Abbreviations

As a general rule, you should avoid abbreviations in formal writing unless you are sure that the abbreviations you are using will be familiar to your audience. The situation is somewhat different in scientific and technical writing. Depending on your specific field, it may be acceptable or even preferable to use agreed upon abbreviations for…

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Common American English Slang

Below are several slang words and phrases often used by American English speakers. We’ve provided a definition for each word and an example of how that word is used in a sentence. Some of these words have multiple definitions, but here we’re focusing on the common and informal meanings native speakers convey when speaking casually. …

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Writing Out Numbers

In the English language, there are rules to when you should write out numbers as words (twenty) and when you should write numbers as numerals (20). How do you know the difference? We’re going to look at some general guidelines now, but keep in mind that these rules might differ from the rules used in…

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Using Apostrophes

How do you use apostrophes? While a common form of punctuation, apostrophes have multiple uses, which makes them hard for even native English speakers to always use correctly. Learn to identify these errors, and make an effort to avoid making them in your own speech and writing. Using Apostrophes to Form Contractions and Show Possession…

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Politeness in American English

Modern American English has few official rules for how politely you should address a given individual in a given situation. In French, Portuguese, and Spanish, for example, a second person singular pronoun takes different forms depending on who you are addressing. This formal/informal pronoun distinction is entirely absent in English, though there are some basic…

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Yet More Words Whose Meanings Have Changed Over Time

This week, we’re going to look at another five words whose meanings have changed over time. English, like any living language, continues to grow and change. New words are created, old words fall out of use, and existing words take on new meanings. Many common English words have very different meanings now than they did…

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Tricky Pairs and Groups of Words Part Two

English has a large number of words that both native and non-native speakers have difficulty using correctly. In our commonly-confused words lessons, we’ve focused on words with similar spellings and/or pronunciations but different meanings. Our “tricky words” lessons shift the focus to words whose uses are confused for reasons other than just how the words…

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Tricky Pairs and Groups of Words Part One

English has a large number of words that both native and non-native speakers have difficulty using correctly. In our commonly-confused words lessons, we’ve focused on words with similar spellings and/or pronunciations but different meanings. For the next two lessons, we’re going turn our attention to words but whose uses are often confused for other reasons.…

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Verb Tense Consistency Quiz

In English writing, verb tenses need to remain consistent. When a sentence contains two or more verbs, those verbs must be in the same tense.   For this quiz, choose the verb tense from the ones in parenthesis that is consistent with the other verb(s) in the sentence. Check the answer key at the end…

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Adjective Clauses Quiz

An adjective clause is a group of words that modifies (describes) a noun or pronoun. These clauses begin with relative pronouns or subordinating conjunctions, such as who, which, what, that, whose, whom, when, and where. Adjective clauses are always dependent. In other words, you can remove an adjective clause without “breaking” the grammar of the…

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