Oral or Verbal: What’s the Difference?



Today, I was working on editing a script and came across the use of oral. I pondered whether it would have been more appropriate to use verbal. After some investigation, I concluded that they may be used interchangeably. English is defined by word usage much more often than by definitions.

However,  for standard business English and report writing, here’s how it breaks down.

Oral: Strictly by mouth. Having to do with that cavity where we shove our food and other things.
an oral agreement and an oral contract are spoken only. Oral surgery is a procedure performed on or in the mouth. An oral fixation is a craving to put something in one’s mouth (one of my grandsons is developing an oral fixation since he’s started teething). Also, oral sometimes has salacious connotations, so many people replace it with verbal. Nevertheless, it is still perfectly correct as standard English usage.

Verbal: Putting something into words–either spoken or written.
a verbal agreement or a verbal  contract is written or spoken. Also, verbal is the characteristic of an action word. Verbal is now the more popular word to describe anything that has to do with speaking.

To summarize: Oral and verbal have become interchangeable in general usage. However, if you are writing in a formal environment, you may gain points by using them according to the formal definitions in bold above.

For help in putting your best word forward. Contact me at dmariemarks@gmail.com and check out my blog posts. See more here.

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Janus words: Two-faced creatures


The god Janus

A recent Merriam-Webster blog sheds light on one of the many ironies of the English language. The phenomenon of Janus words.

According to Wikipedia, Janus is the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings. He has two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. Janus presided over the beginning and ending of conflict, and hence war and peace.

A Janus word is one that is its own opposite. Here a few some are also mentioned t in the Merriam-Webster blog.

To move swiftly (The tall sprinter moves fast.)
Stuck in a firm or fixed manner (The bird struggled and was held fast in the net.)

To read carefully (The hiring manager carefully perused all the applications for the job.)
To skim over (Jesse quickly perused the small crowd, looking for the girl in a neon pink hat.)

Watchful and responsible care (The new manager was given oversight of a large project.)
An error of omission (The problem was a simple oversight of two numbers)

To attach something (The cashier grabbed her stapler and clipped the coupon to the receipt.)
To cut off something (My sister still clips her coupons from the newspaper.)

To split (A giant blow from the ax cleaved the block of wood into a million pieces.)
To adhere to (Jesse cleaved to her son as he died from his wounds.)

Vicious, evil (The wicked witch poisoned all the creatures in the forest.)
Extremely good (The group put on a wicked concert this weekend, it got rave reviews!)

Unfavorable (Jesse is depressed about his bad grades.)
Really super-nice (The models wore some bad-ass outfits at the show; they sold out in no time.)

See more on Janus words here.

For help in putting your best words forward, whether it’s a report, a thesis, a novel, or any other written project, visit Donna Marks or e-mail dmariemarks@gmail.com.


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Consider This Before You Write or Text

it’s or its?

If it is a contraction of it is, then it should be it’s.

So: It’s time for us to get a new bell.


If it is the possessive (a pronoun that indicates that something belongs), then it should be its.

So: The monster flashed its tail and the tree fell.


you’re or your

If it is a contraction of you are, then it should be you’re.

So: If you’re going to be late, please let me know beforehand.


If it is the possessive (a pronoun that indicates that something belongs to you), then it should be your.

So: I found your umbrella in the basement.

Let me help you put your best word forward. Go to editsbymarks or call  240-380-9905.

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Daydreaming of summer in winter

The invigorating feeling of ice-cold lemonade running down the back of your throat,
after gardening all morning in the sun.

The funky, happy notes of Hugh Masakela’s flugelhorn as you jam to
“Grazin’ in the Grass,” while barbequing chicken on the deck.

The charge from the cool water, as you dunk yourself in a stream, after a hot game of catch with the kids.

Crisp, light sundresses in tropical prints and Bermuda shorts and pretty slide sandals and wide-brimmed straw hats.

The gentle cool that caresses you as you raise your face to catch a breeze,
while sitting under a shade tree.

Here’s to summer. Bring it on!a-beautiful-day-775461_1920

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Time for a poetic interlude


Daydreaming Shoes

I brought some tomatoes to market

To sell for a dollar or two

I’m trying to raise enough money

To buy me some magical shoes


The shoes are encrusted with diamonds

And fitted with drones in the heels

To take me to faraway places

To see all that God will reveal

copyright 2018 Donna Marks


I can help you put your best word forward. Contact dmariemarks@gmail.com

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How does copyright law affect my work?

Let’s say you may need to make copies of some helpful information you found in a publication, to share with colleagues in the office, for presentation to students in a class, to include in a document you are writing, or to post online. Well, there are basic rules to be aware of regarding copyright law in the United States.

If you wish to use a specific work, verbatim, you must credit the author(s) in a citation right after you present their work or in an endnote or reference list.

Here is more important information on copyright, taken from chapter 4 of the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition:

  • The author of a work possesses copyright (along with various subrights) at the time the work is created. The author can sell, rent, give away, will, or transfer rights to whomever the author wishes. Authors normally transfer some or all of these rights to the publisher in a contract.
  • Copyright protection of a work does not require registering it at the United States Copyright Office.
  • It is no longer necessary to put a copyright notice on a work in order for it to be protected. However, such notices may discourage others from stealing or plagiarizing the work.
  • Anything posted on the internet is “published” in the sense of copyright and must be treated as such for the purposes of complete citation and clearance of permissions, if relevant.

For help in putting your best word forward, go to editsbymarks.com or contact me at dmariemarks@gmail.com.

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What good is an abstract, anyway?

First of all, an abstract is a preview of your research findings. It summarizes your work in a page or less, giving the reader enough information to decide whether they want to read more about it or pass. As such it should do the following:

  • Describe succinctly, the purpose of your research and the problem you investigated
  • Describe the design or approach you took. Was this an experiment? A descriptive case study or survey? An observational study? A review?
  • State your major findings from your analysis
  • Summarize your interpretations of your findings and state your main conclusion.

The abstract should be written last, after you have completed and documented your research. Use the active voice as much as possible. Remember, you are publicizing events that already took place, so write in the past tense. To ensure that whatever you write agrees with what is in your research paper, use key information from your paper verbatim.

Put yourself in the place of another researcher or decision maker who has a strong interest and wants to know more about your topic. Would the content you present intrigue them enough to draw them to read about your work? Also, if the abstract was the only information they could get to, does it hit on the main points of your report?

Types of abstracts

Your abstract may be either critical, informative, or descriptive.

  • critical abstract compares your work with that of other researchers on the same subject. It tends to be longer, since you are comparing your findings with those of their colleagues.
  • descriptive abstract is not judgmental. It merely describes the work, including the purpose, methods, and scope of the research. It is usually to shortest type of abstract.
  • The informative abstract is much like a descriptive abstract, except that it includes your conclusions and recommendations based on your findings. Most abstracts are informative.

 Your abstract is “a trailer” to your paper. As you compose it, keep in mind that it will be used to drum up interest in your valuable work, much like a movie trailer. So, that’s why you should lead others to your eye-opening research with poignant, descriptive facts on what you unearthed as you researched your topic.

For help in putting your best word forward, contact dmariemarks@gmail.com or go to Editsbymarks.com.

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