Rounding Up With The Writers For Hire

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at The Writers For Hire?

The details of our weekly meetings are usually top secret, reserved only for those with the highest level of security clearance.

Sometimes, though, things are just too good not to share.

So, here it is… some of the amazingly interesting things that we have discussed (and learned from each other) during recent meetings.


What is the Longest Word in the English Language?


Do you know what that means?

Neither did we!

Thanks to an interesting article we found, not only did we learn the meaning; we also learned that Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is the longest word in the English dictionary.

We also discovered that there are “ghost words” in the dictionary, that literally have no meaning.

If you want to read more about it, and learn some other fun facts, check out this blog from Grammarly.

And as you can probably imagine, we are big language nerds, so we also found this article from Lingoda to be quite fascinating!


Internet or internet?

As writers, it is our job to know the rules pertaining to the written English language.

It’s not always an easy task, though, when the rules keep changing.

For example, according to this NY Times article, internet used to be Internet, but is now internet.

Confusing, huh?


Chaucer Says you CAN Say Ax

Did you know that people have been saying “Ax” instead of “Ask” for 1,200 years (and that, contrary to what many believe, “Ax” is not incorrect)?!? Tweet this

In fact, according to this Smithsonian article as well as this article from WNYC, even Chaucer used to say “Ax.”

And really, who can argue with the Father of English Literature?


The History Behind the Ampersand

Have you ever sat and pondered where the Ampersand symbol came from?

You know the one… it’s that fancy “&” symbol on your keyboard.

Thanks to this article from , we have found the answer to that question.

Now we will finally be able to sleep at night!


What is the right way to write?

Whether it is spelling, pronunciation, or punctuation that is in question, it is always helpful to have guides to remind us of the “correct” way to write things.

For example, knowing when to use Em dash vs En dash may not be something you inherently know.

And keeping track of when titles should be underlined or italicized can cause even the most experienced writers to go crazy.


Prompts for Preventing Writer's Block

As writers, there are times when we just need a bit of a kick-start to get our words properly flowing onto paper.

We found this article with 500 prompts for narrative and personal writing will help get those creative juices flowing.


When the Misuse of Language Causes Legal Trouble

Believe it or not, incorrect usage of language can cause major problems (as illustrated in the picture above).

As a matter of fact, we found two examples of times when misuse of language could even be the cause of law suits.

A company in Maine is learning the importance of the Oxford Comma, in a class-action lawsuit about overtime pay.

And this blog from Barnes & Thornburg’s Labor & Employment Law Department discusses just how the use of emojis in the workplace can cause major legal issues.

Who would’ve thought those cute little pictures could cause so much trouble?!?


Just for the Love of Language

As you can see, we at TWFH spend a great deal of time making sure that we are keeping up with the important changes involved in writing and language.

We do try to keep things a bit lighthearted when we can, though.

So, in the spirit of lightheartedness, we leave you with these 10 Perfectly Cromulent Words, for your enjoyment.


Word Tip of the Week: Removing Mysterious, Unwanted Formatting

Recently, we had a long document that had several dotted lines running across the page.

We had no idea how they got there.

Several writers tried to remove them, but it wasn’t until months later that one of them succeeded.



It turns out that fixing this issue is pretty simple. Just follow these steps below:

1. Copy the area surrounding the line, including a good chunk of text above and below it.

2. Paste it underneath the original.

3. Use the Paste drop-down arrow that appears right after you paste in the text. Select Keep Text Only.

4. The line will be gone in this new content area! Delete the original to have that annoying line gone forever.

(Do you know what causes those random dotted lines? Let us know in the comments.)


Try this technique on any strange formatting that crops up in your Word document.

And if it doesn’t work, check out our other Word tips for more options.



Word Tip of the Week: Use Your CTRL Button

This week’s tip isn’t specific to Microsoft Word – but it sure makes typing in Word a lot faster.

Learning a few control button commands will keep your fingers on the keyboard instead of drifting over your computer’s touchpad.

Here are a few of our most-used CTRL button functions:

• CTRL A to highlight all
• CTRL C to copy to the clipboard anything you’ve highlighted
• CTRL V to paste whatever you copied to the clipboard
• CTRL Z to undo
• CTRL Y to redo
• CTRL ENTER adds a page break
• CTRL H to search and replace

Stay tuned for more tips to make you faster in Word!



Concise Writing Cheat Sheet

“Vigorous writing is concise.”

-William Strunk Jr.

The writing tips resource section covers an abundant amount of information on clear and concise writing, but this “cheat sheet” proves useful when you need an answer quickly.

The following guidelines serve as a concise-writing overview. Print out our printer friendly version to keep on your desk or carry in your briefcase as a quick reference tool.

  1. Only repeat a word if it is necessary for clarity or emphasis.

    Original: My brother Chris, who is my only brother, graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in English.
    Edited: Chris, my only brother, earned an English Degree from the University of Houston.

  2. Avoid redundancy — using two or more words or phrases that mean essentially the same thing.

    Original: When I was a child, Mom made me completely finish all of my brussel sprouts.
    Edited: When I was a child, Mom made me finish all of my brussel sprouts.

  3. Avoid beginning sentences with “There is,” “There are,” “There were” or “There was.”

    Original:  There are over 12.7 billion people living in Zimbabwe.
    Edited:  Over 12.7 billion people live in Zimbabwe.

  4. Avoid using too many nouns in one sentence.

    Original: The cause of the plane crash hasn’t been determined by the government
    nor by the employees who work at the airline.
    Edited: Neither the government nor the airline employees have determined why the plane crashed.

  5. Remove adjective clauses, such as “who are,” “which was,” “that were” and “that was,” whenever possible.

    Original: Two movies have been made based on the book “Little Women”, which was
    written by Louisa May Alcott.
    Edited: Louisa May Alcott’s book “Little Women” is the basis of two movies.

  6. Use single adjectives or adverbs instead of prepositional phrases.

    Original: Most of the stores we visited were overpriced and snooty.
    Edited: We visited mostly overpriced, snooty stores.

  7. Replace “to be,” and all of its tenses, with active verbs.

    Original: Barry Manilow isn’t considered to be a musical genius by the majority of people.
    Edited: Most people don’t consider Barry Manilow a musical genius.

  8. Avoid using the phrase “the fact that.”

    Original: The fact that a dog scratches himself does not always mean he has fleas.<
    Edited: A dog scratching himself doesn’t always mean the has fleas.

  9. Don’t get sidetracked with verbs.

    Original:It is important that there be no discussing the test in the room designated for quiet studying.
    Edited: Don’t talk about the test in the quiet study room.

Cast Your Vote . . . Again!

First of all, we’d like to congratulate Chris for taking first place! We’ve emailed him his $50 gift certificate! Also, be sure to check out Chris’ website, Part Time Writer.

We’d also like to congratulate Ms. Very Married and Charlotte P. They’re tied for second place ($25 gift certificate). We’re kicking off a tiebreaker to determine the winner.

Tiebreaker: Cast Your Vote for Second Place!

In case you need a refresher, here are the entries:

1. T-Shirt fail from Charlotte P.:

2. “Water” for Sale from Ms. Very Married:

Our tiebreaker poll will close on Thursday, November 11. We’ll announce the official second place winner on Friday, November 12.

Cast Your Vote!

Our grammar-fail photo contest is officially closed, and we’ve selected our five finalists.  Thanks to everyone who submitted photos!  Voting will close on Thursday, October 28, and we’ll notify first and second-prize winners on our blog and via email.


The five finalists are:

1. “Your Sexy”: College grammar fail from Kevin:

2. “Grils” wallet from Jeremy & Jenni:

3. “Water” for sale from Very Married:

4. T-shirt fail from Charlotte P:

5. “Dinning” fail from Chris

Vote for Your Favorite Grammar Fail HERE!

Our “First” Official Entry

Congratulations to our first official (in other words, doesn’t work for us and is therefore qualified to win free stuff) grammar-fail photo entry.  Thanks to Very Married for this awesome example of unnecessary quotation marks.

Very Married says:  “Two reasons this is awful:  First, if this is “water” then where is the real stuff?  Second, I found this at my sister’s high school graduation…”

Thanks for the entry, Very Married!  And for all of you other word lovers and grammar geeks:  Keep sending us your best/worst grammar-fail photos for a chance to win free stuff.  And, don’t forget to check out Very Married’s blog!

The Write Blog’s Grammar-Fail Contest: Win a $50 Amazon Gift Certificate

Are you a grammar Nazi?  A stickler for punctuation?  Do you want a $50 gift certificate?  Do you want a free link back to your website?

The Write Blog is happy to announce our first-ever bad grammar photo contest.

We’re inviting all of our fellow readers, writers, word lovers, and grammar geeks to get out there and find the best examples of public proofreading fails you can find:  Billboards, posters, signs, ads – you name it (see yesterday’s blog post for an example).  Take a picture and email it to us with a 1-2 sentence explanation of why your photo should be the winner.

After we review all of the submissions, we’ll choose five finalists. Voters will determine the winners.

First Prize: Fame and fortune in the form of a $50 gift card and an announcement on our blog.

Second Prize: Fame and (a slightly smaller amount of) fortune in the form of a $25 gift card and an announcement on our blog.

We will accept submissions until Friday, October 15, 2010.  We’ll post finalists and start taking votes on Wednesday, October 20.  Please submit all entries to [email protected]

If you have any questions, you can email us.

The Official Stuff:

  • Contest is open to anyone with a camera, a sense of humor, and proofreading skills.
  • Submitted photos must be original (please don’t submit screenshots of other grammar-fail blogs unless you actually took the picture).
  • Please blur out (or cover) any brand names.
  • All contestants should send us a link to their websites if they would like us to link back to them.

“Poring” vs. “Pouring”: What’s the Difference?

This question came up during a round of in-house editing this week, so – of course –I wanted to share:

Complete this sentence:  I spent hours  _______ over the pages of the magazine.

A.)   poring

B.)   pouring

The correct answer is A, “poring.”

“Pore” means to study or read something with great care.  You’d pore over a textbook or a website; you could even pore over the details of an especially interesting dream you had the night before. Continue reading ““Poring” vs. “Pouring”: What’s the Difference?”