This edition of the ABCs of Writing is the fifth post in the series. I’ll cover the usage of things that fall under the “D” category.
Note that some of these things, mostly the sections covering usage of numbers, strictly abide by the AP Stylebook. There are other style guides, but I’ve found that AP is much better for the blogging world because it is much like journalism.
Damage / damages
A hurricane causes damage, but a plaintiff was awarded damages in the trial. That’s the best way to remember it.
It’s not daylight-savings time.
As I mentioned in the apostrophe section of A is for affect, apostrophes are tricky when writing about decades. Never use an apostrophe in 1990s; always use an apostrophe before ’90s.
The 1970s were great, but we had the time of our lives in the ’60s.
Different from / different than / differ with
Never use “different than.” Use “different from” instead, which means to be unlike. You “differ with” someone, which means to disagree.
Your dog’s tail is different from my dog’s tail.
I differ with Sarah on that issue.
DimensionsAlways use numerals when writing dimensions. Only use hyphens when the dimension is used as an adjective. I'll just give you a few examples, so you can see how this works.
The 6-foot-10-inch man is the tallest on the team.
The man is 6 feet 10 inches tall.
The 5-by-12 room is small.
The room is 5 feet by 6 feet.
February’s blizzard in Alabama left 6 inches of snow.
Directions and regions
You shouldn’t capitalize the names of directions but always capitalize the names of regions. Also, capitalize regional names, such as Southerner.
The South will march northward until they’ve taken over the North.
The farther north you travel, the less likely you’ll like the Northerners’ accents.
Many people grow up in the South, but some don’t like being called Southerners.
The wind blew the mobile home east.
I grew up in the Deep South.
Disk / disc
A “disk” is a rotating magnetic disc, such as a floppy disk or disk drive. A “disc” is a rotating optical disc, like a compact disc. (I’d like to get someone to check on this though.)
The compact disc is more common than the floppy disk now.
Discreet / discrete
“Discreet” means circumspect, while “discrete” means separate.
The defendant asked his lawyer to be discreet with his personal documents.
Each department of the university forms a whole but is discrete entities.
Disney World / Disneyland
“Disney World” is two words, and “Disneyland” is one word.
My son loves Disney World, but my daughter likes Disneyland more.
Disinterested / uninterested
“Disinterested” means free of bias or indifferent. “Uninterested” means to lack interest. Are you confused yet? When in doubt, use “disinterested” because it’s usually the better word choice.
A judge must be a disinterested party in all court cases.
Both are uninterested people, but they decided to vote in the election.
Dived / dove
Never use “dove” as the past tense of “dive.” Always use “dived” because “dove” is a bird.
The dove dived dangerously close to its death.
Always use numerals when writing about money. However, too many zeroes can get messy. When the amount is more than $1 million, you can write the numeral up to two decimal places.
Will you give me a dollar?
Johnny has $8.
He won $5 million.
The car costs $25,700.
The house is worth $2.5 billion.
Do you have $5.00? (Incorrect, unnecessary zeroes)
Desert / dessert
A “desert” is a hot, dry place. A “dessert” is something that one eats after a meal, which is typically sweet.
He wanted to eat ice cream for dessert, but it would’ve melted in the desert.
Abbreviate the name of the month only if you give the specific day of the month. Always give the specific date if you know it. You don’t have to write the year in most publications if the date is near the time of writing. Never abbreviate March, April, May, June, or July (these are the five months with less than five letters). Here are some examples:
January in South Korea is cold.
January 2008 was the year my life changed.
He met the love of his life Jan. 17.
On Friday, Jan. 18, 2008, he died from a broken heart.
When the century is less than 10, write the number out. Otherwise, use the numeral. Hyphenate when using it to modify a noun.
The 21st century will be great.
She’s a 21st-century girl.
I can trace my ancestry back to the eighth century.
Daylong / month-long / year-long
You take a daylong trip but a month-long or year-long trip.
He took a daylong trip to the Bible Belt.
She was on a month-long sojourn in Africa.
I’m on a year-long adventure in South Korea.
Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and so on. One of the reasons I like AP style is that it removes pompous titles.
Johnny Frazier, Ph.D., gave an interesting argument for transhumanism. (Incorrect in AP)
Johnny Frazier, who has a doctorate in psychology, gave an interesting argument for transhumanism. (Correct)
Johnny Frazier, a psychologist, gave an interesting argument for transhumanism. (Correct)
Dad / dad
Only capitalize “Dad” when referring to your father by name. Lowercase “dad” in all other uses.
My dad has written songs all his life.
Will you ask Dad if he still has that chainsaw we used last year?
Die-hard / Die Hard
“Die-hard” means stubborn. Die Hard is the name of a movie.
He’s a die-hard fan of the Die Hard series.
Drunk / drunken
Use “drunk” after the verb meaning “to be,” but use “drunken” as an adjective before a noun. Also, “drunkenness” is often misspelled.
The drunken man crashed into the police car.
My uncle is drunk.
Commonly misspelled words beginning with "D"
Dr Pepper (no period after Dr)
Unfortunately, I don’t have any book recommendations for this post. I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of the ABCs of writing series. These rules may seem a bit rigid, but I promise to give some tutorials on how to break the rules once I finish the “Z” tutorial.
I wrote this tutorial fairly quick, so I hope I didn’t make too many mistakes. Give me your feedback. Ask questions. Call me out on any mistakes. Let’s keep a good discussion on writing well going.