Garbl's Writing Center
e- Lowercase the e (unless it begins a sentence or heading) and include the hyphen in terms like e-book, e-business, e-commerce and e-reader. But do not include a hyphen in email. See email and initial-based terms.
each It applies to one person or thing in a group and takes a singular verb when each is the subject of a sentence: Each of us was asked to testify. When each comes before the noun or pronoun it refers to, make the verb singular: Each candidate wants to speak. When each follows the noun or pronoun, make the verb plural: They each were asked to testify. See both; either, neither.
each and every (one) Wordy and trite. Use either each or every (one)
each other, one another Two people look at each other. Three or more people look at one another. Either phrase may be used when the number is indefinite: Group members help each other. Group members help one another. Add 's to make these plural terms possessive: each other's guitars, one another's hands.
eager See anxious, eager.
earth, Earth Lowercase when used as a common noun: Our boss is down to earth. Construction crews moved tons of earth. Capitalize when used as the proper name of our planet: The space shuttle returned to Earth. Mercury is smaller than Earth. The article the is usually omitted when using Earth as a proper noun.
Eastern Washington Capitalize the name of the region in the state.
e-book, e-business, e-commerce, e-reader See email.
ecology The relationships between plants, animals and people and their surroundings. Not synonymous with environment, which refers to our surroundings.
economic, economical These adjectives have distinct meanings. Use economic to describe the large-scale production, distribution and consumption of wealth in finance, business, industry, government and community: local economic conditions. Use economical to describe using resources such as money, time and labor without wasting them: economical office procedures. Try using simpler thrifty instead of economical.
ecosystem Lowercase, one word. It means "the system in which all the plants, animals and people in an area exist."
ecstasy Commonly misspelled. Not ecstacy.
eerie Preferred over eery.
effect See affect, effect.
effectuate Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try carry out, cause, put into effect or try.
effluent See sewage, sewerage, sewers, wastewater, effluent.
e.g., i.e. Quickly, what are the Latin words for the abbreviation e.g.? Don't know? Then don't use e.g. Use English instead. Same for i.e. Both abbreviations are overused and often confused.
The abbreviation e.g. is the abbreviation for exempli gratia, a Latin phrase meaning "for example." The abbreviation i.e. is the abbreviation for id est, a Latin phrase meaning "that is." I.e. rephrases or clarifies the words that come before it. But even if you know Latin, simplify when writing in English! Unless you must use Latin in pompous scientific or academic documents, use for example and that is. Commas or semicolons usually go before the Latin and English forms, and commas usually follow both. Or phrases containing the abbreviations may be contained in parentheses.
either, neither Use either when writing about one or the other of two people, places or things: I've visited both Los Angeles and Chicago, but I wouldn't enjoy living in either city. Use neither when not including one or the other of two people, places or things: Neither city appeals to me. When used as the subject of a sentence, both words take singular verbs: Neither of the candidates was found guilty. When used as adjectives, the nouns they modify always take a singular verb: Either answer is correct. See each.
Also, either means "one or the other," not "both": Either plant will look good in the garden. And be careful where you put either in a sentence. It should go just before the first thing you're comparing: They wanted to honeymoon in either Hawaii or Mexico. Not: They either wanted to honeymoon in Hawaii or Mexico.
either ... or, neither ... nor The nouns that follow those words don't make a compound subject. They are alternative subjects and need a verb that agrees with the nearer subject; a singular verb if the nearer subject is singular and a plural verb if the nearer subject is plural: Neither his sisters nor he is going. Either he or they are going. See both ... and.
elderly Use this word carefully and sparingly. It is suitable in generic phrases that don't refer to specific people: support for elderly people, programs for the elderly. Try older and phrases like older person or people in their 70s and older instead. Apply the same principles to terms such as senior citizen.
elder, older Sometimes misused. Older, an adjective, has the broadest, most common use for describing or comparing the age of people, animals and things. Use older when describing only two; use oldest when describing three or more. Save the adjective elder for describing or comparing only people, especially if they're in the same family; elder for only two people, and eldest for three or more: eldest brother. Elder is also used as an adjective and noun to describe or name an older, influential person in a family, tribe, church or community: an elder statesman, an elder in a church, village elders.
Election Day Capitalize, in the United States, for the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. And remember: Your vote matters.
elicit, illicit Sometimes confused. Elicit is a verb meaning "to reveal information or provoke a reaction, draw out." Illicit is an adjective for describing something that's unlawful, forbidden or improper.
eliminate When writing about something that exists, think about using simpler defeat or get rid of, cancel, cut, drop, end, erase or remove. When writing about something that doesn't exist, use prevent.
ellipsis ( ... ) Avoid. An ellipsis is usually used to show the deletion of one or more words in condensing quotations, texts and documents. It also shows hesitation or trailing off in a quotation: "I wonder what I will say after we ..."
Treat an ellipsis as a three-letter word, with three periods and a space on each end. Some software can create an ellipsis that can replace three separate periods.
elude See allude, elude.
email A shortened version of electronic mail. OK to use email (no hyphen, lowercase) in all references, including first. Capitalize as Email only to begin sentences, headings and headlines. Include a hyphen for words like e-book, e-business and e-commerce. Also, see initial-based terms.
Acceptable to use as a verb: Jennifer Lopez emailed her phone number to Gary. When used alone as a noun, email refers to email in bulk. It takes singular verbs and singular pronouns: He got so much email it overloaded his in-box. All her email was about the construction project.
When writing about email messages, it's acceptable to refer to an email and several emails: She wrote an email telling friends about her new email address. He read eight emails about the project.
embarrass, embarrassment Commonly misspelled. Use two r's and two s's.
embattled Save this word for describing brave troops ready for battle or already battling in a terrible war. For the politicians who sent them there or other people, companies and organizations having problems, try attacked, troubled or harassed.
embayment Jargon. Simplify. Use bay instead.
emigrate/emigrant, immigrate/immigrant Often confused or misspelled. An emigrant leaves or emigrates from or out of one country to live in another. An immigrant moves into or immigrates to another country to live there. Memory tips: Emigrate=Exit; Immigrate=Into. Emigrate/emigrant=from or out (of); immigrate/immigrant=to or in(to). An immigrant in the United States may be an emigrant from Norway. See illegal immigrant.
eminent, immanent, imminent Often confused or misspelled. The most common of the three words, eminent means "famous, distinguished or admired by many people." Imminent means "threatening or likely to happen very soon." A philosophical and theological word, immanent means "existing within someone or something" and "present throughout the universe" (God, supposedly).
empathy, sympathy Sometimes confused. Use empathy to describe personal understanding of another person's feelings, problem or situation. Use sympathy to describe support and compassion for another person's feelings, problem or situation.
employ Overstated and formal if you mean "use." Simplify. Try use instead.
employee Preferred spelling. Not employe.
enable See allow, enable, permit.
enact See adopt, approve, enact, pass.
enclosed Wordy and archaic in these phrases: enclosed please find, please find enclosed, enclosed herewith and enclosed herein. Simplify. Replace with here are, here is, I've enclosed or I am enclosing.
encounter Formal. Simplify. Try meet or run into.
endeavor (v.) Overstated and formal. Simplify. Replace with try or carry out.
endnotes See footnotes, endnotes.
end product Redundant and wordy. Simplify. Try product instead.
end result The end result of using this phrase is one extra word, one extra syllable, three extra letters and no extra meaning. Simplify, drop the redundant end.
end user (n.), end-user (adj.) They enhanced the product for the end user so the end-user experience would be pleasant.
enervate, energize Sometimes confused. Similar sounding verbs with opposite meanings. Enervate means "to deprive of strength, vitality, force, vigor or vitality." Energize means "to activate and invigorate."
enormity, enormousness Sometimes confused as synonyms. Use enormity to label a wicked, monstrous or outrageous act or crime. Use enormousness to label something that exceeds what's normal or usual in size, amount or degree.
enough See adequate, enough, sufficient.
enquiry, inquiry See inquiry, enquiry.
en route Always two words. Also, try using clearer on the way instead.
ensure, insure Commonly confused, though ensure is usually the correct choice. Use ensure to mean guarantee or make certain of something, or try using simpler be sure or make sure. Use insure for references to insurance. See assure.
enthuse, enthused Avoid these informal words in serious writing. Depending on what you mean, try one of these verbs instead of using enthuse: inspire, motivate, stimulate, rave, gush, excite, energize, admire or even express enthusiasm. Instead of enthused as an adjective, use enthusiastic or excited: She was enthusiastic about the R.E.M. show, not ... enthused about the R.E.M. show. Better yet: Explain why she was enthusiastic or describe her enthusiasm.
entitled Means "a right to do or have something." Do not use it to mean titled: "The famous Thornton Wilder play is titled Our Town." Note the lack of a comma between titled and the title.
enumerate Formal. Think about replacing with simpler name, list, number or count.
environment See ecology.
environmental impact statement Spell out on first reference. Capitalize only when used as part of a proper title: The Brown Street Tunnel Project Environmental Impact Statement. EIS (all caps, no periods) is acceptable on second reference. Avoid overuse of the abbreviation by substituting impact statement. Always spell out draft, final or supplemental when used with the document: The project staff published printed the draft EIS in August. The supplemental impact statement is posted on the Web. Not: The project staff published the DEIS in August. The SEIS is posted on the Web.
Environmental Protection Agency Spell out on first reference: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. EPA (all caps, no periods) is acceptable on second reference.
envy, jealousy Sometimes confused. Use envy or envious to describe feelings of desire for someone else's qualities or things. Use jealousy or jealous to describe unhappy or angry feelings about not having someone else's qualities or things--or fear that someone else wants something you have.
epigram, epigraph, epitaph, epithet Sometimes confused. An epigram is a short, witty saying or poem. An epigraph is an inscription on a building or statue and a relevant quotation at the beginning of a book or chapter. An epitaph is an inscription on a gravestone or a tribute to a dead person. And an epithet is a short descriptive term or label for someone. It can be either positive or negative, but use epithet carefully because some readers may think of it as only an abusive term, slur or insult.
equal employment opportunities Employers (should) provide equal employment opportunities. Avoid abbreviating except in second references to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission: EEOC.
equally as Redundant phrase. Use either equally or as, not both, to express the same meaning.
equitable Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try replacing with fair. And don't use fair and equitable.
-er, -est See more, most.
err Formal word meaning "to make a mistake." or "to violate an accept standard of conduct." Traditionally, err has been pronounced like the word "purr." But because it's similar to error, pronouncing it like "air" is becoming more common and acceptable.
eruption, irruption Sometimes confused nouns. An eruption is "an outburst" and "a violent release of material from a volcano." An irruption is "the sudden, often violent appearance of something" and "a rapid increase in numbers."
espresso Most Seattle residents probably know that a double-tall nonfat latte contains espresso, not expresso (even when served to commuters at a park-and-ride lot).
establish Overstated. Simplify. Try replacing with set up, set, start, begin or find out.
esthetic See aesthetic.
estimated See about.
et al. Abbreviation for et alibi or et alii, meaning "and elsewhere" or "and others." You're probably writing in English, so avoid using this abbreviation for Latin words. And be specific, if possible. Et al. may be used in technical reports as a reference citation: Light rail uses 34 BTUs of energy (Healy, et al., 1984).
etc. Abbreviation for et cetera, a Latin phrase meaning "and other things," "and so on," "and so forth," "and the rest." It's used for things, not people; the Latin et al. is the correct abbreviation for mentioning people. But avoid using the abbreviations; except for charts and tables, use the simpler English words instead. Also, don't use etc. if introducing a list with for example or such as. And if you must use etc., don't precede it with a redundant and. List at least two things before etc., and set it off with commas at both ends (unless it ends a sentence).
ethnic See race.
ethnic cleansing, genocide Sometimes confused. The broader term, ethnic cleansing is a euphemism for a campaign to force an unwanted ethnic or religious group from a region by expulsions, forced migration, intimidation or other violence, often including rapes or killings (genocide). Preferably, the first use of "ethnic cleansing" should be enclosed in quotation marks, attributed to a speaker or writer, and explained. Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, religious, political, or cultural group.
euphemisms Avoid substituting vague, unnecessary, sometimes misleading euphemisms for clear, simple words: tax increase, not revenue enhancement; died, not passed away; disabled, not differently abled; fired, not terminated; crash, collision or accident, not unintended impact; I or we, not this office or this company. Call things by their most common names. See war.
eventuate Formal and pompous. Simplify. Change to come about or happen.
eventuality Formal and pompous. Simplify. Replace with event, possible event, result, possible result, possibility or outcome.
everyday (adj.), every day (adv.) Use every day (two words) to mean "all days": She goes to the gym every day. Use everyday (one word) to mean "commonplace, ordinary": He wears everyday clothes even when going to church.
everyone, every one, everybody Everyone and everybody are interchangeable, though everyone is used more often. Use every one to refer to each individual item: Every one of the stocks was worthless. Use everyone (or everybody) as a pronoun meaning "all people": Everyone supported the proposal. Everyone and everybody take singular verbs and pronouns: Everyone is expected to do his or her part. Some writers use plural pronouns to avoid awkward or sexist use of singular pronouns, but it's still considered ungrammatical: Everyone is expected to do their part.
every time Two words, every time.
evoke, invoke Sometimes confused verbs. Evoke means "to produce or arouse a strong memory, mental image or reaction by stimulating emotions." Invoke means "to cite a law, principle or other authority to support opinions or actions" and "to call on god or other higher power for help": He invoked the name of God.
exacerbate, exasperate Sometimes confused or misused. To exacerbate is "to make a bad situation worse, to aggravate the situation." To exasperate is "to greatly irritate or annoy another person." See aggravate.
exaggerate Often misspelled. And don't be redundant by overexaggerating.
exalt, exult Often confused or misspelled. Exalt means "to praise, glorify, or raise the stature of someone." Exhalt and exhault are misspellings. Exult means "to rejoice or celebrate."
except See accept, except.
except for Wordy. Simplify. Think about dropping for, depending on the context.
exceptionable, exceptional Sometimes confused. Use exceptionable to object to or take exception to something--if you must use the word. Try objectionable instead. Use exceptional to describe something that's much above average or unusual and not likely to happen again.
except when Wordy. Simplify. Try unless.
exclamation point (!) Use sparingly and only to express a high degree of surprise, disbelief or other strong emotion. The exclamation point goes within the quotation marks when it applies to the quoted matter only.
F. Scott Fitzgerald: "Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke."
excessive number of Wordy. Simplify. Replace with too many.
exhilarate, exhilaration Often misspelled. Not exhilerate or exhileration.
existence Commonly misspelled. Not existance. Our existence begins and ends with an e, and we live with it in between.
exit numbers Capitalize them when writing about freeway exits: Exit 6, Exit 52.
exorbitant Commonly misspelled. Also, try using simpler excessive.
expatriate, ex-patriot Commonly misspelled or confused. An expatriate is "a person who lives in a foreign country, who lives abroad." An ex-patriot is a person who no longer loves or loyally supports his or her native country. An expatriate might continue to be patriotic to his or her native country.
expect See anticipate, expect.
expedite Overstated and commonly misspelled. Simplify. Replace with hasten, hurry, rush or speed up.
expenditure (of money) Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try replacing with spending, cost or expense.
experience (v.) Overstated. Simplify. Try replacing with feel, have, go through, see or suffer.
explicit, implicit Sometimes confused adjectives. Use explicit to describe something that's clear and obvious or definite. Use implicit to describe something that's implied and understood, though not expressed. See imply, infer.
exponential Often misused. Don't use it to describe rapid growth. Instead, use it to describe growth that increases over time at a particular rate.
expresso See espresso.
extension See telephone numbers.
Maintained by Gary B. Larson of Seattle, Washington, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updated July 1, 2012.