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Tag Archive | writing

168 Color terms in English

Compiled by Stephen Chrisomalis

This list contains 168 definitions of obscure colour terms using combinations of ‘normal‘ colours of the rainbow and descriptive adjectives; e.g. cardinal = deep scarlet red; russet = reddish brown. Note that most English speakers outside the U.S. spell colour with the added British ‘u’ rather than the American version color. Don’t worry if the colours (or colors) in your universe don’t match up with the definitions I’ve given for these words, though – I’ve been known to have skewed perceptions of reality … Read More…

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12 Useful Websites to Improve Your Writing

by Johnny Webber

1. Words-to-Use.com — A different kind of thesaurus.

2. OneLook.com — One quick dictionary search tool.

3. Vocabulary.com — The quickest, most intelligent way to improve your vocabulary.

4. ZenPen.io — A minimalist writing zone where you can block out all distractions.

5. 750words.com — Write three new pages every day.

6. Readability-Score.com — Get scored on your writing’s readability.

7. YouShouldWrite.com — Get a new writing prompt every time you visit.

8. WriterKata.com — Improve your writing with repetitive exercises.

9. IWL.me — A tool that analyzes your writing and tells you which famous authors you most write like.

10. HemingwayApp.com — Simplify your writing.

11. FakeNameGenerator.com — Generate fake names for your characters.

12. Storyline.io — Collaborate on a story with others by submitting a paragraph.

 

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5 editor’s secrets to help you write like a pro

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Professional writers get work because they hit their deadlines, they stay on their message, and they don’t throw too many tantrums. Some pros have a great writing voice or a superb style, but as often as not, that gets in the way. When you know that the best word is “prescient,” it’s hard to swallow when an account manager tells you the client won’t know what it means.

Professional writers rely on editors to fix their clunks. Like good gardeners, sensitive editors don’t hack away—we prune and gently shape. When we’ve done a great job, the page looks just like it did before, only better. It’s the page the writer intended to write.

Editing, like writing, takes time to learn. But here are five fixes I make with nearly every project. Learn to make them yourself and you’ll take your writing to a more professional, marketable, and persuasive level.

1. Sentences can only do one thing at a time.

Have you ever heard a four-year-old run out of breath before she can finish her thought? I edit a lot of sentences that work the same way. You need a noun, you need a verb, you might need an object. Give some serious thought to stopping right there.

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How to say “No”

If you are like many people, you find it difficult to say no, especially when you need to commit words to paper or the screen. Some people find the task so challenging that they avoid responding. In a survey I conducted of 686 people (many were readers of this newsletter), I found that 22 percent occasionally avoid responding; 3 percent frequently avoid responding rather than say no.

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Another 20 “Forgotten” Words That Should Be Brought Back

Languages are living things that shift and evolve over time. If you look at the history of the English language, from Anglo Saxon through the Great Vowel Shift to what we consider Standard English today, you’ll notice that it has undergone some spectacular changes over the centuries. Some basic words have stuck around through the ages, like “father”, “house”, “egg”, “boat” and so on, but just as new words developed over time, other words were discarded along the way.

Many others from Shakespeare’s time through to the early 20th century have fallen out of common usage, and we are undoubtedly the poorer for it. Here are 20 words that could only serve to add a bit more colour to our daily lives if they happened to come back into regular use.

1. Bunbury

noun

An imaginary person whose name is used as an excuse to some purpose, especially to visit a place.

“Auntie Jane the cottage dweller” was my go-to bunbury whenever I wanted to take a day off to go play in the forest. Read More…

Better Writing at Work: Write Mighty Thank-Yous

In a survey on business writing and relationships, 81 percent of respondents said that a thank-you note they received had a definite positive influence on their decision to do business with a company or an individual again. 

Beyond the professional rewards of thank-yous, sending thank-yous makes everyone smile: you, the writer, for having expressed your gratitude, and the recipient for being remembered and appreciated. 

Here are reminders to help you write mighty thank-yous that bring smiles to all: 

1. Recognize opportunities to say thank you. You have a chance to say thank you anytime someone has:

  • Delivered particularly good service.
  • Gone beyond the job requirements for you.

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50 Sophisticated Words You Should Start Using


It might be time for phasing out some of the played-out words in your vocabulary and replacing them with creative alternatives? Don’t feel bad; everyone you know has been guilty of letting a “fail” or an “LOL” slip at least once in a while. But those words are tired. They need a long rest. Here are 50 sophisticated utterances to deploy instead.

Cyber Substitutes

 

  1. Supreme: Epic doesn’t mean what you think it means. Use this instead, meaning classic or perfect.
  2. Blunder: For the love of grammar, “fail” is not a noun. On the other hand, “blunder” works as both a noun and a verb. How supreme.
  3. Triumph: Instead of “FTW,” you can say, “For The Triumph!” We bet you money you can’t say it without feeling like Maximus.
  4. Fidus Achates: More than some internet acquaintance, a fidus Achates (“FEED-us uh-KAH-tays“) is a true friend. It’s like “BFF” in Latin.
  5. Fancy: It’s only a matter of time before you’ll be able to “fancy” a link or status update for which you wish to show appreciation.
  6. Cachinnate: Forget about laughing your a** off. Tell them you’re cachinnating (CACK-in-ate-ing) heartily.
  7. Woe is me: It sounds a bit like Yoda-ese, but instead of saying FML, go biblical with “woe is me.”
  8. Piquant: If you simply must inform the world how scrumptious the food you are currently eating is, please refrain from saying “nom nom nom.” Use this descriptor instead to convey appetizing flavor.
  9. Baffling: It’s too easy to just drop a “WTH” (or some variation) on some activity or news that perplexes you. Why not be baffled?
  10. Indubitably: The “Really?” ship has sailed. To express ironic dismay, go with, “Indubitably?” Trust us, it’s a can’t-miss.
  11. Desultory: Don’t be a serial “random“-dropper. If something is unexpected, call it “desultory.”
  12. Ergo: Starting a status update with “so” is nonsensical because “so” means “therefore.” But if you’re going to use “so” correctly, “ergo” works just as well and makes you sound twice as classy.

 

 

Better Buzzwords

 

  1. Donjon: Men, have you been relegated to a small segment of the house referred to as your “man cave?” You don’t have to take that. Call it your donjon, like the stronghold of a castle.
  2. Garrison: “Occupy” has been done to death. Use this if you’re moving in and taking over.
  3. Aspiration: Something that goes on your Bucket List (which hopefully you’re not still saying) is an aspiration.
  4. Pater familias: Bad: “baby daddy.” Better: “father.” Best: “pater familias.”
  5. Minutiae-peddling: This phrase is our own creation. Since 40% of all tweets are pointless babble, instead of saying “I’m tweeting” you could say, “I’m peddling minutiae.

 

Underage Upgrades

 

  1. Alas: “Oh, snap” is so out. All the cool kids are saying “alas!” after their putdowns.
  2. Forsooth: All the kids (and some adults) simply adore saying, “I know, right?” Kick it old school Archaic with “forsooth,” meaning “indeed.”
  3. Jocular: People’s eyes glaze over when they read “LOL.” Send them scrambling for a dictionary when you reply, “How jocular!
  4. Gamin: It means “street urchin,” but we can change the meaning to be more neutral if we put our minds to it. After all, we did the same thing with “dude.”
  5. Paraphernalia: Remember the nice officer who referred to your “drug paraphernalia?” That was a fancier way of saying drug stuff.
  6. Incogitable: To the kids, everything’s “wack” or “crazy.” But the silver-tongued teenager of 2012 will be sharing his or her disbelief with this mouthful.

 

Professional Pick-me-ups

 

  1. Demiurgic: “Innovative” is the second-most overused resume filler word. Since you’re already tooting your own horn, compare yourself to a Gnostic creative deity with this word.
  2. Ambitious: “Motivated” is another résumé snooze-inducer. Go ahead and say you’re ambitious; it’ll add a little edge to it that will help you stand out from the pack.
  3. Assiduous: Don’t bother telling employers you are “dynamic;” everyone they’ve interviewed has been dynamic. But if you want an original way to tell them you are hardworking, use this.
  4. Henceforth: For some reason, “going forward” has caught on as a tack-on to the end of serious statements to make them sound more complete. We’re not sure how you can go any way but forward, but at least use “henceforth” instead.
  5. “_________”: That’s a blank to represent an alternative to saying, It is what it is.” “It is what it is” is the equivalent of saying nothing, thus it has no alternative. Just keep quiet for once instead.
  6. Pandemic: Sure, a video can go viral by getting a few million clicks. But aim higher for your company; shoot for a billion clicks. People will be forced to admit your work has gone pandemic.
  7. Withal: You’re not still using “irregardless“, are you? Make the point of “nevertheless” with withal, a great word that people will think you misspelled.
  8. Veritably: Love, Actually would have been so much more original if it had been called “Love, Veritably.”
  9. Impetus: When you execs talk about giving your employees an impetus, you might be discussing raises or donuts in the break room or some other motivational tool.

 

Romantic Retools

 

  1. Cherish: Take a lesson from The Association and discover another way to say “I love you.
  2. Paragon: Tell your girlfriend she is a paragon of beauty and you’ll score major brownie points once she’s looked it up.
  3. Pulchritudinous: …Or you could call her “pulchritudinous.” How fantastic is that word? Of course, you will have to quickly assure her it’s a compliment.
  4. Recherché: Your wife’s dress isn’t just elegant, it’s exquisite, refined, exotic… recherché.
  5. Despondent: Sad is what you are when you spill wine on your pants. When your baby leaves you high and dry in the cold, cruel world, you’re despondent.
  6. Loathe: People say “hate” is a strong word, but it’s got nothing on “loathe.
  7. Abjure: There’s no doubt saying you “dumped” someone is colorful, but if you want to say it in style and with authority, say you abjured that cheatin’ man.
  8. Yearn: Do justice to your desire to possess that special someone. You don’t want to date them, you yearn for them.

 

Dignified Descriptors

 

  1. Atrocious: You spilled your coffee, broke a shoelace, smeared the lipstick on your face. That’s not a bad day, it’s atrocious.
  2. Spanking: The only socially-acceptable way to incorporate “spanking” into a polite conversation is to use it instead of the word “good.”
  3. Transcendent: If you say something is “awesome,” you’re saying it inspires fear or awe in you. So pizza cannot be awesome. What it can be is transcendent or excellent.
  4. Gobs: Make your old English teacher happy and stop using “lots.” “Gobs” is so much more fun to say anyway.
  5. Opined: “Said” is perfectly functional and perfectly acceptable and perfectly boring. If someone is giving their opinion, say they “opined.”
  6. Parry: Really, there’s no reason to use “said” unless you write for a newspaper. Parry back and forth with your debate partner using your newfound word gems.
  7. Asseverate: Last one: To asseverate is to declare earnestly or solemnly. So help you God.
  8. Altitudinous: Get creative when referring to your tall friend from high school. “That guy was downright altitudinous!
  9. Corpulent: If you’re going to call someone fat, at least find an unusual way to do it, like with this word.
  10. Lummox: So many great insult words, so little time. Take a line from Stewie and call that moron a “bovine lummox.”

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12 Letters That Didn’t Make it to the Alphabet

You know the alphabet. It’s one of the first things you’re taught in school. But did you know that they’re not teaching you all of the alphabet? There are quite a few letters we tossed aside as our language grew, and you probably never even knew they existed.

 

1. Thorn

Have you ever seen a place that calls itself “ye olde whatever”? As it happens, that’s not a “y”, or, at least, it wasn’t supposed to be. Originally, it was an entirely different letter called thorn, which derived from the Old English runic alphabet, Futhark.

Thorn, which was pronounced exactly like the “th” in its name, is actually still around today in Icelandic. We replaced it with “th” over time—thorn fell out of use because Gothic-style scripting made the letters y and thorn look practically identical. And, since French printing presses didn’t have thorn anyway, it just became common to replace it with a y. Hence naming things like, “Ye Olde Magazine of Interesting Facts” (just as an example, of course).

2. Wynn

Another holdover from the Futhark runic alphabet, wynn was adapted to the Latin alphabet because it didn’t have a letter that quite fit the “w” sound that was common in English. You could stick two u’s (technically v’s, since Latin didn’t have u either) together, like in equus, but that wasn’t exactly right.

Over time, though, the idea of sticking two u’s together actually became quite popular, enough so that they literally became stuck together and became the letter W (which, you’ll notice, is actually two V’s).

3. Yogh

Yogh stood for a sort of throaty noise that was common in Middle English words that sounded like the “ch” in “Bach” or Scottish “loch.”

French scholars weren’t fans of our weird non-Latin letters and started replacing all instances of yogh with “gh” in their texts. When the throaty sound turned into “f” in Modern English, the “gh”s were left behind.”

4. Ash

You’re probably familiar with this guy from old-fashioned Greek or Roman style text, especially the kind found in churches. It’s even still used stylistically in words today, like æther and æon.

What you may not know, however, is that at one time the ae grapheme (as it’s now known) was an honorary English letter back in the days of Old English. It still had the same pronunciation and everything, it was just considered to be part of the alphabet and called “æsc” or “ash” after the ash Futhark rune, for which it was used as a substitute when transcribing into Latin letters.

5. Eth

Eth is kind of like the little brother to thorn. Originating from Irish, it was meant to represent a slightly different pronunciation of the “th” sound, more like that in “thought” or “thing” as opposed to the one found in “this” or “them.” (The first is the voiceless dental fricative, the second is the voiced dental fricative).

Note that, depending on your regional accent, there may not be much of a difference (or any at all) in the two pronunciations anyway, but that’s Modern English. Back in the old days, the difference was much more distinct. As such, you’d often see texts with both eth and thorn depending on the required pronunciation. Before too long, however, people just began using thorn for both (and later “th”) and so eth slowly became unnecessary.

6. Ampersand

Today we just use it for stylistic purposes (and when we’ve run out of space in a text message or tweet), but the ampersand has had a long and storied history in English, and was actually frequently included as a 27th letter of the alphabet as recently as the 19th century.

In fact, it’s because of its placement in the alphabet that it gets its name. Originally, the character was simply called “and” or sometimes “et” (from the Latin word for and, which the ampersand is usually stylistically meant to resemble). However, when teaching children the alphabet, the & was often placed at the end, after Z, and recited as “and per se and,” meaning “and in and of itself” or “and standing on its own.”

So you’d have “w, x, y, z, and, per se, and.” Over time, the last bit morphed into “ampersand,” and it stuck even after we quit teaching it as part of the alphabet.

7. Insular G

This letter (referred to as “insular G” or “Irish G” because it didn’t have a fancy, official name) is sort of the grandfather of the Middle English version of yogh. Originally an Irish letter, it was used for the previously mentioned zhyah/jhah pronunciation that was later taken up by yogh, though for a time both were used.

It also stood alongside the modern G (or Carolingian G) for many centuries, as they represented separate sounds. The Carolingian G was used for hard G sounds, like growth or good, yogh was used for “ogh” sounds, like cough or tough, and insular g was used for words like measure or vision.

As Old English transformed into Middle English, insular G was combined with yogh and, as mentioned earlier, was slowly replaced with the now-standard “gh” by scribes, at which point insular G/yogh were no longer needed and the Carolingian G stood alone (though the insular G is still used in modern Irish).

8. “That”

Much like the way we have a symbol/letter for “and,” we also once had a similar situation with “that,” which was a letter thorn with a stroke at the top. It was originally just a shorthand, an amalgamation of thorn and T (so more like “tht”), but it eventually caught on and got somewhat popular in its own right (even outliving thorn itself), especially with religious institutions. There’s an excellent chance you can find this symbol somewhere around any given church to this day.

9. Ethel

Similar to Æ/ash/æsc above, the digraph for OE was once considered to be a letter as well, called ethel. It wasn’t named after someone’s dear, sweet grandmother, but the Furthark rune Odal, as œ was its equivalent in transcribing.

It was traditionally used in Latin loan words with a long e sound, such as subpœna or fœtus. Even federal was once spelled with an ethel. (Fœderal.) These days, we’ve just replaced it with a simple e.

10. Tironian “Ond”

Long before there were stenographers, a Roman by the name of Marcus Tullius Tiro (who was basically Roman writer Cicero’s P.A.) invented a shorthand system called Tironian notes. It was a fairly simple system that was easily expanded, so it remained in use by scribes for centuries after Tiro’s death.

One of the most useful symbols (and an ancestor to the ampersand) was the “et” symbol above—a simple way of tossing in an “and.” (And yes, it was sometimes drawn in a way that’s now a popular stylistic way of drawing the number 7.) When used by English scribes, it became known as “ond,” and they did something very clever with it. If they wanted to say “bond,” they’d write a B and directly follow it with a Tironian ond. For a modern equivalent, it’d be like if you wanted to say your oatmeal didn’t have much flavor and you wrote that it was “bl&.”

The trend grew popular beyond scribes practicing shorthand and it became common to see it on official documents and signage, but since it realistically had a pretty limited usage and could occasionally be confusing, it eventually faded away.

11. Long S

You may have seen this in old books or other documents, like the title page from Paradise Lost above. Sometimes the letter s will be replaced by a character that looks a bit like an f. This is what’s known as a “long s,” which was an early form of a lowercase s. And yet the modern lowercase s (then referred to as the “short s”) was still used according to a complicated set of rules (but most usually seen at the end of a word), which led to many words (especially plurals) using both. For example, ?uper?titous is how the word superstitious would have been printed.

It was purely a stylistic lettering, and didn’t change the pronunciation at all. It was also kind of silly and weird, since no other letters behaved that way, so around the beginning of the 19th century, the practice was largely abandoned and the modern lowercase s became king.

12. Eng

For this particular letter, we can actually point to its exact origin. It was invented by a scribe named Alexander Gill the Elder in the year 1619 and meant to represent a velar nasal, which is found at the end of words like king, ring, thing, etc.

Gill intended for the letter to take the place of ng entirely (thus bringing would become bri?i?), and while it did get used by some scribes and printers, it never really took off—the Carolingian G was pretty well-established at that time and the language was beginning to morph into Modern English, which streamlined the alphabet instead of adding more to it. Eng did manage live on in the International Phonetic Alphabet, however.

 

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Synonyms for the 96 most commonly used words in English

Amazing incredible, unbelievable, improbable, fabulous, wonderful, fantastic, astonishing, astounding, extraordinary

Anger enrage, infuriate, arouse, nettle, exasperate, inflame, madden

Angry mad, furious, enraged, excited, wrathful, indignant, exasperated, aroused, inflamed

 

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