Category Archives: Copy

Department of Redundancy Department


It happens when you repeat things unnecessarily.

For the record, Caro would like to point out that her favorite moment involving redundancy occurred when she and Lauren were editing their school newspaper and let the name “John M. Olin School of Business School” slip through the cracks and onto the published paper. Still makes her giggle.

Lately, though, we have come across several instances of redundancy in our lives that are making us batty and leading us to believe the masses could benefit from a few words on the topic. Fret not. We’re here to offer some advice on how to fix common redundancies.

Caro would like to draw attention first to the so-called “ATM machine,” because she just wants to SMACK all the people she hears who say “ATM machine.” Or maybe just give them dirty looks. (She’s really not violent enough to smack anyone.) Friends…you all know that ATM stands for automated teller machine, right? So when you say, “Oh, I just need to stop by the ATM machine,” you’re saying “Oh, I just need to stop by the automated teller machine machine!” See how SILLY that sounds?! So, please just limit yourself to saying ATM. Or say automated teller machine if you’re feeling all pretentious. We won’t judge.

Next, let’s address the words “reason” and “because.” You know what Caro can’t stand (aside from Rachael Ray’s voice and the song “Mercy” by Duffy)? The fact that people say, “the reason is because.”
“Hey, Tina! Why didn’t you come to my dinner party?”
“Well, Vicky, the reason is because you can’t cook.”
What?! WHY do you need both words? Caro is firmly of the belief that you can either say “because” OR “the reason is that.” Pick one. No need for both words in one explanatory sentence.
Revised example:
“Tina! How could you say such a thing?!”
“Vicky, I say that because your mashed potatoes make baby food look good.”
“Vicky, the reason is that the last time you cooked, the macaroni was soggy, the peas were mushed, and the chicken tasted like wood.”

As for Lauren’s redundancy peeves, the list is brief. Redundancy in general frustrates her, for example, when people repeat the exact same sentence or phrase over and over. Weirdly, she also likes to have things explained to her multiple times to ensure she understands. That does not mean you should repeat the same line to her multiple times, but rather change your phrasing because exact repetition generally doesn’t clarify the issue.

Yesterday though Lauren found another peeve, this time about pets. She has been serving federal jury duty in Chicago for the past two weeks. On Thursday morning during the pre-courtroom gathering, half the table of jurors was deep in discussion about cats and “mousing,” where cats chase after and eat mice. She had the misfortune to overhear this less-than-delicious conversation which was bad enough as it was. But then one juror started doing BOTH of Lauren’s redundancy pet peeves at once, repeating the same phrase over and over, and repeating a nonsensical redundant phrase at that! How meta right? Ok but really, it was painful. This particular juror insisted on repeating, “My cat uses mice as play toys.” Play toys. THESE ARE NOT THINGS. You play with toys. A toy is a play thing. Play is something that is done with a toy, but it is NOT a modifier of the word toy. Please refrain from using this made-up, incorrect, and repetitive term in your own life and you will save this copy team from anguish and heart break.

Your assignment this week, should you choose to accept it (and you should), is to reduce your redundancy footprint. It’s kind of like the carbon kind except less permanent. Your second assignment is to count how many times the word redundant or some variation thereof appears in this column. Big high fives if you guess correctly, and I mean come on, who doesn’t want a high five from us? No one, that’s who.

On that note, this is Caro and Lauren saying sayonara from the John M. Olin School of Business School. Over and out.

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Favorite/least-favorite words

We’re cooking and we’re copying, but we’re a little sick of lecturing. We’re breaking up the weekly lessons with our new column: Caro’s and Lauren’s favorite and least-favorite words! We’ll post updates as we find new words we like/hate. It’s quick and easy, and, hey, who doesn’t like a good list?

Lauren’s List (definitions courtesy of


  • Splendid: excellent.
  • Spiffy: fine looking, smart.
  • Pantaloons: three definitions, all about pants. Makes me think of pirates. ‘Nuff said.
  • Hellacious: I didn’t even know this but there are four definitions: 1. exceptionally powerful or violent; 2. remarkably good (isn’t that odd?); 3. extremely difficult; 4. extraordinarily large.
  • Magnificent: exceptionally fine. It’s so grand!
  • MacGuffin: an object, event, or character in a film or story that serves to set and keep the plot in motion despite usually lacking intrinsic importance. What a great word to say.
  • Snuffle: 1. to snuff or sniff usually audibly and repeatedly; breathe through an obstructed nose with a sniffing sound. I’m a sucker for cute-sounding “ff” sounds.


  • Chassis: the supporting frame of a structure. I HATE THE WORD CHASSIS! As Caro informed me last week, the word is not spelled phonetically like I originally thought (read: chassy, (it even looks awful)). At my house we’re deep in the throes of buying a new car and if there’s one thing dealers like to talk about it’s the chassis of their vehicles—if I hear this word one more time I will slap someone.
  • Purge: to get rid of. My mom uses it with the correct meaning but all it does is evoke images of bulimia. Not a fan. Can’t we just say “clean out” or “get rid of”?
  • Moist: not even going to go there.
  • Crunch: It isn’t this word that’s so bad. It’s the fact that people do strange things when pronouncing it. The originator of the butchered pronunciation is Giada De Laurentiis; if she says “chhrunchhhh” one more time, heads are going to roll.

Caro’s List (in no particular order)


  • “Oodle” words: Noodle. Doodle. Poodle. Caboodle. Canoodle. Oodles. Toodles. You love them, too. I know it. Don’t deny.
  • Ethereal: The first time I ever tried to decide what my favorite word was when I applied to Princeton for undergrad. (They asked for it. Random, yeah?) I couldn’t pick a word, so I closed my eyes, opened my dictionary to a random page, put my finger down on it, opened my eyes, and found myself pointing to “ethereal.” Realized I LOVE it, and it’s been a favorite since.
  • Architecture: I can’t really explain this one. I just like it, a lot.

Least Favorites:

  • Moist: This is on everyone’s least-favorite words list. No explanation needed.
  • Crusty: Ugh. Is this ever used flatteringly? “Thanks for the pizza, Mike! It was super crusty!” or “Man, the crusty edges of this casserole are the best!” Like… no.
  • Chunky: Ewww. I am cringing. Just awful.
  • Comfortable: Do you know why I hate this word? Because I am 22 years old, and I am STILL not sure how to pronounce it. Some say, “come-fruh-ble,” some say “come-thra-ble”… I went through a phase sometime around age 10 when I insisted on pronouncing every syllable. (“Oh, what a come-fort-uh-ble couch.”) I don’t know. I can’t figure it out. I just say “comfy” now.

This is the world as it sits right now. We’ll be back to you with more fun next week. Until then, adios and have a lovely fall weekend!

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Let’s talk about homophones!

Because we use only the most sophisticated and credible sources for our research here at Cooking with Copy, we turned to Wikipedia to confirm our definition of the word “homophone.” A homophone is one of the words in a set of words that sound the same but have different definitions. Sometimes the words in the set are spelled the same way, too, but that’s a can of worms we’ll open some other time. Today, we’ll focus on homophones that sound the same but have different spellings.

Now. You’d think that, even though the words sound the same, the different spellings and, umm, entirely unique definitions would keep people from confusing the members of a set of homophones. Not the case. Homophones are so frequently used in contexts in which they don’t belong that it makes our heads spin. We’ve picked a couple of commonly messed-up homophones about which to educate y’all.

You knew this set would make the list and you knew it’d be first. Arguably the most mixed-up homophones ever, these words are no strangers to misuse. Let’s try to break this down for those who may still be convinced that “their taking there food over they’re,” or something like that is acceptable…it’s not.
They’re = They are. It is a contraction that represents a subject and a verb. If you want to use “they’re” in a sentence, make sure you can replace it with “they are;” and if you’re planning on replacing “they are” in a sentence, make sure to use “they’re.” It’s the only way. Don’t mess this up.
There = actually a bit confusing, because there can be a pronoun, a noun, an adjective, an interjection…but, more often than not, it’s an adverb! So think of it that way. It modifies a verb. Where are you going? You’re going over there. Easy.
Their = adjective, always. It modifies a noun and describes whose possession something is in. Whose socks are these? Their socks!
See how simple this can be?! Yay! Let’s move on.

Here’s another really commonly mixed-up set of homophones.
Two = the number. We don’t really see how this can be confused with too or to. These two are not numbers.
Too = “as well.” Example: “I am in love with Ryan Gosling, too!” = “I am in love with Ryan Gosling, as well!” Too can also be used to describe a state beyond what is normal or acceptable…for instance: “I am too hungry to stop at just one cheeseburger.”
To = preposition, often used to describe where something/one is going.

This one may seem very random, but we were only inspired to include it by Caro’s recent run-ins with peak/peek mess-ups. In just the last week, she has found, in sources varying from commercial ads to blog posts, three instances of peak being used where peek was the right word! Sheesh! Unacceptable, peeps. We can help you figure out which is right.
Peak = a high point, like the top of a mountain.
Peek = an often-sneaky look.
So, if you take a look at something, you are taking a peek at it. You are not taking a peak. Unless you are stealing a mountain or something. But, really, we’re guessing (and hoping…?) that’s not the case. So just remember that peek = look. (This is easy to remember because they’re both double-vowel words! Hooray for memory tricks.)

Lauren continues to see these two misused and confused. What she didn’t know until tonight, though, was that the two are confusing to her as well. Here’s what she found after several scans of the definitions, as well as a few Google searches.
Capital = This has many meanings, but the one we’re talking about here is: a city serving as a seat of government but NOT the BUILDING in which the government sits, that brings us to…
Capitol = the building in which a legislative body meets. Here’s where it gets tricky though. When capitalized into Capitol, the word ONLY means the capital building of the United States, in Washington, D.C., not just any capitol building in any state. If we were talking about the capitol building in Madison, WI, keep capitol lowercase.

And we’re signing off. Until next week, toodles!

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Think Before You Speak (in Idioms)

(So sorry about the delay on this post, guys. SO much going on these days.)

Last weekend was really busy. Caro was preparing to move cities and into her very first apartment, and Lauren was in the throes of traveling back to our semi-native St. Louis for a visit. But, not to worry! Here at Cooking with Copy, we’re always thinking of and searching for new material to educate and entertain. In fact, Lauren’s latest, delightful (read: not even a little) airport journey included some experiences that provided the inspiration for this week’s lesson.

Two colleagues—a man and a woman—were standing behind Lauren in the security line. Due to the volume of their conversation, Lauren had the misfortune to hear this:

Man wearing sunglasses indoors: “(something about another colleague)”
Woman trying to sound intelligent: “He flew off the cuff!”

Out flew Lauren’s phone, with which she texted Caro about this verbal violation.

Perhaps the woman in line meant that the colleague flew off the handle. Or that he made an off-the-cuff remark. In any case, we can all agree on one thing: to fly off the cuff is not a thing.

This airport conversation brings us to our grammar lesson of the week. Welcome to Episode 1 of “Idioms and Their Misuse” (because enough misspoken idioms have crept into people’s vocabularies that we will, inevitably, need future posts to address all the one’s we’ve heard).

First, we’ll tell you a little of what we know about idioms. Idioms are not clichés. The difference, though, is difficult to elucidate. Clichés are hackneyed expressions, used by so many in the past that they’re now used as shortcuts—as pre-thought-out ways of saying something so that the writer doesn’t have to come up with his or her own unique phrasing. But that, as Caro can attest, is a topic for another day. Caro can also attest that she is actually really excited about that day. “I love clichés more than life itself!” she says. “I mean, not really. But see what I did there? Ha.” Anyway, according to Merriam-Webster, an idiom is a phrase peculiar (yes, not particular but peculiar) to a set of people, or a dialect.

Now, Lauren will tell you that if you’re going to use an idiom, you should be sure that you understand the meaning behind it so that you know what you’re saying and are capable of using the idiom correctly.

Caro, on the other hand, will admit that she rarely traces idioms back to their origins and just memorizes them and uses them only after she has heard enough other people use them that she can repeat them with some level of certainly that she is saying something that makes sense. (Phew, that was a long sentence. Sorry.)

Regardless of how you choose to verify the correctness of an idiom you’re about to use, please do verify. You might be surprised by the actual correct versions of some idioms you are absolutely sure you have right…

For example, Caro spent the better part of her life convinced that something deeply rooted could be described as “deep-seeded.” She figured seeds are deep in the ground… you know, it made sense. WRONG. The idiom is actually “deep-seated.” Deep-seated ideas, deep-seated traditions, etc.

In our best efforts to help you incorporate the proper versions of idioms into your daily vocabs, we’ve provided a list here of some common idioms and the ways they are messed up. (Remember, though… Episode 1! There will be so, so many more.)

Idiom #1: For all intents and purposes
Way It’s Messed Up: For all intensive purposes
We’ve all heard this one. Even Microsoft Word spell/grammar check tries to correct the erroneous version. No intensive purposes to concern ourselves with here, friends. Three words. Intents AND purposes.

Idiom #2: Home in on
Way It’s Messed Up: Hone in on
We’re not sure what to say here. We were pretty sure “hone in on” was correct. Just goes to show you should always Google an idiom before you use it and make sure you’re led to some reliable sources. (“Hone in on” is so common it’s practically considered correct, but we’re sticklers, so we’ll side with “home” on this one.)

Idiom #3: Pore over
Way It’s Messed Up: Pour over
This is Caro’s BIGGEST idiom-error pet peeve ever. She vents: “UGH. You guys. You PORE over a book. I am not sure why. But I know you do not POUR over a book. Pour what?! You pour syrup over your pancakes. You do not pour anything over your books. Unless, well, you do… but that’s just weird.” If you are carefully studying or looking through something, you are poring over it. Easy. Please remember this.

Alright. That’s enough for today. We’ll leave you with this video that has kept Caro in stitches (another idiom!) for most of this Friday evening. Have a laugh, and have a good weekend!

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We could have come up with a better post title…

Welcome to what might be the least amusingly digressive post to grace the digital pages of Cooking with Copy. We apologize in advance. (Perhaps, though, you’ve been waiting for a break from our rambling writings. In that case, you’re welcome.)

We could have made this a long post. You heard us correctly: could have. This brings us to this week’s lesson. We’re going to be quick and to-the-point here. We have sleeping and packing and readying for real life to do, so listen up:

You could HAVE done something. “Could have” is commonly abbreviated as “could’ve.” Now, many say and write “could of” thinking it means “could’ve,” presumably because they roll off the tongue quite similarly. However, as you’ll notice, “could of” doesn’t actually mean anything.

This is because “could”  in this whole context acts as a helping verb, and so it needs another verb to help. “Have” is that other verb. “Of” is most certainly not a verb at all, so it is definitely not that other verb.

Think about it. “I could of eaten an 8th slice of pizza.” What?!

Truly, that does not make sense.

Could’ve ≠ Could + of. We know they sound the same… we know. But they are not the same.

Could’ve = could + HAVE. NOT OF, PEOPLE!

Same goes for should and would. Should HAVE, would HAVE. NOT should of/would of. Like “could of,” the latter mean nothing and are nonsensical.


Until next week, this is the Grammar Odd Couple signing off. Please see this video for the entertainment we failed to provide in this post. And good luck getting that song out of your head. “Help-a help-a help-a the kiiids…”

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Caps On, Caps Off

We’re on the cusp of fall. Well, at least Lauren is, in Chicago. Caro, on the other hand, will tell you that Miami is doing anything but cooling off.

“Here,” Caro explains, “fall, winter, spring, and summer basically equate to summer, slightly less-intense summer, summer, and oh-my-goodness-I-can’t-leave-my-house-for-fear-of-going-up-in-flames summer, respectively. Ugh.”

Anyhow, as social media outlets are blowing up as people celebrate the long-awaited arrival of fall’s crisp evenings and bonfire-scented air, we’re reminded that seasons often suffer from improper capitalization. It seems like a fitting time for a refresher on some time-of-year-related capitalization rules people just can’t seem to wrap their heads around, doesn’t it?

Caps on, caps off! (To the tune of this, of course.)

Let’s go ahead and start with seasons. While fall, winter, spring, and summer might seem like momentous, specific events—ones celebrated by solstices and skipping around maypoles—they are not actually proper nouns. Winter is not a holiday; spring is not a place. The point is the following: Please stop capitalizing seasons!

Days of the week? Keep ‘em in caps (well, the first letter, anyway). Holidays? Sure. But you all need to quit it with the shift key when it comes to the seasons.

Next topic! Since we mentioned holidays, let’s talk a little about those. The writing out of holiday names seems to reveal a commitment issue other than the kind we girls commonly (and perhaps unfairly?) accuse the men in our lives of having (sorry, guys). A capitalization commitment issue, if you will.

Scouring internet holiday references yields mentions of “Valentine’s day,” “New Year’s eve,” and other such offenses. It’s as if the guilty start off loving capital letters, but then doubt rolls into their minds. “Do I really like them? Are they worth keeping around? Maybe we need some time apart.” And so we end up with holiday names gone wrong. We’re here to say that, in this case, you shouldn’t be afraid of commitment! Commit to capitalization for holidays, friends. In other words, people celebrate Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, Columbus Day, Christmas Eve, etc. And Halloween and Easter, of course, but we assume you’re all pretty clear on those.

The last rule we picked to round out our capitalization discussion today is one that completely surprised us. We’ll start like this: Raise your hand if you say “Daylight Savings Time” and write it out just like that, capital letters and all. Before researching this topic, Lauren and Caro would have definitely had their arms proudly waving in the air, proclaiming, “Of course, that’s correct!” Well, on this day, our worlds have been shaken, albeit mildly.

When we took to the internet to verify that “Daylight Savings Time” was correct before sharing it with you, we discovered that we were wrong. About two things. (Caro would like to take a moment to point out how well this applies to the situation.) First of all, nothing in the phrase is capitalized! And secondly, we must drop the second s of the second word. That’s right, people. The correct way to write it all out is “daylight saving time.”

Actually, some debate exists over whether to place a hyphen between daylight and saving. The pro-hyphen side sees the words “daylight” and “saving” as forming a compound modifier that describes time. Caro has now enthusiastically declared herself a member of the hyphen-supporting set, as she inexplicably really enjoys compound modifiers. She is also willing to bet that the no-hyphen side is more apathetic than actually convinced there is a specific reason to omit the hyphen. Despite being a fan of compound modifiers in general, Lauren favors the non-hyphenated version, as Caro suspected, out of pure indifference. She just might change her mind, though, so keep tabs on this groundbreaking development as it occurs.

So choose freely between daylight-saving time and daylight saving time. Just remember: no capital letters, and no savings.

That’s all we have for you today regarding capitalization. The only other thing we can offer is this song, which is catchier than the common flu and is currently stuck in our heads. We’re spreading the love. Enjoy!

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To Care, or Not To Care?

Let’s broach the subject of caring. Sometimes you care a lot, and sometimes you barely care. At times you care so very little that, in fact, you could not possibly care any less. Care = zero.

So it should be obvious, then, that the phrase you would utter would be, simply, “I couldn’t care less.” Easy, right?! Not for everyone.

Lauren offers her take on the situation: “If I hear one more person butcher this phrase by saying, “I could care less,” I will physically make him or her care less. I believe what you are trying to say, you nincompoops, is that you COULDN’T CARE LESS!”

Caro’s opinions on the matter usually take shape much less eloquently. Upon hearing someone say, “I could care less,” she tends to make any of a series of frustrated sounds (like “ughhh!” or “arggghhh” or “skdksjwhejdxf”), run around in circles (arms flailing, no doubt), and yell, “SO YOU DOOO CARE!” Ok, maybe that’s what she does in her mind. In real life, the reaction is more like intense judging eyes.

Cleary, the misuse of this phrase makes us a little loopy. We’re out to make things right.

So, just for you, Lauren has created a hypothetical conversation and accompanying rant to help illustrate the issue:

Sally: “I really like green jello, and there are tiny blue men running around my house.”
Billy: “I could care less.”
Sally: “Aw thanks! That’s so sweet that you care!”

THAT, PEOPLE, IS WHAT SAYING “I COULD CARE LESS” ACTUALLY MEANS! It means you DO care and could possibly care less than you do. Instead, Billy should have said:

Billy: “Frankly, Sally, I couldn’t care less about your schizophrenia or passion for gelatinous desserts, but can we go to the movies now?”


Caro’s response to Lauren’s rant: “I like how Billy has diagnosed Sally with schizophrenia.”
Lauren says: “Oh? I couldn’t care less.”

So there you have it. Now you can confidently go forth and properly express whether you do or don’t care. If you DO care, you COULD care less. If you DON’T, the proper phrase is: “I couldn’t care less.”

Lesson #1 is complete. Over and out.

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