LANGUAGE SKILLS > WORDS: SPELLING/ETYMOLOGY/SLANG

Finish up this quiz - affect? effect? - with some rules and suggestions that could help out the next time your - make that "you're" - scratching your head.

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Historian Doug Harper, the site's creator, calls himself the "second-most-famous assistant city editor ever to work at the West Chester, Pa., Daily Local News." The first-most-famous, he says, was Dave Barry.

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Dave Wilton doesn't bother with ordinary words. He goes for peloton and keister and wog. And if you get your mojo on, you'll know where you got it from.

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Ever wonder what the most commonly used word is? Conversely, what words rarely get their day to shine? WordCount is an interactive presentation of the 86,800 most frequently used words. The No. 1 word is easy: the. You'll have to check out No. 86,800 for yourself.

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These quizzes range from improving your GRE score to learning tech terms.

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Better words contribute to better writing. Take the Journalists' Vocabulary Challenge, "a random list of words that journalists might know or might want to know" created by Michael Spear at the University of Richmond.

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The hyperbole of its name aside, this is a nifty site that recreates the conditions of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. Using words from the competition, the game pronounces the word and asks you to type it. It'll even use the word in a sentence and give you the definition.

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Well, you could try that approach. But the Online Writing Lab from Purdue has a better way: a full section of tips and quizzes. Once you've had a chance to study all of its spelling lessons, take the quiz on that toughie, "affect" and "effect."

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Kay Phillips ran the Grammar Slammer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for years. She managed to pick up a few tips, and she shares them here.

DOWNLOADS: Spelling tips

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"Doe a deer, a female deer..." What does that have to do with the origin of the gamut? Well, we'll tell you.

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National Public Radio posted its audio history of why and how OK may be one of the world's most common sayings.

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Computational linguistics - that's the phrase that explains why Gary Martin started this site. And it all stems from research into using artificial intelligence techniques to aid writing instruction. See? Digging into phrases is fun.

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They taught us in reporting class that if you need information, you should go to the best source of that information. For the history of many of our words, that's Latin.

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You can never have too many Latin dictionaries.

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This site has about 4 million definitions submitted by users. It has several definitions for itself. Here's the first: "A place formerly used to find out about slang, and now a place that teens with no life use as a burn book to whine about celebrities, their friends, etc., let out their sexual frustrations, show off their racist/sexist/homophobic/anti-(insert religion here) opinions, troll, and babble about things they know nothing about."

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From "about that" to "zosted," a student at the University of California at Berkeley is building a collection of slang terms, with explanations of how and when each term evolved.

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If you've ever had trouble deciphering the meaning of a word in a rap song, try this site - but I warn you, it's gone wiki, which means someone as clueless as you could be editing it.

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