In Defense of English

Helping you speak and write English well

A Third Homophone for Peak and Peek

I was so busy writing about peek vs peak that I forgot about a third word that sounds like these two, but is spelled differently and has an entirely different meaning:


Now granted, this is not an English word -- it's French. But it is used in English communications, so you may as well add it to the previous two as a group of homophones to which you should pay attention.

Pique: there are several meanings, but when used in American English, it's most commonly used with the word "interest." To pique someone's interest is to attract or excite them. Here's a link to's definitions, along with the pronounciation.

I know it's doesn't seem fair to throw in a word from another language, but if you know your European history, the English and French were constantly changing ownership of the northern part of France. So it's not surprising that we find French words showing up regularly in our English communications. And the French have accepted a handful of English words in return, like "le week-end." Seriously: I learned that fact in my French classes.

Continue reading

Peak versus Peek

McAlister found this misspelling in an article on a major news outlet. We've left out some names to protect the writer from the embarassment, but please, do watch for this error.

"... [Superstar Actress] offered a peak into her romantic life .."

This sentence should read:

"... [Superstar Actress] offered a peek into her romantic life .."

This writer was tripped up by a homophone. A homophone is a word that has the same sound as another word, but is spelled differently and has an entirely different meaning. There are dozens of these homophones in the English language and missing one is an easy mistake to make.

Continue reading

Cringe of the Week: Exact Same

Every time I hear this phrase -- "exact same" -- I want to scream! Do people really not know that the phrase contains bad grammar?

In case you're not sure, the correct phrase is "exactly the same." Where have all the adverbs gone?

An adverb modifies a noun.

"Jane walked to work"
   How did she walk?
"Jane walked quickly to work."

Note the "-ly" on the end of the word "quickly"? That makes it an adverb. The adverb in that statement answers the question "how."

Continue reading

A Haven for Lovers of the English Language

We had to do it! After seeing misspellings, bad grammar, and poor punctuation in advertising, newspapers, and even from professional broadcasters, McAlister and I felt it was time to do our part to pull the American English language back from the brink of destruction. We decided to create this blog where you can get mini-lessons on the proper use of English.

As paid professional writers and editors, we've seen just about everything that can go wrong with sentence structure, punctuation, and grammar. It's time to take a stand and say "Enough!" Wake up, America, and start speaking in complete sentences!

My late father was a middle school English teacher when he first started teaching in the public schools. Prior to that, he was a pastor who delivered sermons every Sunday. So I grew up in a household where my siblings and I were taught, even as tiny tots, to speak clearly and distinctly. I don't think my parents even considered using "baby talk" with us.

McAlister, our Lead Editor, attended some of the best Catholic schools in all of Chicago, where priests and nuns enforced good grammar with very direct means. McAlister used to stay up late reading the dictionary and following cross-references for fun. As a result, we both benefitted from a strong education in the English language, and we'd like to share our good fortune in that regard.

"Snore!" you may be saying, "how boring is this?" Well, let me tell you that knowing proper grammar and speaking English well will, without doubt, set you apart from others, and give you advantages in job applications, promotions at work, written communications, and public speaking.

Continue reading