Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Usage: Words Often Confused. T.

Question: How can I clarify words that are frequently confused?

Answer: In this issue of “Q & A on Writing,” I clarify the meanings of frequently confused words beginning with the letter “T.” Plural of “tablespoonful and teaspoonful”; that/which; that/who; their, theirs, them, they; tortuous/torturous; traveled, traveler, traveling; toward/towards; turbid/turgid.

Tablespoonfuls; teaspoonfuls. (**)

That/which. Another tricky item of usage to explain. An example might be the best explanation. “The drivers of all cars that go over 55 mph will arrested.” No commas separate “that go over 55 mph” because not “all drivers” will be arrested, but only “drivers of all cars that go over 55 mph.” (***)

On the other hand, “The drivers of all cars that go over 55 mph, which we believe to be an unsafe speed, will be arrested.” Commas surround “which we believe to be an unsafe speed” because the phrase is an added comment that interrupts the main sentence. (**)

That/who. “Who” is for people. “That” is for objects. "Who" for people sounds better, although some style manuals accept both “that” and “who” for people. (**)

Their, theirs, them, they are plural. Don’t use with singular subject: “Everyone returned to their homes.” “Everyone” is singular. “Their” is plural. “His” would be singular and traditionally correct, but is considered to be “sexist,” meaning that “his” refers to the world as all male. To avoid “their” in this example, or the awkward “his or her,” begin with the plural and stay with it throughout the sentence: “The partygoers returned to their homes.” You will be surprised at how smoothly your sentences will flow if you begin with the plural. (**)

Tortuous = twisting, turning, tangled; torturous = anguished. (**)

Toward, not towards. (*)

Traveled, traveler, traveling. We live in America, not in Great Britain or Canada. In America, if the accent is on the first syllable, the final “l” is not doubled. (**)

Turbid = muddy; turgid = swollen. (**)

All the best. RayS.

No comments: