This tag is for questions concerning the written representation of the English language, especially spelling and word breaks (including hyphenation).

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10
votes
2answers
6k views

“Draught” or “draft”

I'm referring to the term used to describe the vertical distance between a ship's keel and the waterline. Which is the correct spelling: draught or draft? If either is correct, under which conditions ...
10
votes
3answers
758 views

Is 'compatriate' really an English word?

I recently saw the word 'compatriate' used in a newspaper article. Upon looking it up, suspecting a typo (or even an eggcorn: it is easy to see how compatriot would be mixed-up with expatriate etc.), ...
10
votes
6answers
33k views

“Smooths” versus “Smoothes”

I am interested in the rapid rise (since about 1993) in frequency of the spelling smoothes as against smooths. An Ngram Viewer graph tracking the frequency of usage of the two words from 1800 to ...
10
votes
2answers
246 views

Usage of “brook” to mean “burp”?

Has anyone ever come across ?brook (not too sure about spelling) used instead of burp? I brooked/I burped. Was that you brooking/burping? It may be derived from Scottish Gaelic.
10
votes
3answers
30k views

How do you spell wifi / Wi-Fi / WiFi? [closed]

This is probably related to whether one should capitalize Internet or not. I am looking for the correct spelling of wifi when referring to a wireless connection to the Internet. I want to tell the ...
10
votes
1answer
8k views

When should a singular word ending in “y” end in “ies” plurally?

Words like "sky" and "money" have "ies" as a plural suffix (i.e. "skies" and "monies") but other words like "monkey" and "Emmy" do not ("monkeys" and "Emmys"). Is there a rule dictating the use of ...
10
votes
3answers
10k views

“Practise” vs. “practice”

As an Australian, I like to follow British forms of words such as license/licence and practise/practice. I have no problem with licence the noun and license the verb, but I find it hard to keep ...
10
votes
2answers
4k views

Why is “gauge” spelled with a 'u'?

I was rather old before I realized "gauge" is pronounced (and sometimes spelt) "gage". The etymology doesn't reveal too much: mid-15c., from Anglo-Fr. gauge (mid-14c.), from O.N.Fr. gauger, from ...
10
votes
1answer
312 views

Relic as a verb: why the spelling relicing, reliced?

I just discovered the verb relic, meaning “to make something look worn” and used as far as I can tell only about guitars. (Examples: 1 2 3 …) I was surprised to see that its participles are pretty ...
9
votes
3answers
250 views

“Nine out of 10”

Most style guides call for spelling out numbers less than 10, and using numerals for those 10 and over. While reading a magazine today, I saw the phrase nine out of 10, and it struck me as wrong even ...
9
votes
1answer
4k views

Why is “great” pronounced as “grate”, but spelled with “ea”?

Great is one of the few common English words in which "ea" is pronounced /eɪ/ (ay). Why is this pronunciation associated with this spelling? As an aside, I remember from researching for my answer to ...
9
votes
2answers
261k views

“Dammit” vs. “damnit” [closed]

What is the correct spelling, dammit or damnit? And what is the difference? Just writing this question brings up a red squiggly underneath damnit and the suggestions include dammit and damn it.
9
votes
3answers
10k views

Why is the letter after “Mc” in names capitalized?

For example, McDowell, or McDonald, or McKenna, etc. Is it necessary to capitalize that letter following "Mc"? And if yes, why is this so?
9
votes
1answer
31k views

Spelling “Yeah” and “Yea”

When I read the words "yea" or "yeah", each spelling can mean two different things. An exclamation of joy, as in, Yea[h] for ice cream!` Assent, like "yep" or "yes", as in, Yea[h], ...
9
votes
4answers
19k views

“An other” vs “another”

I just edited this answer on unix.sx. The original sentence was But it won't transform it to an other format. I changed this to But it won't transform it to another format. The second form ...
9
votes
4answers
148k views

Which spelling is correct: “benefiting” or “benefitting”?

Which spelling is correct: benefiting or benefitting?
9
votes
1answer
395 views

What's the point of omitting the “e”, as in “sceptered” going to “scepter'd”, in English poetry?

These are a few of my favorite lines of Shakespearean poetry: Methinks I am a prophet new inspir’d, And thus expiring do foretell of him: His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last, For ...
9
votes
3answers
11k views

“grammar nazi” or “grammar Nazi”?

Should Nazi be capitalized in the phrase grammar nazi/Nazi? While I can't think of any other examples right now, I would like to extend the question to ask if the words which are historically nouns ...
9
votes
4answers
30k views

Is 'useable' preferred in certain regions, or just an alternate spelling of 'usable'?

I rarely use spell checkers, but today when I did use one, it suggested changing the word 'useable' to 'usable' (i.e. to drop the first 'e'). This seemed immediately intuitive and I thought I'd just ...
9
votes
1answer
294 views

What are the correct spelling and regional distribution of “X, schmX” to indicate dismissiveness (e.g., “evidence, schmevidence”)?

There is a curious construct in American English in which a word is stated and then repeated with the prefix "schm-" or "shm-" in order to indicate the speaker's dismissive attitude toward a concern ...
9
votes
2answers
52k views

Why is “happyness” spelled with a Y in the movie title “The Pursuit of Happyness”? [closed]

I just noticed that the word in the movie title The Pursuit of Happyness is spelled with a y instead of an i. But my spell checker highlights "happyness" as a mistake. Why is it spelled differently ...
9
votes
2answers
3k views

Are there any other English syllables without vowels, besides “thm”?

As far as I knew*, all English syllables have a vowel sound and all of them are spelled accordingly, except for "thm" as in rhythm and algorithm. Are there any others? And are there any etymological ...
9
votes
1answer
864 views

Is “civillians” correct?

Wikipedia has a lot of occurrences for the word "civillians", such as: At least 35 civillians were killed at the incident I began fixing them to "civilians", but then had a doubt. Is ...
9
votes
3answers
454 views

“Invoke” and “invocation”

We invoke something using an invocation. Is the use of a k and a c in words of the same root like this unusual? Might I reasonably expect invocation to be spelled invokation?
9
votes
1answer
610 views

When did it become incorrect to use apostrophes with possessive pronouns?

I'm reading Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, and I notice that she invariably uses an apostrophe with possessive pronouns — in a way that would be considered incorrect now. For example: (Elinor is ...
9
votes
1answer
19k views

Is it spelt “naïve” or “naive”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: “Whereäs” as an alternative spelling of “whereas” I've always wondered which is the correct spelling: "naïve" or "naive"? Are both ...
9
votes
1answer
10k views

Why is “fulfil” spelt as “fulfill” in American English?

In this answer, simplification is stated as one reason for spelling variations in American English. But unlike in color and favorite, the number of letters to spell the word in fulfil increases in ...
9
votes
2answers
4k views

Apostrophes in contractions: shan't, sha'n't or sha'nt?

I came across the word sha'n't when reading Winnie the Pooh the other day and it cast me into a Thoughtful Mood concerning the Appropriate Spelling of this word. This word is a contraction of "shall ...
8
votes
4answers
410 views

“Dance macabre” or “macabre dance”

The role is the kind of high-wire dare certain types of actors and directors cannot resist. T. Scott Cunningham, who has created a number of lovable losers onstage in the last decade, lets the ...
8
votes
5answers
12k views

Spelling of “moustache”

This has always confused me. I've always spelled it "moustache", but my browser's spell checker claims the correct spelling is "mustache". From what I've seen around the Internet, people seem to use ...
8
votes
4answers
20k views

Why does English spelling use silent letters?

Why have a letter in a word when it’s silent in pronunciation, like the b in debt? Can anyone please clarify my uncertainty here?
8
votes
3answers
2k views

“Advise” vs. “advice”

In what contexts are those two words used? It's been a while since I've read the grammar books and I don't exactly remember the definitions of a few terms like adjective, so I would really appreciate ...
8
votes
2answers
959 views

Why is “eye” pronounced so strangely?

This is either a spelling or a pronunciation anomaly; I'm not sure which. Why is "eye" pronounced as the letter "I"?
8
votes
5answers
36k views

Which is correct, “cill” or “sill”?

When I was an architectural technician, I used the spelling cill (e.g. window cill). I knew of one architect who used sill and stated that this was the older and more correct form. My Concise Oxford ...
8
votes
2answers
65k views

How do you spell “Aye Yai Yai”

The phrase that's spoken when someone is hand-wringing about a thorny problem. Speaker One: Uh-oh -- we have to reformat ALL THE DOCUMENTS! Speaker Two: Aye Yai Yai, that's a lot of work! "Aye ...
8
votes
2answers
5k views

“Sign in”, “signin” or “sign-in”

Which is correct: sign in, signin or sign-in when used as a noun and also as a verb?
8
votes
3answers
2k views

Term for words with identical spelling but different meaning and different pronunciation

What do you call words with identical spelling but different meaning and different pronunciation? A couple examples are bass and resume.
8
votes
3answers
11k views

“Home page” or “homepage”? [closed]

Is there a convention for the spelling of the name of the main page of a website? Should it be home page, with a space between the two words; or homepage, all one word?
8
votes
3answers
668 views

Different syllabic boundaries in various dictionaries?

Consider, for instance, the word "university": American Heritage: u·ni·ver·si·ty Collins Cobuild: uni|ver|sity Merriam Webster: uni·ver·si·ty As you see, syllabic boundaries differ. I read ...
8
votes
2answers
684 views

Why does “agree” only have one “g”?

According to Webster, "Agree" comes from Latin's ad + gratus. However there are other words such as "aggregate" and "aggression" that also come from ad + [something], and these words have a double "g" ...
8
votes
4answers
20k views

Syllable division of VCV pattern in words such as “salad” and “lemon”

In words such as salad /sæləd/, you have a VCV pattern (vowel-consonant-vowel), in which the first vowel is short. The syllable division of such words is generally done after the consonant, i.e, as ...
8
votes
3answers
24k views

Timepoint vs. time point

When speaking of a point in time, what would be the proper usage: "Timepoint" vs. "Time point"? This funny confusion comes from my life as a programmer: While one of our style checkers enforces ...
8
votes
1answer
206 views

Why is there an “h” in “pulchritude”?

I'd assumed that pulchritude was derived from Greek, because of the "ch" but it turns out to be from Latin pulcher. I've been taught that "c" always has a hard pronunciation in Latin, so why would ...
8
votes
1answer
33k views

What is the meaning of “atleast” and is it different from “at least”?

I don't think atleast is an actual word, but I've found many instances of its usage. A simple google search for atleast reveal 13,100,000 hits. What is the meaning of atleast and is it different ...
8
votes
2answers
4k views

Why is “k” added to “panic” when suffixes added (as in “panicky”)?

When adding any suffix to the word "panic," a "k" is added after the "c". Examples: panicked, panicking, panicky. Why is this the case? Are there any other English words that do the same? I'm also ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

Inquiry vs. enquiry

I received an email today with "a simple inquiry." I responded that her "enquiry" was quite reasonable before I realized that we were spelling the word differently. Dictionary.com has enquiry as an ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

Pedlar vs. peddler

The etymonline entry for peddler reads: late 14c. (c.1300 as a surname, Will. Le Pedelare), from peoddere, peddere (c.1200, mid-12c. as a surname), of unknown origin. It has the appearance of an ...
8
votes
1answer
4k views

“An SQL Server database schema” or “a SQL Server database schema”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Do you use “a” or “an” before acronyms? I got the following sentence from the book I'm reading: You can take a database-first approach by ...
8
votes
3answers
452 views

Why does the word “coffee” have two “e’s”?

We know what coffee is and where the word comes from. Coffee was originally borrowed from: The word "coffee" entered English language in 1582 via Dutch koffie,[4] borrowed from Turkish kahve, in ...
8
votes
3answers
4k views

English line breaking rules

In Czech typography, some prepositions are not allowed to be at the end of the line, so line break is not allowed between that preposition and the following word. Are there similar rules in English ...