Readability tips, literacy news, and English writing advice

Verbs of Perambulation

It's not just about getting somewhere, it's sometimes about how you got there. Here are some alternatives, when walking just won't do.


  • amble


  • bolt
  • boogie
  • bounce
  • bumble


  • canter
  • chacha
  • crawl
  • creep


  • dash
  • dawdle
  • drag


  • enter
  • exit


  • flee
  • flit
  • fly
  • foxtrot


  • gallop
  • gambol
  • glide


  • hobble
  • hop
  • hurry
  • hustle


  • inch


  • jitterbug
  • jive
  • jog
  • jump


  • kick


  • lag
  • leap
  • limp
  • lurch


  • march
  • meander
  • mince


  • nip


  • pace
  • parade
  • pirouette
  • prance


  • quickmarch
  • quickstep


  • rhumba
  • romp
  • run


  • sail
  • samba
  • sashay
  • scram
  • shuffle
  • sidle
  • skedaddle
  • skip
  • slide
  • stagger
  • step
  • stomp
  • stride
  • stumble
  • swim


  • tango
  • tiptoe
  • totter
  • traipse
  • tramp
  • trot
  • trudge


  • undulate


  • waddle
  • wade
  • walk
  • waltz
  • wend
  • wobble


  • yawl


  • zip
  • zoom

They're, Their and There

Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, even local and national news articles - mistakes are everywhere. When you come to misuse of these three simple words, don't you want to scream? For many readers, incorrect choice of these everyday words causes writers to immediately lose a sense of legitimacy with their readers, no matter how important the message may be.

"They're" means "they are." Period. It is a contraction.

Example: They're not going to want to hear this, but choosing the right words matter.

Ask yourself, can I use the words "they are" to replace the contraction? If not, move on to another option.

"Their" is a possessive pronoun. It comes from the word they. It always shows ownership of a noun.

Example: Writers must choose their words carefully when sharing their ideas.

Ask yourself, do I mean to show possession? If not, and the word is also not meant to mean "they are," you most likely need to use the third choice.

"There" is a place, point, or interjection. If you do not intend to say "they are" or show possession, this is the word to go to.


Please put the newspaper over there.

There was nothing left to do after the deadline passed.

There, I told you she could complete the assignment!

So please. For grammar lovers and readers everywhere, know the difference.

Who knows when to use "whom"?

"Who" has something in common with Latin and German nouns. They all change form depending on their function in a sentence just like verbs change form depending on their tense. This system of changing nouns is called a case system.

Like Latin, German, and many other languages, Old English had a case system. Modern English still has a few words that change their form, but won't change their ways: "who" and "whom."

Because this form change is unusual in modern English, many speakers don't know when to use "who" and when to use "whom." Don't worry, we're here to help!

Put technically, use "who" as the subject of a verb. Use "whom" as the verb's object.

Put simply, compare "who" and "whom" to a more familiar pronoun.

who = he

whom = him

When in doubt about whether to use "who" or 'whom," ask a question, and answer it with "he" or "him." Now, who wants some examples? We bet he wants some examples.

"Who threw that squirrel?" "Who" is the subject of the verb, and "He threw that squirrel" sounds better than "Him threw that squirrel." If we were being honest, however, it was us. We threw that squirrel.

"At whom did we throw that squirrel?" "Whom" is the verb's object, so we'll confess by saying we threw that squirrel at him. We most certainly did not throw that squirrel at he. That would be wrong.

People rarely confuse "he" and "him." With a little practice, "who" and "whom" will be just as easy to use.

Verbs of Vocalization

Sometimes "said" just isn't good enough. Here's a great big set of alternatives!


  • affirm
  • answer
  • articulate
  • ask


  • banter
  • bark
  • bellow
  • bray


  • cackle
  • call
  • chatter
  • chirp
  • chitter
  • chortle
  • croon
  • cry


  • declaim
  • declare
  • drawl


  • elocute
  • elucidate
  • enunciate
  • exclaim
  • explain
  • explicate


  • fume
  • fuss


  • gargle
  • gossip
  • growl
  • grumble
  • grunt
  • guffaw
  • gurgle


  • harrumph
  • hiss
  • howl
  • huff


  • inquire
  • insinuate
  • insist
  • interject
  • interrupt


  • jeer
  • jest
  • joke


  • kibbitz
  • klatsch


  • laugh
  • lisp


  • mew
  • mumble
  • murmur
  • mutter


  • natter
  • note


  • offer
  • opine


  • plead
  • prod
  • purr


  • query
  • question
  • quibble
  • quip


  • rant
  • reply
  • respond
  • roar
  • rumble


  • say
  • scream
  • shout
  • snap
  • snicker
  • snigger
  • snort
  • speak
  • stammer
  • stutter
  • swear


  • talk
  • tell
  • titter
  • twitter


  • utter


  • verbalize
  • vocalize
  • voice


  • wail
  • warble
  • whisper
  • whistle


  • yammer
  • yell
  • yodel
  • yowl
  • yuk

How To Use A Colon

Sometimes punctuation is tricky! Some have dots, some have dots with a tail coming out of them, and some have both. When they look similar, how can we tell them apart and use them in the right instance? One of the hardest punctuation mark to get straight is the colon, especially when our gut instinct tells us to use a comma.


1. When a clause in a sentence gives a more specific explanation of the previous clause as long as it follows an independent clause.

       A. Here's an example done correctly: She liked her hair styled a particular way: pulled back in a ponytail with her bangs swooped to the side.

       B. Here's an example of this done incorrectly: She liked her hair style like: pulled back in a ponytail with her bangs swooped to the side.

2. When introducing a list as long as it follows an independent clause.

       A. Here's an example of this done correctly: After evaluating her cart, Tamara checked off the items she'd gotten from her shopping list: cinnamon, bagels, and laundry detergent.

       B. Here's an example of this done incorrectly: After evaluating her cart, Tamara checked off: cinnamon, bagels, and laundry detergent from her list.

3. When presenting a quotation as long as it follows an independent clause.

       A. Here's an example of this done correctly: Victims of mental health issues are more likely to develop physical health problems as well, and Dr. Robert Conrad agrees: "Depression can lower the immune system, making these individuals more susceptible to illnesses and common colds."

       B. Here's an example of this done incorrectly: Victims of mental health issues are more likely to develop physical health problems as well, and Dr. Robert Conrad agrees that: "Depression can lower the immune system, making these individuals more susceptible to illnesses and common colds."

In bold, it's noted that in all of these circumstances, the colon must follow an independent clause, meaning that what's before the colon can stand completely on its own and still make sense. The two examples for the last rule seem similar, but including "that" directly before the colon makes it incorrect; "Dr. Robert Conrad agrees that" is not an independent clause. That rule is true for most text: sentences and paragraphs that flow together. However, one could also use a colon at the end of a heading or subheading.

Hopefully, these tips and examples help you decide if a colon is the right form of punctuation for you to use! Happy writing!

Writing Scientific English

Writing is usually an exercise in maintaining clarity. Often being concise or brief is extolled. This is not the case with Scientific English. Newcomers to the field often don't comprehend that the objectives of writing good Scientific English have little to do with communication. Let's look at common reasons for writing Scientific English.

  1. To be published without embarrassing questions on the content of the article
  2. Because the boss wants his name on a paper
  3. To get a raise
  4. As an ego boost (see to be published)
  5. To keep others scientists, reporters, the general public outside the field
  6. To further Science (I put it in to be fair)

An Excellent Example of How Scientific English Can Be Used to Confound and Bewilder

Read the paragraph below and render this into common English:

In the course of a 24 hour period it often behoves one to locomote in three dimensional space where it is not proscribed but is on limited access. These aforementioned regions are wontedly circumscribed by devices that inherently consist of either processed plant matter, modified petrochemicals, any of a large class of materials with highly variable mechanical and optical properties that solidify from the molten state without crystallization , are typically made by silicates fusing with boric oxide, aluminium oxide, or phosphorus pentoxide, or various metals. The form or accepted mode verges on a one meter span, a two meter elevation and a profundity that is exceedingly variable but usually is limited to 3 to 6 centimetres. It has been said that * use of these contrivances is fundamentally rudimental with no or non complexity the norm. With an extension either of the prehensile appendages that are attached to one's torso one simply seizes the protuberance that extends for the surface of these devices and rotate the aforementioned protrusion either clockwise or anti-clockwise then one either thrusts forward or draws toward oneself the device and therefore initiating the breach which allows one to continue to perambulate.

(* Notice the use of passive voice. This allows the researcher to avoid making a statement that could be attributed to his or her self thus evading any blame later. In this instance the reader does not ask the question who said, he or she assumes that large numbers of scientists did because the passive voice was used. A consensus is implied. Use of the passive voice was severely restricted in this example of Scientific English. Normally 80% of all Scientific papers are in passive voice.)

The Explanation

The instructions are nothing more than how to use a door with a doorknob. During the day you often have to open doors. But it is written in mumbo jumbo so it takes quite a lot of guessing to understand. The plain version reads as:

Stick your hand out. Turn the knob clockwise or anticlockwise. Push or pull.

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