August 11th, 2015
Author: Ashleigh Mair
Instagram revamps its offerings and Facebook redefines the ‘click’

Instagram Explore

In this edition of #ICYMI, we look at Instagram’s platform updates and Facebook’s new definition of a ‘click’ that will benefit advertisers (but not before it costs them more!). Read More

July 21st, 2015
Author: Dianne Craig
How to pluralize compound nouns

literally word on the torn paper background

This month we’ll explore variations in form that can be confusing when some compound nouns move from singular to plural.  We’ll also take a look at the word ‘literally’, semi- and bi- prefixes, and other Confusables.

Plural of Compound Nouns

There are several different types of compound nouns, so it’s not surprising errors often occur when they are pluralized.  They can be hyphenated, as in ‘sister-in-law’; have spaces between the words, as in ‘cup of tea’; or be merged words, also known as closed compound nouns, such as ‘classroom.’  Mistakes are common in pluralization of the first two types.  For virtually all merged compound nouns, like ‘toothbrush,’ you would simply add ‘es.’ But even that simple pluralization rule has some exceptions, such as ‘passersby’ and ‘paperwork.’

The instinct may be to pluralize the last word of compound nouns that have hyphens or spaces — common errors are ‘sister-in-laws,’ and ‘hole-in-ones’.  In most cases you should simply pluralize the principal word, and/or the word that changes in number.

Some examples of exceptions and unique plurals:

OnWordsJune 2015_FINAL_001

*Other examples: ‘spoonfuls of honey,’ ‘bucketfuls of apples.’  Pluralizing the principal word, such as ‘teaspoonsful,’ is considered archaic.

Literally vs. Figuratively

The use of ‘literally’ when a meaning is intended figuratively happens frequently, though more often in speech than in written communications.  If someone says, “This quarter was so tough we were literally pulling teeth to get enough sales,” you’d know they are joking (about the teeth, of course).  Another example: “I have literally created a monster!”  If you mean something figuratively, avoid using ‘literally.’  If you really want to use ‘literally’ — and it’s often not necessary to make your point — reserve it for expressing something that is true, such as “I literally walked three miles to get here.”

Bi-weekly vs. Semi-weekly; Bi-annual vs. Semi-annual

It’s easy to forget distinctions between similar words, like bi-weekly and semi-weekly.  The simple way to remember is to consider their Latin roots:  the prefix ‘bi’ means two, while ‘semi’ means half.  A ‘bi’ prefix usually means “every two,” so ‘bi-weekly’ refers to every two weeks, and ‘bi-annual’ refers to once every two years.  ‘Semi-weekly’ means every half week, and ‘semi-annual’ refers to every half year.   A less common usage for ‘bi’ is “twice every,” but to avoid confusion it’s best to use ‘bi’ for “every two” and ‘semi’ for “twice every” week/month/year.


Here are pairs of words from The New American Dictionary of Difficult Words often mistaken for each other or used incorrectly:

Inapt/Inept: These words are often mixed up.  While ‘inapt’ means unsuitable or inappropriate, such as an inapt comment, ‘inept’ refers to incompetence, as in “The inept bartender didn’t know what a Rusty Nail was.”

Insightful/Perceptive: ‘Insightful’ means characterized by an intuitive ability to understand the inner nature of something, as in “She made insightful comments about the cost of generating leads.”  ‘Perceptive’ refers to the ability to clearly see and understand the external aspects of something, as in “He made a perceptive observation about my stage fright.”

July 6th, 2015
Author: Catherine Brasch
#ICYMI: Twitter makes it easier to track conversations and Instagram cleans up its web design

Instagram ICYMI - July 2015

In this week’s #ICYMI we look at changes to Twitter and Instagram.

Last month Twitter made it easier to track conversations surrounding a particular tweet by grouping them together and highlighting the most interesting parts of the conversation right below the tweet. With this latest algorithm change, replies and popular tweets will be easier to find.

Along with this change, conversations and related tweets are linked by a blue line making it easy for users to follow along. The tweets that have the most responses will be pushed to the top.

Overall this update will make it easier for brands to track the sentiment of a certain conversation. By pushing the most popular replies to the top, this will also filter out a lot of noise that often surrounds a conversation.

Additionally Twitter has now removed the 140-character limit for direct messages and expanded it to 10,000 characters. When combined with the fact that DMs are no longer limited to users who follow each other, it becomes clear that Twitter wants to enable longer, more meaningful conversations between users.

In other news, Instagram has introduced a new web design on desktop and mobile that makes user accounts look cleaner and photos much larger.

The most noticeable change is to profile pages on the desktop, which now have three large images in each row as opposed to the original five. Also, the grid of cover images at the top is gone and there are no longer borders and rounded edges. This makes it easier for users to digest images faster, without so much surrounding clutter.

This update is great for brands that are product focused as users may stay on their Instagram account longer. The more user-friendly and visually pleasing design for the desktop also signifies Instagram’s attempt at becoming more than a mobile application and destination for professional photographers.

Let us know what you think about these social media #ICYMIs by leaving a comment below and sharing on your social media accounts. Stay tuned for more social updates to help you manage your presence on social channels.

June 11th, 2015
Author: Ashleigh Mair
#ICYMI: Facebook tweaks news feeds and Twitter tightens up platform security

June 10 2015 ICYMI

In this edition of #ICYMI we focus on two popular social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter. Facebook has announced a change in the platform’s algorithm that will affects users’ feeds while Twitter is giving users more freedom and tightening platform security. Read More

May 27th, 2015
Author: Dianne Craig
On Words: May 2015

May - OnWords 2015

Finally we’ve passed through the portal that leads to the warm summer months. This month, we examine use of hyperbole, vocative case and the pronoun ‘this’ – as well as Confusables. Read More

April 30th, 2015
Author: Dianne Craig
OnWords: April


This month, we explore idioms vs. clichés and usage of counterpoint phrases. Plus, we’ve got more Confusables and an epic grammar fail. Read More

April 20th, 2015
Author: Catherine Brasch
#ICYMI: Google wants you to get mobile friendly and LinkedIn launches Lead Accelerator

ICYMI - April 20 2015

In this week’s #ICYMI we look at the latest updates from Google and LinkedIn that will affect your business.

Google is giving businesses until April 21st to become mobile friendly.

On April 21st Google will be updating its search algorithm to consider mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor in Google search results. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact on Google’s search results.

This means mobile users will find it easier to receive search results that are optimized for their devices. If your business’ website isn’t optimized for mobile devices, Google’s update could hinder you.

If your website isn’t optimized you could already be losing mobile visitors. You can conduct a mobile- friendly test through Google to see if your business is prepared ahead of the April 21st deadline, and read our post on preparing for a mobile-first world here.

Read More

April 17th, 2015
Author: Miles Pollock
Websites Must Prepare for the Mobile-First World

Google’s new “Mobile-Friendly” search algorithm will start rolling out April 21st


Websites with mobile-friendly designs, such as StrategicAmpersand’s, will now appear at the top of Google search results.

In its brief history, the Web has constantly evolved. Today, the evolution to mobile Web adoption is increasing at light speed as fully half of today’s Internet connections are made using mobile devices. Even if you believe most people who visit your website are doing so from an office desk or at home, consider this: 77 per cent of ‘mobile’ searches are done at home or at work!

The standard perceptions of where we use desktops and where we use mobiles are no longer valid. But while we’re searching the Web using varying devices, our preferred method of search has not changed — we’re mostly Googling.

So it comes as no surprise that many Webmasters hold their breath every time Google announces changes to its search algorithm (the code that governs how the search giant categorizes and prioritizes one website over another). Even today, the algorithm remains something of a mystery, but Google helps us out by regularly making sure we know what factors impact a site’s search ranking.

Read More

March 27th, 2015
Author: Dianne Craig
On Words: March

It’s spring! A season of growth, or as Robin Williams once said, “Spring is nature’s way of saying, Let’s Party!” In the spirit of this growing and building season, this month we look at some structural grammar issues – specifically, double constructions and squinting modifiers.

Double Constructions

This is a reference to those times when a part of speech is duplicated unnecessarily in an effort to ensure clarity. Simply put, it’s a way of over-explaining. The University of Toronto calls this ‘grammar overkill’. Double constructions are unnecessary, read as clunky, and break the flow: Read More

March 27th, 2015
Author: Ashleigh Mair
#ICYMI YouTube dabbles with video toggling and Twitter gives businesses the reins

ICYMI - March 25

In this week’s ICYMI, we look at a recent addition to YouTube that allows users to pick their preferred angle when viewing videos and a new tool on Twitter that enables businesses to promote tweets more efficiently. Read More