50 Problem Words and Phrases


Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to conceive written communication. So many pairs or trios of words and phrases stymie us with their resemblance to each other. Here’s a quick guide to alleviate (or is it ameliorate?) your suffering:

  1. a while / awhile: “A while” is a noun phrase; awhile is an adverb.
  2. all together / altogether: All together now — “We will refrain from using that two-word phrase to end sentences like this one altogether.”
  3. amend / emend: To amend is to change; to emend is to correct.
  4. amount / number: Amount refers to a mass (“The amount saved is considerable”); number refers to a quantity (“The number of dollars saved is considerable”).
  5. between / among: The distinction is not whether you refer to two people or things or to three or more; it’s whether you refer to one thing and another or to a collective or undefined number — “Walk among the trees,” but “Walk between two trees.”

View more on the DailyWritingTips website.

Using the hyphen, en-dash and em-dash



Typically used to act as a comma or parenthesis to separate phrases—or even just a word—in a sentence for various reasons (i.e. an appositive).

  • School is based on the three R’s—reading, writing, and ’rithemtic.
  • Against all odds, Pete—the unluckiest man alive—won the lottery.


Used to connect values in a range or that are related. A good rule is to use it when you're expressing a "to" relationship.

  • in years 2013–2014
  • pages 10–12
  • Jets won 3–2


Used to join words in a compound construction, or separate syllables of a word.

  • pro-Canadian
  • same-sex couples
  • em-dash
  • it's pronounced hos-pi-tal-it-tee

minus sign

  • 4 − 2 = 2.

Typing en & em dashes on a Mac 

  • en-dash: option-hyphen
  • em-dash: option-shift-hyphen


  • en-dash: &ndash
  • em-dash: &mdash
  • minus sign: &minus

Source: English Language & Usage


The Elements of Typographic Style recommends the spaced en dash – like so – and argues that the length and visual magnitude of an em dash "belongs to the padded and corseted aesthetic of Victorian typography."[36] In the United Kingdom, the spaced en dash is the house style for certain major publishers, including the Penguin Group, the Cambridge University Press, and Routledge. But this convention is not universal. The Oxford Guide to Style (2002, section 5.10.10) acknowledges that the spaced en dash is used by "other British publishers", but states that the Oxford University Press—like "most US publishers"—uses the unspaced em dash.

Source: Wikipedia

Today I discovered Hemingway Style Editor


On yesterday's  MacBreak Weekly show on the TWiT network,  Andy Ihnatko announced Hemmingway as his app of the week. BRILLIANT! I'll never write again without it.

Hemingway is a fantastic app for writing that helps you write more clearly. It offers a number of features beyond your standard word processor, including highlighting long and complex sentences, giving you a readability level indicator, highlights adverbs, and gives you hints on simplifying your writing and avoiding passive voice.