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


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.)

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.



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


Follow through vs. follow-through

follow through (verb): to press on in an activity or process especially to a conclusion
follow-through (noun): the act or an instance of following through

These two words can be tricky because one uses a hyphen and one does not. As a verb, follow through is two words with no hyphen. As a noun, follow-through is one word with a hyphen between the two parts.

Here are examples of follow through used as a verb:

The lizard will follow through with his plans of world domination.
Saul followed through with his idea of starting a clothing store for lizards.

Here are examples of follow-through used as a noun:

The lizard has lots of goals, but his follow-through is poor.
Denise’s follow-through earned her a promotion.

Hint: If you are wondering which word to use, look at the role it plays in the sentence. And remember: If it’s a verb, follow through has no hyphen. If it’s a noun, follow-through has a hyphen.

Fill in either follow through or follow-through in the blanks. The answers are below.

1. Lizzy has good _______, and her organizational skills help.
2. Sally keeps saying she will start writing her book, but she doesn’t _______.
3. One criterion for the new position is level of _______.
4. Tina wants to become an accountant, and she knows she will ________ on that dream.

1. follow-through 2. follow through 3. follow-through 4. follow through



When to capitalize titles

Lesson: when to capitalize civil, military, religious, and professional titles

Capitalizing a title depends on whether it comes before or after a person’s name or stands alone.

If the title comes before a name, capitalize it. Titles that are directly in front of names are, in effect, being used as part of the names and thus require the same capitalization.


Once a comedian, he is now known as Senator Al Franken.
The church is home to Reverend James Boot.
The person in charge is Director Mary Fritz.

If the title comes after a name, lowercase it. Titles after names are not being used as part of the names and so do not require capitalization.


Al Franken, senator from Minnesota, eats donuts.
The article was about James Boot, reverend for the local church.
Mary Fritz, director of marketing, makes a lot of money.

If the title stands alone, lowercase it. Likewise, because titles are not attached to names, they do not need to be capitalized.


The senator is running for a second term.
The church is looking for a new reverend.
The director of marketing is Mary Fritz.

Remember: only capitalize a title if it comes directly before a name.

Choose whether the title in italics should be capitalized. The answers are below.

1. The sergeant earned a medal.
2. The current leader is president Obama.
3. Janet Deetz is the chief executive officer.
4. Fred Turner, provost of the university, will give a speech.
5. Friday, bishop Frank Tots will visit.

1. lowercase 2. capitalize 3. lowercase 4. lowercase 5. capitalize

Awe vs. aw

My kitty, Buff Buff, pretending to read the AP Stylebook makes me say, "Aw."

My kitty, Buff Buff, pretending to read the AP Stylebook makes me say, “Aw.”

awe: an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime
aw: used to express mild disappointment, gentle entreaty, or real or mock sympathy or sentiment

I’m not sure how many people confuse these two words, but I know there are a few of you out there, so I hope this post helps. Mostly, I see this mistake in text messages I get from a certain lovely man. When I read them, I like to think he had a overwhelming revelation about how fantastic and pretty and kind and funny and talented I am, which he could only sum up in a one-word text reading awe. But because these messages usually come after I send him adorable photos of my cats, I’m assuming he really meant to type aw.

Aw not aww
Note that aw is not spelled with two Ws at the end, which is a common misspelling. When you’re saying it, you can drag out the word as long as you want for effect, but in writing, stick to one W.

When Larry saw the giant, he was struck with a feeling of awe. The giant was so huge and scary.

Then when the giant got on one knee and handed him a bouquet of flowers, Larry could only say, “Aw,” because he was so stunned by the kind gesture.

Fill in either awe or aw in the blanks below. The answers are at the bottom.

1. Pedro was such a cute dog that everyone who met him cooed, “_______.”
2. When his doggie parents first saw Pedro, they felt _______ at how one dog seemed to have so many cuteness genes.
3. After watching Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, Lola was in _______ at how beautifully complex our galaxy is.
4. When Lola learned the sun will someday become extinguished, she thought, “_______, I want the sun to live forever!”

1. Aw 2. awe 3. awe 4. Aw

Anxious or eager?

anxious: characterized by extreme uneasiness of mind or brooding fear about some contingency

“I am so anxious to see you!”

How many times have you heard or said this? Most of the time, anxious was probably not the word to use.

Say your best friend is about to arrive for an out-of-town visit. You are more likely to be eager or excited for her visit than anxious. Anxious has a negative connotation. Anxious means you are in a fit of hand-wringing nervousness, considering all that could go wrong. If you are simply happy for your friend to come and are expecting the trip to go smoothly, then you are not anxious; you are just excited and eager.

Here are examples of anxious, excited, and eager used the correct way:

I am excited to get my package in the mail.
I am eager for my trip to the Bahamas.
I am anxious that this airplane will crash.

Note that the first two sentences have positive connotations, and the second has a negative connotation.

Can these words be interchangeable?
There has been a trend of using anxious, eager, and excited interchangeably. However, I still think there should be a distinction. Remember that anxiety is a medical condition, which often requires medication and treatment. It can be a very serious and life-altering condition for those who have it. Using the word so casually (and incorrectly) downplays, in my opinion, its severity. People who don’t have anxiety already tend to not understand how difficult living with a form of anxiety can be. Misusing it in our speech adds to this confusion.

In each sentence is the word anxious. Determine in each sentence if the word is used correctly.

1. Edwin is anxious that his dinner plans will fall through.
2. Edwin is anxious to eat his ice cream.
3. Edwin is anxious for the first day of school, thinking of all that could go wrong.
4. Edwin is anxious to open his birthday present.

1. correct 2. incorrect 3. correct 4. incorrect