GrammarPhile Blog

Percent vs. Percentage

Posted by Sara Richmond   Jun 23, 2022 9:00:00 AM

If you just googled “When to use percent or percentage,” you’ve come to the right place. Here’s what you need to know:

“Percent” and “percentage” are sometimes used interchangeably, especially when people are speaking informally. But these words actually have slightly different meanings (“percent” is one part of a hundred; “percentage” is a part of a whole) and are different parts of speech; “percent” is an adverb and “percentage” is a noun.

The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition, our preferred style guide (mainly because anything over 1,100 pages must be right), has this to say on the issue:

“Despite changing usage, Chicago continues to regard percent as an adverb (“per, or out of, each hundred,” as in 10 percent of the class)—or, less commonly, an adjective (a 10 percent raise)—and to use percentage as the noun form (a significant percentage of her income). The symbol %, however, may stand for either word.” (3.82)

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Topics: percentage points, percentage, percent, percent sign

10 Best Online Word Games

Posted by Sara Richmond   Jun 9, 2022 10:15:00 AM

The word “best” is a troublemaker. “Best” can mean most popular by number of downloads. Or highest rated by reviews. “Best” can mean a list of personal favorites without any supporting data. “Best” can just mean “I really want this blog post to rank for SEO.”

“Best” can also mean we did our best, and we think this is a dandy list of games that, unless you actually hate word games, will tickle your linguistic bone, satisfy your boredom, and give you bragging rights for days.

Here are the 10 best online word games, in no particular order.

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The Danger of Proofreading Your Own Work

Posted by Sara Richmond   May 19, 2022 10:30:00 AM

Muphry’s Law and What to Look Out For

The author sent me a copy of her published manuscript. The acknowledgements page thanked several notable people, including her editor. I squealed with delight and flipped through the pages, coming to rest midway through the book. A typo glared up at me.

I groaned and shut the book.

Yes, the editor was me.

“Murphy’s Law” states “If something can go wrong, it will.”1 For the sake of people cringing the world over, it’s been extended and adapted to various industries, including editing.

The similar and equally cynical “Muphry’s Law” is a summary of four editorial principles:

    1. If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault in what you have written. (I call this the Prepare to Eat Crow principle.)
    2. If an author thanks you in a book for your editing or proofreading, there will be mistakes in the book. (Also known as Inflate and Deflate, as illustrated by the first paragraph of this post.)
    3. The stronger the sentiment in (a) and (b), the greater the fault.
    4. Any book devoted to editing or style will be internally inconsistent.2

If you, like me, can confirm the truth of these statements, welcome to a large and humble group of people who love language even though it trips them up.

For the sake of reducing Muphry’s Law from a jack hammer to a mosquito-buzzing level of frustration, here are a few stumbling blocks we often miss in our own work.

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Topics: proofreading mistakes

When to Use the Letter C

Posted by Sara Richmond   May 5, 2022 11:00:00 AM

Spelling with the sounds of letter C

The letter C is a big weirdo. Some people might even think it’s useless. It’s a K and S wannabe, but just not up to standing on its own, right?

First of all, how dare you insult such a cute letter. Second, no. Allow me to explain what this letter is all about, and how and when to use it.

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Topics: pronunciation

How to Write About a Boring Topic

Posted by Sara Richmond   Apr 21, 2022 10:30:00 AM

5 Tips to Get and Keep Your Readers’ Attention



I have less than 8.25 seconds to convince you to keep reading. Less than 8.25 seconds before you click away. Less than 8.25 seconds before you…FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, COME BACK!

When it comes to our collective attention span, we’ve been beaten out by goldfish.

For all the writers out there, you feel my pain. In the age of endless distraction, writing about a boring topic seems worse than pointless. It’s like having someone hand you a coffin and saying, “Lie down in this and be lively.”

We get it. We’re a proofreading company, for gosh sake. Every time we talk about our work at a dinner party, we’re never invited back.

We know the stumbling blocks (or is it “crocks”), the most effective ways to make your readers roll their eyes, groan, and glaze over. But because we read and read and read, we also know the springboards—the approaches and tricks and strategies that make a huge difference in getting and keeping the attention of your goldfish…ahem…audience.

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Topics: writing about boring topics

When to Use “A” vs. “An”

Posted by Sara Richmond   Apr 7, 2022 7:30:00 AM

What’s the rule?

I have an incredibly smart friend who believed that onions should never be refrigerated.

He’d read something online that claimed if you stored a raw onion in a refrigerator, it would absorb toxic bacteria and poison you. I informed him that onions often require cold temperatures to grow properly, so that claim made absolutely no sense. And for all the refrigerated onions my family had eaten, we’d never once been ill. He laughed.

Sometimes we’re fed a partial truth (that whole onions are better stored outside the refrigerator, for example) and ingest it as a whole one (it’s dangerous to store onions in the refrigerator). Just like the commonly known rule for using “a” and “an.”

If you were told in elementary school to use “a” before words beginning with a consonant and to use “an” before words beginning with a vowel, you were on the right track. But the truth is a little more complicated, and it can come back to bite you in the onion.

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Top 5 Grammar Tips

Posted by Sara Richmond   Mar 24, 2022 7:30:00 AM

The Hottest Topics from the PRN Archives

You’re a busy person. Like most people, you want value and convenience, and you want it 3.74 seconds before you thought about it. To that aim, we’ve gathered the Top 5 blog posts by view count over the past year. These are the topics our readers found the most helpful compiled into a single extremely convenient and bursting-with-grammatical-value list:

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Topics: grammar

What Are the 8 Parts of Speech?

Posted by Sara Richmond   Mar 10, 2022 8:00:00 AM

Quick explanations with simple examples


First, what’s the benefit of knowing the parts of speech? Isn’t this just nerd language about language, irrelevant to daily life? Nope. Learning what words do and how to categorize them will result in:

  • Clarity. When you learn the building blocks of language, just like place value and the decimal number system in math, you’ll be less confused. Language becomes more of a friend instead of a stumbling block.
  • Confidence. Once you have the basics down, you’ll be sure of your ability to wield language and stand behind your words.
  • Communication. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll write and speak more effectively.
  • Connections. Understanding the foundations of your own language will enable you to identify correlations in other languages.
  • Conquest. Nothing will stand in your way. You’ll slice your way through every obstacle using only words. All your dreams will come true.*

So, let’s get down to grammatical tacks.

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Topics: adverbs, adjectives, conjunctions, pronouns, verbs, prepositions, parts of speech, Nouns, articles

Alright or All Right? Alot or A Lot?

Posted by Sara Richmond   Feb 24, 2022 7:30:16 AM

Which is Correct?

Is it all right to use “alright”? We’d say so, with a few qualifications:

  • Both “alright” and “all right” are words.
  • “All right” is considered more correct in that it is the preferred form, especially if you’re writing.
  • If you are writing for business or a professor, stick with “all right.” If you aren’t, it’s all right to use “alright.”

Some people believe these words have slightly different meanings. For example:

Q: Were the directions all right?

 A: Yes, all of them were correct. Not a single one was wrong.

Q: Were the directions alright?

 A: They weren’t specific enough to my taste, but it’s okay.

We’d argue that the implied meaning of “all right” in the first example includes the meaning of “alright” in the second example, so the split use isn’t necessary.

Then there’s the similar but jauntier version “all righty.” Besides the fact that this is only used as an adverb, while the other two can be used as adverbs or adjectives, there’s no real difference in meaning.

To sum up:

  • Use “all right” when you’re impressing people.
  • Use “alright” when you’re wearing sweatpants.
  • Reserve “all righty” for when you’re being sarcastic or cute or you’re extremely excited.


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Topics: alot/a lot, alright/all right

Beside or Besides? Toward or Towards?

Posted by Sara Richmond   Feb 10, 2022 10:00:00 AM

And other words that don’t (or sometimes do) need an “s”


Who knew a single letter could cause so much confusion? Here are five pairs of words that cause eyebrow furrowing for English speakers and writers. Learn when to keep the “s” and when to toss it with these brief explanations and helpful examples.

Beside vs. Besides

Both are valid and both are correct, in certain cases.

Use “beside”:

  • As a preposition.* If you sit beside me at lunch, I might steal your pudding.

Use “besides”:

  • As a preposition (with a different meaning).** There’s nothing to eat besides pudding.
  • As an adverb. I don’t want pudding, and besides, it expired in 2005.
  • As an adjective. Besides eating expired pudding, what other things can we do?
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Topics: beside or besides?, toward or towards

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