Garbl's Writing Center
valley Capitalize as part of a full name: the Red River Valley. Lowercase in plural uses: the Red River and Stilawonder valleys.
VCR See videocassette recorder.
VDT Abbreviation for visual display terminal. Spell out.
vehicle Overstated, vague jargon. Simplify. Be specific if possible. If it's a car, write car or even Toyota Celica. If it's a bus, write bus or trolley bus or Greyhound bus. If it's truck, write truck or pickup truck or tow truck. And so on.
venal, venial Sometimes confused adjectives with distinct differences. Use venal to describe someone who can be bribed or corrupted easily (a venal politician) and something affected by bribery or corruption (a venal tax break). Use venial to describe a minor offense that may be forgiven or an error or fault that may be excused or overlooked.
vendor Commonly misspelled.
venue Pretentious, vague jargon, unless you're using the legal expression change of venue. Simplify. Be specific when possible. If it's a theater, write theater. If it's a stadium, write stadium. And so on, or use words like location, place, setting or site
verbal See oral, verbal, written.
verbiage Sometimes misused and misspelled. It's "an excess of words," not simply "words, diction" or "wording." Consider using simpler wordiness instead. But if you must use it, don't misspell it as verbage, and don't use the redundant excess verbiage. See concise, redundancy.
verbose See concise.
verbs A verb is a word that expresses existence, action or occurrence.
Follow this spelling rule when adding ed and ing to form the present participle and past tense of a verb: If the stress in pronunciation is on the first syllable, do not double the consonant: offer, offered, offering. If the stress in pronunciation is on the second syllable, double the consonant unless confusion would result.
Use a singular verb form after each, either, everybody, everyone, neither, nobody, no one, somebody, someone: Although both candidates oppose the tax cut, neither has said much about it. No one in my work group likes his policies. See none.
Use a plural verb when the word and joins two or more nouns in a compound subject. Exceptions to this rule include compound subjects qualified by each or every and certain familiar compound phrases, often cliches: Every engineer and planner in the company is getting a bonus. Fish and chips is one of his favorite meals.
A singular subject takes singular verbs even if it is connected to other nouns by along with, as well as, at least, besides, except, in addition to, no less than, together with and with: The artist, together with her roommates, is donating her earnings to the charity. See as well as; in addition to; along with, together with.
versus Spell it out in ordinary speech and writing: The committee talked about the proposal to revise the project versus proposals to reevaluate the entire construction program. In short expressions, however, the abbreviation vs. is OK: The issue of taxes vs. services has long been with us.
very Use very only when its emphasis isn't already suggested in the word(s) it's modifying. Using it may be redundant, if not silly: Her death was very tragic. Where emphasis is necessary, use stronger, more descriptive words or be more precise: Her death at age 17 was tragic. See hyphen; real, really.
Veterans Day No apostrophe according to the U.S. statute establishing the legal holiday. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, formerly the Veterans Administration, also takes no apostrophe.
veto, vetoes (n.); vetoed, vetoing (v.)
via It means "by way of" [a place], not "by means of." Use via (or simpler through or by) to show the direction of a journey: Their trip went from Seattle to Cancun via Houston. Don't use via to show the means by which someone makes a journey: She made the trip via train. Instead: She made the trip by train. See by means of.
viable It means "capable of living." Overused and misused in references to options, alternatives, plans, products and actions. Instead, consider dropping it or using feasible, lasting, workable, possible, practical or promising.
vice Use two words and no hyphen when naming a position: vice president, vice principal. Capitalize the title only when it comes directly before the name of a person: Vice Principal Jay Laplander, Vice President Dick Chicanery; Jay Laplander, vice principal; the vice president, Dick Chicanery.
vice versa Two words. Sometimes misused. It means "just the opposite" or "the other way around," not "something different." If your readers could misunderstand the Latin phrase, try try using in reverse, just the opposite or the other way around.
videocassette recorder Use on first reference. VCR is acceptable on second reference.
videodisc One word.
video game Two words.
videotape (n. and v.) One word. Largely replaced by digital recording.
villain Sometimes misspelled as villian.
VIP, VIPs Acceptable in all references for very important person(s).
virgule (/) Avoid using the virgule--also called a slash, forward slash, diagonal or slant--to stand for omitted words or letters. Examples include per in 33,000 tons/year, to in price/earnings ratio, or in his/her and oral/written tests, versus in parent/child issues, with in table/mirror, w/o for without and c/o for in care of. The virgule may replace and in some compound terms: the Vancouver/Portland area, the January/February issue, an active classroom/laboratory. Using and, however, may be less ambiguous. When using the virgule, don't separate the punctuation mark from adjacent words or numbers with spaces. Also, avoid using virgules (or hyphens) with numerals to give dates, especially if your readers could confuse the order of the day and month: 2/11/94, 11-16-1993.
The virgule may be used to separate the numerator from the denominator in numbers containing fractions.
Use the virgule --or forward slash--in Internet addresses: http://http://home.comcast.net/~garbl/. Use the backslash (one word)--\--for writing commands in DOS and computer directories. See World Wide Web.
virtually Overstated. Try omitting, or use simpler almost or nearly instead.
vis-a-vis Vague foreign term. Simplify. Replace with face to face, opposite, compared with, against or about.
visible to the eye Visualize this redundant phrase without to the eye.
vitamins Lowercase vitamin, capitalize the type, and put a hyphen before the number when used: vitamin C, vitamin B-6.
voice mail Two words. Hyphenate when used to modify a noun: Thirty people left voice-mail messages about the project.
voluptuous Sometimes misspelled as volumptuous or voluptious. Volumptuous is not a word.
votes Use numerals and a hyphen for pairs of votes: The board voted 4-1 for the contract. Spell out numbers under 10 in other uses: The opponents won by a three-vote margin.
vs. See versus.
vulgarities See obscenities, profanities, racial or ethnic slurs.
waiter The person who takes orders and brings food in a restaurant is a waiter or server, not a waitress, waitperson, waitron or member of the waitstaff. Neither the job title nor the quality of the service depends on the sex of the server.
waive, waiver, wave, waver Sometimes confused. The verb waive and noun waiver are about "voluntarily giving up a right, claim, privilege or advantage." Use the verb wave to describe the motion of a hand or flag. The verb waver means "to be uncertain, indecisive or unsteady."
walkie-talkie Not walky-talky.
war "War is hell," said Civil War General William T. Sherman, no matter what it's called. Avoid euphemisms like armed conflict, armed intervention, a military solution, police action, uprising, use of force. Capitalize the word when part of the name for a specific war: World War I, World War II, the Cold War, the Korean War, the failed Vietnam War, the endless Gulf War. Also, if one country invades or attacks another country, there's no war until the other country starts defending itself, as it has a right to do.
Also, avoid diluting the meaning and realities of war by using that word in terms like war on drugs, war on women, and war on religionn. Instead, reserve war for referring to battles of one country's military against another country or countries--and against its own people.
warrantee, warranty Often confused. A warranty is a written guarantee, but don't confuse the spellings. A warrantee is the person who's given a warranty or warrant. Also, although guarantee can be used a verb, warranty is only a noun.
wary, weary, leery Sometimes confused. Use wary to mean "cautious about problems or dangers" Use weary to mean "very tired or worn-out" and "bored with." A synonym of wary, use leery (not leary) to mean "worried and unable to trust someone or something; suspicious."
Washington's Birthday Capitalize birthday when naming the official U.S. holiday, called Presidents Day by some states and organizations to also honor President Lincoln and other presidents. Washington was born on Feb. 22, but the legal federal holiday is the third Monday in February. See Presidents Day.
wastebasket One word.
wastewater See sewage, sewerage, sewers, wastewater, effluent.
was, were Use was to state a fact: He was planning a vacation trip to Kauai. I was hoping to go too. But use the subjunctive verb were to express a nonexistent, desirable, hypothetical or far-fetched condition--even with a singular subject like I or he. If I were a rich man, I'd move to Kauai. If he were to plan a vacation trip, he'd go to Kauai.
water body Two words.
waters See collective nouns.
waterway One word.
wave See waive, wave above.
waxed paper Not wax paper.
we Use the editorial we (as well as us and our) when those words stand for the authors of a collaborative work. Use of those words is also acceptable to refer to an organization and its organizational elements and programs, especially in quotations, opinion pieces and informal publications, and to avoid redundancy and wordiness. Make sure it's clear who we, us and our is. Don't use the pretentious we when writing about yourself or for one person. Instead, use I, me, my and mine. See I; pronouns; us, we; you.
weapons Other guidebooks provide more than enough advice for using weapons and weapons terminology appropriately.
weapons of mass destruction Potentially misused. If used, these nuclear, biological or chemical weapons would cause overwhelming devastation and loss of life among both civilians and military personnel. The United States and at least eight other countries build, sell and threaten to use them to boost the egos of their leaders, enrich the bank accounts of arms manufacturers, and overthrow countries that have natural resources they desire. Avoid using the abbreviation WMD; it minimizes the death and destruction that would come after use of these deadly weapons. Instead, shorten the phrase using nuclear weapons, chemical weapons or biological weapons. See nuclear, nuke.
-wear One word, no punctuation marks in uses like these: daywear, eyewear, menswear, sportswear, womenswear.
weatherman They're not all men, and few if any are girls. Use weather forecaster instead.
Web, Web address, Web browser, webmaster, Web page, website See World Wide Web.
weekday, weekend, weeklong Each one word.
weird Commonly misspelled. An exception to the "i before e" rule.
well Hyphenate as part of a compound modifier before the noun it's describing: He is a well-dressed man. But the hyphen may be eliminated when the modifying words come after the noun they're describing: She is well dressed. See good, well; hyphen.
Western Washington Capitalize the name of the state region west of the Cascade Mountains. Also capitalize the region east of the Cascades: Eastern Washington.
wet, whet Often confused or misused. Use whet to mean "sharpen" or "stimulate": to whet a knife (with a whetstone) or to whet an appetite -- even when your mouth is watering for something tasty. As a verb, wet means "to moisten." When someone wets his whistle, he's having a drink.
what Sentences, clauses and phrases beginning with the pronoun what commonly take singular verbs when what is about "the thing that." They may take plural verbs, however, when what is about "the things that": What I long for is butterflies--if you're longing for butterflies as a group. What I long for are butterflies--if you're longing for butterflies in all their beautiful variations. Also, beginning a sentence with what adds needless words. Delete it and simplify: I long for butterflies. I long for the butterflies. Finally, because what is often the first word in a question, beginning a sentence that's not a question with what may confuse some readers.
when and if See if and when.
whence Formal. Try using from where or from which instead. But if you use whence, drop the redundant from; it's included in the meaning of whence.
where ... at, where ... to Adding the prepositions at or to is redundant. Drop the unnecessary prepositions in sentences like these: Do you know where the hammer is at? He doesn't know where the concert is at? Where do you think you're going to? The phrase where it's at is slang best used when talkin' with your buddies about what's cool, what's in and what's happenin', man!
whet See wet above.
whether or not The words or not are not always necessary--because they're suggested in whether. When writing about a choice between doing something and not doing something, drop or not--or use if: She does not know whether the candidate will support the proposal. She does not know if the candidate will support the proposal. To stress the alternative, however, adding or not can be useful: The City Council will consider the offer whether or not it is cost effective. Usually, it's best to keep whether or not together, especially if or not would be separated from whether by a long description of the alternative: The City Council will consider the offer whether it is cost effective or not.
which See that, which, who, whom.
while Avoid the indiscriminate, ambiguous use of this word for and, but and although. While is best used to mean when or as a simpler word for at the same time or during the time that. See awhile, a while.
while at the same time Redundant and wordy. Simplify. Change to either while or at the same time.
who, whom Often confused. Who does something, and whom has something done to it. Use whom when someone is the object of verb or preposition: The man to whom the car was rented did not fill the gas tank. Whom do you wish to see?
A preposition (such as to, at, by, for, from, in, toward, upon and with) often comes just before whom: Who does something to whom. Who is the word in all other uses, especially when someone takes an action as the subject of a sentence, clause or phrase: The man who rented the car did not fill the gas tank. Who is still here?
To test for correctness: Who equals he, she or they while whom equals him, her or them. Replace who or whom in the sentence with one of those pronouns. If it sounds wrong, it probably is. See that, which, who, whom; us, we.
who's, whose Who's is a contraction for who is or who has, not a possessive: Who's using the cellular phone? Who's been eating my radishes? For the possessive, use whose: I do not know whose galoshes these are. Whose may refer to things as well as people: The shopping mall, whose customers come from miles around, began charging for parking.
-wide No hyphen: citywide, nationwide, statewide.
widow Widow of the late ... is redundant. Instead, use widow of ... or wife of the late ....
wield Commonly misspelled.
wife See husband, wife.
Wi-Fi Trademark used to certify that wireless computer-networking devices will work together. When used, clarify its meaning with phrases and words like computer network, Internet access, and wireless.
willful Commonly misspelled.
will See shall, will entry.
will, would Often confused. Use will when expressing a certainty. Use would when noting that something is conditional, that it will happen if something else happens first. The stadium will cost $362 million means the stadium has been approved by taxpayers, or the stadium board is omniscient and knows it will be approved by taxpayers (a real leap of faith). The stadium would cost $362 million means taxpayers haven't decided yet if building the stadium is worth $362 million. See can, could.
Also, beware of saying something will happen unless you have total control or a crystal ball: The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. or The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., not The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. They plan to leave on Friday, not They will leave on Friday.
wintertime One word. Also, try simplifying and use winter.
-wise No hyphen when the word means "in the direction of, in the manner of" or "about": lengthwise, otherwise, slantwise, clockwise. Avoid contrived combinations: The department rates high efficiencywise. Instead, say: The department has a high efficiency rate. Or: The department is very efficient.
with See along with, together with entry.
withhold Commonly misspelled.
with reference to Wordy jargon. Change to about, for, of or on.
with regard to Wordy jargon. Change to about, for, in, of or on.
with respect to Wordy jargon. Change to about, for, of, on or with.
with the exception of (that) Wordy. Simplify. Change to besides, except for or apart from.
WMD See weapons of mass destruction.
wordplay See puns.
word processing Do not hyphenate.
wordy See concise.
workday One word.
worker's compensation Not workmen's compensation.
work force Two words.
workout One word.
workplace One word.
work plan Two words.
work site Two words.
workstation One word. Consider using simpler desk, if appropriate.
workweek One word.
worldwide One word.
World Wide Web If the context is clear, the shorter the Web is acceptable on first reference. Also, Web address, Web browser, Web page (all two words, uppercase Web), but webcam, webmaster, website. Use website, not Web page, when writing about a site with more than one page. Also see email, home page, Internet, intranet, online.
Refer to a Web address as a Web address, not as a uniform resource locator or URL. Follow the spelling and capitalization of the website owner.
When possible, avoid placing periods (and most other punctuation marks) after a Web address; a reader may think mistakenly that the punctuation is part of the address. Instead of ending a sentence with a Web address and then a period, for example, separate the address and the period with a phrase like on the Web after the address--or place the address within brackets, <like this> or [this]. Other typographical treatments--such as color or boldfacing--are useful to separate Web addresses (and email addresses) from other text and punctuation.
If an address breaks between lines, split it before a slash or a dot (a period) that is part of the address; don't use a hyphen unless a hyphen is part of the address.
Here are examples of a recommended style for Web addresses: http://home.comcast.net/~garbl/stylemanual/ and http://garbl.blogspot.com/--with no http:// before an address that begins with www. See underlining.
worthwhile One word.
would of Incorrect. Use would have (preferred) or would've, a contraction for would have. Also see could of, may of, might of, must of, should of, would of.
wrack See rack, wrack.
wreak, wreck Sometimes confused or misused. Use wreak to mean "bring about or cause (harm)" and "to inflict (vengeance)." Use wreck to mean "destroy or tear down."
wreak havoc Overstated, vague, wordy and sometimes misspelled. Simplify. Omit and describe the damage, problems, confusion and chaos instead. Or try using demolish, injure or ruin instead. And don't spell it wreck havoc, work havoc or reek havoc.
wreckless See reckless.
written See oral, verbal, written.
Xerox Trademark for a brand of photocopy machine. Commonly misspelled as Zerox. Don't use Xerox as a verb or noun to mean copy, photocopy, copy machine or copier. Use one of those words instead: The assistant made a photocopy, not The assistant made a Xerox.
X-ray (adj. n., v.) Always capitalized and hyphenated. Plural: X-rays.
Yahoo Unless the company is paying you to promote its website and search engine, don't end Yahoo with an exclamation point. You're under no obligation to follow its marketing style.
year-end Hyphenate both the adjective and the noun. But year's end.
yearlong One word.
(in the) year 2002 Wordy and redundant. Change to in 2002.
years Use numerals without commas: In 2004 a disastrous earthquake hit the region. Use an s without an apostrophe to show spans of decades or centuries: 1790s, 1900s, '90s.
If it's necessary to spell out a year, avoid using and within the number: two thousand one, nineteen sixty-eight.
year to date No hyphens unless used as an adjective: year-to-date sales. Except for charts and graphs, avoid abbreviating as YTD. Also, consider using simpler so far instead of to date.
yesterday See tomorrow, yesterday.
yet Like the conjunctions and, but and so, yet is a useful, correct transition word at the beginning of sentences--instead of regardless and in spite of. For emphasis, yet may be followed by a comma. See and, but; in spite of the fact that; so; thus.
yield Commonly misspelled. Remember the "i before e" rule.
yoke, yolk Sometimes confused, especially yolk for yoke. Use yoke when naming the wooden beam used for joining two oxen or other animals to pull a heavy load. Animals and people can also be yoked, though the harness holding people together is typically symbolic. Use yolk when writing about the cholesterol-rich yellow center of an egg.
you By using the pronoun you, you suggest immediacy and directness between you and your reader. But make sure you and the reader know who you is. And avoid using you if it sounds accusatory or insulting. Also, always use a plural verb with you, even when you is singular, referring to only one person: Nate, I know you are sick. You alone have understood. You both are busy. See I; Myths and Superstitions of Writing.
your money's worth Cliche. Consider using a good deal or a good value instead.
your, you're Often confused or misspelled. And computer spellcheckers won't catch the mistaken substitution of one of these homonyms for the other. Your is the possessive form of the pronoun you, meaning "belonging to you," while you're is a contraction of "you are."
yours Sometimes misspelled as your's. Don't ever add the apostrophe before (or after) the s.
YouTube One word; capitalize as shown.
yuppie Colloquial, trite term. It means young urban professional. Avoid the word but not the people.
zeitgeist Capitalize the name of the excellent coffee shop in Pioneer Square, Seattle. If you use this German noun in other ways, lowercase it; it means "the spirit of the age," or, more clearly, "the general thought, feeling, ideas and outlook of a particular generation, era or place."
zigzag One word, no hyphen.
zine No apostrophe. A low-cost printed or online magazine.
ZIP code Use all caps for the abbreviation for Zone Improvement Program, but always lowercase the word code. Don't put a comma between the state name and the ZIP code: Seattle, WA 98126-2225. The U.S. Postal Service created the ZIP code abbreviations below for use only in mailing addresses. See state names for standard abbreviations.
Maintained by Gary B. Larson of Seattle, Washington, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updated April 14, 2013.