Appendix III: Word Wise




haemorrhage – (UK)
hemorrhage – (US)

hairdrier – (recommended)
hairdryer – (variant)


a half per cent, not half a per cent.

Half a per cent ('half a per hundred') does not make sense. Similarly, one per cent, not a per cent ('a per hundred'). Beware, too, of confusing per 
with percentage point. If inflation rises from 2% to 3%, it will have increased by one percentage point, not one per cent (the increase is
actually 50%).

(See also per cent, percent and percentages.)


handkerchiefs – (correct)
handkerchieves – (disputed)


hands-on, hands-off.

Metaphors appropriate only in informal English. Options: (hands-on) active, empirical, experiential, participatory, practical; (hands off) academic,
cerebral, cognitive, conceptual, detached, inactive, passive, theoretical.


hangar – in which aircraft are housed.
hanger – on which clothes are hung.


hanged – executed by suspension from a rope.
hung – dangled, suspended (except in the context of execution).

Pictures are hung; traitors were hanged.


harass, harassment.

The emphasis is on the first syllable in standard British pronunciation.


hard line – (n.) take a hard line.
hard-line – (adj.) a hard-line attitude.


hardly ever – (correct)
rarely – (correct)
rarely ever – (incorrect)

I hardly ever work on weekends, and I rarely work on weekends are both correct, but I rarely ever work on weekends is substandard.


hardly…when… / scarcely…when… (correct)
hardly…before…/ scarcely…before… (correct)
hardly…than… / scarcely…than… (incorrect)

Hardly (scarcely) had I stepped through the door when (before) the telephone rang (correct). Hardly (scarcely) had I stepped through the door than
the telephone rang


hear, hear!, not here, here!


heroin – the drug.
heroine – the woman.


hiccup – (current)
hiccough – (obsolete)
hiccuped, hiccuping – (recommended)
hiccupped, hiccupping – (variant)



Non-standard to mean 'increase'.


Hindu – (n.) an adherent of the Hindu religion; (adj.) of or to do with Hinduism.
Hindi – a language of northern India.


hippopotamus, hippopotamuses (rather than hippopotami).

(See English- and Latin-ending plurals.)


historic, historical.

Historic – to do with a significant phenomenon in history: an historic building, an historic battle; to do with a current phenomenon that has the
potential of becoming significant: an historic decision. Historical – to do with history or its study: historical writings, historical interest.


hoi polloi – (UK) the many, the common people; (derogatory) the rabble; (US) high society.

The British meaning is true to the Greek. How the expression came to be reversed in the United States is unclear, but perhaps because of the
phonetic similarity of hoi and high or by association with hoity-toity. Hoi, in fact, is the definite article, so that the expression the hoi polloi is 
pleonastic (‘the the common people’). The Guardian accepts the pleonasm;1 The Times does not.2 The expression may or may not be italicised.


homoeopathy – (UK)
homeopathy – (US)


homogeneous – of the same kind.
homogenous – (biology) corresponding in structure.


hoofs – (obsolescent)
hooves – (current)

(But see roofs)



Purists have long objected to the use of this word as a sentence adverb (an adverb that modifies an entire clause or sentence). The word, they
insist, means ‘in a hopeful manner’, not ‘it is to be hoped that’. Thus Hopefully, I will arrive before 5.00 p.m. really means, I will arrive before
5.00 p.m.full of hope
. Corrected, the sentence should read It is to be hoped that I will arrive before 5.00 p.m. or (more naturally) I hope to arrive
before 5.00 p.m
. But the objection is becoming difficult to sustain as people use more and more of such words as sentence adverbs: happily,
sadly, thankfully, etc. The Guardian has thrown in the towel3 but The Times fights on.4


hospitalised – (UK)
hospitalized – (US & UK)

Both The Guardian5 and The Times6 forbid this American verb and insist on taken to hospital.


host – (common gender)
hostess – (obsolescent)

Host is sometimes objected to as a verb (to host a party), but Burchfield points out that the word was used in this way as early as the 15th century.7


humane – compassionate, especially to animals.
humanitarian – concerned with the welfare of humans.



An overstatement or exaggeration: wait for ages; sleep forever; a flood of tears; My Mum will kill me.

(Cf. litotes.)


hyperthermia – the condition of having an abnormally high body temperature.
hypothermia – the condition of having an abnormally low body temperature.



1 The Guardian Style Guide. Multiple access, 200203.
2 The Times Style Guide. No longer available on line. Multiple access, 200203.
3 The Guardian Style Guide.
4 The Times Style Guide.
The Guardian Style Guide.
The Times Style Guide.
R. W. Burchfield (ed.), The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Third Revised Edition, OUP, 1998.



























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