JS Tip 67: From the Writing Workshops: Tough Words

We love it when people respond to the Tips. After our Tip on “principle” and “principal,” several folks asked questions about words. Bingo. Here are some answers.

Don Wasko asked, “What’s the difference between ‘personal’ and ‘personnel’?” “Personal” refers to the individual: private, intimate, special. “That information is personal (private)” or “I have a personal (special) assistant.” Key word: individual.

“Personnel” refers to a group of people: “office personnel” or “company personnel.” Key word: group.  

Mark Jaynes asked, “When should we use ‘all right’ and when should we use ‘alright’?” This is an easy one to answer: “Alright” is “alwrong.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language lists “alright” as “nonstandard”: “The single word spelling has never been accepted as standard.”

The dictionary continues, “This is peculiar, since similar fusions such as ‘already’ and ‘altogether’ have never raised any objections.” The language is fickle.  

Christina Soriano asked, “When do we use the word ‘advice’ versus ‘advise’?” Good question. We’ve been asked this before. “Advise” is an action (a verb). It’s something you do: “I advise you to join the Witness Protection Program.”

“Advice” is a thing (a noun). It’s the counsel you give: “I gave you my advice. You ignored it. Now you have bullet holes in the back of your car.”

A key phrase to help you remember is “I advise (adv-eyes) you to take my advice.”

 (Part of the problem stems from the spelling and the pronunciation: a “vise” on the toolbench is pronounced “vice” as in “vice president.” It’s confusing and often leads to misspelling and mispronunciation. “Vise” in ”advise” rhymes with ”eyes.” “Vice” in “advice” sounds like “Miami Vice.”)

If you have questions, let us know. If you have ways to deal with tough words, let us know. We value your . . . advice.