Readability tips, literacy news, and English writing advice

Verbs of Perception

Evocative verbs are the key to engaging writing. Your characters shouldn't just "hear" the crawling creatures in the dark when they can "catch a whisper of" them.


  • anticipate
  • apperceive
  • appreciate
  • apprehend
  • assay
  • attend
  • auscultate


  • be all ears
  • be apprised of
  • be with it
  • beam
  • become aware
  • behold
  • believe
  • bite
  • breathe


  • catch
  • catch a glimpse of
  • catch a whisper of
  • catch on
  • catch sight of
  • catch the drift
  • chew
  • clock
  • consider
  • contemplate
  • credit


  • deem
  • descry
  • detect
  • devour
  • differentiate
  • dig
  • discern
  • discover
  • distinguish
  • divine


  • eat
  • eavesdrop
  • enjoy
  • espy
  • examine
  • eye


  • feel
  • feel in bones
  • feel in gut
  • find
  • flash


  • gape
  • gawk
  • gaze
  • get
  • get a load of
  • get a whiff
  • get an earful
  • get the drift
  • get the idea
  • get the impression
  • get the picture
  • get vibes
  • get wind of
  • give an audience to
  • give attention
  • give ears
  • glare
  • glimpse
  • grasp


  • hark
  • have a feeling
  • have a hunch
  • hear
  • hearken
  • heed
  • hold


  • identify
  • inhale
  • inspect


  • know


  • lay eyes on
  • lick
  • listen
  • look
  • look at


  • make out
  • mark
  • mind


  • nibble
  • nose
  • note
  • notice


  • observe
  • overhear


  • partake
  • pay attention to
  • peek
  • peep
  • peer
  • peg
  • penetrate
  • perceive
  • pick up
  • pierce


  • read
  • realize
  • recognize
  • regard
  • relish
  • remark


  • sample
  • savor
  • savvy
  • scan
  • scent
  • scope
  • scrutinize
  • see
  • sense
  • sight
  • sip
  • smell
  • sniff
  • snuff
  • spot
  • spy
  • stare
  • strain
  • survey
  • suspect


  • take in
  • take notice
  • taste
  • test
  • think
  • touch


  • understand


  • view


  • watch
  • witness

International Men's Day Cryptic

Go round men's section (5)

Answer: ORBIT

Bonfire Night Cryptic

Brighton going wild with fine time guys come out (7,5)


World Students Day Cryptic

Pass securing science place for some teacher's student (8)


Tiny Stories of the English Language

Many of the words used in today's English language can be traced back to French, Greek, Latin, German, Spanish, and many other languages. Each word has its own genetic makeup that is specifically unique to that one word.These tiny stories are known as Etymology, the study of the origins of words. Below are four words that have interesting stories.


The word Jumbo means extremely large. The word began its call to fame with Jumbo the elephant. In 1882, Jumbo was the world's most famous elephant. Full grown, Jumbo stood twelve and a half feet tall and weighed seven tons. He was the biggest elephant the world had ever seen. On any given day he could eat a barrel of potatoes, 200 pounds of hay, half a barrel of oats, 15 bread loaves, and the occasional whiskey drink. Jumbo became much more a name, it became a word used to describe anything abnormally large like Jumbo the elephant.


The word marathon makes its first appearance on the beach of Marathon. In 490 BC, a Persian army decided to be the first to conquer Athens. So they planned to land on the beach of Marathon, kill the entire Athens army, then swing around to the south side and loot the city. It should have been an easy victory, 25,000 Persians against 10,000 Athens. The Athens, realizing that they were completely outnumbered, begged for help from Sparta. Athens sent a military messenger, Pheidippides, to seek help. He ran 140 miles to Sparta, but Sparta refused to send help because they were in the middle of a religious holiday. So Pheidippides ran back.

When Pheidippides returned, Athens decided to just charge into battle. The Persians were completely caught by surprise and suffered massive losses that ended in a retreat.However, they were determined to sack Athens before they fled. On ships, the Persians would have taken 8 hours to reach Athens. Pheidippides sprinted the 26.2 miles all the way to Athens to warn of the oncoming army. On completing his mission, Pheidippides promptly died.

The Athens army had jogged behind Pheidippides to defend their city, battle-weary and exhausted. The Persians arrived and saw the tired troops of Athens waiting for them. They came to the conclusion that these Greeks were either demigods or supernatural beings, and decided they did not want to risk angering the gods. Hence the story behind the word marathon.


In Greek times, clue was actually spelled as clew and had a completely different meaning. Clew came from the Greek language meaning a ball of yarn. The meaning changed as it was adopted by the English language based on the Greek story of an evil king named Minos and his son, the Minotaur. Minos had built a labyrinth, and every seven years he required a sacrifice of 14 young men and women to be thrown into the labyrinth. No one ever returned from the labyrinth. Then one year a demigod named Theseus decided enough was enough, he was going to kill the Minotaur. Along the way. Minos' daughter fell heels over head in love with him and gave him a clew so that he could find his way out of the labyrinth. Theseus slew the Minotaur and used the clew to escape the depths of the labyrinth. The clew became known as the ball of yarn that points the way, a rough definition of the word clue.


The smallest building block of any organism is a cell. A scientist by the name of Robert Hooke was very curious about microscopes and designed better microscopes that allowed the viewer to view objects with a magnitude of 50x. He became the first person, in 1665, to actually see a cell. He thought they looked much like cells in prison and named them such. The name has stuck ever since.

Talk Like a Pirate Day Cryptic

Illegal activity, in the main (6)

Answer: PIRACY

Cure Your Ellipsis Addiction

The use of ellipses runs rampant throughout the English language, but never more so than online. You'll notice those three little dots at the end of social media posts, disbursed through blog posts, in professional articles, and dotted (excuse the pun) throughout the written world. But what are they really meant to do?

What Is an Ellipsis?

In appearance, an ellipsis is three dots (…). If you're writing professionally, the style guideline you're using may call for a space between each period or no spaces. There is always a space after the ellipsis.

These marks are traditionally used to indicate missing text. If you were quoting a source, you might use an ellipsis to eliminate unnecessary prose from a longer quote. This can help you pinpoint the idea so that your readers don't get lost.

When you use ellipses to eliminate text, it’s imperative that you don’t change the meaning of the quote by your omission. When implemented correctly, the ellipsis is only meant to help with clarity in this case.

Other Uses of the Ellipsis

The use of ellipses has evolved over time. While an ellipsis can indicated missing text, it can also mean different inflections in speech and even a trailing off of thought from the speaker. These style choices are often made in fiction and personal essay. You can find them in regular use with more informal writing, such as web content and blog posts.

But are you using it correctly? The rules here have relaxed quite a bit. Many people use ellipses at the end of social media posts. This style choice implies a trailing off of thoughts or an open idea. They are also used as a pause in conversation.

Most style guidelines note that ellipses can correctly be used to indicate a pause in speech. This is a grammatically correct way to use the punctuation. However, it’s recommended that you use it sparingly. Overuse can annoy the reader, which is counterproductive no matter what message you’re trying to communicate.

Towel Day Cryptic

Each lot scoured after end of repast - towel required (3,5)


Four of the Most Unexpected Crafters of the English Language

One can be forgiven for assuming that English was crafted in a lab. The stereotypical English teacher, pacing yardstick-in-hand in front of the chalkboard, readjusting glasses on the bridge of their nose ("Actually, it's 'whom,' not 'who'") can certainly give off the air of a backroom chemist, insisting on the rules of our grammar like they're immutable laws of the universe. So rigidly are its rules honored, it can seem that the English language was carefully and intentionally crafted in a controlled environment by academics and professionals. It's one reason why foreigners consider it so difficult to learn. So, it's often a shock when one studies the history of English and realizes that our language as it today exists is the result of rule-breaking and arbitrary creative thinking on the part of individual outsiders and inimitable characters. Here are some:

Samuel Johnson

By all accounts, there was nothing charming in the physical appearance or presentation of 18th-century English man of letters Samuel Johnson. Posthumously diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, gout, depression, and a host of other physical, neurological, and psychic disorders, Johnson was often mistaken for a disturbed vagrant or, as his biographer puts it, "an ideot [sic]," for his legion physical tics and grimaces. He attended university for only one year. Still, Johnson's influence on English is undeniable. His impact is maybe most realized in his production of "A Dictionary of the English Language," an endeavor which took him seven years to complete. It was a project which he undertook alone, and though not the first of its kind, it was universally accepted as the most significant until the production of the Oxford English Dictionary 150 years later. Before Johnson's dictionary, English's rules of grammar and vocabulary were far more regionally dependent. Johnson's dictionary became the universally accepted authority not through careful study of the history or origin of words, but by their most common everyday use. How did a word appear in conversation? In poetry and literature? Johnson's loyalty to common use of a word over its history effects how we use our language even today.

William Shakespeare

The Bard needs no introduction. His words have been translated into nearly every modern language, and his dramatic works are performed on every inhabited continent. His themes are universal and timeless. His genius with the written word has earned him the near-universal distinction of greatest writer that the English language ever produced. Lesser-known, perhaps, is that Shakespeare was not only a shaper of language, but also a creator. According to Shakespeare Online, The Bard invented about 1,700 words that are today part of our vernacular: bedroom, rant, advertising, birthplace -- words that it is impossible not to use. Born in a market town a hundred miles out of London, educated in a second-rate grammar school and beginning his career in theater as the stable boy, it is hard to imagine a more remote beginning for someone who would rise to heights so influential on how we today speak daily.

Joseph Conrad

As we've learned in the case of Shakespeare, a language responds to how it is styled by its artists. Literature was, for centuries and millennia, the fastest way to change how language was used in everyday circles on a massive scale. It's here where we can see the influence of Joseph Conrad, a 19th-century novelist whose treatment of the English language has influenced nearly every major writer since, from Hunter S. Thompson to Salman Rushdie. Even filmmakers have followed his lead: Francis Ford Coppola's film Apocalypse Now is based on one of his novels. Here's the catch: Joseph Conrad did not learn English until he was in his twenties. Born Jozef Korzeniowski in the Russian Empire, his native languages were Polish and French. Despite this, he decided that his late third language would be the best medium for his literary stylings, and he brought with him a foreign temperament which has been present in our literature ever since.

King Henry VIII

Famous multiple-divorcé, first Supreme Head of the Church of England -- mover and shaper of the English language? A great historical challenger to Samuel Johnson's later title as first standardizer of spoken English is Henry VIII. In 1542, Henry standardized the use of a single Latin Grammar textbook, Rudimenta Grammatices, in all schools across the country. It would remain the standard, with some revisions, for 300 years after. To show the expanse of this book's influence: Shakespeare referred to it in two of his plays. And art was not the only place where this book appeared. In 1586, the first academic work on English grammar appeared, entitled Pamphlet for Grammar, and its content was written directly to imitate the Latin grammar in Rudimenta Grammatices. Had Henry selected a different textbook for use in schools, the grammar of our language in the decades following and even today would be drastically different.

Easter Cryptic

Nearest broadcast is from China? (7)


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