Writing Tip of the Day

Adverse vs. Averse

by Mark Nichol

Adverse and averse share the root verse, which stems from the Latin term vertere, meaning “to turn.” But their meanings are distinct and, taken literally, antonymic: Adverse, from the Latin word adversus (“turned toward, facing”), means “antagonistic”; the original term conjures of image of confrontation. Averse, meanwhile, comes from aversus (“turned away”) and means “strongly disinclined” or “strongly unfavorable to.”

Other forms of adverse are adversary, meaning “opponent,” and adversity, referring to the quality of opposition. Adversary is also an adjective, but, perhaps because of confusion with the noun form of that word, adversarialcame to prevail in that usage. Avert, meanwhile, is related to averse and means “to turn away, to avoid.” (Veer, though it has the same meaning, is unrelated; it’s from a Germanic word meaning “to slacken.”)

A whole family of other words with the verse root exist: Converse means “the exact opposite” and has the noun and verb form convert, meaning “someone who turns” and “to turn,” respectively, and the noun form conversion, referring to the act of converting. Converse also means “to speak with someone” (to “turn” speech) and leads to the adjective conversant and the nounconversation. (The latter used to also mean “living together” or “having sexual relations.”) Diverse, originally divers, means “distinct” and is the parent ofdiversitydivergentdivert, and diversion.

Extrovert, which means “turned outward,” is mirrored by the antonymintrovert. (These also serve as noun forms.) Inverse means “turn about” or “turn over” and has the verb form invert and the noun form inversionObverse, meaning “turned toward,” is the opposite of reverse, “turned away,” which, unlike the more rarely used obverse, has a noun form, too: reversalPerverse, which means “turned away (from what is correct),” has the noun formspervert, for a person, and perversion, for the quality. Transverse means “turned across” (the rare noun form is transversal), and traverse means “to pass across.”

Versus also ultimately derives from vertere by way of, well, versus. (The Old English suffix -weard, from which we derive -ward — seen in towardforward, and so on — is akin to versus.) Other related words include verse (from the idea of “turning” from one line of verse to another), versed (“knowledgeable” — literally, “one who knows verses,” with the connotation of one who “turns over” a subject of study), and versify, or “write verse.”

Anniversary, meanwhile, literally means “year turning,” and universe, originally meaning “all together,” is derived from the words for “one” and “turn.”University, referring to a place of learning, stems from the idea of “whole,” with the connotation of “community.” (Varsity, an alteration of a shortening ofuniversity, denotes the primary group of athletes in any sport who represent a university or other school.)

Source: Daily Writing Tips

Writing Tip of the Day


brouhaha is a fuss or a commotion, especially one over something of exaggerated importance.1 The word came to English from French in the late 19th century, and it is used throughout the English-speaking world. The earliest known instance of the word in English is from the American writer Oliver Wendell Holmes’s 1891 book Over the Teacups:

“Yes,” he answered, modestly, “I enjoy the brouhaha, if you choose to consider it such, of all this quarrelsome menagerie of noise-making machines, brought into order and harmony by the presiding genius … “

But the word was not widely used until the middle 20th century.

Brouhaha’s exact origins in French are unknown. Some sources suggest it may come from the Hebrew barúkh habá, meaning blessed be the one who comes,2though we can’t explain how the modern English word could have developed from this.


Remember the brouhaha about $563 million in Obama administration loan guarantees to Solyndra, the solar panel manufacturer that went belly up last fall? [New York Times]

Without the brouhaha from the Liberal Democrats, the Bill would have been passed, unamended, a year ago. [Independent]

But, as the clocked edged closer to 3 a.m., the jovial brouhaha turned nasty. [National Post]

Sydney’s Centennial Park is destined to become the centre of the latest brouhaha between recreational cyclists and local authorities … [Sydney Morning Herald]

It’s almost as cringe-inducing as the awkward moment when Steven Tyler made fun of Jennifer Lopez’s much-ado-about-nothing Oscars “nipple slip” brouhaha. [Los Angeles Times]


1. “Brouhaha” in the OED (subscription required) 
2. Chambers Dictionary of Etymology, 1988. ↩

Source: Grammarist

Writing Tip of the Day

Soon means ‘a short time after now’.

  • Get well soon. (NOT Get well early.)
  • We will launch a new edition of this book sometime soon.

Soon can also mean ‘a short time after then’.

  • It was difficult in the beginning, but I soon got used to it. (NOT It was difficult in the beginning, but I early got used to it.)

Early means ‘near the beginning of a period of time we are talking about’. Early does not mean soon.

  • Early this week, I had a strange experience. (NOT Soon this week, I had a strange experience.)
  • He had an accident early this month.
  • He will soon have an accident if he continues to drive like this. (NOT He will early have an accident…)
  • I get up early in the morning. (NOT I get up soon in the morning.)

Early can mean ‘before the expected time’.

  • I arrived early.

Early can be used as an adjective.

  • We will be grateful for an early reply.

There is a difference between soon and quickly. We use quickly to refer to the speed with which something is done. Soon means ‘before long’.

  • I got dressed quickly. (= I didn’t take a lot of time to get dressed.)

Writing Tip of the Day


“AM” stands for the Latin phrase Ante Meridiem —which means “before noon”—and “PM” stands for Post Meridiem : “after noon.” Although digital clocks routinely label noon “12:00 PM” you should avoid this expression not only because it is incorrect, but because many people will imagine you are talking about midnight instead. The same goes for “12:00 AM.” You can say or write “twelve noon,” “noon sharp,” or “exactly at noon” when you want to designate a precise time.

It is now rare to see periods placed after these abbreviations: “A.M.”; but in the US, in formal writing it is still preferable to capitalize them, though the lower-case “am” and “pm” are now so popular they are not likely to get you into trouble. The lower-case forms are standard usage in the UK.

Occasionally computer programs encourage you to write “AM” and “PM” without a space before them, but others will misread your data if you omit the space. The nonstandard habit of omitting the space is spreading rapidly, and should be avoided in formal writing.


Source: Washington State University

Writing Tip of the Day

Mike Hooker writes:

I have a problem with people using the word “cement” when they  mean “concrete”; they are not interchangeable, yet people write and say it all the time.…To clarify, cement is the powder used to make concrete. The hardened surfaces on which we walk and drive are concrete, not cement. It’s really no big deal, just something that leaps out at me when I read it or hear it.

Although many speakers use the words interchangeably to refer to any hard substance, the distinction matters when it comes to putting these materials to use. Fiction writers especially need to know the difference. For example, it would be embarrassing to have a character who is a construction worker mix up the terms.

Cement is a binder.
Concrete is an aggregate that includes cement.

Here are some examples of cement being used where concrete would be the accurate choice:

How to make a nice cement patio

Building a cement patio is no easy chore…

How to Build a Cement Block Patio

The word cement evolved from a word for “small broken stones” to mean “powdered stones.” It entered English from Old French in the 14th century asciment. The French word came from Latin caementa, “stone chips for making mortar.”

The Romans made their cement by mixing limestone with volcanic ash. They kept this mixture as dry as possible and then pounded it into an arrangement of rocks already in place. They didn’t use rebar, but many of their bridges, aqueducts, and temples still stand.

The most common cement used in the making of modern concrete is Portland cement.

Portland cement was first produced in 1824 by a British stonemason, Joseph Aspdin. He heated a mixture of finely ground limestone and clay in his kitchen stove and then ground the mixture into a powder that hardened with the addition of water. He called it “Portland” cement because of its resemblance to a stone quarried on the Isle of Portland in the English Channel.

The word concrete came into English as an adjective in the late 14th century, from Latin concretus, “condensed, hardened, thick, hard, stiff, curdled, congealed, clotted.” It began as a term of logic, but expanded in meaning until, in 1834, it was being used as a noun meaning “building material made from cement, etc.”

As an adjective, concrete is used as the opposite of abstract.

This, one of many definitions given by the OED, explains why we talk about “concrete nouns”:

concrete: 4. a. Applied by the early logicians and grammarians to a quality viewed (as it is actually found) concreted or adherent to a substance, and so to the word expressing a quality so considered, viz. the adjective, in contradistinction to the quality as mentally abstracted or withdrawn from substance and expressed by an abstract noun: thus white (paper, hat, horse) is the concrete quality or quality in the concrete, whiteness, the abstract quality or quality in the abstract; seven (men, days, etc.) is a concrete number, as opposed to the number 7 in the abstract.

Oxford English Dictionary
Online Etymology Dictionary
“The Riddle of Ancient Roman Concrete,” by David Moore, P.E.


Source: Daily Writing Tips

Writing Tip of the Day


Et al.


Et al. is an abbreviation of the Latin loanphrase et alii, meaning and others. It is similar to etc. (short for et cetera, meaning and the rest), but whereas etc. applies to things, et al. applies to people.

Et al. does not need to be italicized in normal use. It does require a period after the second word, even when it falls in the middle of a sentence. Et al. is best reserved for citations and other parenthetical remarks in academic or other types of formal writing. Because et al. sounds unnatural when read aloud, an unabbreviated English equivalent is often better in informal contexts.

The issue of whether to place a comma before et al. is complicated. Just treat it as you would the words and others. So when et al. follows a single name (e.g., Tate et al.), it doesn’t need a comma. When it follows more than one name, some publications set et al. apart with a comma, and some don’t. It depends on whether the publication uses serial commas (that is, the last comma in a list—e.g., the one after white in the phrase red, white, and blue).

There are differing ideas about the use of et al., however. So if you are writing a paper for a class, you might want to ask your teacher or professor what he or she prefers (if only for the sake of your grade).


These writers use et al. well:

As a child I disliked everything about Christopher Robin, from his nanny’s beautiful blue dressing gown on the door to his dim-witted friends Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger et al. [Guardian]

Even the recent Gartner report from star analyst Jane Disbrow et al. shows that 61% of their customers have been audited by at least one software vendor. [Forbes]

Slaying the goliath that is the Los Angeles Galaxy – David Beckham, Landon Donovan et al. – in the 2009 MLS Cup final proved that. [Globe and Mail]

Writing Tip of the Day


Au contraire

In French, au contraire means, literally, on the contrary, and that’s exactly what this loan phrase means in English. It’s often used to mean, roughly, I beg to differ, and it usually creates a humorous or sarcastic tone.

Au contraire is occasionally misspelled oh contraire. But because au contraire is such an informal phrase in English, the misspelling is not a huge error.


Here are a few examples of au contraire used well (click the link to the original for more context):

Hairless is the norm with women? Au contraire, sir. [Salon]

But his insecurities did not hold him back. Au contraire! They propelled him into the spotlight. [Telegraph]

Many people assume that when they reach age 65 and sign up for Medicare, they will be taken care of . . . Au contraire! Medicare is not free. [Dunwoody Crier]

Did anyone take umbrage at my audaciously superficial questions? Au contraire! The demonstrators were only too happy to talk about their sad rags and their glad rags. [Slate]


Source: Grammarist

How Does One Become a Writer?

“How does one become a writer?”
This is one question that we’re frequently asked in our workshops and in correspondence with Writer’s Block Philippines. So, for inspiration, we’re turning to one of the Philippines’ greatest literary figures and educators and are sharing her own thoughts to this question.
“How Does One Become A Writer?” (An excerpt from Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo)

TRYING to answer a graduate student’s question as to how I became a writer, I chose the quick easy answer: I was an avid reader. She then pulled out notebook and ball pen and asked me to give her a short list of where she should start.

“Start?” I repeated. “But aren’t you already a reader?” She shrugged. “Now and then. This and that. Not really.” She obviously saw no vital connection between writing and reading.

We talked about how she spends her free time. She’s online a great deal: surfing, blogging, Facebook-ing. When she’s not online she’s watching movies on her laptop. Or listening to music on her Ipod. Or downloading music. She meets up with friends and goes malling, or gimmicking. Sometimes she checks out art exhibits held in small galleries or cafes all over the city. She has participated in two international comic book conferences.  I have no doubt that if these options had been available in my youth, that’s how I would have been spending my spare time too. Would I have become a writer? I truly don’t know the answer to that one.

Writing Tip of the Day

Bust, Burst, and Arrest

by Maeve Maddox

Yes, I know that just about everyone uses the word “bust” as a noun to mean “arrest” and as a verb to mean “arrested.”

Phoenix police discuss soured drug bust that killed Chandler officer

…a Merrill Lynch banker… was busted along with seven others yesterday for participating in an illegal game…

I know too that it’s common to use the word “bust” to mean “burst” or “break.”

Hurricanes roaring across the Gulf of Mexico create strong enough underwater waves to dig up and potentially bust open oil pipelines

Innovative Sound Device Could Bust Cancer Cells …

Holiday price stings could bust the family budget.

Commonly used or not, these uses always register as nonstandard with me. Colloquial, yes. Appropriate in some idioms, yes. Acceptable in a formal context, no.

The verb burst means “to break suddenly when in a state of tension.” Balloons burst. Bubbles burst. Burst means “to break the outer covering and discharge the matter.” Boils burst. Burst means to open out, to disperse. Flowers burst into bloom. Seed pods burst. We get wet from a sudden cloud burst. And, of course, undersea oil pipes burst. Undersea wells break or break down.

Used informally, the word bust is acceptable in certain idioms:

to bust a bronco (break a horse)
to go bust (to lose one’s money at gambling)
boom or bust (economic prosperity or failure)
drug bust (drug arrest, raid)
to bust (to arrest, or to be discovered in an illegal or disobedient act)

This deliberately playful headline about the discovery of a publicity hoax plays on two colloquial meanings of “bust” as a verb, “burst” and “found out as culpable”:

Balloon Boy Busted

In standard usage, bust is a noun with such meanings as

A piece of sculpture representing the head, shoulders, and breast of a person.

The upper front part of the human body; the bosom (esp. of a woman).

The measurement around a woman’s body at the level of her bust, usually measured in inches

My inability to accept “bust” as an unexceptionable synonym for “break” or “arrest” may be totally irrational. Nevertheless, whenever I hear it from the mouth of a news announcer, or see it used in the context of a formal news story, it strikes me as nonstandard and unnecessarily jarring.


Source: Daily Writing Tips

The best time to write



When you don’t feel like writing, when all that comes out of your pen are the date today and the words “what to write”, that’s usually the best time to write. Look for writing prompts that interest you or have the thing that works all the time: imagination.

Imagination is that spark of thought that expands when you dream a little longer while awake. It’s how authors create gay wizards and teenagers who kill for food or ghosts who come back to earth to kiss their high school crushes.

The last time I used my imagination, I created a character who is an alien pretending to be a human and a normal girlfriend with normal reactions when her boyfriend gives her the ring. It was the most unoriginal flash fiction I’ve ever written, partly inspired by Stephenie Meyer’s The Host and partly based on some romantic fiction. Still, I had fun creating this strange love story disguising as science fiction. It also proved how far I could go in Alice’s wonderland if I conjured up images of my super heroine in my head.

When I’m stuck with describing the most recent events in my less than glamorous life (journaling), pretending to be the opposite also works.  So I write as a protagonist who travels around the world or back in time and meets the most interesting people. It’s a minefield for fantasy conversations with famous people in history. One day, I found myself in a Paris café with Jose Rizal. He was thinner and slightly rough around the edges (because Paciano had stopped sending money), but always the gentleman and never losing his Calamba accent.  I remember the drama of the exercise, especially when I debated whether to tell him that Leonor has found another man, and most importantly, what is waiting for him in Manila when he returns.  Before I knew it, I was a giving myself a lesson in writing dialogues and building the character of Rizal for no higher purpose than to entertain myself through writing.

The inspiration to write oftentimes is the result of having written or published. It’s not when you’ve found a better tasting coffee or a better room with a view. True, some solitude is required, but not always. You don’t need a cabin in the woods, not unless you’re Stephen King or Anne Proulx. You just need to write at the time you set for your writing, with the help of a little imagination.


Elisha Vera Inocencio is a consummate reader and a writer. She admires the works of humorist David Sedaris, award-winning travel journalist Andrew McCarthy, and fiction and non-fiction writer Haruki Murakami. As a marketing professional, Elisha has written eye care feature articles published in select lifestyle and health magazines. She typically keeps a mountain of notebooks and always prefers to write with a metal ballpoint pen.


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