Most people use phrases like "verbal agreement," "oral exam," and "verbal abuse" without really stopping to consider what they mean. As copy editors, we don't have that luxury.
Sometimes, as these examples show, oral and verbal are used as synonyms. But should they be?
Purists (aka Grammar Nazis, errorists, grammaticasters) will tell you that verbal refers only to being composed of words (or, for linguists, of verbs) and can never be used simply to mean "spoken." If you mean "spoken," they'll tell you, use oral.
The word then is a common and useful word for connecting ideas in a sentence. Unfortunately, problems can arise from not understanding exactly what role — or what part of speech — then plays in a given situation. There are four options for then, though some writers try to shoehorn it into a fifth option.
Instructor: John McIntyre. Are the metaphors coherent? Do they fit the subject without drawing undue attention to themselves? Do they work properly within the tone and structure of the story? As writers attempt more ambitious effects, editors have to apply more demanding standards.
Let me begin this discussion about honing in and homing in by stating outright that I stand by homing in. If I'm your editor and you write hone in, I will change it to home in every time.
To most of you, this isn't a sensational statement. Hone in is just wrong, and changing it to home in is not only a prudent edit but a right one, in an absolute sense. Any wordmonger or verbal artiste worth her salt would follow the same path, right?
Though you probably recognize both noisome and odious as something you don't want to be called, they might not mean what you or your writers think they mean from the way they look. Take note of these deceptive epithets to avoid future malaprops.
All tolled, idioms are something you hear more often than read. What makes sense and your head (such as the tally of items) maybe far from the actual saying (all told). In the simplest sense of the term, eggcorns include instances such as would of instead of would have.
“Excuse me, while I kiss this guy.”
—(not) Jimmy Hendrix
Mondegreen = misheard lyric
“Mary had a little lamb, it’s fleas wear white as snow.”
Maybe you thought awesomesauce was some fabricated interjection, coined just for this endearingly goofy Discover Card commercial. Silly you. Awesomesauce led the herd of recently added words to the Oxford Dictionaries' online version.