1 2 3 4 Displaying 8-14 of 24 Articles

One of the most persistent myths about word acquisition is that students don't need to be taught words; they just need to read more and their vocabularies will magically expand. This theory — which I like to call "learning words by osmosis" — doesn't hold much promise for your average or struggling reader. While it may hold true for a select group of students who are strong, avid readers possessing a curiosity about words, most students don't learn words by simply encountering them in reading.  Continue reading...
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For about four decades in the 20th century, rhyme ruled American advertising. The period between the 1940s and the 1970s was the golden age of ad jingles and rhyming slogans. Today, ads rarely incorporate verse — and when they do appear, it's often awkwardly executed, derivative, or barely recognizable as rhyme. What happened?  Continue reading...
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With the government shutdown over and the default crisis averted, what many commentators called a "game of chicken" has finally ended on Capitol Hill. In my latest column for the Wall Street Journal, I take a look at how political stare-downs earned this appellation, and how chickens became animalistic symbols of cowardice in the first place.  Continue reading...
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Last week, we talked about some idioms that have been twisted by people who write them as they hear them, not as the phrase should read. Here are some more. Some of these twisted phrases make some sense, because they use words that seem to fit in the phrase, until you really dig into them.  Continue reading...
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As a teacher, writer and editor, I spend a significant portion of my life reminding others (and myself) that certain pairs of words are not interchangeable, although they might seem to be. Now isn't the same as know, and affect can't pinch-hit for effect. Lose vs. loose is a particular frustration as of late. However, in all of my many years of teaching and writing, no one has ever asked me whether they ought to use O or oh, and this makes me sad.  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

Happy Dictionary Day!

October 16th is National Dictionary Day, commemorating the birth of the great lexicographer Noah Webster. Celebrate by delving into our archive for articles about Webster and the world of dictionaries. A sampling: "Noah Webster at 250: A Visionary or a Crackpot?," "The Case for Dictionary Day," "The Birth of Webster's Dictionary," and "Dictionary Day and the Quest for All-American Words."
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Lately I've been noticing the phrase as such everywhere. It's not just a recency illusion; according to corpus data, it really is on the rise. And with that rise comes a shift in function and a corresponding effort to halt that shift.  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 Displaying 8-14 of 24 Articles