Abbreviations are common ways to shorten long words, phrases, and proper nouns. The key is to differentiate between formal and informal writing, and to understand when it's appropriate to use abbreviations for each.

For more formal writing, always write out the initial word, phrase, or proper noun and show the abbreviation in parentheses. For example:

  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Some abbreviations have become words that are part of the modern day vernacular like "scuba" which stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus and "laser" which stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

Abbreviations for Titles and Degrees

Some of the most common ways abbreviations occur in the English language are in titles. Words like doctormister, and missus are often abbreviated to Dr.Mr., and Mrs., respectively.

Here are some other common title abbreviations:

  • Miss = Ms.
  • Senior = Sr.
  • Junior = Jr.

College degrees are also often abbreviated. For instance, MBA is an abbreviation for Master of Business Administration.

Here are other common abbreviations:

  • Bachelor of Science = B.S.
  • Bachelor of Art = B.A.
  • Master of Science = M.S.
  • Doctor of Philosophy = Ph.D.


Capital Letters can BE triCky!

When should You use them?

When should you Not?

What are the Rules of Capitalization?

In this article, we'll cover the main rules for capitalizing sentences correctly.

Capitalize the First Word of a Sentence

Easy-peasy, right?

You'll always have to capitalize the first word of a sentence:

  • The dog runs.
  • Where are you going?
  • Hi! I missed you!

Capitalize People's Names and Proper Nouns

You should always capitalize names:

  • I love to read Stephen King books.
  • Ron went to the diner.
  • My favorite person is Leslie.


Capitalize the First Word of a Quote – But Only When the Quote Is a Complete Sentence

When writing a quote, you should capitalize the first word of the sentence, as long as it's complete:

  • Tom said, "Those pants look great!"

You wouldn't need to capitalize the following quote:

  • Andy said he was "too busy" to come to my house.

Capitalize Days, Months, and Holidays

You should always capitalize the names of days, months, and holidays. You never need to capitalize the names of seasons:

  • My favorite day of the week is Tuesday.
  • My mom's birthday is in July.
  • I can't wait for Thanksgiving!
  • I am so excited for winter to be over.

Capitalize Most Words in Titles

Depending on the style guide you're following, you should capitalize most of the words in titles. Typically, articles, conjunctions, and prepositions under five letters are lowercase, while all the rest of the words are capitalized.

You should always capitalize the first word of a title, as well as the first word after a colon.

  • Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • Star Wars: A New Hope


A compound word is a word that combines two or more distinct words to create a new word with a specific meaning.

Compound Words Definition

1. Closed compounds.

Words like keyboardfootball, and notebook are closed compound words. They’re written together as a single word without hyphens or spaces because they’ve been normalized to mean a specific idea.

Other examples include airportworldwidebirthdayextraordinarysailboat, and a bunch of other sports terms like baseballsoftballbasketball, etc.

2. Open compounds.

Word pairs that form new meanings are open compounds. Words like high schoolvice presidentmiddle classpost office, and truck driver are examples of how two words combine to create a new concept.

A few more examples include school busdecision makingreal estatelight year, etc.

3. Hyphenated compounds.

Sometimes when you combine two or more words together, especially when they’re used as an adjective, you should hyphenate them. For example, your sister-in-law or any other in-law is always hyphenated, as is the term on-site.

Here are more examples of hyphenated compounds when used as modifiers to describe the noun that follows them:

  • high-speed chase
  • part-time employee
  • full-time job
  • fire-resistant pajamas
  • good-looking dog
  • well-respected politician
  • government-funded program


Compound Words Examples: Exceptions to the Rule

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rules. One thing to keep in mind is that compound words function differently depending on the part of speech they’re used in. Let’s look at an example:

  • Carryover can be a noun: "They had extra money thanks to the carryover of last month’s budget." This is a closed compound word used as a noun.
  • Carry over can be a verb: "His extra vacation time will carry over to next year’s balance." This is an open compound used as a verb.
  • Carryover can be an adjective: "The budget allows carryover funds to be reallocated." This is a closed compound used as an adjective.

Sometimes open compounds should be hyphenated when used as an adjective and not when used as an adverb. For example:

  • Adjective: "The full-time teacher works long, hard hours."
  • Adverb: "The teacher works the full time permitted to educate his students."

Got that? Here's another example just to make sure:

  • Adjective: "The third-grade student reads at a higher level."
  • Adverb: "The student is in third grade."

Finally, you never hyphenate compound words with an -ly ending, such as:

  • "The heavily decorated general was the parade marshal."
  • "The hotly contested political race divided voters."
  • "A newly recorded song is climbing the music charts."

Compound Words: Final Advice

Compound words are complex. Your best bet is to look them up in the dictionary where mostly you’ll find straightforward rules.

One of the simplest descriptions is in the Texas Law Review Manual of Style, which reads: "When two or more words are combined to form a modifier immediately preceding a noun, join the words by hyphens if doing so will significantly aid the reader in recognizing the compound adjective." But it’s that last "if" part that leaves a lot up to your judgment. Good luck!


A contraction is a word made by shortening and combining two words. Writers use contractions to express themselves more casually and colloquially.Here are some examples of contractions:

  • we are = we're
  • do not = don't
  • I have = I've

As you can tell from the above examples, contractions use apostrophes. Apostrophes take the place of the letters and spaces that disappear when you form a contraction.


run-on sentences

A run-on sentence contains two independent clauses that can stand on their own as separate sentences, but have been mangled together without proper connection or punctuation. Run-on sentences aren't necessarily long either.

An example is:

  • Run-on: The weather is warm today, you're better off without that heavy coat.

The above example is called a comma-splice. This happens when two independent classes are separated with a simple comma, but no conjunction to join them.

Another example:

  • Run-on: The sun is out this morning to dry the dew, however, there is a chance of rain later this afternoon.

This example shows two independent clauses connected by a transitional expression, but without the appropriate punctuation.

How do you correct a run-on sentence?

For comma splices, you have two options for correcting a run-on sentence: you can use a period and make two separate sentences, or you can use a conjunction with your comma.

When two complete sentences are connected with a transitional expression (conjunctive adverbs like howevermoreover, etc.) such as the second example, you have two options: separate the sentences with a period or use a semicolon to join the two together.

  • Corrected first example: The weather is warm today. You're better off without that heavy coat.
  • Corrected second example: The sun is out this morning to dry the dew; however, there is a chance of rain later this afternoon.

The simplest method is to separate your two independent clauses with a period. But that doesn't always create the rhythm you want or present the meaning you're looking for.

Here is an example using different options:

  • Run-on sentence: I am a woman, I am a construction worker.
  • Using a period: I am a woman. I am a construction worker.
  • Connecting with a conjunction: I am a woman, and I am a construction worker.
  • Connecting with a semicolon and a conjunctive adverb: I am a woman; nevertheless, I am a construction worker.

See how each correction gives different emotion to the sentence(s)? It all depends on your artistic ear and the context you want to convey.


English can be complicated! Aside from the myriad grammar rules that you have remember (what exactly is a subordinate clause, anyway?), there many complicated spelling patterns.

While there are many spelling rules in the English language that don't make any sense (we're looking at you, silent gs and ks), the good news is that many English spellings follow specific patterns. We won't get into all of them here, but we will go through five of our favorites.

Let's dig in!

"I" Before "E" Except After "C"

Rule: You should always write "i" before "e" (when the sound the two make is long "e") except when they come after the letter "c".

  • Examples of "i" before "e": reliefbelief
  • Examples of "e" before "i" after "c": deceivereceipt

Double the Consonants

Rule: When "b", "d", "g", "m", "n", or "p" come after a short vowel in a word with two syllables, double the consonant.

  • Examples: rabbitbummerthinner

Silent "E"

In most English words, an "e" that comes at the end of a word after a consonant is silent. However, that "e" does affect how you pronounce the vowel that precedes it – that vowel becomes long.

"Y" Becomes "I" When You Add a Suffix to a Word That Ends in "Y"

This spelling rule is hard to name in a pithy fashion, but fairly easy to remember. When you have a word that ends in "-y," that "-y" becomes an "-i-" whenever you add a suffix (such as -ed, -er, or -est) to it.

For instance:

  • cry becomes cried
  • dry becomes drier
  • dusty becomes dustiest

Plural Suffixes

How do you make a word plural? For some words, you add an "-s". For others, you add an "-es". How do you know which to use?

If a word ends in "‑s", "‑sh", "‑ch", "‑x", or "‑z", you add "‑es", for example: sandwichessuffixeswishes.