Did You Know?


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 aa 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.”

9 thoughts on “Did You Know?

  1. Love it! I had no idea that till was the short version of until. Actually I tend to write until. But I’ll admit I might say ’til. but when I see till I think of tilling a garden. Many a time, I’ve stood on my head to prevent using a proposition at the end of the sentence and I just can’t avoid it without creating a convoluted sentence. Sometimes you just turn the light on. Yes, I know you can turn on the light, but what about leaving that light on? I left on the light? To me it sounds awkward. I tend to avoid ending in those little prepositional words because too many people think that I know nothing about grammar. (Only my editor knows for sure. LOL) Unless I’m texting, making OK quicker, I write Okay. And I always thought OK came from the Middle Eastern words, which I can say but I have no idea how to spell, yet the words start with an O and a K. So to shorten them they became OK and were found on shipments that had been inspected,were supposedly cleared, and considered as cleared inspection, etc.. And the word entered our language from our longshoremen who knew the crates were fine or OK. Nice story isn’t it. Not true! And badly I knew because a professor beat it into us. That man also informed us that we can’t have a bad cold. Is there such a thing as a good cold? We simply have a cold. And alright drives me nuts when I see it! Already works but not alright. There’s a gazillion of these words! I’d love for you to do more of this sort of thing, Susan. Please consider it. I’ve learned something new from your post – till!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Many years ago, after I wrote my first short story, I submitted it to a writers group on AOL for edits. Within the story, I had written – OK. The editor wrote in bold, red letters – OK is not a word. It’s Okay. Never use – OK. To this day, I haven’t forgotten that edit. Thanks for your insight, Susan.


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