How a single letter sends meaning into retreat

Mark Twain once said that the difference between the right word and the almost right word was the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

Let’s add this to Twain’s thought: The difference between the right spelling and the almost right spelling is the difference between clarity and hilarity.

Consider the accompanying example. …

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Down with up!

Actually, “up” is a perfectly good word.
Without “up,” we could “look at” a dictionary, but we’d never “look up” anything.
For all its usefulness, though, “up” makes a ghastly verb when used to mean “increase” or “improve.”

As if transformed, that cute, handy little word suddenly communicates with all the eloquence of a suppository. …

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Undangling the state of verbal modifiers

Not long after Minnesota committed to Wisconsin, both states realized that they were dangling their participles. Embarrassed, they apologized toThorson and delicately reminded him that the recruiting process usually starts

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