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

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43
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6answers
7k views

When did it become correct to add an “s” to a singular possessive already ending in “‑s”?

According to my grammar book, but at variance to the answer to this question, the correct singular possessive if a word ends in ‑s is: James’s car The grammar book allows exceptions for ...
103
votes
1answer
91k views

When should I use an em-dash, an en-dash, and a hyphen?

I generally know how to use a hyphen, but when should I use an en-dash instead of an em-dash, or when should I use a hyphen instead of an em-dash?
40
votes
8answers
47k views

Plurals of acronyms, letters, numbers — use an apostrophe or not?

When I was in high school back in the 1970s, I was taught that to make a plural of an acronym, a letter, or a number, one should add an apostrophe and "s". Like I would have written this sentence, ...
18
votes
3answers
1k views

Possessive of a word that is already possessive

If the cricket ground Lord's is a possessive, what if you want to describe something belonging to Lord's? Would you say "I was very impressed by Lord's's customer services"? It doesn't look right, ...
20
votes
5answers
3k views

What is the standard rule for using or not using hyphen and diaeresis on the words like reelect , reexamine, and cooperate?

I found that diaeresis is used on the word, reelection in the following sentence of the article titled “Rational Irrationality” in the New Yorker magazine (April 27). “This morning’s news that ...
26
votes
4answers
3k views

“Whereäs” as an alternative spelling of “whereas”

Wiktionary shows whereäs as a valid alternative spelling of the word whereas (see here). It gives the following quotations to illustrate the usage: 1 Permanent International Association of ...
26
votes
2answers
6k views

When is “L” doubled?

Some verbs can have double Ls in the gerund form; for example: modeling; modelling traveling; travelling Which form should we use, or which form is used more in the literature?
21
votes
6answers
7k views

Are the endings “-zation” and “-sation” interchangeable?

What is with words that have forms that end both in -zation and -sation, such as localization and localisation? Many spell checkers recommend -zation.
14
votes
3answers
2k views

Descriptivism and widespread misspelling

If you search google for "fuscia" it asks "did you mean fuschia?". The correct spelling of the word is "fuchsia". (This was pointed out on the xkcd blog a while ago.) So enough people are spelling ...
8
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
91
votes
4answers
8k views

Why is “cannot” spelled as one word?

Why is “cannot” spelled as one word whereas other similar constructions such as “do not,” “will not,” “shall not,” “may not” and “must not” are spelled as two words (unless they are contracted as ...
40
votes
8answers
13k views

Is it “alright” or “allright”?

In practice I find both spellings being used. From a logical point of view, "allright" (as in: "all's right — everything is fine") seems correct. However, I recall hearing that "alright" is the ...
9
votes
3answers
2k views

Capitalization for a bullet list

The following is from some software documentation we are writing: NOTE: Refreshing a report may be necessary or helpful when: you believe the data in the report has changed since it was ...
17
votes
4answers
8k views

“Focussed” or “focused”? The double consonant

Initially, my question was: is "focussed" or "focused" the correct past tense of "focus", but since this applies to a lot of words, I would like to generalize and ask: is there supposed to be a rule ...
26
votes
2answers
12k views

Use of “f ” instead of “s” in historic, printed English documents

I was at a museum in London yesterday, and one of the items on exhibit is a document from the eighteenth century. It uses the letter f a lot where s should be used—for example, in Majefty. Did the ...
22
votes
2answers
5k views

When do you use “learnt” and when “learned”?

Is learnt UK English and learned US? Is it that simple? I’m used to using learnt, but my US spellchecker says it is wrong.
4
votes
2answers
903 views

Is there any rhyme or reason to when one should double the last consonant when adding -ed or -ing? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: focussed or focused? The double consonant Sometimes, final consonants are doubled when adding -ed or -ing to the end of a verb whose penultimate letter is a vowel. ...
4
votes
1answer
3k views

How to use hyphens appropriately when listing multiple hyphenated terms?

If multiple hyphenated terms share the same latter half, and I wish to list them without repeating that latter half, how should the hyphens be placed? For example: I will be investigating control ...
21
votes
2answers
3k views

Why is it true that “I before E, except after C”?

I almost hesitate to ask this, because it is hard to believe no one else asked it; but it isn't showing up in the "similar titles" list. What is special about 'C' that switches the 'IE' immediately ...
18
votes
4answers
51k views

“Spelt” vs. “spelled”

In the following sentence, should I say spelled or spelt: You spelt/spelled "Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis" wrong.
15
votes
3answers
1k views

Why is there a distinction between “its” and “it's”?

While I know technically the English language has a distinction because when there's a conflict between the possessive form and a contraction, the contraction wins. That is: Its is the possessive ...
17
votes
3answers
3k views

Creating words with “-able” suffix

What are general rules of thumb for creating adjectives with -able? I wanted to denote an object as having an ability to be tiled, but "tileable" and "tilable" both yielded as incorrect words by spell ...
15
votes
4answers
2k views

Why did they spell it “URL’s”?

I was reading this documentation file of some software and note the plural spelling of this abbreviation is “URL’s”. Why isn’t it “URLs”?
8
votes
1answer
3k 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
3k views

Rule for adding “and” or hyphens between numbers that are spelled out fully in text

For example, take the number 342. It could be written out a number of different ways when spelled out fully. Three hundred forty two Three hundred and forty two Three hundred and forty-two What is ...
7
votes
4answers
12k 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?
63
votes
14answers
22k views

“Email” or “e-mail”?

Which way of writing the word: "Email" or "e-mail" is correct? Both variants seem to be in wide use. If both ones are okay, maybe there is a difference in contexts they have been used (one is more ...
26
votes
2answers
4k views

How and when did American spelling supersede British spelling in the US?

Considering that Webster published his first dictionary in 1806, is there a recognised tipping point (year, decade, etc.) that marked the move from traditional British spelling to Webster's American? ...
17
votes
2answers
601 views

“License” and “licence”

What is the difference between license and licence? Are both variations accepted in US and UK?
7
votes
1answer
14k 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 ...
11
votes
2answers
5k views

Adjective form of “collide”—“collideable” or “collidable”?

I need to name an interface in a program I'm writing as being able to collide, but I've seen use of both collideable and collidable in projects with a similar type. Both of them look right in some ...
4
votes
2answers
553 views

Character vs Charm - Pronunciation

Is there a rule to understand how the group "Cha" has to be pronounced? "Character" sounds with a hard first syllable, while "Charm" sound softer, but I don't find how to tell which sound to use ...
3
votes
1answer
2k views

“s” vs. “z” in BE vs. AE

I have trouble understanding why some words change "s"-es to "z"-s from BE to AE and some not. For example: analyse -> analyze characterise -> characterize hypnotise -> hypnotize But: compromise ...
66
votes
9answers
14k views

“Username”, “user name” or “user-name”

In computer science, you should have a username or a user name or a user-name and a password to be able to log into the system. Which one is the correct spelling?
48
votes
7answers
17k views

Which is the correct spelling: “grey” or “gray”?

What is the difference? Or is there any? Which would be more British English?
20
votes
3answers
4k views

When to drop the 'e' when ending in -able?

I've seen a thread that generally asks about Creating words with “-able” suffix But I don't think it answers my point, though they are admittedly dangerously close topics. When do you drop the 'e' ...
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.
7
votes
4answers
14k views

“Checking” vs. “chequing” vs. “chequeing” with regards to types of bank accounts

I came across this little dilemma when looking up the incorrectly spelled word "chequing" in my web browser's dictionary (Opera). According to the different dictionaries you can select in Opera: EN ...
8
votes
1answer
3k 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 ...
3
votes
3answers
6k views

How to write numbers in words

How do we translate 1210 into words: 1) one thousand, two hundred, and ten 2) one thousand, two hundred and ten or without the commas 3) one thousand two hundred and ten 4) one thousand two ...
3
votes
4answers
608 views

How to write dashes in “a 2-4-room-apartment”?

I want to write in the announcement a description of an eventual apartment, which I am searching as a rental. I am interested in apartments with 2, 3, or 4 rooms. How should I write the compound ...
22
votes
4answers
8k views

Why are “sugar” and “sure” pronounced with an SH?

As far as I know, those are the only two. They should be pronounced Soogher and Soor, shouldn't they? I looked them up on Dictionary.com, and their etymologies reveal no trace of an SH, except where ...
6
votes
1answer
3k views

Origins of the “‑cede/‑seed/‑ceed” suffix

Somewhere in the back of my mind I seem to remember cedere meant “to go or yield” in Latin. Presumably this gives us the words concede and accede. (?) But what about the words supersede and proceed? ...
17
votes
5answers
3k views

Correct spelling of “program”

I mostly have exposure to American English online. I am currently writing out a resume and need some help. In Australia, in general, we write programme to mean a schedule or community programme. ...
12
votes
7answers
9k views

How do I spell the truncation 'Cas', as in 'Sports Casual/Sports Cas'?

How do I spell the truncation 'Cas', as in 'Sports Casual/Sports Cas'? It may be UK only, and may have been spawned by Alan Partridge. Cash/Cas are not right. *As in a slang term, "he was acting all ...
11
votes
3answers
714 views

Where did the practice of using apostrophes for possessive nouns but not pronouns originate?

Where did the practice of using apostrophes for possessive nouns but not pronouns originate? For example, possessive nouns (both proper and common) are written with a apostrophe before the final s: ...
10
votes
2answers
2k views

Enquire and inquire

In British English I think these two words have different shades of meaning, but I couldn't articulate them. In American English I see inquire used where I would use "enquire". Are there shades of ...
6
votes
3answers
3k views

adding a prefix “re” to a word, with or without a hyphen?

In science we often invent words, but that doesn't mean we know how to spell them. Most of the time words are invented by adding prefixes. In that case should there be a hyphen or not? Specifically, I ...
5
votes
1answer
4k views

Hwat, hwere, and hwy?

In which English accents do they put an h before every word that starts with wh? Example from Youtube. Notice his pronunciation of whisky.
4
votes
1answer
2k views

Why does there exist a difference in spelling between British English and American English?

I understand that the use of different terms for the same item (e.g., "car park" vs. "parking lot") has already been discussed, but I'm interested to know why we spell the same words differently in ...