 

 

Answers:
1) fairy-tale (adjective describing life); 2) fairy tale (noun); 3) fairy tale (noun); 4) fairy-tale (adjective describing dessert)

 

Straight vs. strait

straight (adjective): free from curves, bends, angles, or irregularities
straight (adverb): in a straight manner  
strait (noun): 1) a comparatively narrow passageway connecting two large bodies of water; 2) a situation of perplexity or distress
—Merriam–Webster

When determining whether to use straight or strait, remember: strait is usually a noun, but straight can be an adjective or an adverb. This means straight works with nouns and verbs to describe them.

Examples of straight:
1. Morris has straight teeth.
2. Morris walks straight to the dentist.

In the first example, straight is an adjective that works with the noun teeth. In the second example, straight is an adverb that works with the verb walks.

Examples of strait:
1. The boat barely fit through the strait.
2. The crew was in dire straits when the boat started to sink.

In both examples, strait is a noun. The first example uses the first definition of the word. The second example uses the second definition of the word.

A note about jackets
The word for the white, strappy device used to restrain people is commonly misspelled. It is spelled: straitjacket. Also note that it is one word.

Quiz
Fill in the blank with either straight or strait. The answers are at the bottom.

1. The negative balance in Liz’s checking account showed she was in desperate financial _______s.
2. It took less time to run the _______ path than the curvy one.
3. Liz ran ______ to the candy shop.
4. The ship sailed _______ through the _______.
5. The men forced the patient into a _______jacket.

Answers:

1. strait (second definition) 2. straight (adjective) 3. straight (adverb) 4. straight (adverb), strait (first definition) 5. strait

 

Capitalizing Titles of Works

Some people prefer to capitalize each word of a title. But, if you need to learn the rules of the “up and down” style of titles, here is a guide.

Section 8.157 of The Chicago Manual of Style lays out rules:

  1. Capitalize first and last words
  2. Capitalize nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs
  3. Lowercase articles the, a, and an
  4. Lowercase prepositions (of, in, to, for, with, on, at, over, between, around, etc.)
  5. Lowercase conjunctions and, but, for, or, and nor

Note: These are only the basic rules. However, these are likely the only ones you’ll need.
Preposition list: For a longer list of English prepositions, click here.

Examples
Let’s run through some examples. I’ll explain why I capitalized or lowercased each word.

1. Vampires Suck Blood from a Young Woman.

  • I capitalized Vampires and Woman because they are the first and last words. (rule 1)
  • I capitalized Suck because it’s a verb. (rule 2)
  • I capitalized Young because it’s an adjective. (rule 2)
  • I lowercased a because it’s an article. (rule 3)
  • I lowercased from because it’s a preposition. (rule 4)

2. The Mating Habits of Mutants

  • I capitalized The and Mutants because they are the first and last words. (rule 1)
  • I capitalized Mating it’s an adjective. (rule 2)
  • I capitalized Habits because it’s a noun. (rule 2)
  • I lowercased of because it’s a preposition. (rule 4)

3. The Unicorn Who Forgot His Knife

  • I capitalized The and Knife because they are the first and last words. (rule 1)
  • I capitalized Unicorn because it’s a noun. (rule 2)
  • I capitalized Forgot because it’s a verb. (rule 2)
  • I capitalized Who and His because they are pronouns. (rule 2)

4. Four Snakes and Rats Played Nicely Together

  • I capitalized Four and Together because they are the first and last words. (rule 1)
  • I capitalized Snakes and Rats because they’re nouns. (rule 2)
  • I capitalized Played because it’s a verb. (rule 2)
  • I capitalized Nicely because it’s an adverb. (rule 2)
  • I lowercased and because it’s a conjunction. (rule 5)

Quiz
Test your skills with a quiz. Below you will see titles with every word lowercased. Rewrite each title with the correct words capitalized. The answers are below.

1. young boy caught farting in class
2. crazy cat and the dumb dog
3. swarm of grandmothers brazenly pinch cheeks at noon
4. ten clouds turn pink
5. the curious way the sea monster eats her food in the ocean

Answers: 1. Young Boy Caught Farting in Class 2. Crazy Cat and the Dumb Dog 3. Swarm of Grandmothers Brazenly Pinch Cheeks at Noon 4. Ten Clouds Turn Pink 5. The Curious Way the Sea Monster Eats Her Food in the Ocean