Use It Correctly Or Not At All

Use It CorrectlyHere are some words that seem to have a propensity for being used incorrectly–particularly in the legal setting. Hopefully, this list will help you be that person who does know how to use them correctly.

  • Addictive v. Addicting – This is a very difficult one. Addictive is an adjective. It is a word that answers the question what kind, how many, or which one. In this case, addictive would typically answer the question “what kind,” as in what kind of drug (addictive drug) or what kind of video game (addictive game). On the other had, addicting is a verb when used with an object and means “to cause to become physiologically or psychologically dependent on an addictive substance, as alcohol or a narcotic.”  For instance, “The video game was highly addicting to 10-year-old James.” On the other hand, it would be “The addictive video game was played for hours by 10-year-old James.” Grammar Girl did a more detailed article on these two words at
  • Adverse v. averse – Adverse means “unfavorable, harmful, hostile,” while averse means “opposed [to], having a feeling of distaste [for].” So you are averse to kale, but the opposing party is adverse to your client. Another example is that I am averse to meatloaf, but meatloaf is not adverse to the American diet.
  • Affect v. effectAffect means “to change or make a difference to a result” while effect means “to bring about a result.” For example, “The new overtime policy affected Sally’s bank account,” while “The new overtime policy had the effect of lowering Sally’s weekly paychecks.” When you’re trying to decide, substitute “brought about the result” for “effect” to see if it makes sense. In this case, “The new overtime policy brought about the result of lowering Sally’s weekly paychecks,” so effect is the correct word. But “The new overtime policy brought about the result of Sally’s bank account” doesn’t make sense, so the correct word is affect. Another example would be “The new traffic laws had the effect of making rush hour traffic more difficult.” You can replace it as “The new traffic laws brought about the result of making rush hour traffic more difficult.”
  • Complimentary v. complementary – Complimentary means “an admiring or flattering remark,” while complementary means “something that completes” or “something that is free.” One way I remember the difference is that complImentary means that “I” am paying you a compliment while complEmentary means something that is fre”E” or compl”E”tes something. For instance, “The reviews of my presentation were complimentary (flattering) and the audience liked the complementary (free) pens that were given away.”
  • Council v. counsel – Council is a “group of people who manage or advise” while counsel is “advice or to advise” or “the attorney conducting a case.” So “The city council [group of people who manage or advise] voted on the new shopping center based on counsel [advice] of outside attorneys.”
  • Deserts v. desserts – Deserts are large expanses of land usually at a high temperature such as Arizona has a lot of desert areas.” Desserts, on the other hand, is typically a sweet ending to a meal “My favorite dessert is anything sweet.”
  • Ensure v. insure – Ensure is to “make certain that (something) shall occur or be the case” and insure is to “arrange for compensation in the event of damage to or loss of (property), or injury to or the death of (someone), in exchange for regular advance payments to a company or government agency.” So “Tom will ensure [make certain] that the records are intact so he can arrange to insure [arrange for compensation in the event of damage] his new house.”
  •  Further v. farther – Farther refers to an actual distance, while further refers to a figurative distance and means “to a greater extent” or “to a greater degree.” So when you say “He went 30 miles farther than he intended to,” that is correct because it is an actual distance, but if you say “He went further on his trip that day than he intended,” it is really saying he went to a greater degree of distance than he intended to.
  • Tortuous v. Torturous – Tortuous means “full of twists; complex” while torturous means “full of pain or suffering.” Thus, “Proofreading the Ninth Circuit Court brief was a tortuous [complex] exercise.” But “The questioning by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel was torturous [full of pain and suffering] on the unprepared attorney.”

There are so many other words that are easily confused. Do you have something that you or someone in your office constantly uses incorrectly? Let me know and we’ll include it in a future blog post with definitions and examples so they can start to get it right.

Grammar Giggles – Towards Better Grammar (Or Not)

This is a common error that I see (and hear) a lot. Towards is used in British English, while in the U.S., we use toward.  Toward means moving in the direction of or in relation to. So when I received this notification from an American company, it caught my attention. I have previously written a blog post about this topic at


Grammar Giggle – It Couldn’t Have Been More Clear

This I found on Twitter. The correct phrase should be “couldn’t have gotten.” I think the error happens because when you are actually saying the phrase out loud, it sounds like “couldn’t uv gotten” so people assume it is “of” instead of “have.” That is incorrect.

Grammar “Used To Be” More Important

This is a pretty common error that I saw on a TV ad recently. The phrase “use to be” is incorrect. When you’re talking about something that happened in the past but doesn’t happen anymore, the correct phrase is “used to be.” In this sentence it means that in the past, surgery was the only option, but it is not the only option anymore, so “used to be” would be correct.

ENCORE – A.M., P.M., Daylight Saving Time–Could Time Get Any More Confusing?

Sunday, March 9, marks the beginning of daylight saving time throughout most of the broken-clock-300x198United States. Being an Arizona native, I remember when we tried daylight saving time here. It’s tough to put a kid to bed when the sun is bright overhead. Arizona has not observed daylight saving time for many years, but that’s not the intended topic.

You may have noted that in the paragraph above it was daylight saving time NOT daylight savings time. Singular “saving” is correct. The proper way to indicate the time for the different time zones during daylight saving time is:

EDT – Eastern daylight time

CDT – Central daylight time

MDT – Mountain daylight time

PDT – Pacific daylight time

That designation indicates that the specified time is during daylight saving time in the specific time zone. For instance, 3:00 p.m. MDT would be 3:00 in the afternoon in Denver (and other cities in the Mountain time zone) on dates between March 9, 2014, and November 2, 2014 (the date range when daylight saving time is in effect this year). The other part of the year is standard time and would be designated as:

EST – Eastern standard time

CST – Central standard time

MST – Mountain standard time

PST – Pacific standard time

An alternative is to eliminate the specific designation altogether and use these terms year-round:

ET – Eastern time

CT – Central time

MT – Mountain time

PT – Pacific time

While we’re talking about time, the difference between a.m. and p.m. is important. The designation “a.m.” stands for the Latin term ante meridiem and means the time from midnight to noon. The designation “p.m.” stands for the Latin term post meridiem and means the time from noon to midnight. While people seem to grasp that concept, the exact times of midnight and noon seems to confuse them. The time 12:00 a.m. is midnight (it is between midnight and noon) and 12:00 p.m. is noon. Note that 11:59 at night is 11:59 p.m. because it is between noon and midnight. It is always good to confirm whether the a.m. or p.m. is correct so people don’t think an event is 12 hours earlier or later than intended.

To those of you who will “spring forward” this weekend, enjoy it and keep the time straight so others know exactly what time you are talking about.

Is It The Privilege Or The Privileged Information?

MANHATTANA reader wrote and asked me whether the phrase “attorney-client privilege” or “attorney-client privileged” was correct. I gave her my answer and told her that I would write a blog post on it.

“Attorney-client privilege” is defined as “the requirement that an attorney may not reveal communications, conversations and letters between himself/herself and his/her client, under the theory that a person should be able to speak freely and honestly with his/her attorney without fear of future revelation.” (

“Attorney-client privileged” would be used if you were talking about an “attorney-client privileged communication” or “attorney-client privileged information.”

I did find a law firm article ( indicating memos containing privileged information should be marked “ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGED AND CONFIDENTIAL.” This makes sense because you are talking about the information in the memo, which is attorney-client privileged information (as mentioned above) and is confidential information.

So, if you are indicating on a memo or on a letter that the information is confidential and subject to the attorney-client privilege, the correct designation appears to be “ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGED INFORMATION.” It follows that you could say that the word “information” is assumed and “ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGED” is a correct designation.

When you are talking about the privilege and not the information, then “attorney-client privilege” is proper, but if you are talking about information or a specific communication, then “attorney-client privileged” is correct.

This research proved that my original answer to the reader was . . . wrong! But now I know and will be able to figure out if we are talking about the privilege or the communication so that I get it right.

What If I’m More Interested In The Property?

I saw this sign the other day and had to go back and make sure it said what I thought it said and to get a picture of it. For Sale Buy Owner? I don’t want to buy the owner, but surely someone is interested in the 4+ acres of property that would seem to be for sale if the sign were correct. Is the property for sale or the owner? It is definitely confusing.

For Sale

Age or Aged in Disneyland

IMG_0497I saw this sign more than once at Disneyland (consistency is good!). I thought something was wrong with it, so snapped this picture vowing to do some research and figure out if I was correct. The problem is whether it should be “age” or “aged.”
According to Gregg:
I interviewed a man aged 52 for the job. [NOT: a man age 52.]
I don’t plan to retire at the age of 65 [NOT: at age 65.]
NOTE: Elliptical references to age–for example, at age 65–should not be used except in technical writing such as human resources manuals.
See the chart on page 64 for the schedule of retirement benefits for employees who retire at age 65.
The Merriam Webster online dictionary defines “aged” as
1. a: of an advanced age <an aged man>
    b: having attained a specified age <a man aged 40 years>
2. typical of old age
Another source defines “aged” as “having reached the age of.”
So if you use those definitions with the Disney example, “Children under age 7 years must be accompanied by a person age 14 years or older,” since the chaperone will have “reached the age of” 14 or “attained a specified age” (in this case, the age of 14), I think the Disneyland signs should be changed to either “Children under the age of 7 years must be accompanied by a person aged 14 or older” or “Children under 7 must be accompanied by a person 14 or older.”
Not everyone spends time in the happiest place on earth internally deliberating the correct usage of a word, but it is something I am pretty passionate about and it didn’t cut into my “happy time.” Now I just need to figure out how to use that passion to get a proofreading job with Disney.

The Phenomena of the Vortices and Cacti

twisted-juniperA friend and I were recently discussing what our possibilities for recreation are for a trip to Sedona, Arizona, this summer. When I said “vortexes,” her response was “shouldn’t it be vortices?” I had never heard that word, but told her I would investigate and use it as a blog topic. So here we are.

According to the Gregg Reference Manual nouns of a foreign origin retain their foreign plurals while some now have English plurals and others have two plurals—both foreign and English. How confusing is that? When there are two plural forms, one form may be preferred to the other and you are instructed to check your dictionary to be sure of the correct plural form.

I will not quote the entire section from Gregg, but it is interesting indeed. It is in the Tribute (11th) edition starting on page 204. Here are select entries:

WORDS ENDING IN US (the asterisk indicates the preferred form)
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
cactus cactuses cacti*
focus focuses* foci
nucleus nucleuses nuclei*
stylus styluses styli*
thesaurus thesauruses thesauri*
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
agenda agendas
dogma dogmas* dogmata
formula formulas* formulae
vertebra vertebras vertebrae*
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
addendum addenda
auditorium auditoriums* auditoria
consortium consortiums* consortia
curriculum vitae curricula vitae
erratum errata
maximum maximums* maxima
memorandum memorandums* memoranda
stadium stadiums* stadia
ultimatum ultimatums* ultimate
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
crescendo crescendos* crescendo
tempo tempos tempi (in music)
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
criterion criterions criteria*
phenomenon phenomenons phenomena*
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
appendix appendixes* appendices
crux cruxes* cruces
index indexes (of books) indices (math symbols)
matrix matrixes matrices*
vortex vortexes vortices*
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
analysis analyses
crisis crises
ellipsis ellipses
parenthesis parentheses
synopsis synopses
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
Adieu adieus* adieux
Bureau bureaus* bureaux
Plateau plateaus* plateaux
Singular English Plural Foreign Plural
chaise longue chaise longues* chaises longues
hors d’oeuvre hors d’ouevres* hors d’oeuvre
maître d’ maître d’s

So did you learn anything from this taste of English and foreign pluralization of foreign nouns? I sure did! I was wrong and will forevermore refer to Sedona’s vortices correctly. Who knew?


Grammar Giggles – The House Has Its Own Trainer!

This was in my Facebook feed recently. Apparently this company wanted to get the attention of a house in Mesa for its program. Otherwise, it would have addressed it to Mesa RESIDENTS. And, once again, it also uses an apostrophe to make a word plural. It seems that a company paying to promote an ad would make sure it was correct.