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Editorial Help Desk:
Your Resource for Grammar and MCPS Style

Word of the Month

(adjective). Fashionable among stylish or wealthy people.

Examples in a sentence:

  • While getting out of the town car, the tony senior ripped her dress on the edge of the door.
  • The principal left her job at a tony private school to work in a failing public elementary school.

Taken from Merriam-Webster's Dictionary.


Tip of the Month

Pause for some word usage therapy

Here are three words that are often used in the wrong context. Improper use of words can confuse your readers and lead to a misunderstanding of your instructions or your report.

  1. Decimate. This word if often used to mean totally destroy. However, decimate really means "to slaughter every tenth one" or to destroy in part. Also, if you use decimate to mean "destroy in part," do not add a percentage to it. For example:
    Do write - The recent floods in the Midwest decimated many small towns.
    Do NOT write - The recent floods in the Midwest decimated 50 percent of the small towns.
  2. Noisome. This is often misused to mean noisy. However, noisome really refers to smell-an offensive, evil smell.
    Do write - The students were sent home because they became nauseous from the noisome fumes coming from the storage room.
    Do NOT write - The noisome students… (This would be offensive.)
  3. Dilemma. A dilemma does not mean a bad situation. Instead, it refers to a situation in which one has to choose between two options, both bad.
    Do write - The teacher faced a dilemma: he could take the class on a nature walk, in the rain, or let them read in classroom with a broken air conditioner.
    Do NOT write - The teacher faced a dilemma: should he take the class on a nature walk, in the rain.

Contact Donna M. Marks on Outlook or call 301-517-8139.

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