Literary Life Hacks

Don’t use “convince” when you mean “persuade.” Convincing is for thoughts; persuading is for actions.

Incorrect: “I convinced the board to book Arnold Schwarzenegger as a speaker.”
Correct: “I persuaded the board to book Arnold Schwarzenegger as a speaker.”
Also correct: “I convinced the board that booking Arnold as a speaker would attract more people to the conference.”

Rule of thumb: If the word “to” is in the sentence, persuade yourself to use “persuade.” If there’s a “that,” convince yourself that “convince” is the right choice.

The word “like,” when being used as a preposition, should never be followed by a verb. Use “as” instead.

Incorrect: “Like Shakespeare said, ‘All’s well that ends well.’”
Correct: “As Shakespeare said, ‘All’s well that ends well.’”

Don’t use “like” (similar to) when you mean “such as” (the real deal):

Incorrect: "This conference always features well-known speakers like Oprah Winfrey, Tony Robbins and Arnold Schwarzenegger.” (Well, which is it? The actual Oprah, Tony and Ah-nuld, or a trio of impersonators?)

Correct: “This conference always features well-known speakers such as Oprah Winfrey, Tony Robbins and Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

Also correct, if a bit outdated: “Be like Mike.”

A few reminders about when to use them:

  • % — Don’t use it except in tables and infographics. In text, spell out “percent.” (That’s one word, not “per cent” — unless you’re in Britain.)
  • $ — Use the dollar sign or the D word (200 dollars, $200) but not both together ($200 dollars). The sign is preferable, except in very informal usage (“I feel like a million dollars!”).
  • & — Use only when it’s part of a proper name (e.g., Johnson & Johnson). Otherwise spell out “and.”


Incorrect:
Thanks to our members & supporters.

Correct: Thanks to our members and supporters.

Many people use “compose” and “comprise” interchangeably.

The pizza comprises 8 slices – CORRECT
The pizza is composed of 8 slices – CORRECT
The pizza is comprised of 8 slices – INCORRECT

“Make up” is an acceptable alternative and can be used in the active or passive voice. The pizza is made up of 8 slices. Eight slices make up the pizza.

We are not making up this rule.