Everything English

Writing and Grammar Tips (beta)

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Category : Writing Tips

Always Idioms

Because you can never know too many!

  • While Brandon was still brooding over the team’s loss two weeks later, most of his teammates had gotten over it by then.

The loss of Brandon’s team acts as an obstacle to Brandon’s mind – a stumbling block of sorts. Brandon can’t “get over it.” His teammates, however, have surmounted the obstacle (gotten over the loss) and moved on. To “get over” something means to not dwell on it and, instead, to carry on with other things.

  • Mei-li’s friends thought her four-hour daily practice sessions excessive, but she was of the opinion that practice makes perfect.

The saying “practice makes perfect” is often used by itself, to justify the practice of an activity that a person hopes to perfect. Here, Mei-li practices often and for extended periods because she believes that doing so will help her hone the skills she is working on.

  • When the blueprints were lost in the fire, the architectural team had to start again from scratch.

To “start from scratch” is to start from practically nothing. Essentially, the architectural team has to start planning anew when it loses its recorded plans in the fire.

  • We had planned to visit all of the sites listed in our tour book, but by Wednesday, we had run out of steam and spent the rest of the week by the beach, instead.

The steam from a machine signals energy spent – fuel used. When steam ceases to emanate from a machine, the machine has run out of fuel and has no energy. Hence, when people “run out of steam”, they lack energy. In this case, the subjects of the sentence (some tourists) do a lot before Wednesday and get too tired to visit the sites in their guidebook; instead, they spend the rest of their vacation relaxing on the beach.

  • Said was the perfect salesman; he wined and dined potential clients with a finesse unmatched by his colleagues.

Said is the perfect salesman, because he charms potential clients with fine meals and wine, making it hard for them to resist his pitches. A person who wines and dines others is treating them to lavish and/or expensive things, almost always with the aim of convincing them to do something. There’s an element of persuasion – and sometimes manipulation – involved in wining and dining.

  • While president of the union, Mr. Chen was criticized for turning a blind eye to its members offenses.

As a blind eye cannot see, a person who turns a blind eye is choosing to not look at something (by turning a blind eye, not a real eye) BUT is also trying to maintain the appearance of competence (by pretending to see). Turning a blind eye implies consciously ignoring something – choosing to take notice but do nothing.

  • Nicole and Carol got into a nasty back and forth about who was the better friend.
  • The parties went back and forth for hours, before agreeing to a settlement.

In the first example, a “back and forth” is an argument. Nicole and Carol take turns rebutting each other. The discussion goes back and forth, in the way a ball in competition might (think tennis or ping-pong).

In the second example, “back and forth” does not imply argument. It does, however, suggest a two-sided discussion, in which the parties take turn presenting their views.

Idioms to Infinity

Yes, more idioms!

  • When Jamie lost his job, he and Sharon had to put on hold their plans to buy a larger house.

Jamie and Sharon must wait to buy a larger house because they can’t afford it. They’re putting their plans on hold the way a person on the phone might put a caller on hold and thereby “ask” that person to wait. Another way to use “on hold” is in reference to a purchase. A person who puts something on hold at a store is asking the store staff to retain the item until such time in the future as the customer may decide to purchase it.  (A related expression is “hold on”, which can be used to tell someone to wait – “Hold on!” – or to indicate that someone is metaphorically retaining something, as in, “Out of sheer stubbornness, Bill held on to many old-fashioned ideas that his friends and family no longer subscribed to.”)

  • It’s hard to know where Tim’s real interests lie; he always has a lot of projects on the back burner.

The word “burner” refers to the heated part of a stovetop; it’s what you cook food on. A “back burner” is a burner at the back of a stove – typically, where food that takes awhile to cook (e.g. rice) is placed, while other, more fast-cooking foods (e.g. meats) are cooked on front burners. A person who has a lot of projects on the back burner has a lot of projects that are developing (cooking, becoming ready) but will not be ready immediately. In this case, the implication is that Tim is currently pursuing certain activities but may be developing other activities on the side that will eventually take precedence over those he is now involved with.

  • Noticing that the president of the company looked disappointed, the project manager reassured her that she would be more than satisfied once the new initiative was finally up and running.

The president of the company is not happy with the progress made on a particular project, which is not yet finished. The phrase “up and running” implies “set up” and “operating” or “working”. For instance, a machine that is fully assembled, or set up, runs or operates smoothly (or should). In this case, the project manager is reassuring the president of the company that she will be satisfied with the project in question once it is complete and operational.

  • Tina was always eager to restart old arguments, but Max was content to let bygones be bygones.

Something that is “bygone” belongs to the past. Tina is not content to move on from old arguments (and let them belong to the past). Max, on the other hand, recognizes old arguments for exactly what they are (old arguments, bygone) and, therefore, “lets bygones be bygones”.

  • The criminal justice system exists to ensure that criminals pay for their misdeeds.

The expression “pay for” is often used in reference to people who unfairly take advantage of other people or a system. The key here is take, as the logic of “pay for” is premised on the assumption that people should pay for what they take.

  • Manuel wanted to accept Liu’s invitation to get drinks after work, but he had to take a raincheck when his boss asked him to stay late.

Think of it this way: A friend asks you to play basketball on some nearby courts. You agree, but then it starts to rain. You tell your friend you’d love to go, but you don’t want to get your new shoes wet. You write your friend a note that says, “Good for one game of basketball at a later date.” You give the note to your friend, and the two of you agree to play hoops next week. In this story, you write your friend a note in the same way you would write a check (giving him the right, here, to a game, instead of cash; but observe that both the note and check hold out of the promise of something at a later date). The note (check) is written for a later date, because the rain made it undesirable to play right now. A raincheck is a promise to accept an invitation at a later date. Manuel can’t get drinks with Liu today, but by giving him a raincheck, he is promising to get drinks with Liu sometime.

  • Both casual and indecisive, Natalie and Carol often decided to play it by ear when they got together.

Natalie and Carol make up their plans as they go along, based on whatever sounds good at the moment. This is, in some ways, similar to improvising music – making up tunes according to whatever feels right at the time of playing.

Resume Sample #1

Pursuant to the post Resume-writing, here is one of many ways to write a resume:


111 J Street, Apt. 3

Jobsville, Indiana

(111) 222-3333



Jobs University, Jobsville, Indiana                              June 2010

Bachelor of Arts, Mechanical Engineering, Cum laude, GPA: 3.00


Go Jo Robotics, San Francisco, CA               Jan. 2011 – present

CEO – Manage daily operations of thirteen-person business dedicated to building technologies that enhance mobility of the elderly and disabled.

Indigo Environmental Solutions, San Francisco, CA                                                                                           Jan. 2011 – present

Associate – Build and evaluate environmentally-friendly portable air-conditioning systems.

Stedman Robotics Lab, Cleveland, OH             June – Dec. 2010

Junior Engineer – Assisted in design and assembly of robots for assisted living facilities. Oversaw development of lab’s entry to the annual Cleveland Robotics Competition.


Older Outdoors, San Francisco, CA           March 2011 – present

Guide – Lead free outdoor excursions for older adults in the Bay Area.

Roving Robotics, Cleveland, OH            Sept. 2007 – June 2010

Helped raise funds to send local schoolchildren to robotics competitions nationwide.


Technical: Microsoft Office, Max OS X, database development and maintenance

Linguistic: Spanish (fluent), Kiswahili (proficient)


Spelunking, go-cart racing (three-time regional champion), cello