I’m not going to commit any of us to a standing appointment to discuss language usage on Thursdays, particularly with Monday and Tuesday already dedicated to the nuts and bolts of grammar and punctuation, but if such a question does come up—and please, do raise your questions—the answer will, at least for now, be revealed on Thursdays.
First, a distinction: whereas grammar refers to how to use words in a sentence, usage has to do with which words to use. Like our goal here at Mots Justes, the goal is to find the right words.
For example, here’s a pair of words I’ve apparently been using wrongly my entire life: nauseated versus nauseous. To be nauseated is to suffer from nausea—in other words, to feel sick to one’s stomach. To be nauseous is to induce nausea—to cause one to feel sick to one’s stomach.
Therefore, you shouldn’t say, “I’m nauseous”—unless what you mean is that you make other people sick! What you want to say is “I’m nauseated.”
Caught in the ’Net
Although Write to Done‘s headline could use some copy-editing, check out “Learn from the Greats: 7 Writing Habits of Amazing Writers.” (If I was going to take a stab at rewriting this hed, I might say something like, “Learn From the Pros: The Writing Habits of Seven Highly Effective Writers.”)
Chicago Manual of Style, The. 15th ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003.
Fogarty, Mignon, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2008.
Hacker, Diana, The Bedford Handbook for Writers, 3rd ed. Boston: St. Martin’s Press: 1991.