I'm Maeve Maddox.

I write about English usage, public education, and US popular culture. Welcome to my site.


I also write posts at the AmericanEnglishDoctor for parents and teachers who want to know how to teach children to read and write before it's too late.

The Difference Between "Advise" and "Advice"

People who use English as a marketing tool really should learn to avoid the most common usage errors.

One of the most common mistakes is to interchange the noun advice and the verb advise.

The error is so common that it is frequently described on hundreds of sites that address usage. I know that I’ve written on it numerous times, and it’s the third entry in my vastly popular writing guide 100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid.

How, I wonder, is anyone who uses English in a professional context able to avoid learning the difference between the two?

Here’s an ad that came up this morning in my Facebook feed:

Lana, the Apple Certified Support Professional. advises “3 easy steps.” She is offering advice.

The two words are not only spelled differently, they are pronounced differently.

The verb, advise, is pronounced with a z sound: \ad-ˈvīz\

The noun, advice, is pronounced with an s sound: /ad-vice/. \ad-ˈvīs\

My eye was drawn to the ad because I am a Mac user and I might have clicked on it to find out more, but the error stopped me cold.

If you’re selling, spelling counts.

BTW If you need to brush up on your high school English, my little style guide is the place to go: 100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid. It not only covers the most common errors of spelling and usage seen in advertising, it contains a review of the parts of speech and the parts of the sentence. Most attractive of all is its price: print 6.99; Kindle 3.99.


The disconnect between the spelling and pronunciation of some English words is not a sinister plot to annoy English

Continue reading February

Beware of Whom with Parenthetical Expressions

This morning the following caption appeared in a Democrat-Gazette article about a bank robbery:
Springdale police are searching for this man whom they say robbed an Arvest Bank branch Thursday.
The error with whom in this caption is common in sentences that contain a parenthetical phrase or clause: a group of words thrown into another clause, separating

Continue reading Beware of “Whom” with Parenthetical Expressions

New Word: DeVossed

A Google search for “devossed” in quotation marks brings up only 521 hits on February 9, 2017, but my spidey sense tells me this word is destined to achieve greater numbers in the following weeks and months.
The Urban Dictionary has already posted an entry:
DEVOSSED: When the last tiny shred of hope is shattered. Origin: Betsy

Continue reading New Word: DeVossed

10 Requests to the Press

Please stop reaching for false equivalencies in an effort to appear unbiased. You’re not being biased when you acknowledge that something bad is

Continue reading 10 Requests to the Press


We need a Secretary who will reform the Department of Education, not gut the public school

Continue reading NOT DeVos

What Makes A Word Fancy?

If dossier is a “fancy French word,” wouldn’t imprimatur be a “fancy Latin

Continue reading What Makes A Word “Fancy”?

Anger in the Air

Have you ever made a survey-caller so angry he left you shaking when you hung

Continue reading Anger in the Air

A New Shibboleth

Cartoon by Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press
A reader writing a letter to the editor in my daily paper described an incident in which he went shopping, filled his basket with items totaling about $300 and then walked out of the store without completing his purchases.
What prompted him to do that?
When he entered the check-out line and

Continue reading A New Shibboleth


The villainous husband in Gaslight has slipped a previously lost object into his wife’s purse. He insists that she put it there.
One of my favorite movies of all time is Gaslight (1944) starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer.
Based on a 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton and directed by George Cukor, Gaslight combines an extraordinarily talented

Continue reading Gaslighting