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50 Mistreated Words and Desecrated Phrases: Sherbert

Sherbet is a frozen fruit-flavored dessert treat. But it’s a sure bet plenty of people still call it sherbert. There’s no such thing.

Oh, sure, Bert. 

You may have a scoop of sherbet. If you prefer, you may have sorbet instead. But sherbert’s not on the dessert menu – or even in the dictionary.

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50 Mistreated Words and Desecrated Phrases: Scotch-free (or Scott free)

Have you ever escaped a potentially embarrassing or difficult situation scot-free? Can you recall an instance when a traffic cop let you off with just a warning? Or have you dodged the blame bullet in some wild way?

If that’s the case, you didn’t get off Scotch-free or Scott free. You got off scot-free.

Great Scott!  Count yourself lucky!

“Scot” was a Middle English / Norse term pertaining to a tax, fee, or charge assessed. It has nothing to do with being Scottish, being sufficiently coated with Scotch Guard, drinking Scotch whiskey (neat or on the rocks), or dealing with anyone named Scott.

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Avoid the ampersand!

The ampersand is a convenient little typographic symbol and abbreviation, but it can surely spell trouble for a blogger or web writer.

In a title and in the web-quoted first line of a blog post or an article, an ampersand often appears with odd coding (as pictured here):


This looks terrible, and it may muck up search engine findings. The simple symbol shows up as a misspelled word, instead of a character shortcut.

What’s more, on some publishing sites (like, the use of an ampersand can lead to publishing glitches, particularly when titles are listed as related links at the base of new articles. When a writer revises a piece, for example, the symbol is automatically replaced by the above gobbledly-gook, which stops the publishing tool in its tracks.

Avoid the ampersand, if possible.

Sure, the ampersand takes up one letter space, as opposed to the three whole spaces occupied by the full word “and.” But this little word is clearly recognized online, even robotically.

AND it’s a safer bet, all around.

Yes, sometimes an ampersand appears in a cited work’s title, a company name, or another letter-for-letter reference. If that’s the case, it’s easiest to keep that item out of the blog post or web article title and first sentence. That should keep the odd transcription out of the picture.

Here’s one more warning about the ampersand.

Within the  text of actual body copy (in a blog post, article, book, or other work), it’s technically only correct to employ the ampersand when it is part of an actual proper name or directly quoted term.


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