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Writing and Grammar Tips (beta)

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Often used informally or conversationally, idioms are common metaphorical expressions that convey ideas via imagery. In the right contexts, they can be a great way to enliven and familiarize your writing. A few examples:

  • After Sharon discussed her options with Tom, it was clear that she was really on the fence about whether to move to Nebraska.

(Sharon was undecided – on neither one nor the other side of a metaphorical fence that represented her decision.)

  • Kim put up with her friend’s complaining for years, but it eventually became clear that she had to draw the line somewhere.

(Kim tolerated her friend’s complaining – but at some point, she decided that it was too much and that she had to draw a metaphorical line the friend was not allowed to cross.)

  • I am perfectly willing to put in extra hours to complete my own work, but I have had it up to here with people asking me to do their work, too.

(Here, the subject feels literally overwhelmed, in the way that a person standing in rising water or a mounting pile of, well, anything might. The pressure has mounted to a high point – “up to here” – and she has had enough.)

  • As a mother, Jamie regularly found herself working 24/7 to take care of her family, see to her own needs, and attend to the responsibilities of her job.

(Jamie felt like she worked around the clock – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.)

  • Agenting is a business in which you really have to pay your dues. Many of the top agents at places like William Morris and International Creative Management started in the mailroom, at base pay.

(Employees in the competitive business of agenting – e.g. agents for authors, musicians, actors – must earn promotions by putting in time and effort, as if manually paying off a debt.)

  • While there are many intellectually talented people working on Wall Street, the real movers and shakers are those who know how to network.

(The real people who progress and make things happen – i.e. move and shake – in the competitive financial industry are not just those who are good thinkers, but those who know how to make personal connections.)

  • Jim initially had difficulty understanding collateralized debt obligations, but he eventually got the hang of it.

(At first, Jim had trouble getting a metaphorical grasp of a challenging concept, but he later got hold of it with his mind as one might something slippery with one’s hand.)

There are dozens of other idioms. Try searching “idioms, English” or check out sites like GoEnglish.com Idioms.

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