28 Common Literary Devices to Know

By Alan Reiner – December 18, 2023

As you delve into the world of literature, understanding common literary devices is essential. These tools, such as metaphors and similes, add depth and artistic value to a piece of writing, allowing you to better grasp the author’s intentions. 

To expand your knowledge of literary devices, it’s crucial to study their definitions and concepts. Familiarizing yourself with a range of literary devices equips you with the ability to analyze and interpret literature at a higher level, thus enhancing your reading experience. 

In this article, we will discuss 28 common literary devices, providing clarity on their definitions, examples, and applications. By familiarizing yourself with these devices, you’ll be better prepared to recognize them in the texts you encounter and even incorporate them into your own writing, making it more captivating and engaging for readers.

Comparing Literary Devices, Elements, and Techniques

Literary devices, elements, and techniques are essential tools in the world of literature, art, and drama. These aspects enhance a writer’s work and can take various forms, such as prose, dialogue, and rhetorical devices.

Literary Devices

Literary devices convey deeper meanings, create aesthetic appeal, and evoke emotions through language and wordplay. Examples include metaphors, similes, and alliterations. They can make a story or poem more engaging.

Literary Elements

Literary elements are the building blocks of a narrative, shaping its structure and content. These elements include plot, setting, theme, character, point of view, and tone. They’re fundamental for creating an effective story.

Literary Technique

Literary techniques refer to the ways a writer engages with language and genre conventions. Examples include dramatic irony, foreshadowing, and juxtaposition. These techniques help to develop a unique style and captivate the reader’s attention.

In summary, literary devices, elements, and techniques work together to create compelling stories in various forms, including art, drama, and prose. Learning about these aspects will enrich your understanding and appreciation of literature.

Identifying Literary Devices While You Read

Understanding literary devices isn’t a prerequisite for enjoying a well-written book. Even if you aren’t familiar with terms like personification, onomatopoeia, or anthropomorphism, these elements can still enhance your reading experience.

However, identifying these literary devices can deepen your appreciation of a text and help you understand the author’s intentions. The more versed you are in recognizing these elements, the more fully you can grasp the nuances of the writing. Spotting these devices can help you uncover layers of meaning that might otherwise go unnoticed.

To become proficient at identifying literary devices, you should acquaint yourself with a wide range of them. Your first step is knowing what to look for; from there, it’s a matter of practice. By exposing yourself to various literary styles and genres, you’ll naturally become adept at identifying these devices, all while maintaining your engagement and enjoyment of the text.

Incorporating Literary Devices into Your Own Writing

Using literary devices in your writing can enhance themes, settings, moods, imagery, and symbolism. While experimenting with various techniques, remain confident in your knowledge and maintain a clear and neutral tone.

Crafting Immersive Settings: The Power of Imagery and Symbolism

Incorporate these devices to create engaging themes and develop your story’s setting. Shape your settings with rich descriptions, using devices like imagery and symbolism to make scenes come alive in your reader’s mind.

Emotional Storytelling: Using Mood, Foreshadowing, and Flashback

Focus on mood to capture your audience’s emotions and create unforgettable experiences. Employ literary techniques such as foreshadowing and flashback to impact readers by encapsulating the narrative’s emotions.

Visual Storytelling: The Role of Imagery in Connecting with Your Audience

Utilize imagery to paint vivid pictures by carefully crafting figurative language, like similes or metaphors. This contributes to a stronger connection between the reader and your writing, allowing them to visualize and experience your world.

Layered Narratives: The Significance of Symbolism in Storytelling

Embrace symbolism to enrich your narrative with multiple layers of meaning. This enables readers to explore deeper interpretations of character actions, objects, or occurrences and form a connection with the recurring elements in your story.

Don’t shy away from experimenting with various literary devices to find the best fit for your writing style. By showing your mastery and weaving these techniques seamlessly, you can create captivating stories and characters that will resonate with your readers.

28 Different Literary Devices, Their Meanings, And Examples

Allegory

An allegory is a narrative that uses characters, objects, or events to represent abstract themes or ideas.

 a farm scene where animals act similar to a government council

For example, George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” is an allegory for the Russian Revolution and communism.

Alliteration

Alliteration is the repetition of the same beginning consonant sound in a series of words.

For example: “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.”

Allusion

An allusion is an indirect reference to a person, place, event, or idea.

For example, calling someone a “Romeo” alludes to the character from Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

Amplification

Amplification is a form of emphasis by repeating a word or phrase and adding more detail.

For example: “The forest was not just dark, it was pitch black, filled with shadows and hidden dangers.”

Anagram

An anagram is a word or phrase formed by rearranging the letters of another word or phrase.

For example, the word “listen” is an anagram of “silent.”

Analogy

An analogy is a comparison between two things to show their similarities.

For example: “Just as a sword is the weapon of a warrior, a pen is the weapon of a writer.”

Anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphism is attributing human characteristics or emotions to nonhuman beings, such as animals or objects.

For example: “The wind whispered through the trees.”

Antithesis

Antithesis is the juxtaposition of contrasting ideas or words in a balanced or parallel construction.

For example: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Chiasmus

Chiasmus is a figure of speech in which words, grammatical constructions, or concepts are repeated in reverse order.

For example: “You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.”

Colloquialism

Colloquialism is the use of informal words or phrases in writing or speech.

For example: “That exam was a piece of cake.”

Circumlocution

Circumlocution is the use of many words when fewer would do, often to be deliberately vague or evasive.

For example: “The person of diminutive stature” instead of “the short person.”

Epigraph

An epigraph is a short quotation or phrase at the beginning of a book or chapter, usually to suggest its theme.

For example, an epigraph might come from a famous speech or literary work.

Euphemism

A euphemism is a mild or indirect expression used in place of a more direct or harsh one.

a setting sun to symbolize the euphemism “passed away” as a peaceful transition, representing the end of the day

For example: “He passed away” instead of “He died.”

Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing is a literary device where the author hints at future events in the story, often through subtle clues or symbolism.

Hyperbole

Hyperbole is an exaggeration for emphasis or effect.

For example: “I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse.”

Imagery

Imagery is the use of descriptive language to create vivid pictures in the reader’s mind.

For example: “The autumn leaves were a blanket of red and gold.”

Metaphor

A metaphor is a direct comparison between two unlike things, without using “like” or “as.”

For example: “The world is a stage.”

Mood

the concept of mood in relation to language and literature

Mood is the atmosphere or emotional setting created by a piece of writing. It can be influenced by factors such as word choice, tone, and imagery.

Motif

A motif is a recurring theme, subject, or idea throughout a literary work.

For example, the recurring motif of eyes in “The Great Gatsby.”

Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia is the use of words that imitate the sound they describe.

For example: “The bees buzzed” or “The leaves rustled in the wind.”

Oxymoron

An oxymoron is a figure of speech that combines contradictory words for dramatic effect.

For example: “deafening silence” or “living dead.”

Paradox

A paradox is a statement or situation that seems contradictory but reveals a deeper truth.

a huge library with countless books stretching into the horizon, and in the foreground, there’s a person holding an open book with a look of realization, overwhelmed by the enormity of understanding

For example: “The more you know, the more you realize how little you know.”

Personification

Personification is attributing human qualities or actions to nonhuman things, such as objects or animals.

For example: “The sun smiled down on the happy children.”

Portmanteau

A portmanteau is a word created by combining the sounds and meanings of two different words.

combines elements of breakfast and lunch to represent “brunch,” and includes a cityscape partially obscured by “smog,” a mix of smoke and fog

For example: “brunch” (breakfast + lunch) or “smog” (smoke + fog).

Puns

Puns are a play on words using words with similar sounds or multiple meanings to create humor or irony.

For example: “Why do we never tell secrets on a farm? Because the potatoes have eyes and the corn has ears.”

Satire

Satire is a literary style that uses humor, irony, or exaggeration to expose and criticize human folly or vice.

caricatured politician and exaggerated elements that symbolize common societal issues, surrounded by an audience with varied reactions

For example, Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” is a satirical novel.

Simile

A simile is a comparison between two unlike things using the words “like” or “as.”

For example: “Her eyes sparkled like diamonds.”

Symbolism

Symbolism is the use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities in literature.

For example, a rose might symbolize love or beauty.

Tone

n author surrounded by contrasting environments that symbolize different tones: a bright, cheerful side representing a positive tone and a dim, moody side for a serious or somber tone.

Tone is the author’s attitude toward their subject or audience, conveyed through word choice, sentence structure, and other literary elements.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main types of literary devices?

There are several types of literary devices, including figurative language (such as similes and metaphors), sound devices (like alliteration and onomatopoeia), and narrative structures (like foreshadowing and flashbacks). These devices help enrich the overall experience of reading and interpreting a text.

How can literary devices be used effectively?

To use literary devices effectively, you should make sure they serve a purpose in your writing. They can help convey meaning, create mood, emphasize themes, and develop characters. Be careful not to overuse them, as it may distract readers from the main message of your work.

What is the purpose of using literary devices in writing?

Literary devices are used to enhance the reader’s experience by creating depth and layers of meaning within a text. They can help bring vividness to descriptions, highlight important themes, and add emotional resonance. Moreover, they contribute to the writer’s unique style and voice.

How can understanding literary devices improve reading comprehension?

By understanding literary devices, you can better appreciate the nuances of a text and grasp the underlying messages or themes intended by the author. Recognizing these devices also enables you to analyze and interpret literature on a deeper level, ultimately enhancing your reading experience.

Can you provide examples of commonly used literary devices?

Some commonly used literary devices include:

  • Simile: comparing two things using “like” or “as” (e.g., “Her smile was as warm as sunshine.”)
  • Metaphor: comparing two things without using “like” or “as” (e.g., “His words were daggers to her heart.”)
  • Alliteration: repetition of initial consonant sounds in closely connected words (e.g., “She sells seashells by the seashore.”)
  • Personification: giving human-like qualities to non-human entities (e.g., “The wind whispered through the trees.”)

Which literary devices are used most frequently in various genres?

Different genres may rely on specific literary devices more often than others. For example, poetry often uses metaphors, similes, and alliteration to create vivid imagery, whereas science fiction typically employs world-building and futuristic concepts. Understanding the conventions of each genre will help you identify and appreciate the literary devices in use.


When to Use Who vs. Whom

By Alan Reiner – April 18, 2024

When it comes to using “who” and “whom” correctly, many people find it challenging to determine the appropriate choice. These two pronouns may seem similar, but knowing when to use each will significantly improve your writing and communication skills.

Understanding the difference between “who” and “whom” is about identifying the role of the pronoun within a sentence. “Who” functions as the subject, performing the action of a verb, while “whom” is used as the object, receiving the action. A handy tip to remember is that if you can replace the word with “he” or “she,” use “who,” and if “him” or “her” fits better, use “whom.”

Throughout this article, we will explore additional examples and rules to help you master the use of “who” and “whom” and enhance your grammatical confidence. With practice, you’ll find that choosing the correct pronoun becomes second nature.

When to Use Who

Who is a subjective-case pronoun, which basically means it is the subject in a sentence. You use “who” to refer to the person performing the action of a verb or when asking about an individual in a question.

For example:

  • Who is coming to the party?
  • Emily, who lives next door, is taking care of our dog.

In questions, you’ll often see “who” at the beginning of a sentence. Here are some examples with the correct pronoun substitution:

  • Who wants to go to the movies? (He wants to go to the movies.)
  • Who is responsible for this decision? (She is responsible for this decision.)

Remember that “who” can also introduce relative clauses, which provide additional information about a noun in the sentence. For example:

  • The author who wrote this book is very famous.
  • The employees who work here are very dedicated.

In summary, when you need to refer to the subject of a sentence, especially in questions and relative clauses, use “who.” By keeping in mind the simple trick of substituting “he” or “she” in these cases, you can confidently use “who” in your speech and writing.

When to Use Whom

Whom is an objective-case pronoun, which basically means it acts as an object in a sentence. You can use whom to refer to the object of a verb or preposition. 

In questions, you use whom when asking about a person receiving an action. For example, “Whom did you invite to the party?” or “With whom are you going to the event?” Here, the pronoun whom is connected to the object role of the verbs “invite” and “going.”

When dealing with relative clauses, you also use whom when it serves as the direct object of the clause. For example, “She’s the person whom I recommended for the job,” where “whom” refers to the person being recommended (the direct object).

Remember, using objective pronouns like whom helps maintain clarity and grammatical correctness in your sentences. Develop a habit of determining the role of the pronoun – whether it’s the subject or object in a sentence – to choose the appropriate one, thus improving your overall communication.

Understanding the Differences and Examples

In English grammar, “who” and “whom” are both pronouns used to refer to people. However, they have different functions in a sentence. “Who” is a subject pronoun, performing the action of a verb. 

For instance, in the sentence “Who sent the letter?”, “who” performs the action of sending. On the other hand, “whom” is an object pronoun, receiving the action. For example:

  • Who/whom wrote the essay?
    • He wrote the essay. (Correct choice: “Who”)
  • For who/whom should I vote?
    • I should vote for her. (Correct choice: “Whom”)

In formal or academic writing, it’s essential to use “who” and “whom” correctly, as native English speakers and instructors often expect fluency with these pronouns. However, in informal settings, “who” tends to be more commonly used even when “whom” might be grammatically correct.

Understanding the difference between “who” and “whom” and their roles in clauses can significantly improve your English language skills and make your writing more polished. Practice using these pronouns in various sentences and contexts to build your confidence and knowledge.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the rules for using who and whom correctly?

“Who” is used as a subject, relating to the person performing an action, while “whom” is used as an object, receiving the action of a verb or preposition. A helpful trick is to replace “who” with “he/she” and “whom” with “him/her,” and see which one fits better.

How can I identify when to use who or whom in a sentence?

To identify when to use “who” or “whom” in a sentence, determine if the word is performing an action (use “who”) or if it’s receiving the action (use “whom”). Mentally substitute “who” with “he/she” and “whom” with “him/her” to help make the correct choice.

Can you provide examples of sentences with who and whom?

Certainly! Here’s an example with “who”: Who made this cake? (“Who” is performing the action of making.) And an example with “whom”: To whom should I address this letter? (“Whom” is receiving the action of addressing.)

What are some exercises to practice who versus whom usage?

To practice using “who” and “whom” correctly, try identifying subjects and objects in sentences and replacing them with the appropriate pronouns. Rewrite sentences using “who” or “whom” correctly, and practice creating your own sentences using both pronouns appropriately.

When should I use whoever and whomever?

Use “whoever” when the pronoun acts as the subject (performing an action), and use “whomever” when it acts as an object (receiving the action). Apply the same substitution trick: replace “whoever” with “he/she” and “whomever” with “him/her” to help determine the correct choice.

How does the meaning of a sentence change when using who and whom?

Using “who” and “whom” incorrectly may change the focus of a sentence or create confusion. Misusing these pronouns can make it unclear whether the word in question is performing or receiving an action. Always follow the rules for using “who” and “whom” to ensure clarity and grammatical correctness.


Miss, Mrs, Ms, and Mx – What’s The Difference?

By Alan Reiner – December 18, 2023

Understanding the distinctions between “Miss,” “Mrs.,” “Ms.,” and “Mx.” is crucial when addressing people accurately and respectfully. These courtesy titles have their roots in marital status and gender identity, which can sometimes lead to confusion. This article will help you navigate these courtesy titles effortlessly and confidently.

In everyday conversations and written communication, using the proper title ensures that you are addressing people respectfully and acknowledging their preferences. Here, you will find a clear explanation of each title, their meanings, and appropriate usage, allowing you to communicate with confidence.

Comparing Titles: Ms., Mrs., Miss, and Mx.

When addressing women, it’s essential to use the correct courtesy title to show respect and acknowledge their marital status or personal preference. 

Using ‘Miss’: Great for Unmarried Women

Miss is typically used for unmarried women or girls under the age of 18. However, addressing a more mature woman as Miss can be considered offensive.

When to Use ‘Mrs.’: For Married or Widowed Women

Mrs. is the title used for married women and sometimes for widowed women, depending on their preference. It’s commonly paired with the husband’s last name or the woman’s maiden name if she chooses to keep it.

Navigating ‘Ms.’: The One-Size-Fits-All Title for Women

Ms. (pronounced mizz) is a neutral option for women regardless of their marital status or age. This title doesn’t disclose whether a woman is married or not, making it a suitable choice in professional or formal settings when you’re unsure of her marital status.

The Deal with ‘Mx.’: The Gender-Neutral Option 

Mx. is a gender-neutral title that can be used by individuals who don’t identify within the binary male/female categories, or for those who prefer not to reveal their gender. It’s essential to respect a person’s preference to use Mx. if they request it.

In summary, when addressing someone, consider their marital status, age, and preferences to determine which title – Miss, Mrs., Ms., or Mx. – to use. This will ensure you communicate respectfully and maintain professionalism at all times.

When to Use ‘Miss’: Applications and Context

Understanding ‘Miss’: The Basics and Its Traditional Usage

Miss is a traditional title used before the name of an unmarried woman, regardless of age. It signifies that the person being addressed is female and not married. 

The Professional Implications of Using ‘Miss’

In professional settings, using Miss may imply that you’re acknowledging the person’s marital status, which could be considered inappropriate.

Spelling Norms: How ‘Miss’ is Written in British and American English

In British English and American English, Miss is always written in full, without any abbreviation. It is essential to ensure the correct usage of Miss based on context, language differences, and sensitivity to cultural norms.

Practical Applications: When and Where to Use ‘Miss’

While addressing a girl or an unmarried woman, you would use Miss before her name, such as Miss Jane Smith. However, it’s important to note that this label is not commonly used in modern professional settings. 

Choosing Between ‘Miss’ and ‘Ms.’ in Digital Forms and Apps

For an app or digital form, using Miss as a selectable title is acceptable, but keep in mind that some users may prefer Ms. instead, as it does not disclose their marital status or gender.

In summary, using Miss as a prefix is suitable when addressing young girls or unmarried women in informal contexts. Exercise caution in more professional environments and choose the appropriate title based on the individual’s preference and cultural context.

Appropriate Situations for Using ‘Mrs.’

Acknowledging Marital Status 

In English, particularly in American and British English, the title ‘Mrs.’ is commonly used to address a married woman. It signifies that a woman is either married or widowed.

When you want to show respect and acknowledge her marital status, use ‘Mrs.’ followed by her husband’s or her own surname (if keeping her maiden name).

Historical Background and its Modern Adaptations

‘Mrs.’ has historical origins where it was used to show a woman’s relationship to her husband. In contemporary times, however, the usage has expanded to cover any married or widowed woman. Through language change and evolving societal norms, using ‘Mrs.’ may be considered a personal preference for some people.

To avoid making mistakes or causing offense, it’s always best to enquire about a woman’s preference for being addressed. Ensure you adjust your choice of title accordingly in professional or formal situations. Keep in mind that a woman’s preference may differ depending on whether she uses British or American English.

Understanding the Usage of ‘Ms.’

When addressing women, ‘Ms.’ is a neutral option that doesn’t indicate marital status or age. It gained popularity among feminists in the 20th century, who advocated for its use as a professional title that treats women equally, without identifying them based on their relationship status.

In both American and British English, ‘Ms.’ can be used for any adult woman, regardless of whether they are married or not. Some women prefer to be addressed as ‘Ms.’ in professional situations, as it allows for a focus on their abilities, rather than their personal life.

Contemporary use of ‘Ms.’ is widespread, and it has become a common choice in formal, informal, and professional settings. However, it’s essential to respect individual preferences and use the desired title for each person you interact with. Keep in mind that using the correct prefix is vital, as it is a sign of respect and proper etiquette.

In summary, ‘Ms.’ offers a confident, knowledgeable, and neutral way to address women in various circumstances without making assumptions about their marital status or age.

Comparing ‘Miss’ and ‘Ms.’

When addressing women, choosing between “Miss” and “Ms.” depends on their marital status, age, and personal preferences. “Miss” is traditionally used for younger, unmarried women, whereas “Ms.” is a more universal title for both married and unmarried women, regardless of age.

In professional settings, “Ms.” is often preferred as it does not reveal a woman’s marital status, making it a more neutral choice. Both British and American English use these titles similarly, so there isn’t a significant difference in their usage.

Keep in mind that some women may express their preference for a specific title, so it’s always good practice to ask and respect their choice.

Guidelines for Using ‘Mx.’

Understanding ‘Mx.’

Mx. is a gender-neutral title that can be used for anyone, regardless of their marital status or gender identity. It is particularly useful for people who do not identify within the traditional binary gender categories, i.e., male or female, or non-binary individuals.

How to Respectfully Use ‘Mx.’: Asking for Preferences

When addressing someone with the “Mx.” title, ensure you are respecting their preference by asking how they’d like to be addressed, especially in professional contexts. For example, you might ask, “Which title do you prefer – Mx., Ms., Miss, or Mrs.?” This demonstrates respect and inclusivity.

Written Guidelines: Proper Use of ‘Mx.’ in American and British English

In written communication, simply use “Mx.” in the same way you would use other courtesy titles like “Ms.” or “Mr.” For instance, you could write “Mx. Jane Smith” at the beginning of a letter or email. As with other titles, the period after “Mx.” is typically used in American English and can be omitted in British English.

Remember to maintain a confident, knowledgeable, neutral, and clear tone when explaining or discussing the use of “Mx.” to others. By following these guidelines, you will contribute to promoting an inclusive and respectful atmosphere for everyone, regardless of their gender identity or marital status.

Differences in Pronunciation: A Guide

When using honorifics such as Miss, Mrs., Ms., Mx., Mr., and Dr., it’s important to know the correct pronunciation to convey respect. Each title has a distinct pronunciation that varies between British English and American English.

Miss: In both American and British English, pronounce “Miss” to rhyme with “kiss.” It is used for unmarried women and younger girls.

Mrs.: For American English, pronounce “Mrs.” as “miz-iz” or “mis-iz.” In British English, it’s pronounced as “miss-is” or “mis-is.” This title signifies a married woman.

Ms.: “Ms.” is pronounced as “miz” in both dialects and is used when you’re unsure of a woman’s marital status or when she prefers not to reveal it.

Mx.: This gender-neutral honorific is pronounced “mix” in both American and British English.

Mr.: In American English, pronounce “Mr.” as “mis-ter.” In British English, it’s pronounced as “mis-tah.” This title is for men, regardless of marital status.

Dr.: The pronunciation for “Dr.” is “doc-tor” in both dialects and is used for individuals with a doctorate degree or medical professionals.

Remember to use these titles appropriately and practice the correct pronunciation for each to show respect and adhere to language norms.

Comparing British and American English: Titles Edition

In both British and American English, titles like Miss, Mrs, Ms, Mx, Mr, and Dr are used as honorifics when addressing individuals. However, there can be subtle differences in how they are applied and punctuated.

Punctuation Nuances: American vs. British English

Punctuation-wise, American English usually employs a period (.) after abbreviated titles, such as Mr., Mrs., Ms., and Dr. British English, on the other hand, often omits the period, writing Mr, Mrs, Ms, and Dr without any punctuation.

No Shortcuts: The Unabbreviated ‘Miss’

Abbreviations tend to be similar in both dialects, but remember that there is no abbreviation for Miss—it is always spelled out in full.

Pronunciation Matters: How ‘Mrs.’ Sounds in American and British English

When it comes to pronunciation, there may also be slight variations between the two. For example, “Mrs” is pronounced as “mis-iz” in American English and occasionally as “mis-is” in British English.

Choose the appropriate form of address based on the person’s preferences, as well as the specific language and cultural context in which you are communicating. By familiarizing yourself with these subtle differences between British and American English titles, you can ensure your language is both respectful and contextually accurate.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the specific situations to use Miss, Mrs, Ms, and Mx?

Miss is used for unmarried women and girls. Mrs is used for married women, and sometimes for widowed or divorced women. Ms is suitable for all women, regardless of marital status, and can be a safer choice when you’re unsure. Mx is a gender-neutral title for individuals who don’t identify within the traditional binary gender system or prefer not to disclose their gender.

How do the titles Miss, Mrs, and Ms. indicate marital status?

Miss indicates the person is not married, Mrs signifies the person is married, and Ms does not reveal the marital status. Ms is often used when you’re unsure, or to respect a person’s privacy.

What does the title Mx. represent?

Mx is a gender-neutral title that represents individuals who don’t identify within the traditional binary gender system (male or female) or prefer not to disclose their gender. It is inclusive of all gender identities and can be used in place of Mr, Mrs, Ms, or Miss.

How does the usage of Ms. differ from Miss and Mrs.?

Ms is a more universal and gender-neutral title that can be used for any woman regardless of her marital status. It differs from Miss which is used for unmarried women, and Mrs which is traditionally used for married women.

When is it appropriate to use the title Miss?

It’s appropriate to use Miss when addressing unmarried women or girls. However, using Ms is often a safer choice if you’re unsure of their marital status, or to respect their privacy.

What does the title Mrs. indicate?

The title Mrs indicates that the person is married. It is also sometimes used to address widowed or divorced women, although the usage can vary depending on personal preference and cultural context.


Canceled or Cancelled: Which Is Correct?

By Alan Reiner – December 18, 2023

You may have encountered the words “canceled” and “cancelled” and wondered which is correct. The truth is, both spellings are technically accurate. The distinction lies in the English dialect used, as each spelling is favored in different regions.

In American English, “canceled” with one “l” is the preferred spelling, as well as “canceling” for the present participle. On the other hand, British English and other dialects typically use the double “l” variations such as “cancelled” and “cancelling.” 

It is essential to recognize these differences and apply the appropriate spelling based on the intended audience for your writing. By doing so, you can effectively communicate your message while adhering to the respected language conventions.

Understanding The Difference Between ‘Cancelled’ And ‘Canceled’

When you write about canceling an event, you might wonder if you should use “canceled” or “cancelled.” The difference between them lies in the spelling and the region they are preferred in.

American English

In American English, it is common to use “canceled” with one ‘l’. This preference developed after Noah Webster published “An American Dictionary of the English Language” in 1828, which aimed to simplify and Americanize the English language. So, in the US, you will often see “canceled” and “canceling” with one ‘l’.

British English

On the other hand, British English prefers “cancelled” with two ‘l’s. This spelling can be traced back to Samuel Johnson’s publication “A Dictionary of the English Language” in 1755, where British spelling conventions were established. In the UK, Canada, and other regions using British English, you’ll find “cancelled” and “cancelling” with two ‘l’s.

In summary, both spellings are correct; choose one based on the regional dialect you are adhering to. For American English, use “canceled” and for British English, use “cancelled.”

Examples Of ‘Cancelled’ Vs. ‘Canceled’ In American English

In American English, the verb “to cancel” often takes the past tense form “canceled” with one “l”. For example:

  • You canceled your gym membership.
  • She canceled the party due to bad weather.

However, it’s not uncommon to see “cancelled” with two “l’s” in American English, although it’s less frequent. The same rule applies to the verb form “canceling” with one “l” being more common. Nevertheless, “cancelling” with two “l’s” is also acceptable.

Historically, Noah Webster, the creator of Webster’s dictionary, simplified English spellings in America, resulting in single “l” spelling variations like “color” instead of “colour” and “favor” instead of “favour”. Therefore, “canceled” and “canceling” follow this pattern.

When it comes to the noun form for an individual stopping an action or event, “canceler” is the preferred spelling in American English. Although you might encounter “canceller”, it’s significantly less standard.

Remember, the American English forms of canceled, canceling, and canceler are more common in the United States, while British English favors the double “l” forms: cancelled, cancelling, and canceller.

Contrasting ‘Cancelled’ And ‘Canceled’ In British English

In British English, the verb “cancel” is spelled with a double “l” when forming the past tense and gerund forms. Hence, you’ll see ‘cancelled’ and ‘cancelling’ used in British grammar and usage. British dictionaries typically list these double “l” forms as standard.

This spelling difference can be compared to other variations in British English, such as the use of ‘colour’ instead of the American ‘color.’ It’s essential to recognize and use the correct spelling when writing for a British audience to avoid accidently using the American form.

In contrast, ‘canceled’ and ‘canceler’ are more common in American English, although the double “l” forms are still accepted. But when focusing on British English, it’s best to stick to the standard ‘cancelled’ and ‘canceller’ for clarity and consistency.

An Exception To The Rule: The Spelling Of ‘Cancellation’

The Consistent Use of “Cancellation” in Both American and British English

While spelling variations exist for “canceled” and “cancelled,” the spelling of the noun “cancellation” remains consistent. You should always spell it with a double “l” regardless of your target audience or dialect.

This is a vital exception to remember as you navigate through the differences in spelling between American and British English.

Variations in Spelling for Verbs with Second-to-Last Syllable Stress

In cases where stress is on the second-to-last syllable, verbs like compel, counsel, fuel, marvel, model, and quarrel typically use a single-l suffix when adding suffixes such as -ing or -ed. For example, you would write “counselor,” “fuelling,” “marvellous,” “modelling,” and “quarrelling.”

This exception helps you avoid errors and confusion when dealing with spelling variations. Always keep in mind that while “canceled” and “cancelled” may differ, “cancellation” remains the same, proven by the consistency in its spelling.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is canceled or cancelled preferred for American English?

In American English, the preferred spelling for the past tense of “cancel” is “canceled” with one L. However, the double-L spelling “cancelled” is also acceptable, but less common.

How to use canceled and cancelled in British English?

In British English, the double-L spelling “cancelled” is more common for the past tense of “cancel.” On the other hand, the single-L version “canceled” is not as widely used and may seem unusual to British readers.

What is the AP Style rule for canceled versus cancelled?

The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook, primarily used by American journalists, recommends the single-L spelling, “canceled” and “canceling,” for the past tense and present participle of “cancel.”

What’s the difference between cancellation and cancelation?

While both spellings are correct, “cancellation” is more common in American English, whereas “cancelation” is more common in British English.

Do you spell cancelled cheque with one L or two?

The preferred spelling depends on the dialect you’re using. In American English, it’s usually spelled “canceled check,” and in British English, it’s “cancelled cheque.”

Has the spelling of cancelled changed over time?

Yes, the spelling has evolved over time. Historically, both single-L and double-L spellings coexisted, but consistency emerged with American and British English settling on “canceled” and “cancelled,” respectively. However, both variants are acceptable and understood in either dialect.


“Laying” vs. “Lying”: Key Differences

By Alan Reiner – December 18, 2023

In the world of grammar, the distinction between “laying” and “lying” (or “lay” and “lie”) can often lead to confusion. These similar-sounding words are not interchangeable, and understanding their differences is essential for clear and effective communication. 

Although both terms seem very similar, understanding the grammatical context in which they’re used is key to employing them accurately. By keeping in mind the direct object requirement for “lay” and the lack of a direct object for “lie,” you can express your thoughts precisely and avoid any potential misunderstandings.

Lay Vs. Lie: How Do They Differ?

The main difference between the words “lay” and “lie” lies in their usage. 

Lie is an intransitive verb, which means it does not require a direct object. To lie implies that you (or another subject) are in or put yourself in a horizontal resting position. 

Lay, on the other hand, is a transitive verb and requires a direct object. It means to put someone or something else in a horizontal resting position.

For example, when you prepare to rest on a bed, you would say, “I am going to lie down.” However, if you are placing a book on a table, you’d say, “I am going to lay the book down.”

Be mindful of the fact that these verbs also have different past tense forms. The past tense of “lie” is “lay” (e.g., “Yesterday, I lay down for a nap”), while the past tense of “lay” is “laid” (e.g., “I laid the book on the table earlier”).

The Right Times to Use ‘Lay’

When discussing “laying” vs. “lying,” it’s essential to know when to use the verb “lay.” ‘Lay’ is a transitive verb, meaning it requires an object to work correctly. You should use it when you need to indicate placing or putting something down.

In the present tense, you would use ‘lay’ when referring to putting something down or positioning an object. For example, you might say, “You lay the book on the table.” In this case, you are placing an object (the book) somewhere (on the table).

Additionally, ‘lay’ can be used in other forms, such as when discussing plans or outlining objects. For instance, “They need to lay out their plans for the project.” The action involves positioning or organizing an idea (the plans).

Remember to use ‘lay’ when it’s necessary to express the action of placing, putting, or positioning an object or plan. Here are some examples to keep in mind:

  • You lay the keys on the counter.
  • The designer lays the fabric carefully.
  • She lays her clothes out for the next day.

By understanding the transitive nature of ‘lay’ and its connection to placing or positioning objects, you can confidently and accurately use this verb in your writing and conversations.

Mastering the Use of ‘Lie’

‘Lie’ is an intransitive verb, which means it doesn’t need a direct object for the action to be complete. When people talk about positioning themselves in a resting or reclining position, they use ‘lie.’ Here are some examples to help clarify the proper use of ‘lie’:

  • You lie on the bed when you’re tired.
  • She lies on the couch to watch TV.

Remember that ‘lie’ is mostly used to describe people or animals in a horizontal or resting position:

  • The dog lies next to the fireplace to stay warm.
  • After a long day, you lie down to relax.

Reclining, another term for lying down, also falls under the umbrella of using ‘lie’:

  • In the park, you can see people reclining on the grass.

When it comes to differentiating between ‘laying’ and ‘lying,’ focus on the action itself. ‘Laying’ involves placing an object, while ‘lying’ means to rest or recline:

  • I am laying the book on the table (placing the book).
  • I am lying on the sofa (resting on the sofa).

In summary, use ‘lie’ when describing someone or something in a resting or reclining position without a direct object. By keeping this distinction in mind, you can confidently use ‘lie’ in various contexts.

Tricks for Keeping ‘Lay’ and ‘Lie’ Straight

Many people find it challenging to distinguish between the verbs ‘lay’ and ‘lie.’ To master this common language confusion, you can rely on a few tricks. One helpful tool is to use mnemonics, which make the differences between these verbs easier to remember.

(pLAce) and (recLIne)

This mnemonic should help you remember that ‘lay,’ which starts with the letters L-A, has a long ‘a’ sound similar to the word ‘place.’ Consequently, ‘lay’ is a transitive verb that means to put or place something down, such as an object. 

For example: “You lay the book on the table.”

In contrast, ‘lie,’ which begins with the letters L-I, has a long ‘i’ sound analogous to the word ‘recline.’ Thus, ‘lie’ is an intransitive verb used when something or someone is in a horizontal position, without a direct object involved. For instance: “You lie down on the couch.”

Here are more tricks to keep ‘lay’ and ‘lie’ straight:

  • Spelling matters: ‘Lay’ has an ‘a,’ just like ‘place,’ while ‘lie’ starts with an ‘i,’ similar to ‘recline.’
  • Remember the direct object: ‘Lay’ requires a direct object, while ‘lie’ does not. For example: “You lay the jacket on the chair” versus “You lie down on the bed.”

By practicing and utilizing these mnemonics and tips, you can confidently differentiate between ‘lay’ and ‘lie,’ successfully avoiding confusion in your writing and speech.

Using ‘Lay’ and ‘Lie’ Properly: A Quick Guide

‘Lay’ and ‘lie’ are easily confused in the English language. Keep in mind that ‘lay’ is an action you perform on something, while ‘lie’ is an action you perform without an object.

‘Lay’ means “to place or put” and requires a direct object. For example:

  • You lay the book on the table.
  • She laid the keys next to her phone.

On the other hand, ‘lie’ means “to recline” and does not take a direct object. Examples include:

  • You lie on the bed.
  • He was lying on the couch, reading a book.

Phrasal verbs can also include ‘lay’ and ‘lie’, depending on the context:

  • Lay down your bag on the chair.
  • She prefers to lie down after a long day at work.

In English, tenses matter when differentiating between ‘lay’ and ‘lie’. The past tense of ‘lay’ is ‘laid’, while the past tense of ‘lie’ is also ‘lay’. As seen in these examples:

  • Yesterday, I laid the clothes neatly in the drawer.
  • She lay on the grass, enjoying the sun.

Remember that in the English language, ‘lain’ is the past participle of ‘lie’. Similarly, ‘laid’ is the past participle of ‘lay’. Use these forms with helping verbs:

  • The cat has lain in the sun all afternoon.
  • She had laid out the documents before the meeting.

Stick to this guide and refine your dictionary knowledge to express yourself confidently and use ‘lay’ and ‘lie’ correctly in the proper context.

Laying or Lying: What’s the Deal?

Laying refers to the act of placing or positioning something in a horizontal or flat position. This term often references to materials or physical objects, like tiles, bricks, or carpets. For example, when you install new carpet in your home, you are laying the carpet on the floor.

On the other hand, lying holds two distinct meanings. First, it signifies the state of being in a reclined or horizontal position. When you are resting in bed, you are lying down. Second, lying can mean conveying untruths or falsehoods, as in deceiving someone or withholding the truth.

The difference between laying and lying lies mainly in their usage: ‘laying’ usually needs a direct object because it’s a transitive verb, while ‘lying’ does not require an object as it is an intransitive verb.

Examples of usage:

  • You are laying the book on the table.
  • They are lying on the couch.
  • She was lying about her job experience during the interview.

Keep these distinctions in mind to ensure you correctly employ laying and lying in your daily conversations and writing.

Additional Forms of ‘Lay’ and ‘Lie’ Explained

Understanding the difference between ‘lay’ and ‘lie’ is crucial. Expanding this knowledge to include different tenses makes it even clearer. Remember that ‘lay’ requires a direct object, while ‘lie’ does not.

Present tense:

  • Lay: You lay an object down.
  • Lie: You lie down to rest.

Past tense:

  • Lay: You laid an object down.
  • Lie: You lay down to rest.

The past tense of ‘lie’ when referring to an untruth is ‘lied.’ As mentioned, the past tense of ‘lie’ when meaning to recline is ‘lay.’ Therefore, ‘laid’ is the past tense of ‘lay.’

Present participle:

  • Lay: You are laying an object down.
  • Lie: You are lying down to rest.

Past participle:

  • Lay: You have laid an object down.
  • Lie: You have lain down to rest.

Remember that ‘laid’ is the past tense of ‘lay,’ and ‘lain’ is the past participle of ‘lie.’ To help, think of it this way: Use a ‘d’ when there is a direct object, meaning only with ‘lay.’

Keep in mind that these rules apply to most situations. However, there may be exceptions or differences when dealing with animals or specific uses of the verbs in certain contexts. 

As long as you stay confident, knowledgeable, and clear in your understanding of ‘lay’ and ‘lie,’ you’ll be able to use and recognize them in various tenses and situations correctly.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I use ‘lay’ and when should I use ‘lie’?

Use ‘lay’ when you mean to place or put something down, requiring a direct object. Use ‘lie’ when referring to being in or assuming a horizontal position on a surface, without a direct object. For example, ‘laying a book on the table’ and ‘lying on the couch’.

What are the past tense and past participle forms of ‘lay’ and ‘lie’?

The past tense of ‘lay’ is ‘laid’, and its past participle is also ‘laid’. For ‘lie’, the past tense is ‘lay’, and the past participle is ‘lain’. Remember to conjugate the verbs correctly in sentences.

Is it correct to say ‘lying on the couch’ or ‘laying on the couch’?

It is correct to say ‘lying on the couch’ because you’re assuming a horizontal position without a direct object. ‘Laying on the couch’ implies that you are putting something down on the couch, which is incorrect in this context.

Should I say ‘lying in bed’ or ‘laying in bed’?

Use ‘lying in bed’ when you want to convey that you are resting in a horizontal position. ‘Laying in bed’ is incorrect, as it implies that you are placing something down on the bed.

How do I properly use ‘lie’ and ‘lay’ in a sentence?

Remember, use ‘lay’ when placing something down and it needs a direct object, like “I lay the book on the table.” For ‘lie’, no direct object is needed, such as “I lie down for a nap.”

What is the difference between ‘lying down’ and ‘laying down’?

‘Lying down’ means assuming a horizontal position on a surface, like lying down on the floor. ‘Laying down’ implies placing or setting something down, as in laying down a carpet. Choose the appropriate verb based on the context and presence (or absence) of a direct object.


E.g. vs. I.e.— What’s The Difference?

By Alan Reiner – December 18, 2023

When it comes to writing, certain abbreviations can help you convey your message clearly and concisely. Two such abbreviations, often misused and confused, are “e.g.” and “i.e.” Knowing the difference between these abbreviations and their appropriate usage is essential to ensure that your writing remains accurate.

In the simplest terms, “e.g.” is Latin for “exempli gratia” and translates to “for example” in English. It is used to present examples that help illustrate a point. On the other hand, “i.e.” stands for “id est” in Latin, which means “in other words” or “that is” in English. This abbreviation is used when you want to clarify or further explain a statement.

Now that you’re familiar with the basic meaning of these two abbreviations, let’s delve deeper into how to correctly use them in your writing, as well as some helpful tips to keep them straight.

What is ‘E.G.’

‘E.G.’ is a lowercase abbreviation for the Latin phrase “exempli gratia,” which translates to “for example.” As one of the Latin abbreviations, it’s commonly used in writing to introduce examples. You can use ‘e.g.’ in a sentence within parentheses or without, depending on your preference.

Keep in mind that using ‘e.g.’ allows you to provide specific instances that help clarify a broader point made in your writing. For instance, if you are talking about various fruits, you could write: “I enjoy eating different types of fruits (e.g., apples, oranges, and bananas).” In this case, ‘e.g.’ lists a few particular fruits the reader can refer to.

Just remember, when using ‘e.g.’ in your writing, you’re confidently showing examples to support your arguments or statements, making your communication clearer and more understandable.

What is ‘I.E.’

‘I.E.’ is an acronym that stands for “id est,” a Latin term meaning “that is.” This abbreviation is used in sentences to clarify or explain something in-depth. Put simply, ‘I.E.’ can be understood as “in other words”. When using ‘I.E.’ in your writing, remember to use lowercase letters and punctuate with periods between the two characters.

The primary function of ‘I.E.’ is to introduce a more precise explanation of a concept or statement, ensuring the reader fully comprehends your message. For example, if you stated that someone is a polyglot, you could use ‘I.E.’ to define the term or provide examples: “She is a polyglot – I.E., she is fluent in multiple languages.”

To differentiate between ‘I.E.’ and its Latin abbreviation counterpart ‘E.G.,’ keep in mind that ‘I.E.’ serves to clarify, while ‘E.G.’ introduces examples without providing an exhaustive list. Utilize ‘I.E.’ when you want to offer a clearer understanding of a specific idea, without digressing into illustrative examples.

Proper Usage of ‘E.G.’ and ‘I.E.’ in Your Writing

‘E.g.’ stands for exempli gratia, meaning “for example,” while ‘i.e.’ is an abbreviation for id est, translating to “in other words.” These Latin abbreviations are frequently used in various writing styles, including formal and academic writing. Here’s how you can use them correctly in your work.

When using ‘e.g.’, provide examples to support or illustrate your statement. Remember to place a comma after ‘e.g.’ and before the example or list. Consider this sentence: “Include various fruits in your diet, e.g., apples, bananas, and oranges.” The abbreviation helps you introduce a list without interrupting the flow of the sentence.

illustrates the use of ‘i.e.’ in a sentence to define or explain a concept, in this case, linking the color green to the natural color of grass

In contrast, ‘i.e.’ is used to clarify or restate your point. Similar to ‘e.g.’, place a comma after ‘i.e.’ to improve readability. For instance: “Her favorite color is green, i.e., the color of grass.” In this case, ‘i.e.’ helps you define or explain the idea more concisely.

Both abbreviations often appear within parentheses, and adhering to punctuation rules is crucial. Punctuation inside the parentheses behaves independently of the surrounding sentence. For example: “Choose a subject you enjoy (e.g., history or science) to increase your retention.”

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the proper ways to use i.e. in a sentence?

When using i.e. in a sentence, remember that it stands for “id est” in Latin and means “in other words.” Use i.e. to clarify or rephrase a statement. For example, “The meeting begins at 9 PM, i.e., an hour later than usual.”

How can I correctly use e.g. in writing?

To use e.g. correctly, know that it stands for “exempli gratia” in Latin and means “for example.” Use e.g. to introduce a list of examples or specific instances. For example, “Bring healthy snacks to the party, e.g., fruits, veggies, or nuts.”

What are some common examples of using i.e.?

Common examples of using i.e. include:

  1. The examination has several sections, i.e., multiple-choice, short answer, and essay questions.
  2. Please arrive early to the event, i.e., at least 15 minutes before it begins.
  3. The conference is held annually, i.e., once a year.

Does e.g. require a specific punctuation?

Yes, e.g. should be followed by a comma. When using e.g. in a sentence, introduce your examples with e.g., and then use a comma before listing them. For instance, “The store sells various types of flowers, e.g., roses, tulips, and daffodils.”

What is the appropriate usage of i.e. and e.g.?

Use i.e. when you want to clarify or rephrase a statement, while use e.g. when you need to provide specific examples or instances. The key difference is that i.e. means “in other words,” and e.g. means “for example.” Ensure that you use them appropriately to avoid confusion.

Can you give examples of using e.g.?

Certainly! Examples of using e.g. include:

  1. There are several programming languages you can learn, e.g., Python, Java, or C++.
  2. Try different types of exercise to stay fit, e.g., swimming, cycling, or yoga.
  3. She loves reading different genres of books, e.g., mystery, romance, and science fiction.