Rack vs. Wrack

a very old wrecked ship sitting on sand

The shipwreck wracked the vessel.

What’s the difference between rack and wrack? Let’s take a look at their definitions, how to use them in popular phrases, and a mnemonic device to help you remember which is which.

Rack as a verb means “to torture or cause great suffering.”
Example: Her anxiety racked her mind.

Have you ever heard of the medieval torture device called the rack? It was a wooden frame with a crank attached to it. When a person was placed on the rack, the torturer would crank the device, stretching the person’s limbs until they dislocated them. Sounds like fun times.

Anyway, that’s where we get this usage of rack. And when we use it, we signify torturing, especially stretching.

Wrack as a verb means “to wreck or ruin something.”
Example: They sat back as they watched pollution wrack their planet.

Wrack comes from a word meaning “to be shipwrecked.” Both of these words have pretty gloomy origins, don’t they?

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Now let’s go over a couple common phrases using one of these words.

Rack your brain
When you rack your brain, you are thinking really hard, stretching your brain’s capabilities. This idea of stretching is why we use rack instead of wrack.

Example: I really racked my brain studying for my chemistry final.

Nerve-racking
Something that is nerve-racking tortures your nerves. This idea of torturing is why we use rack instead of wrack.

Example: I found studying for my chemistry final nerve-racking.

Similar meanings
It’s true that rack and wrack have very similar uses. This is why some dictionaries, such as Merriam-Webster, are advocating for using the words interchangeably and treating them as spelling variants.

Mnemonic device
To remember the difference between rack and wrack think: wrack = wreck. They are only one letter off.

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

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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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Bald-Faced, Bold-Faced, or Barefaced Lie?

Woman's mouth and the text: Lies! Lies! Lies!

What do you call a major lie, one told with total disregard for anyone who might be affected by it? You’ve got a few options. You could call it a barefaced lie, a bald-faced lie, or a bold-faced lie. All of these are technically correct and mean basically the same thing, but bald-faced is, according to Merriam-Webster, “the preferred term in published, edited text.”

Barefaced has been used to describe lies and liars since the 19th century. Bald-faced, meanwhile, emerged in the mid-20th century. Both terms mean an open, unconcealed lie told with no concern for the truth and with an additional implication of rudeness.

The term bold-faced has been around since the 16th century, but it started to be used in this context around the end of the 20th century. It’s possible that the emergence of bold-faced as a modifier for lies and liars corresponds to the increase in the use of bold-faced text during this period.

Barefaced, bald-faced, and bold-faced are all grammatically correct ways to describe lies. Most people don’t use barefaced anymore, and of the remaining two options, the preferred, professional term is bald-faced. Now that’s the truth!

 

This post was written by Maud Grauer. She is a content creator 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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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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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.

Sign up for the Dot and Dash newsletter to get writing tips and tricks and exclusive deals.  

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