Writing Tip: How to Use “One of” Correctly

What should it be? One of the cars or car? One of the cars or car is or are?

Here are two tricks to help you remember how to use “one of” correctly.

Memory Trick 1

The “one of” phrase is always followed by a plural noun or pronoun.

An easy trick is to remember that you are talking about one subject out of many belonging to the same set/type.

One of the girls …
One of the towns …
One of your songs …
One of the concepts …
One of them …
One of those books …

Memory Trick 2

“One of” is always followed by a singular verb. Remembering that you are talking about one thing — singular — will help you to use the phrase correctly.

One of the boys is responsible for this mess.

One of those towns is hosting this year’s flower show.

Our patron is one of the biggest philanthropists.

Note:

The above trick works when “one of” is your subject.

You may come across cases where “one of the X” means “anyone”.

Ask one of the boys who hang out together after school. (Can be read as: Ask any one of the boys who hang out together after school.)

 

 

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Writing Tip: Lose vs. Loose

Do you loose a bet or lose it? Have the pages of your book come loose or lose? How do you tell when to use what?

Here are two simple tricks to resolve the conundrum:

Trick 1:

This is a logic-based trick.

Lose is usually used as a verb and means unable to find. It is the opposite of win.

Loose can be used as a verb, adjective, and noun, and means not firmly or tightly fixed in place. It is the opposite of tight or contained.

E.g.: You could lose (not win) a bet if you play loosely (not a tight, focused game). And the pages of your book could come loose (no longer fixed or held together by glue). And, of course, you could lose (not able to find) such loose pages. See the difference?

Trick 2:

This is a memory trick.

Loose (meaning spread out, not fixed or tightly held) has an extra “o” than lose (meaning unable to find or win). It is visually more spread out than lose and thus should be used when meaning the opposite of tight or contained.

Writing Tip: Few vs. a Few

Few people showed up for the party … or a few? Which is correct? And what’s the difference?

At first glance, the difference may seem slight — that of an article. But the two have different meanings. And what you use depends on what you mean.

Memory Trick

When you mean “some” or “part of a set”, use “a few”.

These are a few of my favorite things.

When you mean “very few” or “a negligible amount”, use “few”.

Few people are fond of long walks these days.

And so, both few and a few people can show up for the party depending on what you mean.

Writing Tip: Who vs Whom

Consider this: You’re at an information booth and the gentleman/lady manning the counter is of little help. And you want to scream at them, “So who should I ask?” when your inner editor goes, “Should it be who or whom?”

I know, frustrating.

So the next time you feel stumped by the who or whom conundrum, try these quick, easy tricks:

Trick 1

Remember:

Who is a pronoun used in the subject position. Who is driving that car?

Whom is a pronoun used in the object position. Here is the man with whom I would like to converse.

Trick 2

Answer the question posed.

If the answer is “he”, “she”, or “they”, you should be using who.

If the answer is “him”, “her”, or “them”, whom would be the correct choice.

For example:

Who is the girl in the yellow dress? She is the girl in the yellow dress. Correct.

Who cracked the code? He/She/They cracked the code. Correct.

For who are these flowers meant? The flowers are meant for her/him/them (not him/her/they). So, incorrect. Here, whom should be used.

Similarly,

Whom are you meeting? I am meeting him. Correct.

Whom should we invite to dinner? We should invite them. Correct.

Whom are the neighbors? They are the neighbors (not the neighbors are them). So, incorrect. Here, who should be used.

So, back to our very first question:

Who or whom should I ask? I should ask him/her/them. Thus, the correct choice would be whom.

Writing Tip: Offence vs. Offense

If someone says something rude to you, should you take offence or offense? If you didn’t mean to upset others with your hard-hitting opinion, should you say “no offence” or “no offense”?

The answer is quite simple. Either would be correct.

They both sound the same, are nouns, and mean the same thing.

According to Merriam-Webster, offence or offense can mean any of the following:

– Something that outrages the moral or physical senses
– The act of attacking
– The means or method of attacking or of attempting to score
– The offensive team or members of a team playing offensive position
– The act of displeasing or affronting
– The state of being insulted or morally outraged

The only difference is the spelling. Offence is used in British English and offense in American English.

This spelling variation extends to offenceless and offenseless (adjectives) as well. However, offensive (adjective) and offend (verb) are spelled the same in both British English and American English.

Note: The same logic applies to defence and defense, but not to practise and practice and advise and advice, which follow different rules.

Writing Tip: Don’t Overuse Exclamation Mark!

Exclamation Mark (or Point) has its place in literature. It is used to convey exaggerated emotions, e.g., anger, enthusiasm, surprise, anguish, and disappointment. But if you overuse it, your character or narrator will come across as an overexcited hyper individual in serious need of a caffeine detox.

Consider this opening paragraph from “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold:

My name is Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. In newspaper photos of missing girls from the seventies, most looked like me: white girls with mousy brown hair. This was before kids of all races and genders started appearing on milk cartons or in the daily mail. It was back when people believed things like that didn’t happen.

What if she’d replaced all full stops with an exclamation mark?

My name is Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie! I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973! In newspaper photos of missing girls from the seventies, most looked like me: white girls with mousy brown hair! This was before kids of all races and genders started appearing on milk cartons or in the daily mail! It was back when people believed things like that didn’t happen!

Not as effective as the original right?

So unless intentional, avoid overusing this punctuation. Consider it as a weapon in your arsenal. Draw it out only when gunning for maximum impact.