Which is the correct past tense?

18452561_sThe following examples ought to clarify the confusion many have regarding which version of the past tense to use. There seems to be a misconception that one is correct and the other isn’t, however, this isn’t the case. It’s actually very simple. In most of the following cases, both versions of the given words are acceptable, wherein one (-ed) is more widely used in North America and the other (-t) is used more so outside of North America (the UK, Australia, etc.).

Learned vs. Learnt

Both are acceptable past tenses of the word learn. It comes down to a matter of personal preference.

We learned something new at school today.

Don and Mike learnt how to use words in the past tense.

Dreamed vs. Dreamt

Much like the above example, both are acceptable and used in their respective geographic regions. In addition, dreamed is used in a more literal sense — to describe when someone slept and had dreams. Dreamt is generally used more figuratively — to describe dreaming of a concept or envisioning a fantasy in a more conscious state. However, these rules aren’t carved in stone. It wouldn’t be incorrect if you used these interchangeably within the aforementioned contexts.

Last night, he dreamed of running through a field.

I’ve always dreamt of owning my own business.

Spelled vs. Spelt

Again, just a matter of geographic location and preference. Be careful not to confuse the past tense of spelling a word (spelt) with the type of wheat.

Her last name was spelled incorrectly, as usual.

Tom spelt every word on his test correctly.

Burned vs. Burnt

This is another example of interchangeability. In addition, burnt is used as an adjective to describe when something is burnt out, for example — not just as the past tense of something burning.

The meatloaf was burned to a crisp after she forgot to set the timer.

He felt really burnt out after an extra long workweek.

Hanged vs. Hung

In this case, hanged is only used in the context of someone having been put to death by hanging. Hung is used in the past tense of hanging something.

He was hanged after the court found him guilty.

My mother hung my clothes up to dry.

The Run-down on Capital Letters

A_(capital_and_small).svgFor the most part, distinguishing between when it’s appropriate to use capital letters is pretty straightforward. Places like the start of a sentence and people’s names are no-brainers. However, there are instances where people use them that aren’t always correct. For the sake of consistency, you should be aware of the right ways to capitalize. So here are the right times to use capital letters.

Most essentially, capitals are used in proper nouns and titles (words that describe specific entities). For example, if you were to use the word president on its own, it would be lower case. If used specifically to describe someone like President Bill Clinton, both the title and the name are capitalized. See how that works? The same principle applies to the word university, for example. You can say someone read many books while attending university. Or you can say they read many books while attending the University of Toronto.

Another instance in which to always capitalize is for geographic formations like mountains, volcanoes, bodies of water, buildings, bridges, streets and academic institutions. The names of cities, states, countries and continents are also musts for capitalizing.

For example: Mt. Everest, the Atlantic Ocean, the Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, the University of London. Titles like these are capitalized no matter where they appear in a sentence.

Titles of books, movies, songs and such are also always capitalized — as are languages: The English language is full of many confusing nuances.

Perhaps the most confusing usage of capital letters is within article titles and headlines. It’s the title of something, therefore, all letters should be capitalized — right? But what if the title is a complete sentence? Do the same rules apply?

Generally, when dealing with a headline or article title, you can either treat it as a sentence, in which case you would treat it with all the proper punctuation. Or you would capitalize all the words except articles, prepositions and conjunctions (unless they’re the first word in the title). In this case, words like the, a, and, with, but, etc., are not capitalized within these titles.

If treated as a complete sentence, the following title would be written as such:

Even the best writers make mistakes.

If not treated as a complete sentence, it would be written as such:

Even the Best Writers Make Mistakes

Hopefully this makes things clearer. As a general rule of thumb, think of important words as deserving of capitalization. If you’re still in doubt, you can ask a friendly editor to help you out!

Spring Cleaning: Is it time to refresh your website?

33960331_sThat dreaded time of year is upon us. Although spring cleaning isn’t the most exciting thing in the world to do, it’s necessary for getting rid of what we no longer need. Both to de-clutter and make room for better things as well as to keep things organized.

A good ol’ fashioned cleanup is particularly important for a website. Because of the nature of anything that lives online, you need to stay on top of things to ensure you’re always up to date and relevant. Whether this pertains to what services you offer, what tone you present yourself in or where you’re located, it’s a good idea to make sure these things are in check from time to time.

Taking advantage of professional editing or proofreading services is good if you need to go through your online content with a fine-toothed comb. Maybe you aren’t telling people what they should be hearing. Or maybe you aren’t using enough keywords in your website that would make you rank higher in a Google search. Perhaps you’ve done some reorganizing in your company, and have moved locations and have new people working for you. Or, simply, you want to make sure there are no typos in your writing.

In any case, staying up to date with your information shows that you as a company care about yourself. Seeing a company website with information from years ago with no new updates can seem like they don’t take their business seriously. Or it can make the viewer question whether the given company is still in business at all.

Even if information is up to date, having the same thing on your website for years can start to feel stale. In this case, re-writing the existing information from another standpoint can be valuable because it will convey the same message in a new, more exciting way. Perhaps a way that is ultimately better for business.

So, if you haven’t already, consider sprucing up your website this season. New words can do wonders. We’d be more than happy to show you how.

To Join Words or Keep Them Separated?

16897006_sAre we going all together or travelling as a whole altogether? This distinction is often confused. So, we thought we’d bring our attention to it so you can avoid any future misuse. The following examples will demonstrate when to keep it as one word, and when to use two words instead.

Altogether vs. All Together

Altogether is used as an adverb: as a single word to describe something as a whole entity.

It was an altogether successful affair.

All together is used when the separate components of a group are joined.

The family spent the holidays all together.

Along vs. A Long

Along can be used as a preposition representing the length of something, or as an adverb to describe the movement of something.

They walked along the beach as the sun was setting.

Her argument was along the lines of being sound.

A long, however, is used in a completely different fashion. It is used as two separate words when “a” describes something that is long in size or length.

There was a long pause in the conversation.

Into/Onto vs. In To/On To

In both these cases, the single preposition (into, onto) means to move inside or on the outside of a place or thing.

He drove his car into the garage.

She placed her purse onto the table.

Used as two separate prepositions, the respective words combine two different actions.

He gave in to temptation.

The paper was handed in to the professor.

A lot vs. Alot

To be very clear from the start, alot as a single word is completely incorrect. For some reason (perhaps because it’s done with altogether and all together), people tend to put these two words together to make one. Do not use this as one word! If you need to describe an abundance of something, use a lot and avoid this all-too-common mistake.

They were having a lot of trouble getting the car to start.