MLP: Be real(ly?) careful, writers - Coeur d'Alene Press: Sholeh Patrick

MLP: Be real(ly?) careful, writers

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Posted: Thursday, June 6, 2013 12:00 am

Real means true; it really (truly) does. Neither means "very," so don't go there.

All right (but never alright); please forgive MLP her impolite implication (the speaker implies; the listener infers) and accept (but only except if you disagree) a little advice (noun), about which Mrs. Language Person hopes now to advise (verb) you.

Yes, that sentence was awkward, but please don't censor (verb) your MLP just yet. She risks censure (noun) to create effect (consequence), if not affect (noun - emotion, psychologists' term) with this less-than-entertaining effort. Besides (in addition), she is eager (but not anxious, a.k.a. nervous) to set (to place upon, not to sit, which generally requires chair) more everyday (i.e. common) words to paper, the well-used beside (next to) the misused, to see if they may (they definitely can/are able, but they may or may not) affect (verb) the use of English every (or each, but to use both is redundant) day.

Whew. Deep breath (a noun without the "e" in verb form, "breathe"). Don't let it faze (disturb) you, dear Reader. MLP phases (establishes gradually) lessons for word nerds in phases (increments over time).

Lie, lay. The latter always has an object which it lays. The former simply means "recline." I lay down the book, but I lie down for a rest. You may lay your body upon a sofa, but you lie awake at night, when the body is unmentioned.

Principle, principal. My ethics shape my principles (noun - beliefs). I am the principal (adjective - primary, main) fan of Fernan Elementary principal (noun - chief, head honcho) Bill Rutherford's column, "Food for Thought."

Than, then. To compare, use "than." If you mean therefore or next in time, use "then."

Stationary, stationery. The former stands still. The latter is simply paper upon which people used to (not "use to" - shudder) write letters.

That, which. A past edition of MLP reviewed these two, which should have sufficed. Note that another little trick is to rely on the comma; if comma precedes, it's probably which. Never, never use "which" when referring to people. People are "who."

There, their, they're (with your bonus). They shouldn't be so hard. "They're" is solely a contraction - a substitute for two words: "they are" (same goes for "you're"). Their use should be clear, especially for their possessive form; "their" belongs to them. There (a place or indication) you have it, right here in your (possessive) daily newspaper.

Insure, ensure. To ensure is to make certain; to insure is for Blue Cross or State Farm.

Emigrate, immigrate. It's so simple: Use the "e-" to go/leave. Use the "im-" to come in/arrive.

Eminent, imminent. An eminent person is a well-known VIP. An imminent event will happen right away.

Compliment, complement. MLP may compliment (praise) you on correct use of synonyms. Her columns strive to be a complement (supplement, completion) to those laudable efforts made by frustrated English teachers, the poor dears.

Angle, angel. A geometry teacher's angle (goal, if indirect) is to teach properties of angles (-le, corner where lines meet), their postulates and theorems (isn't that theora, Magistra Mugleston, oh goddess of Latin?). Success feels like soaring with the angels (-el; the ones with wings).

Elicit, illicit. At minimum MLP hopes to elicit (extract, bring about) stronger sentences. Illicit describes something illegal or immoral; to thus describe English's misuse is an admitted exaggeration even for a word nerd.

And finally, among us (but not between us, as we undoubtedly number more than two) your MLP must confess she can't leave well enough alone, compelled to pore (that's read carefully, not pour/spill) over more ideas for stronger sentences. Next time, MLP offers more tips on how to recognize common redundancies. That's absolutely certain!

Sholeh Patrick and Mrs. Language Person, those Snitty Old Bitties, are highly frustrated columnists for the Hagadone News Network. Contact them at

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