Most nouns are easily made to mean more than one. You simply add “s.”

dog – dogs

cat – cats

book – books

Then there are those nouns that end in ch, s, ss, sh, x, and zz. Here we add “es.”

beach – beaches

lens – lenses

mess – messes

lash – lashes

box – boxes

fizz – fizzes

If a word has one or more consonants before ending in “y,” we change the “y” to “i” and add “es.”

lady – ladies

buddy – buddies

body – bodies

doily – doilies

If a word has a vowel before the final “y,” simply add “s.”

key – keys

play – plays

buy- buys

toy – toys

eye – eyes

Then we have some irregular cases that make life fun for us.

man – men

woman – women

child – children

foot – feet

louse – lice

house – hice ( hahaha) Just testing you to see if you’re paying attention. (Of course it’s house – houses.)

goose – geese

moose – meese (just kidding again)

Moose is one of those words that stays the same in singular and in plural forms. Other words that don’t change are:






and probably several others.

Here are some that are quite different. It seems the rules are all mixed up.

Potato and tomato both add “es” to become potatoes and tomatoes, and yet there are many words that end in “o” and simply add “s” to make the plural.

avocado – avocados

mango – mangos (These two are controversial and can be spelled avocadoes and mangoes, but my preference is without the “e.”)

piano – pianos

photo – photos (Please do not add and apostrophe before the “s.” It is not photo’s.)

radio – radios

Numbers, such as when you refer to decades simply add “s.” Not apostrophe “s.”



early 1900s

Most words ending in “f” change the “f” to “v” and add “es.”

leaf – leaves

life – lives

thief – thieves


A few special ones simply add “s.”

chief – chiefs

fife – fifes

belief – beliefs

roof – roofs (it used to be rooves about 300 years ago)


Words that Add Clutter


In another post I talked about “there” and how it invites weak or static verbs like various forms of “to be.”

If you take out “there” and change the order of the sentence you will usually be forced to use a stronger verb.

Here’s an example.

There was a dog in the backyard.

Take out “there” and you begin with “A dog.” Then you have a chance to use a good verb to tell us what the dog is doing in the backyard (besides just being there).

A dog tore around in the backyard.

A dog guarded the backyard.  

Generally, it’s a good idea to get rid of “there” unless it serves a purpose that is helpful to your sentence.



Using too many “and”s can be annoying and messy.

The house was small and brown, and stood on the corner lot.

Why not just say “The small brown house stood on a corner lot“?



This preposition is often not needed.

Outside of, inside of, get down off of….

Take out “of” and the sentence works just fine. It is also tidier.


Similarly, here are some unnecessary words. I’m sure you can find even more if you are watchful as you write. When you take these out, the sentence still works well and has fewer useless words.






Personally, myself, I don’t care for clutter.

Why not just drop those first two words?

I don’t care for clutter.


Restating what a person, place, or thing is also adds unnecessary clutter. Get rid of the extra words and tighten your writing.

He is a person who likes to read.

He likes to read.

She is a woman who travelled a lot.

She travelled a lot.

This is a building that has stood for a hundred years.

This building has stood for a hundred years.


Strong Verbs

In rewriting our drafts, we have an opportunity to add punch to flagging sentences. Take a closer look at your verbs. Do they accurately describe what you want to say, or do they merely describe it adequately?

One of the most obvious ways of cleaning up weak verbs is by replacing verbs that are in the progressive tense (ongoing action), if possible.

Progressive tense verbs usually have an auxiliary verb like to have or to be.

Example of progressive tenses:

Past Progressive – I was driving.

Present Progressive – I am driving.

Future Progressive – I will be driving.

Sometimes these are exactly the tenses you want to suit what you are trying to say, but often, especially in the past and present tenses, a change can help to make the writing snappier.

I was driving” could be “I drove.”

I am driving” could be “I drive.”

I will be driving” could be “I will drive.” (This one is trickier and only works if the meaning is not affected.)


Generally, a weak verb is defined as one whose base form doesn’t change when it is put into the past tense.

For example:

walk, walked

jump, jumped

love, loved

move, moved

work, worked

This kind of verb can be made more interesting by using stronger verbs, ones whose base form does change in the past tense. For example:

give, gave

bring, brought

think, thought

sleep, slept


Besides choosing these stronger verbs, there is still more you can do. Some verbs (whether they are considered weak or strong by the above definition) could almost always be improved by replacing them with something more interesting. Take ordinary, overused verbs, and replace them with punchier, more precise ones. You might even want to try using a thesaurus to find alternate verbs to use.

Here are some fairly boring verbs that can often be replaced with something better.

go (went)

be (was, were, are, am)


any verb showing movement (walk, run)

I went to the corner store” could be made so much better with a verb that gives us more information. These are not the best, but they’re sure better than “went.”

I hurried to the corner store.

I sauntered to the corner store.

I dashed to the corner store.

You can do this with many ordinary verbs and make your writing more precise to say exactly what you mean. But just as with so many writing skills we use, be careful not to overdo it.




Easily Confused Words for Your List

It’s great to have a list to deal with words that we often confuse  –  a quick reference for those uses you’re not sure of.


If you are confident, you feel sure of something.

A confidant is a someone you trust with a secret. If that person is female, you would refer to her as your confidante.



A council is a group of people whose job may be to advise or to make decisions on behalf of a larger group. A member of the council is called a councillor.

Counsel means advice and can also be used as a verb meaning to advise. (Note the two uses of “advice” and “advise” as well.)  A person who gives advice, especially in an official capacity (like a lawyer would do), is called a counsellor because they counsel (advise) you.


A troop is a group of people, sometimes a portion of an army. Troop can also be used as a verb that means to move together in a group.

Troupe refers to a group of actors or performers.


More Fun for your List of Confusing Words


English is not an easy language to learn, even for native speakers of the language. Here are some more words that are often troublesome. If you have a list on the go, you may want to add these to it.


To make indirect reference to something is to allude to it.

Without actually accusing her of anything, he alluded to her checkered past.


To avoid something is to elude it – usually used in reference to evading a pursuer.

She had hoped to elude the police after she stole the chocolate bar.



To draw information out of someone means to elicit it.

The conniving woman tried to elicit information from her acquaintance by chatting her up like an old friend.


Something illegal or not approved of by law can be called illicit.

The young man had a stash of illicit drugs in his bedroom.



If you correct or improve something, especially something written, you amend it.

I amended the phrasing in the guidelines to make them more easily understandable.


When you remove or change irregularities in text (often in historical writings), you emend the text.

He emended a translation error in the ancient history source.



If I assure you, I am informing you positively. It is also used to make someone feel more confident and safe. (He assured me and inspired confidence in me that I would be safe now.)

I can assure you that you have passed the test (because I marked it myself).


Ensure means to make something certain.

This should ensure that you will be accepted for the job.


Insure is what you do when you pay money to a company so they will cover any accidental losses.

I had to pay an extra high rate to insure my house in case of an earthquake.



Some words seem to be manufactured from other words by using very stretchy imaginations. The more frequently they are used, the more other writers think it is okay to use them.

Enthuse is an example of this. The noun is enthusiasm; the adjective is enthusiastic; the adverb, enthusiastically. But to use enthuse as an active verb, to my way of thinking, is really stretching the boundaries of good word usage.

Yes, I was enthused (okay) by the prospect of a picnic, but I did not enthuse (not okay) about it all day.

Alright (not okay) is another one. I see it used a lot, but that doesn’t make me cringe less. It is one of those words that is being accepted more and more as being all right (okay) to use, but the correct form is still all right.

Point in time (not okay) is another of those expressions that really irks me. Which point, exactly, would that be? There is no point in time.

What a wonderful blessing it must be to be able to foresee the future. That person could legitimately use a term like the foreseeable future” (not okay).  But if you are not blessed (or cursed) with that ability, please avoid saying, “in the foreseeable future.

Have you ever heard someone try to show their indifference by saying, “I could care less (not okay)? So, under which circumstances would they care less?

What they really mean to say is that they care so little that it is hard to imagine caring any less than they do. They want to say, “I couldn’t care less(okay).


If you tend to use any of these expressions incorrectly, have a second look at them the next time you find yourself writing them and ponder whether you really want to make your readers cringe.

More Trouble Words

Troublesome words are everywhere.

Two words that give me a big headache are discreet and discrete.

Discreet is used for people not liable to gossip. You rely on someone to be discreet (careful about what they say or do).

Discrete means more something closer to distinct, or separate. (The plan will progress in a number of discrete stages.)

I think  this is one of those sets of words that I have to put on my trouble list until I can think of a gimmick for remembering which is which.


Here is an easier one.


An electric current has an “e” in it. The current news and the current in the river, all have “e” in them.

The currant that looks like a small raisin is something an ant might eat. This currant has an ant in it.

Isn’t it fun?

Samples from Julia’s Violinist


Anneli Purchase

“Julia’s Violinist” is the story of a love triangle set in Europe and Canada and spanning the decades from about  1912 to 1973.

Here are some samples from the book.

The character description is of Karl’s mother, Alana:

At last she stepped up onto the tram. Oh, it was good to be out of the wind. Alana unbuttoned her jacket and let it hang loosely. She sat and, with practiced detachment, ran her hand down the length of her leg, enjoying the feel of her chic, new silk stockings. The appreciative gazes of the male passengers pleased her. She smiled smugly at the women, inviting their disparaging glares.

The setting is of a classroom in a German boys’ school in the 1920s:

Herr Solberg took Karl by the scruff of the neck and hauled him into the school, lifting him so that the tips of his toes were all that touched the ground as he walked. Karl tingled with excitement. At the end of the break, the class had to witness his punishment. Karl stood at the front of the classroom looking at the faces of his classmates. Some covered their mouths to hide their expressions of horror at the pain they knew was coming, while others beamed openly in gleeful anticipation.

The scene ending is of Karl being freed from POW camp in 1946:

The Russian guard tossed a tatty bundle of letters to him and read the next name. Karl was stunned. Not a single letter for over a year and now, on the last day, a bundle of … thirty-one, he counted. All from Julia.

He was frantic with wanting to open them, but nothing, not even these special letters, could make him lag behind in the POW camp. Out! Out! Just get out first, and then I can look at them.

As soon as he was out of sight of the prison camp, he sank down on the ground beside the road. His hands trembled as he opened the first letter. Through tears he saw her lovely handwriting, so perfect and neat; words that spoke of loneliness and longing. Each letter contained a small anecdote of Julia’s home life and ended with the hope that they would see each other again. Around the edges of the pages his name was written over and over in a border design, “KarlKarlKarlKarl. I miss you, Karl.”

He wasn’t sure how long he sat there. Other recently released POWs walked by. No one stopped. They had seen it all and there was nothing unusual about a man sitting in the dirt crying his eyes out as he read his mail.


Front Cover Only


Still on sale for about 99 cents through January.

Julia’s Violinist is available in paperback and all e-book formats at

and at all amazon sites, particularly

Find out more at my website: 

Problem Words

Here are a few more things to add to your list of words to be careful of. 

(Oops! I just ended a sentence with a preposition. Churchill was once criticized for occasionally ending a sentence with a preposition. He answered,  “This is the type of errant pedantry up with which I will not put.”)

Words that are commonly misused


A disinterested person is impartial. He doesn’t care which way you vote on an issue.

To be uninterested in something means you don’t even want to hear about it. You are not interested.



This should be regardless. The “less” already makes the word a negative. We don’t need “ir” as well, to make it so.



Less is used for quantity. Fewer refers to numbers.

We had less rain this week, so we saw fewer people with umbrellas.



Amount is for masses of things that are not individually counted. Number is used if the items are countable.

The amount of work I have is huge. The number of jobs I have can be counted.



Lend is the verb. Loan is the noun.

I will lend you some money. The money I lend you is a loan. I want you to pay it back someday.