Category Archives: Grammar Rules

Compliment vs. Complement vs. Supplement (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use compliment vs. complement vs. supplement with Grammar Rules from the Writer’s Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

This week’s post is aimed at a problem (one of many) I see on social media quite a bit. In speech, compliment and complement could be swapped and many wouldn’t even bat an eye, but it’s different in writing. Meanwhile, complement and supplement can easily be mistaken as the same thing when there’s a slight difference between the two.

(Grammar rules for writers.)

So in this post, let’s untangle compliment, complement, and supplement.

Compliment vs. Complement vs. Supplement

Compliment can be used as a noun or verb. As a noun, compliment is an expression of esteem, acclaim, or admiration. For instance, I could pay someone a compliment on their “beautiful new haircut” or “excellent usage of grammar.” As a verb, it just means to pay a compliment.

Complement is something that completes another thing or set of things. It’s used in math and phrasing. But people can be complementary to each other as well. The cliche of the “good cop/bad cop” routine in interrogations is an instance of two people complementing each other. Also, the institution of marriage is meant to signify the union of two people who complement each other in love and life.

Supplement seems a lot like complement in that it can help complete something, but it’s most commonly used to make an addition to something. A good example is if you do supplemental reading for a class. It doesn’t complete the reading for the class, but it does add context to the required reading.

Make sense?

Here are a few examples:

Correct: When I saw my neighbor at the store, I paid a compliment on his nice lawn.
Incorrect: When I saw my neighbor at the store, I paid a complement on his nice lawn.
Incorrect: When I saw my neighbor at the store, I paid a supplement on his nice lawn.

Correct: We have a full complement of strategies to combat anxiety.
Incorrect: We have a full compliment of strategies to combat anxiety.
Incorrect: We have a full supplement of strategies to combat anxiety.

Correct: Supplement your running with pushups and crunches to handle hills better.
Incorrect: Compliment your running with pushups and crunches to handle hills better.
Incorrect: Complement your running with pushups and crunches to handle hills better.

Correct (using all): The program supplement paid a high compliment to the way the two singers complement each other.

A good way to keep these straight is to remember that complement with an “e” completes things, supplement is something added to, and compliment with an “i” is just something nice to say.

*****

No matter what type of writing you do, mastering the fundamentals of grammar and mechanics is an important first step to having a successful writing career.

Click to continue.

No visits yet

Remove That From Your Writing (Grammar Rules)

There are many common ways to write with more concision. For instance, if you remove that from your writing, you’ll still retain the same meaning with fewer characters. Learn more, including examples, here.

I’m better about it now, but one problem I’ve struggled with for years is using the word “that” a little too much. Or maybe a lot too much. As such, that is a word that I’m constantly removing from sentences. (I mean, “As such, that is a word I’m constantly removing from sentences.”)

(Click here for more grammar rules for writers.)

Often, the word “that” is a placeholder for nothing in particular. For me, it’s almost like a railing that I constantly use in my language. But more times than not, I find that if I remove all instances of that from my writing, it still makes sense (and saves space). For instance, remove the first instance of “that” in the previous sentence. Still makes sense, right?

Examples of Removing That From Your Writing

Example #1: You know that some people are afraid of clowns.
Better example: You know some people are afraid of clowns.

Example #2: Let her know that you love her and that she means the world to you.
Better example: Let her know you love her and she means the world to you.

We could run through so many more examples, but that would get repetitive after a while. And yes, there are times when using “that” makes sense. Just like using the word “it.” After all, the movie and song, That Thing You Do, wouldn’t have the same ring if it were titled: Thing You Do.

The main point of this post is to help others who suffer from the “that” affliction (as I do) by calling it out for what it is. So the next time you write something, search for the word “that” and remove it unless it’s absolutely necessary for the sentence to make sense. It’s small adjustments like these that can make all the difference.

*****

No matter what type of writing you do, mastering the fundamentals of grammar and mechanics is an important first step to having a successful writing career.

Click to continue.

No visits yet

Larger vs. Bigger vs. Greater vs. Higher (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use larger vs. bigger vs. greater vs. higher with Grammar Rules from the Writer’s Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Today we dive into one of those bigger grammar posts that originally seem so simple. After all, larger, bigger, greater, and higher seem (and actually are) synonymous in some cases. But then, there are other cases when only one of the four terms will do.

(Click here for more grammar rules for writers.)

Honestly, it’s these types of differences that then make me go back through the whole thing and question everything. When I say a person is larger, does that mean the same thing as saying the person is bigger? Or greater? Or higher? It gets confusing fast.

So let’s look at the difference between larger, bigger, greater, and higher, along with examples of correct usage!

Larger vs. Bigger vs. Greater vs. Higher

Larger tends to deal with size, both quantitatively and in physical dimensions. So you might refer to a larger man if you’re talking about a guy who’s six feet tall and 250 pounds, but you may also refer to a larger quantity of people at one public gathering over another.

Bigger is mostly synonymous with larger, but many consider larger the more formal word. Also, bigger can refer to someone or something that’s more popular and/or has more power or strength. The formal aspect may be why you’re more likely to hear the term “greater quantity” but not “bigger quantity.” However, it’s not unusual to hear about a bigger man in the same respect as referenced above.

One peculiar function of bigger is that popularity thing. Theoretically, a smaller person could be a bigger person in a room full of people, because that physically smaller person has a bigger personality than the rest. So you could refer to that physically smaller person as a bigger person and it would make sense, but it would not make sense to try to say the physically smaller person was a larger person (even though some people are “larger than life”).

Greater, on the other hand, is most commonly used in reference to numbers or enhanced skills. Someone may be a greater athlete than their peers. And that same athlete may have a greater number of awards than anyone else to prove it. That said, greater is not commonly used to refer to the superior size of a person. So if you referred to our large man from earlier, you would not refer to him as the greater man (unless it’s somehow tied to his personality or superior skills).

Higher may be used to refer to a person’s increased height, but it would be limited to that solely. It could also be used to refer to a more advanced number or degree of something. In other words, a person could have a higher number of awards or their test scores are higher the second time they take a test.

Make sense?

Let’s go through a few examples:

Correct: The farmer has a larger number of tomatoes than the grocer does.
Correct: The farmer has a bigger number of tomatoes than the grocer does.
Correct: The farmer has a greater number of tomatoes than the grocer does.
Correct: The farmer has a higher number of tomatoes than the grocer does.

(In this case, all are correct. But out of curiosity, which do you prefer? Share your opinion in the comments below.)

Correct: The larger guy refused to hit the smaller guy.
Correct: The bigger guy refused to hit the smaller guy.
Incorrect: The greater guy refused to hit the smaller guy.
Technically Could be Correct (but a little weird): The higher guy refused to hit the smaller guy.

(Note: “Taller” and “shorter” would be the more accurate terms for that last example.)

Correct: She has greater oratory skills than most.
Incorrect: She has larger oratory skills than most.
Incorrect: She has bigger oratory skills than most.
Incorrect: She has higher oratory skills than most.

Correct: He is a bigger deal than many realize.
Incorrect: He is a larger deal than many realize.
Incorrect: He is a greater deal than many realize.
Incorrect: He is a higher deal than many realize.

(By the way, change the pronoun for the examples above from “he” to “it,” and all four words are correct, but could offer up a variety of meanings.)

Correct: Everyone knows 17 is larger than 16.
Correct: Everyone knows 17 is bigger than 16.
Correct: Everyone knows 17 is greater than 16.
Correct: Everyone knows 17 is higher than 16.

When referring to numbers, you really can’t go astray when deciding between larger, bigger, greater, and higher. But it gets more complicated when figuring out when to describe physical size, degree of skills, and popularity.

*****

No matter what type of writing you do, mastering the fundamentals of grammar and mechanics is an important first step to having a successful writing career.

Click to continue.

No visits yet

Creak vs. Creek (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use creak vs. creek with Grammar Rules from the Writer’s Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Homophones (words that are pronounced the same but have different spellings and/or meanings) are fun, but they can also be a little confusing. This week, we’re going to take a look at creak and creek. You can splash around in one of them, while the other is a type of sound.

(Click here for more grammar rules for writers.)

So let’s look at the difference between creak and creek, along with examples of correct usage!

Creak vs. Creek

Creak can be a noun of verb, but in both cases it refers to a grating type of sound. So an old gate might creak when you open and close it. Or you may hear a creak when a door opens.

Creek is a noun referring to a narrow stream that is often a tributary to a river. 

(Note: Creek can also refer to a confederacy of North American indigenous people of Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida between 16th and 19th centuries that spoke the Muskogean language as well as their descendants. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation based in Oklahoma is the largest federally recognized Muscogee tribe, though there are other Muscogee groups based in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and other parts of Oklahoma.)

Make sense?

Let’s go through a few examples:

Correct: You can try to be quiet, but the floor will creak with each and every step.
Incorrect: You can try to be quiet, but the floor will creek with each and every step.

Correct: I always know someone is here when I hear the creak of the back gate.
Incorrect: I always know someone is here when I hear the creek of the back gate.

Correct: The kids liked to search for crawdads in the creek.
Incorrect: The kids liked to search for crawdads in the creak.

For a quick trick to remember which one is which, I like to think of the word break. When something breaks, it usually makes a noise. Creak with an “-eak” refers to a noise, while creek with an “-eek” is a small stream of water.

*****

No matter what type of writing you do, mastering the fundamentals of grammar and mechanics is an important first step to having a successful writing career.

Click to continue.

No visits yet

Canon vs. Cannon (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use canon vs. cannon with Grammar Rules from the Writer’s Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

The difference between canon and cannon is irregularly slight. Both are nouns; both are pronounced the same; and both refrain from using an “s” at the end of the word. So it really does come down to whether the word has one “n” or two “n’s” in the middle.

(Click here for more grammar rules for writers.)

So let’s look at the difference between canon and cannon, along with examples of correct usage!

Canon vs. Cannon

Canon is a noun that most commonly refers to an accepted principle or rule that is followed or an authoritative list of books or texts. It can also refer to a particular contrapuntal musical composition or member of the clergy.

Cannon is, on the other hand, is a noun that refers to a giant gun that is usually, though not always, mounted on wheels. Also, the plural form of cannon is cannon. At one point, the cannon was a common weapon, though it’s now mostly used in ceremonies or as artifacts.

Make sense?

Let’s go through a few examples:

Correct: In the Stars Wars universe, there is some debate about whether books and comics are part of the Star Wars canon.
Incorrect: In the Stars Wars universe, there is some debate about whether books and comics are part of the Star Wars cannon.

Correct: As the soldiers approached the castle, we fired a cannon to discourage them.
Incorrect: As the soldiers approached the castle, we fired a canon to discourage them.

Correct: It’s accepted as canon that more than one cannon is still referred to as cannon.
Incorrect: It’s accepted as cannon that more than one canon is still referred to as canon.

So if you ever find yourself trying to remember how many n’s you need, just remember that it takes two n’s for the big gun cannon and one n for the little rule or collection of books.

*****

No matter what type of writing you do, mastering the fundamentals of grammar and mechanics is an important first step to having a successful writing career.

Click to continue.

No visits yet