Word Choice – Enquire Versus Inquire

Zabrina’s question: “This is something I have run into two days in a row – ‘inquire’ versus ‘enquire.’ Can you explain them and give examples?” BizWritingTip response: In North America, enquire is just another spelling for inquire. (Inquire tends to be used more often.) According to both the Canadian and American Oxford dictionaries, either word […]

Word Choice – Light Versus Lit

A BizWritingTip reader wrote: “Regarding versions of the past tense of the word ‘light,’ I was taught to write: ‘He lit the candle.’ But I have often seen in books: ‘He lighted the candle.’ Which is correct?” BizWritingTip response:? We were taught (in the days of the dinosaurs) that lighted was used when a fixture was […]

Word Choice – Student Versus Pupil

Odesh’s question: “When would you use the word ‘pupil’ as opposed to ‘student’? I thought ‘pupil’ was more British and referred to younger people. ‘Student’ would refer to people in high school and university.” BizWritingTip response: According to the Oxford Canadian Dictionary, a pupil is “a person taught by another, esp. a schoolchild or student.” […]

Word Choice – Hanged Versus Hung

BizWritingTip reader: I was under the impression that the past tense of “to hang” was “hung,” but I often hear people saying “hanged.” It doesn’t sound right to me. Please help. BizWritingTip response: Things are hung but people are hanged. In other words, when you are using the word in the sense of “to suspend,” then hung is the correct […]

Word Choice – More Versus Most

Jane’s comment: “In an earlier tip you said, ‘Which word is the most appropriate?’ Surely you meant to say, ‘Which is the more appropriate’ since you were comparing only two words (‘first’ versus ‘firstly’). Or, like so many other examples of misuse of the English language, has this too now entered into the growing list of […]

Word Choice – Their Versus There

Fans of the TV show Sex in the City may remember the episode when Carrie compares herself to her ex-boyfriend’s fiancé. The new woman is younger, prettier, richer, and better educated. Carrie is devastated until – she receives a thank-you note. The “better” woman does not know the difference between their and there. Obviously, Carrie is not a […]

Word Choice – Less Versus Fewer

Deborah’s question: “I see and hear in the media, and in conversations the word ‘less’ being used instead of ‘fewer.’  It is a pet peeve of mine, and I see it on T.V., in print, on packaging, and I hear it on the radio – the CBC no less! Has there been a change in […]

Grammar Tip – Verbs: Past Tense Versus the Present Perfect and Past Perfect Tenses

With today’s North American business readers, less is usually better. In other words, in Canada and the U.S. — in a business setting — readers prefer writers to use fewer words to convey information. A prime example is the past tense of verbs. Example (past tense) I edited the report. However, people who were educated […]

Word Choice – Impact: The Verb

A BizWritingTip reader wrote, “One of my pet peeves is the use of impact. More and more, I see and hear it being used as a verb. It seems to even have a past tense – impacted. My experience is that people are using impact in place of affect (as a verb). My only knowledge of impact is as a noun. Do I […]

Word Choice – Advice or Advise

A BizWritingTip reader wrote: “A colleague and I are trying to decide what is the appropriate use of the words advice and advise. When signing off on an email, that required a response, my colleague used the term “Please advise” to which he got a grammar error (green squiggly line). Could you please clarify this for us? BizWritingTip […]