How are you Vs. How are you doing?

While the two terms sound interchangeable, “how are you?” and “how are you doing?” are, in fact, two very different questions. Don’t believe it? Check with the person you just asked.

“How are you?” has become something of continuance to “hello.” It seems to flow naturally off the tongue and most of the time, it’s a question that does not really beg an answer. Ask yourself if you really care to know how they are? Probably not, it’s just part of your greeting. And you certainly don’t expect an actual answer.

On the other hand, “how are you doing?” is used when someone genuinely wants to know. It isn’t the common phrase used after an introduction; it’s what you use when you want to check in on a person. You aren’t quickly moving on to something else, asking “how are you doing?” strikes up a conversation.

Another difference is what each phrase phrase refers to. This can be exampled through a person who is sick with a disease that they had no side effects for. “How are you?” can be answered with, “I’m fine” as they are physically feeling fine. But “how are you doing?” impresses the idea of emotion. “Well, I feel great on the outside, but on the inside, I am torn up.”

While the differences between the two phrases are very subtle and can certainly be argued, in making the choice of which to use, ask yourself who you are addressing and how you want to be perceived.

Should I say “have a good night” at 5:00 PM?

The expression “have a good night” is widely used in everyday English as a farewell greeting. The phrase is used to convey good wishes for the latter part of the day or the nighttime to a friend, acquaintance or even a stranger.

The phrase can be used at any time during the evening or night. However, it makes more sense to use the greeting from 5:00 p.m. onward, because this is the time that most work days conclude, and thus the evening portion of the day has begun. But there are no hard-and-fast rules as to when the greeting should and should not be used.

The greeting can be used in a formal or informal context. Strangers often use the phrase when they come into contact in public places in the evening or nighttime. For instance, cashiers often use the phrase when addressing a customer, after they have paid for their goods and are about to leave the store. Others who work in the public sector also use the greeting a lot, such as hotel clerks, bank tellers and receptionists.

Using the greeting among friends and relatives is also common. It usually conveys more personal meaning when said to someone you know. For instance, if you have friends over for supper, you might say to them as they are leaving, “It was really nice having you over. I hope you have a good night.”

Another way of expressing the same sentiment would be to say, “I hope you have a good evening.”

What does the idiom/phrase “but I digress” mean?

You’ve surely heard it before: A person launches into a long-winded explanation of something and finds him- or herself on a tangent before long. To pull back on track, the person likely tosses out the expression “but I digress”. The question is, what exactly does this idiom or phrase mean?

Digressions occur in both speech and written language. It is when a dialogue has been following one topic, but the topic turns – rather suddenly or progressively – to another. This direction, referred to as a “tangent”, may begin to lead the dialogue uncontrollably in a new direction. In order to bring the topic back to its original point and direction, an author or speaker who acknowledges the digression – stating, “but I digress” – is actively attempted to undo the tangency he or she has created.

What’s interesting about digressions is they are usually made out of an innocent error. In conversation, for example, a digression is simply because the conversation took a turn one way and the speaker followed it willingly and possibly subconsciously. Some digressions, however, can be conscious efforts. One example would be if someone is avoiding a particular topic. In order to evade the topic in conversation, he or she could create digressions to redirect the flow of the conversation, thereby avoiding any unwanted discussions. Similarly, when a person digresses in a conversation and doesn’t properly acknowledge it by bringing the conversation back to the main topic, his or her negligence can be considered rude.

“Belated happy birthday” or “happy belated birthday”?

If you want to wish someone a happy birthday, but you forgot to do so on their actual birthday, you might use the phrase, “happy belated birthday.” Another way of saying it would be, “A belated happy birthday to you.” Either of these phrases is an appropriate way of offering good wishes to someone for whom you have missed their birthday.

Some might say that the phrase “happy belated birthday” is incorrect because it implies that the birthday has come late and not the wishes. However, this phrase has come to mean the same thing as “belated happy birthday,” and thus is correct to use in proper English. No one will think less of you, or scrutinize your language skills, for using either one of these phrases, unless they are an overly pedantic type.

In fact, these phrases are so commonly used in American English that greeting card companies sell a wide variety of birthday cards especially geared towards those who forget the birthdays of friends and family members. You can find belated birthday cards using any number of variations on these phrases in almost any retail store.

While some people may be upset that you missed their birthday, they are more than likely going to be happier that you wish them a belated birthday than to not say anything to them at all. Saying to a friend, “Happy belated birthday” shows that although you forgot initially, you later took the time to wish good things for them when you did remember.

Is it acceptable to use “Much Appreciated” as the closing for a letter or email?

When writing a letter or an email, the question is: is it acceptable to use “Much Appreciated” as a closing for it? Is there a certain protocol for how to close these pieces, or does it just depend on personal preference?

“Much appreciated” is a way of thanking someone for some service they have done. As it is a very abbreviated way of saying “What you’ve done for me is very much appreciated by me”, many believe “much appreciated” is really a very informal and casual kind of sign-off. In this case, it would likely not be appropriate to use “much appreciated” in every situation. For letters and emails that are professional, for example a work email, some kind of exchange for a job interview, or other formal correspondence, it would not be recommended to include such a brief sign-off. A full sentence, such as “I appreciate all you’ve done” would likely be more appropriate.

On the flip-side, “much appreciated” can be a slightly more formal way of addressing people in an otherwise informal dialogue. It can be a quick reply to a friend for taking care of something for you or for providing you with needed information. It can also be a way to acknowledge very casually the work someone has been doing. Although it is grammatically acceptable as a closing phrase, it is simply not commonly used for anything but the more casual conversations. The best advice would just be to us this closing at your best discretion.

Should “guess what” be a question or command?

The phrase “guess what” is often spoken with a raised tone (or pitch) at the end of the phrase much like a question. For this reason, people sometimes punctuate it with a question mark.

  • i.e. Guess what?

However, in the strictest sense and following the rules of English grammar, the phrase is a command. We are beginning the phrase with an unspoken, but understood “you” followed by a verb in the command form (guess) with a direct object pronoun (what).

This alone makes it a command and as such it should be punctuated with a period or an exclamation point.

  • i.e. Guess what.
  • i.e. Guess what!

The reason that we can and do say this phrase with a raised tone is because we are often excited when we say it. One expresses excitement in English by raising the tone of one’s voice. This change in tone helps the listener to pick up on your excitement.

When we command someone to guess something, it is often done with excitement because something unexpected has happened. Thus, we raise our voices to express that excitement and that makes the command sound like a question.

However, the phrase “Guess what” is not always said with excitement. All one has to do is to think of the classic Winnie the Pooh character, Eeyore, to understand this. In his gloomy voice, Eeyore often says “Guess what” without a raised tone and everyone knows that he is never excited.

What’s the origin of using “toboggan” to mean a knit cap?

The word “toboggan” comes from the Micmac word for sled: topaĝan. As this tribal word was adopted into French-Canadian vocabulary, its modern-day spelling transformed. With these changes came other variations in meaning and application, some of which vary dramatically from region to region. Once a word predominantly centered in the northeast, topaĝan in the form of “toboggan” can now be heard around the world in its use for describing winter sleds.

Toboggans generally refer to long sleds used for recreational purposes in the winter. This definition accurately reflects the word topaĝan’s Micmac origin. However, as time progressed, the last century saw enough shifts in the English language to affect even the usage of a new word like toboggan. As those who ride toboggans must dress up warmly against the winter weather, resulting in the wearing of knit caps and other accessories, the word “toboggan” came to mean more than just a sled.

Today, should you travel different regions of North America, it is likely that you will find pockets where commonly used words have a completely different and uncommon use. For example, the word “toboggan”. Although unmistakably to describe the long and heavy sled used for recreation in the winter, “toboggan” has come to mean “knit cap” in other parts of the continent. This trend can be explained as a kind of metonymy that developed as knit caps were commonly worn while riding toboggans. However, the use of “toboggan” as a sled remains the most popular choice for North America.

Is “conversate” a word?

Although you may hear the word “conversate” occasionally, it is not recognized by Merriam-Webster as an actual word. If you look it up in their online dictionary, it reads simply “nonstandard.” However, there’s a little more to the story.

It’s considered a back-formation, which is a word created by taking out a portion of an existing word. In this case, the original word is “conversation.” This may seem like a strange thing to do, but we actually have many words in the English language that were formed this way. The noun “donation” entered our language in the 15th century, with the shortened verb form “donate” following hundreds of years later in the 19th century. Other words formed this way include “syndicate” and “edit.” Of course, these and other words formed this way are completely acceptable, standard words.

“Conversate” also appeared long ago, the first time recorded being in 1829. Despite its continued use since its debut, it remains on the fringe of the English language: we all know what is meant, but most people believe it is not a proper word. One reason could be that the word “converse” is shorter and simpler, and the extended version seems superfluous. There are many synonyms that can be used, as well, many of which are preferred to the unwieldy “conversate.” Another perspective to consider could be that most recently, the word is favored as African-American lingo, often in rap songs. It can be considered a dialect variation, that is acceptable in some social groups even though technically it is not recognized as a word.

“Good night” vs “Goodnight” (vs “Good-night”)

English is one of the most complex languages out there, and even for those of us who were born and raised with it, we can still run into trouble when it comes to proper spelling and punctuation of certain terms and phrases. Let’s talk about “goodnight“.

There are conflicting views about the subject, but one thought is that saying “goodnight” is a way to send someone off to bed. When spelled as one word, “goodnight” is a standard salutation that sends someone off in a pleasant manner.

Good night” is a phrase with two separate parts. The first, “good”, is an adjective. It modifies the noun and subject of the sentence, which is “night”. You can use it in a sentence, i.e., “It was a good night”, or you can say it while departing after spending an evening with someone. In this case, “Good night” would be short for “Have a good night.”

“Good-night” hyphenated isn’t grammatically correct in any case, since you don’t need to add a hyphen to modify the subject of “night”. If you want to talk about a night that was enjoyable, you can simply write “good night”. If you want to say goodbye to someone after evening hours, it works just as well. Although people tend to accept either “goodnight” or “good night” and the opinions on their proper usage varies among parties, using “goodnight” to wish someone a peaceful sleep and “good night” as a departure is one easy way to distinguish the two.

Co-Founder, Co-founder, or cofounder?

Perhaps you helped found a business or a group. You want to make business cards, or to publish this news officially on a website. You go to title yourself as a cofounder, but then you second guess yourself – is it cofounder? Or Co-founder? Or, even yet, is it Co-Founder?

The truth is any of these spellings are grammatically acceptable for spelling “cofounder”. There may be a preference regionally, such as British English generally preferring the “Co-founder” or “Co-Founder” alternatives, but that does not make those options incorrect in American English. Likewise, the more favored “cofounder” in American English is just as correct in British English. Cofounder is not the only word like this, either. Some people might prefer to hyphen words like “land-owner” which others would deem as unnecessary punctuation.

In the even that “cofounder” is being used as a title, however, there are some rules that make it more consistent and professional. Since titles are capitalized, the spelling of “Cofounder” would also need to be capitalized. If using a hyphenated spelling of the word, it is generally recommended to use “Co-founder” rather than “Co-Founder”. When not attempting to start a sentence or identify a title, however, the word can just be spelled as “cofounder” or “co-founder”. Like many words in the English language, there are several correct variations to say the same thing, the only variation being in preference or regional popularity. Spell “cofounder” however you want and your message will still be successfully delivered to your audience.