Garbl's Writing Center
quantum leap Ironically, a quantum leap (or quantum jump) in its technical sense from physics is only an abrupt change (within an atom or molecule), not necessarily a significant or large change. But as used in the cliche, it's a sudden and important change or improvement. Clarify your words by replacing with an explanation of the change or improvement. If you mean "large" or similar adjectives about size, use large or similar adjectives about size.
quarter Lowercase spring, summer, fall and winter when writing about academic quarters and first, second, third and fourth quarters when writing about fiscal periods. Don't separate the quarter and the year with a comma: Travis plans to graduate from culinary school at the end of summer quarter 2005. Their budget analysis is due by spring quarter 2005.
question mark (?) Direct questions always take question marks: Who is going with the reporter? Did Samuel ask you if you were going? Indirect questions never take question marks: She would like to know who's going with the reporter. For multiple questions, either use a single question mark at the end of the complete sentence: Did Josephine plan the project, manage the budget and supervise the staff? Or stress each element by breaking up the sentence: Did Josephine plan the project? Manage the budget? Supervise the staff? Also, put only one space after a question mark (and other sentence-ending punctuation).
The question mark replaces the comma normally used when attributing a quotation: "Who is going with the reporter?" she asked. The question mark may go inside or outside quotation marks depending on the meaning: Who wrote "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey"? She asked, "How long will it take?" Also, use a single question mark, inside the quotation mark, in sentences like this: Did you hear him say, "Who ate all the doughnuts?" See punctuation.
questionnaire Commonly misspelled. Double the n.
queue, queued, queuing Remember the double ue in the first two forms. But drop the second e when adding -ing. Also, consider using simpler list or line up.
quiet, quite Often mistyped or possibly misspelled. Use quiet as an adjective to describe something that's calm, silent, motionless or subdued. Quite is an adverb meaning "completely, really or very." But see quite below.
quite Quite may be redundant, imprecise and unnecessary to mean "entirely, completely or very." Where emphasis is needed, use stronger, more descriptive words or be more precise: He performed all his hits with energy, instead of His performance was quite good. See quiet, quite above.
quotation marks (" ") Put quotation marks around direct quotations: "No comment," the director said. The manager said, "Complete your time sheets by the end of the day Thursday." If a full paragraph of quoted material comes before another paragraph that continues the quotation, do not put quotation marks after the first paragraph. But do put quotation marks before the second paragraph.
Avoid fragmented quotations. Do not use quotation marks to report a few ordinary words used by a speaker or writer.
Don't put the words of one person into the mouths of many: Witnesses at the accident said there was "a tremendous bang, and then all hell broke loose."
Also, put quotation marks around single words or terms for the following uses, but don't overdo it: to suggest irony or a double entendre, The "tycoon" turned out to be a pauper; to note an unfamiliar or unusual term on first reference; and to refer to a word as a word, He tried to explain what he meant by "knowns" and "unknowns" (or use italics instead). Avoid putting single words or terms in quotation marks to draw attention to them as slang, informal or cute.
Quotations within quotations: Use single quotation marks for passages contained within a direct quotation ("She said, 'Ouch!'").
Punctuation: The period and comma always go within the quotation marks. The dash, question mark and exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only. Colons and semicolons go outside quotation marks. Also see punctuation, question mark above, quotations below.
In headlines, use single quotation marks: Man cries 'Fire!' in theater, causes panic
quotations Quoting another writer adds authority to your writing and speaking and strengthens your thoughts and feelings--especially if the reference is recognized by your audience. When possible, quote the other writer directly rather than paraphrasing all his or her words. Try mixing strong direct quotations, paraphrasing that summarizes the other writer's words, supporting facts and figures, and your perspective or analysis if appropriate.
Introduce full-sentence quotations with commas. Introduce multiple-sentence quotations with colons. When using partial quotations and the titles of books, movies and other publications, punctuate as if the quotation marks weren't there. See attribution, colon, comma, composition titles, quotation marks above and sic.
Spell out (don't abbreviate) all words and phrases in direct quotations if that's they way they were expressed by a speaker or writer: "We were in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on October 6." Similarly, use abbreviations in quotations as expressed by a speaker or writer, but make sure its meaning is clear--or spell it out before or after the quotation. Follow standard style guidelines for capitalization punctuation, and spelling when quoting a speaker. See dates, state names.
race Name a person's race only when it is relevant. Some examples, suggested by The Associated Press:
When an ethnic reference is necessary to identify U.S. citizens, don't hyphenate terms when used as nouns: a Japanese American, an African American, a Norwegian American. But hyphenate the terms when used as adjectives: a Mexican-American organization.
Be aware of stereotyping words, images and situations that suggest all or most members of a racial or ethnic group are the same: flashy, aggressive and happy-go-lucky blacks, inscrutable Asian, conservative Briton, cold Dane, hearty German, exuberant Italian, sleepy Mexican, tight Scot, fiery Spaniard. See obscenities, profanities, racial or ethnic slurs.
Avoid using qualifiers that reinforce racial and ethnic stereotypes: Betty Wong is quiet and reserved might suggest that Asians are shy and docile. Avoid using ethnic cliches: fiestas when writing about a Hispanic.
Be aware of possible negative connotations of color-symbolic words: a black reputation, yellow coward.
Be aware of language that might have questionable racial or ethnic connotations: Culturally disadvantaged suggests superiority of one culture over another.
Avoid patronizing and tokenism toward racial or ethnic groups. But make sure publications represent all groups fairly--in articles and photographs.
racial slurs Of course, do not use a racially derogatory term unless there is a compelling reason to include it. For example, it might be part of a direct quotation that's essential to document specific communication in a conversation or speech. If a full quotation containing an offensive term must be included, consider using only the first letter of the term followed by hyphens to replace the other letters. Also see obscenities, profanities, racial or ethnic slurs.
racket, racquet Racket is the preferred spelling.
rack, wrack Sometimes confused. Think of the torture device called a rack, used to cause great physical pain and torment. Use the verb rack to mean "to trouble, torment, afflict or oppress." And think of wreck that damages a car so badly it can't be repaired. Use the verb wrack to mean "to utterly ruin--or wreck." Some related, correct terms are rack your brains, nerve-wracked, wracked with doubt (or pain), wrack and ruin.
radio station See station.
rainstorm One word.
rambling See concise.
rank and file (n.), rank-and-file (adj.) But think about dropping that wordy, vague cliche. Simplify. Try using members, workers or followers instead.
rarely It means seldom. Rarely ever is redundant (drop ever), but rarely if ever is correct.
ratepayer One word. Same with taxpayer.
rationale Formal and overstated. Simplify. Try reason(s), thinking or explanation instead.
ratios Use numerals and a hyphen: The ratio was 3-to-1. A 3-to-1 ratio.
ravage, ravish Sometimes confused. They're both about violent acts, but ravage applies to places and things -- "to destroy, ruin or damage something badly." And ravish applies mostly to humans, especially women -- "to seize and carry away, to rape or violate." But avoid using ravish because it also has a confusing, contradictory meaning: "to enchant, to overwhelm with joy or delight, to enrapture."
re- See the rules in prefixes. Otherwise, the sense often determines whether to use a hyphen: recover (to regain or get back), re-cover (to cover again); re-collect (rally, recover), recollect (remember).
reach (a) an agreement (conclusion, decision, etc.) Wordy. Simplify. Change to agree, decide or settle.
real, really Sometimes confused. Both refer to truth, fact or reality, but real is an adjective for modifying nouns: a real illness, a real friend, real diamonds. And really is an adverb for modifying verbs, adjectives and other adverbs: really sorry, a really hot day, it really rained today. A vague word, use really sparingly, substitute very or be more precise. Instead of The assignment was really difficult, write The assignment took two days longer than expected.
real time (n.), real-time (adj.)
Realtor Use the term real estate agent instead. Use the trademarked word Realtor (uppercase) only if there is a reason to note the person is a member of the National Association of Realtors.
reason why, reason is because Redundant. Omit needless words. They canceled the contract because ... Not: The reason they canceled the contract is because ... Also: The reason for the decision is ... Not: The reason why the decision was made is ... Other simpler alternatives: is caused by, is that.
rebound, redound Sometimes confused. Rebound is a verb meaning "to bounce back" or "to recover in value, amount or strength." Redound is a formal verb meaning "to contribute greatly to."
rebuff, rebut See refute below.
recent, recently Avoid in news copy. News is recent by definition. Be specific. Change: The School Board recently decided ... . To: The School Board decided Monday ... .
recipes Always use figures. Spell out words like teaspoon and tablespoon. If abbreviations needed to save space, use them consistently in all recipes.
reckless Often misspelled as wreckless. Reckless driving causes wrecks.
record Avoid the redundant: The team set a new record. Omit new. Records are new by definition. Other redundant uses: all-time record, a record high: This summer's temperatures may have set a record high. Drop high.
recommend Commonly misspelled. Uses one c and two m's.
redundancy Unnecessary repetition can annoy readers, take up space, annoy readers, waste time, cause confusion, hinder readability and annoy readers. See concise; Garbl's Redundant Phrase Replacements.
reek havoc See wreak havoc.
refer See allude, refer.
referable Commonly misspelled.
refer back Redundant and wordy. Drop back.
refer to (as) Delete, or consider using simpler mention, write about, talk about, call, name or term--or use look at, about or send to.
reflect back Redundant and wordy. Drop back.
refute Commonly confused with other words: challenge, contradict, deny, disagree (with), dispute, rebuff, rebut, reject or repudiate. Use refute to mean "prove that a statement or idea is incorrect." Consider using simpler though somewhat weaker synonym disprove. Avoid using stronger but more formal, less common synonym confute. If the proof is weak or questionable, use rebut instead, to mean "counter, argue against, contradict or reject an argument." Don't misspell as rebutt.
regard As regards, in regard to and with regard to are pompous. Simplify. Replace with about, or try as for, for, in, of, on, over, respecting, to, toward or with.
regarding Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try replacing with about, for or on.
regime, regimen, regiment Sometimes confused. Use regime to mean "a government that has not been elected or approved, an authoritarian government." Use regimen to mean "a special plan for eating, exercise or medical treatment to improve health or skills." Use regiment to mean "a large group of soldiers with several battalions."
regions See directions and regions.
regretful, regrettable Sometimes confused. Use regretful to describe a person who's sorry or sad--feeling regret. Use regrettable to describe an error or undesirable event--causing regret.
reign, rein Often confused, especially in phrases like free rein, to give rein, holding the reins and keep a rein on. Those phrases are metaphors built on the use of leather straps -- or reins -- to control or restrain a horse. Use reign as a noun or verb about the period when a king or queen rules a country or a particular force is dominant: a reign of terror.
reimburse Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try repay or pay back instead.
reiterate again Redundant and wordy. Simplify. Drop again. Also, try using less formal repeat or shorter iterate instead of reiterate.
reject See refute above.
relate Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try tell.
relate(d) to, relative to Wordy and formal. Simplify. Try about, for, of or on instead.
relegate See delegate, relegate.
relevant Commonly misspelled. Consider replacing this overused word with more original wording.
religion Capitalize proper names that refer to a supreme being, other deities, prophets and saints: God, Allah, Jesus, Christ, Buddha, Neptune, Krishna, Venus, Jehovah, Satan. Lowercase personal pronouns that refer to the deity: he, him. And lowercase such words as goddamn, godliness, heaven, hell, devil and nirvana.
reluctant, reticent Often confused. Use reluctant to describe someone who's unwilling and slow to do something. Use reticent to describe people who are quiet and unwilling to talk, especially about themselves. Also, hesitant is a more common word to describe people who are not willing to do or say something because they are uncertain or worried.
remain Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try stay.
remainder Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try the rest, surplus, balance or what is left.
remittance Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try payment or money instead.
remove Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try take away or haul off.
remunerate, remuneration Formal and commonly misspelled. Simplify. Use pay instead of remunerate and use payment, reward, pay, salary, wages or money instead of remuneration. Also, remuneration commonly misspelled as renumeration.
renaissance Commonly misspelled.
render Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try make, give, deliver, hand over, present or do instead.
renown, renowned Commonly confused. Renown is a noun and synonym for fame, distinction, prestige and eminence. Renowned is an adjective and synonym for famous, notable, celebrated and distinguished. Reknown and reknowned are misspelled words.
reoccur, reocurrence Unnecessary words. Simplify. Replace with recur and recurrence to mean "happening again" or "happening several times."
repeat again (and again), repeat back, repeat over again, repeat the same Redundant and wordy. Drop everything except repeat.
repetitious, repetitive Commonly confused or misspelled. They both mean doing something the same way many times, but repetitious suggests the action is tedious or unnecessary, and repetitive is neutral in its judgment of the action.
repress See oppress, repress.
reproduce Consider replacing with simpler copy.
repudiate See refute.
request (v.) Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try ask, seek or question.
request for proposals Spell out (lowercased) on first reference. RFP acceptable on second reference.
require Overstated. Simplify. Try need or want instead.
reroute One word.
reside Pompous. Use a form of live or stay.
residences Use simpler homes or houses instead.
resident See citizen.
resistant Commonly misspelled.
resolution See motion, ordinance.
restaurateur Commonly misspelled. Not restauranteur.
restful, restive, restless Commonly misused or confused adjectives. Use restful to describe an experience that has a quiet or soothing quality. Restive and restless are similar, but use restive to describe a person (or horse) that's impatient and uneasy under restraint and hard to control. And use restless to describe a person or animal that can't relax because of boredom or anxiety.
restroom One word.
result in Overstated. Use a form of lead to.
retain Formal and overstated. Consider replacing with simpler keep, continue, hold or save.
reticent See reluctant, reticent.
retrofit (n. and v.) One word.
refer back Redundant and wordy. Drop back.
reveal See belie, betray, reveal.
RFP See request for proposals.
rhythm Commonly misspelled.
right-of-way Hyphenate. The plural is rights-of-way.
ring tone Two words, no hyphen.
river Capitalize as part of a proper name: Columbia River, Snake River. Lowercase in other uses: the river, the Columbia and Snake rivers.
river bank Two words.
road Capitalize when part of a formal name. Lowercase when used alone or with two or more names. Do not abbreviate: We drove down Holman Road. The crew will pave Altamont and Pine roads. See addresses, highway designations.
rock 'n' roll The Beatles and The Rolling Stones are two of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands.
roommate One word. Two m's.
rooms Capitalize the names of specially named rooms: Willamette Room. See room numbers above.
root beer Two words.
round trip (n.), round-trip (adj.)
round up (v.), roundup (n.)
R.S.V.P. The abbreviation for the French repondez s'il vous plait, it means please reply. To avoid confusion, miscommunication, disappointment and frustration, use Please reply instead. And if you must use R.S.V.P., don't put a redundant please in front of it.
runoff One word, no hyphen.
rush hour (n.), rush-hour (adj.)
Maintained by Gary B. Larson of Seattle, Washington, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updated July 9, 2012.