The Difference Between “Historic” and “Historical”

Photo of Big Ben at night
London’s Big Ben is a historic clock.

This post will teach you the difference between historic and historical. These two words have similar meanings and get confused a lot, so don’t feel bad that you haven’t memorized their definitions.

Historic describes an important and momentous event, person, place, or thing in history.

  • The Revolutionary War was a historic event in the United States.
  • Marie Curie is a historic figure in scientific history.
  • Big Ben is a historic clock.

Historical describes anything that belonged to an earlier time period and relates to history.

  • Grandma found historical dinner plates at the yard sale.
  • The farmhouse from the 1800s is historical.
  • We looked at a historical map of our town to learn its original design.
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To remember the difference, think about historic as being something big (meaningful to many) and historical as something small (meaningful to a few).

For instance, the first flight of the Wright brothers is big. It’s meaningful to many people. So choose historic.

Meanwhile, your first plane ride is small. It’s meaningful to a few people. So choose historical.

I hope this clears up any confusion. If you enjoy reading about writing and literary topics, too, check out my other blog, Dot and Dash.

Erin Servais is a book editor and author coach focusing on women author-entrepreneurs. She can help you succeed and make progress on your goals no matter where you are in the writing process. To learn more about her skills, check out her business’s website: Dot and Dash LLC.

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What Is the Past Tense of “Lead”?

the past tense of the verb lead is led

One of the most common errors I see as a copy editor is when people write the verb lead in the past tense incorrectly. It gets confusing because the past tense of lead is led, and led is pronounced the same way as the noun lead (the metal). And so people end up writing lead instead of led for the verb’s past tense.

Are you confused yet? Let me show you how you can remember the difference.

In the past tense, the verb lead sounds exactly like the verb bleed, just without the B. Bleed becomes bled, and lead becomes led.

Examples
He bled on his new shirt.
He led the race.

He cut himself shaving and bled.
He led the senator’s campaign.

Remember: If you find yourself questioning your spelling of lead in the past tense, recall that it’s the same as bleed in the past tense. Bleed becomes bled, and lead becomes led.

Erin Servais is a book editor and author coach who helps authors at all stages of the writing process. If you have finished your book, or you are struggling to finish your book, get in touch to learn how she can help you. You can check out her website or email her at Erin@dotanddashllc.com.

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Fewer vs Less

colorful cookies with fruit on top

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Learning the difference between fewer and less is actually easier than you may think. The key is whether you can count the object or thing you are talking about.

Use fewer with objects you can count.
Use less with objects you can’t count.

For example, if you have a plate of six cookies in front of you, and then you eat one, you would say, “I have fewer than six cookies on my plate.” You use fewer because you can count the cookies individually.

However, if you have a full glass of milk with your cookies, and then you drink some milk, you would say, “I have less than a full glass of milk.” You use less because milk is a mass noun, which means you can’t count it. (For a refresher on mass nouns, check out this Grammar Party post.)

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However—no big surprise here—there is an exception to this rule. When you’re talking about time, money, or distance, you are allowed to use less, even though you can count their specific units.

Time: If you start watching a one-hour television show, and then your friend asks you fifteen minutes later when it will be over, you would say, “The show will end in less than one hour.”

Money: If you start off with fifty dollars, but then you spend some, you’d say, “I have less than fifty dollars now.”

Distance: If the cookie store is one mile away from your house, and you have walked three blocks already, you would have less than one mile to go.

Quiz
To test your skills, fill in the blank with less or fewer. The answers are at the bottom.

  1. There is ____ than one mile left on the jogging route.
  2. Shelley is a smart kid. She got no _____ than four As on her report card.
  3. The world would be a better place if _____ violence existed.
  4. After that shopping spree, Shelley has _____ than twenty dollars left.
  5.  _____ than five people finished the cookie-eating contest.

Answers: 1. less 2. fewer 3. less 4. less 5. fewer

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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Forgo or Forego?

Forgo forego.png

Forgo and forego look very similar, so it makes sense that this is a common spelling error. In this post, I will give you their definitions and explain a mnemonic device to help you remember the difference.

definition of forgo

Merriam-Webster Unabridged

Forgo (without the E) means to go without something. You give something up and you refuse it.

Here are a couple examples of forgo in a sentence:

  • Declaring a diet, the rat says he will forgo cheese.
  • Because she broke her foot, Nancy forwent dancing.

Forwent, as you can see from the second example, is the past-tense version of forgo.

definition of forego

Merriam-Webster Unabridged

Forego (with the E) means to go before something. You may recognize this word from the popular term foregone conclusion, which means a conclusion that someone can predict before the action happens.

Here are a couple examples of forego in a sentence:

  • The introduction forgoes the first chapter.
  • The contest forewent the medal ceremony.

Forewent is the past tense of forego.

Mnemonic device: To remember the difference between these words, link the word before with forego.

Forego means to go before something.

 Remember that and there are two fewer words you can get confused!

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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What Does Tmesis Mean?

girl with hand covering her mouth

What-the-frig-ever is a tmesis?

Fan-freaking-tastic! Whoopde-damn-doo!

These are examples of tmesis. Tmesis is when a word is divided into parts, and another word is inserted inside of it, often for comic effect or emphasis. It comes from the Greek tmesis, meaning “to cut.”

A classic example of this is from the Shakespearean play Richard II: “How-heinous-ever it be.”

Another example is a-whole-nother, which often gets decried as being poor English. What-the-heck-ever. Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say in defense of this word.

Erin Servais is an abso-bloody-lutely good editor. To learn how she can help you with your next editing project, check out her website: Dot and Dash site.

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