In my editing work, I’ve noticed a number of common errors that trip up writers. So I’ve decided to don my editor’s hat today and present a few that you’ve probably come across many times.
An Historic or A Historic?
People often believe they should use an before historic, such as an historic event. But does it make sense to do this? An is used before a spoken vowel sound, so we use it when the h at the beginning of a word isn’t pronounced, such as an honor and an hour. But when the h is pronounced, we use a – a hammock and a hero, for example. In past centuries, when people often didn’t pronounce the h in historic, it made sense to use an. But today, since we do pronounce the h, it makes more sense to say a historic event and this usage has become much more common and accepted.
Till or ‘Til?
Many writers and even some editors assume that ‘til is the correct short form of until, and that till is incorrect. In fact, major usage dictionaries and style guides consider ‘til to be an error. Till is correct, and is not actually an abbreviation of until; it’s an older word, and should not be written with an apostrophe.
All Right or Alright?
Most style guides and dictionaries agree that alright is a misspelling of all right. Alright is commonly used in informal writing, but it’s not correct in standard English.
Is OK Okay?
Okay and OK are both acceptable spellings of the word. You might assume that OK is a truncated form of okay, but in fact okay derived from OK. There are various theories about its origin, all of which involve the shortening of an O word and a K word into the initials OK. Whichever you choose, the important thing is to be consistent throughout your manuscript.
Do You Feel Badly?
Nope. You feel bad. In this instance, feel functions not as an action verb but as a linking verb (like become, seem, taste, smell); saying you feel badly implies you have trouble being able to feel (just as smell badly implies you can’t smell).
Can You End a Sentence With a Preposition?
You might have been taught in school that you mustn’t do it, but…you sure can. This is a rule leftover from Latin grammar that doesn’t necessarily apply to English. A preposition is a word such as with, by, on, in, at, to or about. Trying to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition can create awkward phrasing and is often unnecessary. It’s perfectly correct to ask “Which department is she in?” or “What are you upset about?” or state “Billy had no one to play with.”