Woah vs. Whoa

flower cat

Well, how obviously amazing is this cat?!

Well, how obviously amazing!

That’s my mnemonic device to remember how to spell “whoa.”


It works because something that is obviously amazing would make you stop and say “whoa.”

It is common to misspell this as “woah,” with the H at the end. Don’t feel bad if that’s what you used to do. I know a certain editor who writes a certain grammar blog who may or may not have also made this mistake. For years. We’re only human . . . even the editors among us (though I suspect authors sometimes think otherwise). And now you know the correct way to spell it. Well, how obviously amazing is that?

Erin Servais is a longtime book editor who is friendly and won’t make you feel dumb, even if you make a silly spelling mistake. To learn more about her services, visit her website: www.dotanddashllc.com

* Okay. Technically . . . the Oxford English Dictionary lists “woah” as a secondary spelling. However, Merriam-Webster has come out publicly against this spelling, and I have personally been dinged rather embarrassingly in public for using it, so I really suggest you stick with “whoa.”


Gray vs. grey

Gray and grey are both correct spellings for that almost-black color, but choosing which to use depends on where you live.

If you are in the United States, gray is more common. If you are in another English-speaking country, grey is preferred.

You can remember this by noting the A and the E in the words:

In America, use grAy.
In England, use grEy.

(But, of course, don’t forget Scotland, Ireland, Australia, and Canada. They use grey too.)

Christmasy misspellings

It’s that time of year again. Red and green decorations line the streets and shop windows. Store clerks wrestle with the eternal question of whether to wish you “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas.” And here in Minnesota, it looks like a real-life snow globe.

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

  • Christmastime is one word.
  • Ho! Ho! Ho! has exclamation points after each one.
  • Santa Claus has no E at the end.
  • Noël, the French word for Christmas, has an diaeresis over the E, if you want to be especially traditional. Though, “Noel” is also an accepted spelling.
  • Xmas does not have a hyphen after the X.

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

Yea, yeah, yay


"I think our national symbol should be the turkey. Yea or nay?"

“Our national symbol should be the turkey. Yea or nay?”

Today we’re learning about how to spell and use some confusing Y words: yea, yeah, and yay.

Yea means yes. It is the oldest of the three words, with its first-known use coming before the twelfth century. Now we mostly see yea when reading about voting. For instance, when posed a question, a group may be asked to answer yea (yes) or nay (no). Note that yea rhymes with the word hay.

Example: “Should we have hot dogs for lunch?” the mother asked. “Answer yea or nay.”

Yeah is a slang word that also means yes. Yeah is much newer than yea, however, having come into existence in the 1860s. In terms of spelling, yeah and yea are often confused. Remember that unless you’re writing about a public vote, you’ll want to use yeah.

Example: He asked if I wanted to go on a date and I said yeah.

Yay is often used as an interjection to express excitement and approval. It has the same meaning as yippee or hooray. It appears to have evolved from the word yea and is pronounced the same way.

Example: Yay! We’re going to the zoo!

Blond vs. Blonde

Sometimes there’s an E at the end, and sometimes there’s not. This post will teach you the simple rules of which word to use when.

With males—noun usage
If you’re writing about a boy or a man with golden-colored hair, use blond (no E).

Example: The handsome man is a blond.

With females—noun usage
However, if you’re writing about a golden-haired girl or woman, use blonde (with the E).

Example: The pretty woman is a blonde.

With males and/or females—adjective usage
You’ll notice that we have so far been talking about nouns (when we use blond or blonde to represent the person). But what about when you simply want to use an adjective to describe a person as being blond? As an adjective, blond never has an E at the end. It’s always simply blond.

Example: The blond man walked through the door.
Example: The blond woman walked through the door.
Example: The blond family walked through the door.

In the examples above, since blond is used as an adjective to describe the noun (man/woman/family), it follows the adjective rule and doesn’t have an E at the end.

Blame the French
Wonder why we have two spellings of this noun? Blame the French. French regularly assigns gender to words and spells them differently based on whether they are masculine or feminine. Since we inherited the word blond/e from French, we also inherited the two ways of spelling it.

Test your skills with a quiz. Fill in blond or blonde in the blanks. The answers are at the bottom.

1. The backyard was filled with _______ children.
2. That tall lady is a _______.
3. The man picking his nose is a _______.
4. The _______ dancers twirled across the stage.

Answers: 1. blond (adjective) 2. blonde (noun) 3. blond (noun) 4. blond (adjective)

Erin Servais is occasionally a blonde. She is also lead book editor at Dot and Dash LLC. Learn how to hire her for your next book project: dotanddashllc.com