How to Win Every Argument

This post is a summary of a summary of the New York Times best-selling book Win Every Argument: The Art of Debating, Persuading, and Public Speaking by Mehdi Hasan.

Persuasive arguments appeal to facts and feelings

The ancient Greeks called the language deployed in such debates rhetoric – a word derived from rhetor, meaning “public speaker.” For Aristotle, persuasive speech has three modes: ethos, pathos, and logos.

Ethos (Character / Credibility)

Ethos is the Greek word for “character”. In this context, it concerns the credibility of the person. For example, we’re more inclined to accept what a practicing doctor has to say about vaccinations, for example, than an anonymous blog author.

Pathos (Emotion)

Pathos is the Greek word for “emotion”. In this context, it concerns an attempt to sway an audience by appealing to powerful emotions such as love and fear. For example, if a doctor’s credentials haven’t persuaded their reluctant patient, they doctor may tell a story about a couple in perfect health who refused to get vaccinated but died within 15 days of each other leaving behind four young children. The patient would feel emotionally in fear and be more inclined to trust the doctor.

Logos (Facts, Figures, Data, Statistics)

Logos is the Greek word for “reasoning”. This form of persuasion deals in facts and figures. For example, if a doctor points out that multiple peer-reviewed studies show that COVID vaccines result in a 90% decrease in the risk of hospitalization and death, they’re appealing to logos. 

Arguing using just logos (facts and figures) is insufficient because people are stubborn, reactive, overconfident, afraid of change, and, more importantly, emotionally invested in beliefs, ideas, and ideals. People’s feelings don’t care about the facts. Therefore, to win an argument, you need also appeal to feelings, not just state the facts.

Tell Stories to Appeal to Feelings (Pathos)

According to 2007 study, people are much more likely to give money to charity if they’re told stories about an “identifiable victim” than they are if they’re presented with accounts of “statistical victims.” For example, a story of the suffering of a single child with a name and a face is more effective than a description of millions of nameless and faceless people suffering in the same way. For example, telling a story about the awful hunger cramps that one child suffers every day is more effective than abstract statements like “820 million people around the world go hungry every day”.

To win arguments, tell gripping and relatable stories.

Cite Credibility, as Necessary (Ethos)

When debating, your aim is to go after the argument, not the person making it. If you go after the person, that’s ad hominem. In theory, the merits of the person speaking have nothing to do with the soundness of what they’re saying, but in reality, merits matter. When facts and figures (logos) are insufficiently convincing, then cite the person’s character and reputation (ethos).

Conflicts of Interest

Imagine a major study is published that claims to show that climate change isn’t nearly as bad as we thought. The caveat: it was entirely funded by fossil fuel companies. If the authors of the study were paid by companies with a less than purely academic interest in the topic, then there’s a conflict of interest. Therefore, dismissing the study on the credibility of the authors is a logical and reasonable thing to do.


If an outspoken anti-abortion lawmaker privately supports women having abortions, then they are hypocrites. In theory, the hypocrisy of the person speaking has nothing to do with the soundness of what they’re saying, but in reality, hypocrisy matters.

To win arguments, consider citing the credibility of the speaker.


  1. State facts and figures.
  2. Tell gripping and relatable stories.
  3. Consider citing the credibility of the speaker.

Simple Steps for Losing Weight and Building Muscle

Step 1: Determine Maintenance Calories

Your maintenance calories is the number of calories you consume and burn each day to neither lose nor gain weight. Enter your information in this online calorie calculator by the Mayo Clinic. It uses the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation, which pros consider the gold standard.

For me, my maintenance calories is currently 2650 calories per day.

Step 2: Calculate Calories & Protein to Lose Weight and Build Muscle

Losing Weight (Fat)

In order to lose weight by losing fat, you just need one thing: a net deficit of calories. But you don’t want too large a deficit because then you’ll lose both fat and muscle. You should target a deficit of 5 to 10% of your maintenance calories. You can lose weight by just

  • consuming fewer calories without exercising
  • consuming more calories but burning extra calories by doing cardio exercises like running

Whether you just rest or you exercise, your net calorie deficit should be 5 to 10% of your maintenance calories. For me, this value is currently between 2385 and 2517 calories.

Gaining Muscle

In order to gain muscle, you need 4 things:

  1. a net surplus of calories
  2. strength training until failure
  3. sufficient protein consumption
  4. rest (minimum 7 hours a day)

For the calories, you don’t want too large a surplus because then you’ll gain both muscle and fat. You should target a surplus of 5 to 15% of your maintenance calories. For me, this value is currently between 2782 and 3047 calories.

For the protein, you should target consuming 1 gram of protein for each pound of body weight. So, if you weigh 180 lbs, you should consume 180 grams of protein.

The calorie (energy / fuel) surplus is needed to rebuild the muscle you’ve broken down during strength training. Breaking down muscle fibers only happens if you train to failure. The large protein consumption is needed because muscles are made of protein. Muscle (protein) synthesis occurs while you’re sleeping, which is why it’s necessary to sleep enough after strength training.

Target Calorie & Protein Summary
DayCalorieProteinMy Target
Rest or Cardio5-10% deficitAny amount2385-2517 calories,
any protein
Strength Training5-15% surplus1 gr / lb of body weight2782-3047 calories,
180 grams of protein

Studies show that consuming high amounts of protein while in a calorie deficit can preserve muscle mass and accelerate fat loss. Therefore, if possible, consume a lot of protein daily, not just on strength training days.

Step 3: Make a Weekly Schedule

Your weekly schedule would be a combination of resting days, cardio days, and strength training (weight lifting) days. Here’s an example.

MondayRestCalorie Deficit, Extra Protein
TuesdayStrength TrainingCalorie Surplus, Extra Protein
WednesdayCardioCalorie Deficit, Extra Protein
ThursdayRestCalorie Deficit, Extra Protein
FridayStrength TrainingCalorie Surplus, Extra Protein
SaturdayCardioCalorie Deficit, Extra Protein
SundayStrength TrainingCalorie Surplus, Extra Protein

For strength training, you need to wait at least one day in between working the same muscle group, e.g. don’t do chest presses every day. Do them at most every other day because muscle protein synthesis (MPS) takes 36-48 hours on average and working the same muscles during that time will interfere with synthesis.

Step 4: Make a Meal Plan

When it comes to losing weight, you just need a calorie deficit, but you should consume healthy calories, e.g. no processed food, no added sugar, etc. For me, I try to stick to a keto diet, although that’s not absolutely necessary.

When it comes to building muscle, the hardest part will be trying to consume sufficient protein. If you weigh 180 lbs, you need to consume 180 grams of protein. That’s actually hard to do, which is why many people consume protein shakes to supplement their meals.

Here’s a list of protein-dense foods that can help you reach your protein consumption target.

FoodQuantityProtein (g)CaloriesProtein Density
Egg1 large6788%
Egg Whites1 large41822%
Chicken breast15328419%
96/4 beef pattie12515017%
Greek yogurt6 oz2014014%
Soy milk1 cup71006%
Whey protein concentrate supplement1 scoop2513019%
Turkey breast2612521%
Premier protein shake13016019%
Kirkland chewy protein bar1101905%

I personally find chicken breast difficult to cook in a short amount of time while still tasting good. So, I opt for packaged options like Lightly Breaded Chicken Breast Nuggets. These have added protein, are easy to cook, and taste decent. Other similar options taste better, but they have less protein and more calories, e.g. Kirkland Signature Lightly Breaded Chicken Breast Chunks, Boneless Skinless.

Example Meal Plan

Target Protein (grams) Consumption (muscle building):180
Target Daily Calorie Consumption (muscle building):2782-3047
Target Daily Calorie Consumption (weight loss):2385-2517

Since the hardest thing is consuming enough protein, the meal plan below will focus on foods that will hit the target protein amount of 180 without consuming an excess of calories. If there is a calorie deficit, you can easily add any kind of healthy food to reach the calorie target.

Food / IngredientUnitProtein (g)CaloriesQuanitityTotal ProteinTotal CaloriesProtein Density
Eggs1 large6784243127.69%
Mozzarella string cheese stick178017808.75%
Premier Protein Shake (Chocolate)13016013016018.75%
Keto Beef Cheeseburger
Keto burger bun1 bun9801980
96/4 lean beef pattie1 pattie25150125150
Cheddar cheese1 slice5901590
Mayo1 tbsp0351035
Ketchup1 tbsp0201020
Protein Shake00
Vanilla greek yogurt1 cup (150 gr)20140120140
Whey protein powder1 scoop25130125130
Unsweetened soy milk1 cup6.310516.3105
Creatine powder1 scoop00100
Glucomannan powder1 scoop00100
Frozen berries1/2 cup0351035
Keto Chicken Cheeseburger
Keto burger bun1 bun980198011.25%
Grilled Chicken Pattie1 pattie2012012012016.67%
Cheddar cheese1 slice59015905.56%
Mayo1 tbsp03510350
Barbecue sauce1 tbsp051050
Kirkland Chewy Protein Bar1 bar101901101905.26%
Anything else (pasta, fries, etc)

Step 5: Exercise


For cardio, you can do anything from hiking, dancing, running, biking, etc. If you’re low on time, you can buy a recumbent exercise bike with resistance. It lets you lay back and exercise in a comfortable position. The one below is lightweight and small and costs $178. You can easily put it in your living room and use it while watching TV.

Marcy Recumbent Exercise Bike with Resistance ME-709

Another low-intensity option is to simply walk. A common goal is to target 10,000 steps per day, which is about 5 miles. You can also walk at home while watching TV. Some walking pads can easily be stored and don’t make a lot of noise. This one, for example, comes with the following features

  • optional 3% incline
  • low 45 dB noise
  • remote control
  • large display
  • belt dimensions: 17″ x 48″
  • overall dimensions: 27″D x 50″W x 5″H
  • supports Zwift and Kinomap
  • Speed: 0.6-7.6 mph (~1350 – 17000 steps)
  • foldable
Strength training

For strength training, you should do the following:

  • For each exercise, do 3 sets of 8-12 reps with 1-3 minutes of rest in between
  • For each set, do as many reps until failure (you can no longer complete a full rep)
  • Periodically increase the weights (progressive overload)
  • Ensure you feel stimulation in the target muscle. If you don’t, then you may be doing the exercise wrong and you will see limited results. Some call this the mind-muscle connection.

When it comes to building muscle, what matters most is volume. For example, both of the following will produce the same results.

Weight (lbs)RepsSetsTotal Volume

While working out, I’ve found the following accessories helpful.

Compression t-shirt

A compression t-shirt helps you see your physique so you can visually see your progress and which areas to target. I use the Under Armour Men’s HeatGear Compression Short-Sleeve T-Shirt.

Bluetooth headphones

Playing certain types of music can be motivating and make exercising more enjoyable. Many people wear bulky on-ear headphones. I prefer in-ear neckband earphones because they don’t move around and are lightweight. They also block out ambient noise pretty well. I wear the Sony Wireless Behind-Neck Headset (WI-C400).

Workout gloves

If you don’t wear padded gloves, you can easily develop calluses (thickened skin that forms as a response to repeated friction or pressure). Lifting weights is much more comfortable while wearing padded gloves.

Step 6: Count Calories

For calorie consumption, you can count calories by adding up all calories for each ingredient or food you consume. Look at the nutrition label on food packaging and/or look at online calorie databases.

For calorie expenditure, don’t rely on a smartwatch. Their calorie tracking can be way off. Instead, wear a heart rate monitor like the Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor Chest Strap. You can track your calories both on your smartphone and online. Buy it on Amazon.

To see how inaccurate a smartwatch measures calories burned, today I used both my Fossil Gen X watch and the Google Fit watch app to track calories burned. I also used the Polar H10 chest strap. I did strength training for 1 hour and 10 minutes. When I started tracking on my watch, I chose “indoor workout,” and the phone app just started tracking calories, time spent, heart rate, etc. When I started tracking using the Polar H1 app on my phone, I was able to choose “Strength training” before the device started tracking vitals. Once I was done exercising, I stopped both apps. As you can see below, the smartwatch says “Run”, which I guess means it thought I was running on a treadmill. It also says I burned 482 calories. In the Polar H10 app on my phone, it says I burned 759 calories. That’s way more than 482, with a difference of 277 calories. While I was exercising, I had my Bluetooth earphones on. The Polar H10 app would send an audio message like “You are improving your fitness” or “You are burning fat”. It would say the former when I was doing strength training and the latter when I was resting.

Step 7: Measure Progress

Weight Loss Progress

Measuring your weight loss is easy. Just regularly weigh yourself. To automate this, buy a Wi-Fi scale that records and keeps track of your weight and shows a graph of your progress on your phone. I personally use the Withings Body – Digital Wi-Fi Smart Scale with Automatic Smartphone App Sync. If weighing yourself every day, make sure to do it right before bed or first thing in the morning for more accurate results.

Muscle Gain Progress

To track your muscle gain, you’ll need to track your strength training weights, reps and sets for each exercise. Personally, I log my workouts using the free version of the FitNotes app. It’s a simple and easy-to-use app that just works. I can easily see my most recent reps and weights so I can either match or exceed them.

If you are able to lift heavier weights and perform more reps, then you must be building muscle, even if it’s not immediately noticeable in the mirror. You can also try measuring the circumference of different parts of your body, e.g. your upper arm, but that’s a hassle and inaccurate if you measure right after a workout when your muscles are swollen.

Over time, you can compare your strength training limits to see progress. Below is an example showing my actual results.

ExerciseDec 26, 2021March 12, 2022% increaseTarget area
V-bar pushdown5072.545%Triceps
Chest press machine7012071%Chest
Lat pulldown machine9013044%Back
Shoulder press machine407075%Shoulders
Tricep pushdown machine11517047%Triceps
Bicep curl machine6511069%Biceps

Proof of Invisible Life: Human vs Car Analogy

The human body is very similar to a car. Following are some similarities between the human body and the car.

ECU (Electronic Control Unit)Brain
Engine and fuel pumpHeart
Air intakeNose and lungs
Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)Fingerprint 
WheelsLegs and hands
Fuel tankStomach
Ball jointsElbows and knees
Car diagnostic scanHuman vital signs/Medical scan
Car structural frameSkeletal system
Engine torqueStrength
Engine oil and other fluidsBlood and body fluids
Car chassisHuman spinal cord
Oil and fuel filtersKidneys
Shock absorbersCartilages and fat
Fuel and radiator fillerMouth to eat and drink
Windscreen wipersEyelashes
Headlight and windscreenEyes
Turbo and superchargersSteroids

When a car stops working, whether due to lots of use (like old age in humans) or an accident (like humans getting injured in an accident), it can be fixed, e.g. by flushing and replacing dirty transmission fluid (like human blood dialysis), or a part can be replaced (like a human organ transplant). Like cars, the human body requires maintenance and can often be repaired. However, the fundamental difference between the two lies in their ability to be resuscitated after experiencing a catastrophic failure. With a car, you can wait forever and still be able to fix it. When a car is dead, e.g. if the engine is off, there’s always a way to bring the car back to life, whether by opening the engine to replace one small part or replacing the engine altogether. In contrast, once a human’s engine (heart) is off (the heart’s electrical system fails, which causes the heart to stop pumping blood), there’s only so much time before the person is completely dead. One must rush to try to restart the heart by either

  • CPR or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation
  • Resuscitation with an automated external defibrillator (AED) device
  • Chest compressions

Time is of the essence. Usually, the person would be considered dead if there is no pulse within 5 minutes. Unlike a car engine, transplanting a perfect heart once someone is dead will not bring the person back to life. Therefore, something must have existed in the human other than the physical parts that gave it life. Some (most) people call this thing the “soul”. Whatever you want to call it, it seems then that this soul is an intangible and invisible form of life (to the human eyes, at least) that transcends the limitations of the material body.

Elevate Your Writing & Self-Image With a Thesaurus or AI with ChatGPT

When most people write, they usually just use basic words. This is likely because people tend to write the same way their peers write and because their vocabulary may just be limited. Occasionally, however, you may read a note or email from someone and you suddenly perceive them in a different light. Their style of writing and choice of words may make you feel they are smarter than you, as much as you may wish not to admit that. If this happens in the workplace, you may even proceed with caution as you may feel that this person is at a higher level than you which can seem intimidating. Luckily, you don’t need to memorize a vast vocabulary or have a PhD just to sound smarter than others.


A simple thesaurus like the one included in Grammarly or a dedicated and powerful one like Power Thesaurus can elevate your writing and self-image at the click of a button. Consider the following basic words and some of their synonyms.

Basic WordSynonyms
make betterimprove, enhance, advance, bolster, strengthen, enrich
manynumerous, multitude, myriad, legion, abundant, copius, heaps, oodles, plethora
stupidabsurd, inane, moronic, farcical, imbecilic, ludicrous, daft, preposterous, lame
showdisplay, demonstrate, exhibit, reveal, manifest, depict, materialize
poorimpoverished, destitute, pathetic, poverty-stricken, pitiful, feeble, meager
walkstroll, hike, wander, trek, trudge, meander

As you can see, without looking at one’s resume (or LinkedIn profile), using more descriptive words can hint that the author is educated, intellectual, knowledgeable, cultured, and not someone to mess with 🙂 Now, I’m not suggesting that you specifically choose synonyms that are so rarely used that people need to look up their meaning. That would be annoying to readers and could backfire as people would know that you’re intentionally choosing rare words instead of trying to communicate clearly and effectively.

Compare the following sentences and see which ones sound more interesting and lend an air of sophistication.

  1. Sometimes, I come across a video that shows poor people in many places around the world.
  2. Occasionally, I’d chance upon a documentary that depicts extreme poverty in various locations around the globe.
  1. I can’t help but wonder why many of these countries don’t appear to be growing whereas others that used to be poor, like China and Singapore, have become rich in a relatively short period of time.
  2. I can’t help but ponder as to why many of these countries don’t appear to be advancing whilst others that used to be destitute, like China and Singapore, have become prosperous in a relatively short timeframe.


Another tip for making your writing more interesting is by using adjectives, especially adjectives that come before the words the describe. Compare the following phrases and see which ones sound better.

  1. This is not just another guidebook.
  2. This is not just another cliched guidebook.
  1. Manhattan is known for its skyscrapers.
  2. Manhattan is known for its gleaming skyscrapers.
  1. Jakarta is full of toll roads.
  2. Jakarta is full of imposing toll roads.
  1. Beijing is covered in pollution.
  2. Beijing is enveloped in a gigantic cloud of pollution.
  1. In the plane, we could smell the odor of durian.
  2. In the plane, we could smell the unmistakable odor of durian.
  1. He discussed issues related to city administration.
  2. He discussed civic issues.
  1. Our visit to Palm Springs was on a hot day.
  2. Our visit to Palm Springs was on a stiflingly hot day.


Another technique is to use analogies. Compare the following.

  1. The auto rickshaw is a noisy 3-wheel vehicle.
  2. The auto rickshaw is a noisy 3-wheel vehicle. It is undoubtedly the cockroach of the automotive world.
  • The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.
  • Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
  • McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.
  • It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

Artificial Intelligence

I just started playing around with ChatGPT artificial intelligence. I tested it to rewrite the two first sentences above in a “better” way. Shockingly, it did an amazing job!


To summarize the above into a step-by-step process, you can do the following:

  1. Write as you normally do
  2. ChatGPT: Use ChatGPT to improve your writing.
  3. Synonyms: If necessary, use a thesaurus to choose better words.
  4. Adjectives: Consider prefixing words with adjectives without being excessive.
  5. Analogies: If possible, add analogies, again, without being excessive.

Following are some tools for finding synonyms.

Power Thesaurus

This is my favorite because it’s super easy to use and offers probably the most synonyms than any alternative. Looking up definitions of a synonym can easily be done inline while browsing a list of synonyms. The website version looks like this.

Switching between your editing window and the Power Thesaurus window can be annoying and time-consuming. To remedy this, you can install the Power Thesaurus browser extension (this one is for Chrome). Clicking on a word will display an icon that, when clicked on, will trigger a tooltip-like overlay showing a few synonyms.

If you want even more synonyms and more features in the overlay, you can upgrade for $4 / month or $30 / year.


Grammarly has an online editing interface. You can edit your content directly in Grammarly’s website and while editing, you can double-click on a word to see an overlay of synonyms. There are not many synonyms which is why I prefer Power Thesaurus.

Changing Global Land Borders Since 3000 BCE

On a modern map of the world, numerous lines can be observed dividing nations from one another. What many people seem to forget or not even realize is that these borders never used to exist and are entirely artificial. One of the best examples of the man-made — and in some cases, random — creation of borders is when in 1884, Western European countries met in Berlin to divide Africa so they could each colonize parts of it without fighting each other.

These lines are often the cause of dispute for all sorts of reasons including absurd ones like the sense of superiority of members of one state over those of a neighboring one. For instance, Arabia used to be one large region with no borders. Now, people living in one area like Saudi Arabia may have a sense of superiority over people in neighboring Yemen. This may be because Saudi Arabia is one of the wealthiest countries in the world (only after having discovered large oil reserves) whereas Yemen is one of the poorest. Another example is the people of India and Pakistan. The maps below show the changing borders in that part of the world. Prior to August 15, 1947, there was one country (India). Then, the British partitioned it into two thereby creating a new country called Pakistan. It is believed that between 14 million and 18 million people moved across the newly created border. Now, it is not uncommon to see people in both countries claim superiority over the other despite the fact that they were all from the same country. I think Yanni explained it well when he commented on world borders. These borders can create a sense of nationalism which Albert Einstein called “an infantile disease, the measles of mankind.” Nationalism is an ideology that a person’s nation is superior to all others. Nationalists’ feeling of superiority differentiates their nationalism from patriotism. Patriotism equates to pride in one’s country and a willingness to defend it. Nationalism, on the other hand, extends that to arrogance and potential military aggression. Political scientists blame nationalism for civil wars and territorial ambitions, from Rwanda and Yugoslavia to Nazi Germany and Napoleonic France. Nationalism was even the cause of World War I. Nationalism is not necessarily a bad thing unless it causes people of a certain nation to view their neighbors, or people of any other nation, as inferior or, worse, as enemies. The borders on a map separate one nation from another. These borders have changed dramatically in the last 5000 years.

This post contains 3 sections. 

  1. Video (4K) of a map of the world with changing borders from 3000 BCE to 2013 CE in intervals of 100 years
  2. Table of significant historical events that had an effect on geographic borders
  3. List of maps (4K) showing borders from 3000 BCE to 2013 CE in intervals of 100 years

Changing Map of the World

Significant Historical Periods

Ancient History (3000 BC – 476)

3000 BCE2271 BCESumer

Sumer is the earliest known civilization in the historical region of southern Mesopotamia (south-central Iraq).
2686 BCE2181 BCEOld Kingdom of Egypt

In ancient Egyptian history, the Old Kingdom is the period spanning c. 2700–2200 BC. It is also known as the “Age of the Pyramids”.
2500 BCE563 BCEAncient India

According to consensus in modern genetics, anatomically modern humans first arrived on the Indian subcontinent from Africa between 73,000 and 55,000 years ago. By 4500 BCE, settled life had spread more widely, and began to gradually evolve into the Indus Valley civilization. Their Vedic Period (1500–500 BCE) was marked by the composition of the Vedas, large collections of hymns of these tribes. Their varna system, which evolved into the caste system, consisted of a hierarchy of priests, warriors, and free peasants.
2270 BCE2083 BCEAkkad

The Akkadian Empire was the first ancient empire of Mesopotamia after the long-lived civilization of Sumer. It was centered in the city of Akkad and its surrounding region. The empire united Akkadian and Sumerian speakers under one rule. The Bible refers to Akkad in Genesis 10:10–12.
2083 BCE1699 BCENeo-Sumerian Empire

The Third Dynasty of Ur, also called the Neo-Sumerian Empire, refers to a 22nd to 21st century BC (middle chronology) Sumerian ruling dynasty based in the city of Ur.
2055 BCE1786 BCEMiddle Kingdom of Egypt

The Middle Kingdom of Egypt (also known as The Period of Reunification) is the period in the history of ancient Egypt following a period of political division known as the First Intermediate Period. The Middle Kingdom lasted from approximately 2040 to 1782 BC, stretching from the reunification of Egypt under the reign of Mentuhotep II in the Eleventh Dynasty to the end of the Twelfth Dynasty.
2000 BCE1400 BCEMinoan age

The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age Aegean civilization on the island of Crete and other Aegean Islands, whose earliest beginnings were from c. 3500 BC, with the complex urban civilization beginning around 2000 BC, and then declining from c. 1450 BC until it ended around 1100 BC. The term “Minoan” refers to the mythical King Minos of Knossos, a figure in Greek mythology associated with Theseus, the labyrinth and the Minotaur.
2000 BCE590 BCEChina

According to Chinese tradition, the first dynasty was the Xia, which emerged around 2100 BCE. The Xia dynasty marked the beginning of China’s political system based on hereditary monarchies, or dynasties, which lasted for a millennium.
1830 BCE1531 BCEFirst Dynasty of Babylon

The Old Babylonian Empire, or First Babylonian Empire, is dated to c. 1894 BC – c. 1595 BC, and comes after the end of Sumerian power with the destruction of the Third Dynasty of Ur, and the subsequent Isin-Larsa period.
1660 BCE1178 BCEHittites

The Hittites were an Anatolian people who played an important role in establishing first a kingdom in Kussara (before 1750 BC), then the Kanesh or Nesha kingdom (c. 1750–1650 BC), and next an empire centered on Hattusa in north-central Anatolia (around 1650 BC).
1600 BCE1100 BCEMycenean age

Mycenaean Greece (or the Mycenaean civilization) was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece, spanning the period from approximately 1750 to 1050 BC.[1] It represents the first advanced and distinctively Greek civilization in mainland Greece with its palatial states, urban organization, works of art, and writing system.
1590 BCE1240 BCEMitanni

Mitanni was a Hurrian-speaking state in northern Syria and southeast Anatolia (modern-day Turkey).
1550 BCE1069 BCENew Kingdom of Egypt

The New Kingdom, also referred to as the Egyptian Empire, is the period in ancient Egyptian history between the sixteenth century BC and the eleventh century BC, covering the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth dynasties of Egypt.
1353 BCE968 BCEMiddle Assyrian Period

The Middle Assyrian Empire was the third stage of Assyrian history, covering the history of Assyria from the accession of Ashur-uballit I c. 1363 BC and the rise of Assyria as a territorial kingdom to the death of Ashur-dan II in 912 BC. The Middle Assyrian Empire was Assyria’s first period of ascendancy as an empire.
1099 BCE776 BCEGreek Dark Ages

The Greek Dark Ages is the period of Greek history from the end of the Mycenaean palatial civilization, around 1100 BC, to the beginning of the Archaic age, around 750 BC. Archaeological evidence shows a widespread collapse of Bronze Age civilization in the Eastern Mediterranean world at the outset of the period, as the great palaces and cities of the Mycenaeans were destroyed or abandoned. At about the same time, the Hittite civilization suffered serious disruption, as cities from Troy to Gaza were destroyed. In Egypt, the New Kingdom fell into disarray.
967 BCE609 BCENeo-Assyrian Period

The Neo-Assyrian Empire was the fourth and penultimate stage of ancient Assyrian history and the final and greatest phase of Assyria as an independent state. Beginning with the accession of Adad-nirari II in 911 BC, the Neo-Assyrian Empire grew to dominate the ancient Near East throughout much of the 8th and 7th centuries BC, becoming the largest empire in history up to that point. Because of its geopolitical dominance and ideology based in world domination, the Neo-Assyrian Empire is by many researchers regarded to have been the first world empire in history. At its height, the empire was the strongest military power in the world and ruled over all of Mesopotamia, the Levant and Egypt, as well as portions of Anatolia, Arabia and modern-day Iran and Armenia.
825 BCE146 BCECarthage

Carthage was the capital city of Ancient Carthage, on the eastern side of the Lake of Tunis in what is now Tunisia. Carthage was one of the most important trading hubs of the Ancient Mediterranean and one of the most affluent cities of the classical world.
775 BCE505 BCEArchaic Period (Ancient Greece)

Archaic Greece was the period in Greek history lasting from circa 800 BC to the second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC, following the Greek Dark Ages and succeeded by the Classical period. In the archaic period, Greeks settled across the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, as far as Marseille in the west and Trapezus (Trebizond) in the east; and by the end of the archaic period, they were part of a trade network that spanned the entire Mediterranean.
753 BCE28 BCERome

The history of Rome includes the history of the city of Rome as well as the civilisation of ancient Rome. Roman history has been influential on the modern world, especially in the history of the Catholic Church, and Roman law has influenced many modern legal systems. According to legend, Romulus founded Rome.
608 BCE539 BCENeo-Babylonian Empire

The Neo-Babylonian Empire or Second Babylonian Empire, historically known as the Chaldean Empire, was the last polity ruled by monarchs native to Mesopotamia. Beginning with the coronation of Nabopolassar as the King of Babylon in 626 BC and being firmly established through the fall of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in 612 BC, the Neo-Babylonian Empire was conquered by the Achaemenid Persian Empire in 539 BC, marking the collapse of the Chaldean dynasty less than a century after its founding.
550 BCE330 BCEAchaemenid Empire

The Achaemenid Empire or Achaemenian Empire (/əˈkiːmənɪd/; Old Persian: 𐎧𐏁𐏂, Xšāça, lit. ‘The Empire’ or ‘The Kingdom’), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian empire founded by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC. Based in Western Asia, it was contemporarily the largest empire in history, spanning a total of 5.5 million square kilometres (2.1 million square miles) from the Balkans and Egypt in the west to Central Asia and the Indus Valley in the east.
499 BCE449 BCEPersian Wars

The Greco-Persian Wars (also often called the Persian Wars) were a series of conflicts between the Achaemenid Empire and Greek city-states that started in 499 BC and lasted until 449 BC. The collision between the fractious political world of the Greeks and the enormous empire of the Persians began when Cyrus the Great conquered the Greek-inhabited region of Ionia in 547 BC. Struggling to control the independent-minded cities of Ionia, the Persians appointed tyrants to rule each of them. This would prove to be the source of much trouble for the Greeks and Persians alike.
461 BCE405 BCEPeloponnesian Wars

The Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC) was an ancient Greek war fought between Athens and Sparta and their respective allies for the hegemony of the Greek world. The war remained undecided for a long time until the decisive intervention of the Persian Empire in support of Sparta. Led by Lysander, the Spartan fleet built with Persian subsidies finally defeated Athens and started a period of Spartan hegemony over Greece.
334 BCE323 BCEAlexander the Great

Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon. He succeeded his father Philip II to the throne in 336 BC at the age of 20, and spent most of his ruling years conducting a lengthy military campaign throughout Western Asia and Egypt. By the age of thirty, he had created one of the largest empires in history, stretching from Greece to northwestern India. He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered to be one of history’s greatest and most successful military commanders
248 BCE226 CEParthian Empire

The Parthian Empire, also known as the Arsacid Empire, was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran from 247 BC to 224 AD. The empire, located on the Silk Road trade route between the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean Basin and the Han dynasty of China, became a center of trade and commerce.
27 BCE476 CERoman Empire

The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of ancient Rome. As a polity, it included large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia, and was ruled by emperors. From the accession of Caesar Augustus as the first Roman emperor to the military anarchy of the 3rd century, it was a principate with Italia as the metropole of its provinces and the city of Rome as its sole capital.
227 BCE651 CESassanid Empire

The Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians and also referred to by historians as the Neo-Persian Empire, was the last Iranian empire before the early Muslim conquests of the 7th-8th centuries AD. Named after the House of Sasan, it endured for over four centuries, from 224 to 651 AD, making it the longest-lived Persian imperial dynasty. The Sasanian Empire succeeded the Parthian Empire, and re-established the Persians as a major power in late antiquity alongside its neighbouring arch-rival, the Roman Empire (after 395 the Byzantine Empire).

Middle Ages (476 – 1492)

233 CE476 CEMigration Period / Barbarian Invasions

The migration period was a period in European history marked by large-scale migrations that saw the fall of the Western Roman Empire and subsequent settlement of its former territories by various tribes, notably the Franks, Goths, Alemanni, Alans, Huns, early Slavs, Pannonian Avars, Magyars, and Bulgars within or into the former Western Empire and Eastern Europe.

The barbarian kingdoms were the states founded by various non-Roman, primarily Germanic, peoples in Western Europe and North Africa following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century.
396 CE1453 CEByzantium Empire

The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople (present-day Istanbul).
564 CE1717 CEIndia

The Indian early medieval age, from 600 to 1200 CE, is defined by regional kingdoms and cultural diversity. In the 6th and 7th centuries, the first devotional hymns were created in the Tamil language. They were imitated all over India and led to both the resurgence of Hinduism and the development of all modern languages of the subcontinent. After the 10th century, Muslim Central Asian nomadic clans, using swift-horse cavalry and raising vast armies united by ethnicity and religion, repeatedly overran South Asia’s north-western plains, leading eventually to the establishment of the Islamic Delhi Sultanate in 1206.

A bunch of dynasties controlled China:
581: The Northern and Southern dynasties were reunited by the Sui in 581 which restored Han power to China.
618-906: Tang dynasty took control.
960-1279: Song dynasty (northern and southern)
1279-1368: Yuan dynasty
1368-1644: Ming dynasty
632 CE1258 CECaliphate

A caliphate or khilāfah (Arabic: خِلَافَة) is an institution or public office under the leadership of an Islamic steward with the title of caliph (Arabic: خَلِيفَة), a person considered a political-religious successor to the Islamic prophet Muhammad and a leader of the entire Muslim world. During the medieval period, three major caliphates succeeded each other: the Rashidun Caliphate (632–661), the Umayyad Caliphate (661–750), and the Abbasid Caliphate (750–1258).
711 CE1492 CESpanish Reconquista

The Reconquista describes the 781-year period in the history of the Iberian Peninsula between the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in 711 and the fall of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada in 1492, in which the Christian kingdoms expanded through war and conquered al-Andalus; the territories of Iberia ruled by Muslims.
793 CE1066 CEViking expansion

Viking expansion was the historical movement which led Norse explorers, traders and warriors, the latter known in modern scholarship as Vikings, to sail most of the North Atlantic, reaching south as far as North Africa and east as far as Russia, and through the Mediterranean as far as Constantinople and the Middle East, acting as looters, traders, colonists and mercenaries.
962 CE1806 CEHoly Roman Empire

From the accession of Otto I in 962 until the twelfth century, the Empire was the most powerful monarchy in Europe. The empire dissolved in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars.
1095 CE1291 CECrusades

The Crusades were a series of religious wars initiated, supported, and sometimes directed by the Latin Church in the medieval period. The best known of these Crusades are those to the Holy Land in the period between 1095 and 1291 that were intended to recover Jerusalem and its surrounding area from Islamic rule. Beginning with the First Crusade, which resulted in the recovery of Jerusalem in 1099, dozens of Crusades were fought, providing a focal point of European history for centuries.
1206 CE1368 CEMongol

The Mongol Empire of the 13th and 14th centuries was the largest contiguous land empire in history. The Mongol Empire emerged from the unification of several nomadic tribes in the Mongol homeland under the leadership of Temüjin, known by the more famous title of Genghis Khan (c. 1162–1227), whom a council proclaimed as the ruler of all Mongols in 1206. The empire grew rapidly under his rule and that of his descendants, who sent out invading armies in every direction.
1271 CE1295 CEMarco Polo

Marco Polo was a Venetian merchant, explorer and writer who traveled through Asia along the Silk Road between 1271 and 1295. His travels are recorded in The Travels of Marco Polo, a book that described to Europeans the then-mysterious culture and inner workings of the Eastern world, including the wealth and great size of the Mongol Empire and China in the Yuan Dynasty, giving their first comprehensive look into China, Persia, India, Japan and other Asian cities and countries.
1337 CE1453 CEHundred Years’ War

The Hundred Years’ War was a series of armed conflicts between the kingdoms of England and France during the Late Middle Ages. It originated from disputed claims to the French throne between the English House of Plantagenet and the French royal House of Valois. Over time, the war grew into a broader power struggle involving factions from across Western Europe, fuelled by emerging nationalism on both sides. For 116 years, interrupted by several truces, five generations of kings from two rival dynasties fought for the throne of the dominant kingdom in Western Europe.
1362 CE1450 CETimurid Empire

The Timurid Empire was a Persianate Turco-Mongol empire that dominated Greater Iran in the early 15th century, comprising modern-day Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, much of Central Asia, the South Caucasus, as well as most of contemporary Pakistan and parts of contemporary North India and Turkey.

The empire was founded by Timur (also known as Tamerlane), a warlord of Turco-Mongol lineage, who established the empire between 1370 and his death in 1405. He envisioned himself as the great restorer of the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan and regarded himself as Genghis’s heir.
1350 CE1531 CEInca Empire

The Inca Empire was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. The administrative, political and military center of the empire was in the city of Cusco. The Inca civilization arose from the Peruvian highlands sometime in the early 13th century. The Spanish began the conquest of the Inca Empire in 1532 and by 1572, the last Inca state was fully conquered.
1375 CE1521 CEAztec Empire

The Aztec Empire or the Triple Alliance was an alliance of three Nahua city-states: Mexico-Tenochtitlan, Tetzcoco, and Tlacopan. These three city-states ruled that area in and around the Valley of Mexico from 1428 until the combined forces of the Spanish conquistadores and their native allies who ruled under Hernán Cortés defeated them in 1521.
1487 CE1522 CEAge of Discovery

The Age of Discovery (or the Age of Exploration), also known as the early modern period, was a period largely overlapping with the Age of Sail, during which seafaring Europeans explored and colonized regions across the globe.

The extensive overseas exploration, with the Portuguese and Spanish at the forefront, later joined by the Dutch, English, and French, emerged as a powerful factor in European culture, most notably the European encounter and colonization of the Americas. It also marks an increased adoption of colonialism as a government policy in several European states. As such, it is sometimes synonymous with the first wave of European colonization.
1346 CE1353 CEBlack Death

The Black Death (also known as the Pestilence, the Great Mortality or the Plague) was a bubonic plague pandemic occurring in Western Eurasia and North Africa from 1346 to 1353. It is the most fatal pandemic recorded in human history, causing the deaths of 75–200 million people, peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351. Bubonic plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis spread by fleas, but it can also take a secondary form where it is spread by person-to-person contact via aerosols causing septicaemic or pneumonic plagues.

Early Modern Period (1492 – 1789)

1300 CE1921 CEOttoman

The Ottoman Empire (Turkish Empire) was an empire that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded by the Turkoman tribal leader Osman I. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe and, with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 by Mehmed the Conqueror.

Under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire marked the peak of its power and prosperity, as well as the highest development of its governmental, social, and economic systems.
1517 CE1648 CEProtestant Reformation and Counter-Reformation

The Protestant Reformation was a major movement within Western Christianity that posed a religious and political challenge to the Catholic Church and in particular to papal authority, arising from what were perceived to be errors, abuses, and discrepancies by the Catholic Church. The Reformation was the start of Protestantism and the split of the Western Church into Protestantism and what is now the Roman Catholic Church.

The Counter-Reformation was the period of Catholic resurgence that was initiated in response to the Protestant Reformation. It began with the Council of Trent (1545–1563) and largely ended with the conclusion of the European wars of religion in 1648.
1487 CE1975 CEPortuguese Empire

The Portuguese Empire was composed of the overseas colonies, factories, and the later overseas territories governed by Portugal. It was one of the longest-lived empires in European history, lasting almost six centuries from the conquest of Ceuta in North Africa, in 1415, to the transfer of sovereignty over Macau to China in 1999. The empire began in the 15th century, and from the early 16th century it stretched across the globe, with bases in North and South America, Africa, and various regions of Asia and Oceania.

In 1488, Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and in 1498 Vasco da Gama reached India. In 1500, either by an accidental landfall or by the crown’s secret design, Pedro Álvares Cabral reached what would be Brazil.
1492 CE1898 CESpanish Empire

The Spanish Empire was a colonial empire governed by Spain and its predecessor states between 1492 and 1976. One of the largest empires in history, it was, in conjunction with the Portuguese Empire, the first to usher the European Age of Discovery and achieve a global scale, controlling vast portions of the Americas, territories in Western Europe, Africa, and various islands in Asia and Oceania. It was one of the most powerful empires of the early modern period, becoming the first empire known as “the empire on which the sun never sets”, and reached its maximum extent in the 18th century.

The Spanish empire in the Americas was formed after conquering indigenous people and claiming large stretches of land, beginning with Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean Islands. In the 16th century, the Spanish empire conquered and incorporated the Aztec and Inca empires. The Mayans were finally conquered in 1697.

Spain experienced its greatest territorial losses during the early 19th century, when its colonies in the Americas began fighting their wars of independence. By 1900, Spain had also lost its colonies in the Caribbean and Pacific, and it was left with only its African possessions.
1526 CE1857 CEMughal Empire

The Mughal Empire was an empire that controlled much of South Asia. For some two hundred years, the empire stretched from the outer fringes of the Indus river basin in the west, northern Afghanistan in the northwest, and Kashmir in the north, to the highlands of present-day Assam and Bangladesh in the east, and the uplands of the Deccan Plateau in South India.
1555 CE1980 CEFrench Colonial Empire

The French colonial empire comprised the overseas colonies, protectorates and mandate territories that came under French rule from the 16th century onward. A distinction is generally made between the “First French Colonial Empire”, that existed until 1814, by which time most of it had been lost or sold, and the “Second French Colonial Empire”, which began with the conquest of Algiers in 1830. At its apex between the two world wars, the second French colonial empire was the second-largest colonial empire in the world behind the British Empire.
1568 CE1648 CEEighty Years’ War

The Eighty Years’ War or Dutch Revolt was an armed conflict in the Habsburg Netherlands between disparate groups of rebels and the Spanish government. The causes of the war included the Reformation, centralisation, taxation, and the rights and privileges of the nobility and cities. It led to the establishment of the Protestant-dominated Dutch Republic in 1588. In the Ten Years thereafter, the Republic (whose heartland was no longer threatened) made remarkable conquests in the north and east against a struggling Spanish Empire, and received diplomatic recognition from France and England in 1596. The Dutch colonial empire emerged, which began with Dutch attacks on Portugal’s overseas territories.
1607 CE1980 CEBritish Empire

The British Empire was composed of the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It began with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23 percent of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 13.7 million sq miles, 24 per cent of the Earth’s total land area. As a result, its constitutional, legal, linguistic, and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, it was described as “the empire on which the sun never sets”, as the Sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.
1618 CE1648 CEThirty Years’ War

The Thirty Years’ War was one of the longest and most destructive conflicts in European history, lasting from 1618 to 1648. Fought primarily in Central Europe, an estimated 4.5 to 8 million soldiers and civilians died as a result of battle, famine, and disease, while some areas of what is now modern Germany experienced population declines of over 50%.
1619 CE1975 CEDutch Empire

The Dutch Empire or the Dutch colonial empire comprised the overseas territories and trading posts controlled and administered by Dutch chartered companies—mainly the Dutch West India Company and the Dutch East India Company—and subsequently by the Dutch Republic (1581–1795), and by the modern Kingdom of the Netherlands after 1815. It was initially a trade-based system which derived most of its influence from merchant enterprise and from Dutch control of international maritime shipping routes through strategically placed outposts, rather than from expansive territorial ventures. The Dutch were among the earliest empire-builders of Europe, following Spain and Portugal.
1775 CE1783 CEAmerican Revolution (American War of Independence)

This was a major war of the American Revolution. Widely considered as the war that secured the independence of the United States, fighting began on April 19, 1775, followed by the Lee Resolution on July 2, 1776, and the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The American Patriots were supported by the Kingdom of France and, to a lesser extent, the Dutch Republic and the Spanish Empire, in a conflict taking place in North America, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic Ocean.
1644 CE1912 CEQing Dynasty in China

The Qing dynasty, which lasted from 1644 until 1912, was the last imperial dynasty of China. Its conquest of the Ming (1618–1683) cost 25 million lives and the economy of China shrank drastically. After the Southern Ming ended, the further conquest of the Dzungar Khanate added Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang to the empire.[82] The centralized autocracy was strengthened to suppress anti-Qing sentiment with the policy of valuing agriculture and restraining commerce, the Haijin (“sea ban”), and ideological control as represented by the literary inquisition, causing social and technological stagnation.
1585 CE1604 CEAnglo-Spanish War

The Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604) was an intermittent conflict between the Habsburg Kingdom of Spain and the Kingdom of England. It was never formally declared. The war included much English privateering against Spanish ships, and several widely separated battles. It began with England’s military expedition in 1585 to what was then the Spanish Netherlands under the command of the Earl of Leicester, in support of the Dutch rebellion against Spanish Habsburg rule.

Modern & Contemporary Period (1789 – 2013)

1789 CE1799 CEFrench Revolution

The French Revolution was a period of radical political and societal change in France that began with the Estates General of 1789 and ended with the formation of the French Consulate in November 1799. Many of its ideas are considered fundamental principles of liberal democracy, while phrases like liberté, égalité, fraternité reappeared in other revolts, such as the 1917 Russian Revolution, and inspired campaigns for the abolition of slavery and universal suffrage. The values and institutions it created dominate French politics to this day.
1803 CE1815 CENapoleonic Wars

The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major global conflicts pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of European states formed into various coalitions. It produced a period of French domination over most of continental Europe. The wars stemmed from the unresolved disputes associated with the French Revolution and the French Revolutionary Wars consisting of the War of the First Coalition (1792–1797) and the War of the Second Coalition (1798–1802). The Napoleonic Wars are often described as five conflicts, each termed after the coalition that fought Napoleon: the Third Coalition (1803–1806), the Fourth (1806–1807), the Fifth (1809), the Sixth (1813–1814), and the Seventh (1815) plus the Peninsular War (1807–1814) and the French invasion of Russia (1812).
1809 CE1829 CESpanish American Wars of Independence

The Spanish-American wars of independence were numerous wars in Spanish America with the aim of political independence from Spanish rule during the early 19th century. These began shortly after the start of the French invasion of Spain during the Napoleonic Wars. Thus, the strict period of military campaigns would go from the battle of Chacaltaya (1809), in present-day Bolivia, to the battle of Tampico (1829), in Mexico.
1846 CE1848 CEMexican-American War

The Mexican–American War was an armed conflict between the United States and Mexico from 1846 to 1848. It followed the 1845 American annexation of Texas, which Mexico still considered its territory. Mexico refused to recognize the Velasco treaty, because it was signed by President Antonio López de Santa Anna while he was captured by the Texan Army during the 1836 Texas Revolution. The Republic of Texas was de facto an independent country, but most of its Anglo-American citizens wanted to be annexed by the United States.

In the 1844 United States presidential election, Democrat James K. Polk was elected on a platform of expanding U.S. territory to Oregon, California (also a Mexican territory) and Texas; by any means, with the 1845 annexation of Texas furthering that goal. In the end, Mexico recognized the cession of present-day California, Nevada and Utah as well as parts of present-day Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming.
1861 CE1865 CEAmerican civil war

The American Civil War was fought between the Union (“the North”) and the Confederacy (“the South”), the latter formed by states that had seceded. The central cause of the war was the dispute over whether slavery would be permitted to expand into the western territories, leading to more slave states, or be prevented from doing so, which was widely believed would place slavery on a course of ultimate extinction.

Decades of political controversy over slavery were brought to a head by the victory in the 1860 U.S. presidential election of Abraham Lincoln, who opposed slavery’s expansion into the western territories. An initial seven southern slave states responded to Lincoln’s victory by seceding from the United States and, in February 1861, forming the Confederacy. Four years of intense combat, mostly in the South, ensued.

The abolition of slavery became a war goal on January 1, 1863, when Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared all slaves in states in rebellion to be free, applying to more than 3.5 million of the 4 million enslaved people in the country. By the end of the war, much of the South’s infrastructure was destroyed, especially its railroads. The Confederacy collapsed, slavery was abolished, and four million enslaved black people were freed. The war-torn nation then entered the Reconstruction era in an attempt to rebuild the country, bring the former Confederate states back into the United States, and grant civil rights to freed slaves.
1870 CE1871 CEFranco-Prussian War

The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the North German Confederation led by the Kingdom of Prussia. The conflict was caused primarily by France’s determination to reassert its dominant position in continental Europe, which appeared in question following the decisive Prussian victory over Austria in 1866. In the waning days of the war, with German victory all but assured, the German states proclaimed their union as the German Empire under the Prussian king Wilhelm I and Chancellor Bismarck. With the notable exception of Austria, the vast majority of Germans were united under a nation-state for the first time. The war had a lasting impact on Europe. By hastening German unification, the war significantly altered the balance of power on the continent; with the new German nation state supplanting France as the dominant European land power
1914 CE1918 CEWorld War I

World War I (WWI) was one of the deadliest global conflicts in history. Belligerents included much of Europe, the Russian Empire, the United States, and the Ottoman Empire, with fighting occurring throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Pacific, and parts of Asia. An estimated 9 million soldiers were killed in combat, plus another 23 million wounded, while 5 million civilians died as a result of military action, hunger, and disease. Millions more died in genocides within the Ottoman Empire and in the 1918 influenza pandemic, which was exacerbated by the movement of combatants during the war.

In November 1914, the Ottoman Empire, Germany, and Austria-Hungary formed the Central Powers, and on 26 April 1915, Italy joined Britain, France, Russia, and Serbia as the Allies.

Towards the end of 1918, the Central Powers began to collapse; Bulgaria signed an armistice on 29 September, followed by the Ottomans on 31 October, then Austria-Hungary on 3 November. Isolated, facing the German Revolution at home and a military on the verge of mutiny, Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated on 9 November, and the new German government signed the Armistice of 11 November 1918, bringing the conflict to a close. The Paris Peace Conference of 1919–1920 imposed various settlements on the defeated powers, with the best-known of these being the Treaty of Versailles. The dissolution of the Russian Empire in 1917, the German Empire in 1918, the Austria-Hungarian Empire in 1920, and the Ottoman Empire in 1922, led to numerous uprisings and the creation of independent states, including Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. For reasons that are still debated, failure to manage the instability that resulted from this upheaval during the interwar period ended with the outbreak of World War II in September 1939.
1917 CE1917 CERussian Revolution

The Russian Revolution was a period of political and social revolution that took place in the former Russian Empire which began during the First World War. This period saw Russia abolish its monarchy and adopt a socialist form of government following two successive revolutions and a bloody civil war.

This first revolt focused in and around the then-capital Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg). After major military losses during the war, the Russian Army had begun to mutiny. Army leaders and high-ranking officials were convinced that if Tsar Nicholas II abdicated, the domestic unrest would subside. Nicholas agreed and stepped down, ushering in a new government led by the Russian Duma (parliament) which became the Russian Provisional Government. This government was dominated by the interests of prominent capitalists, as well as the Russian nobility and aristocracy.

In response to these developments, grassroots community assemblies (called Soviets) were formed. These Soviets were led by soldiers and urban industrial proletarians, as well as rural farmers. The Soviets held the allegiance of the working-class, as well as the growing urban middle-class.

Many socialist and other leftist political organizations were engaged in daily struggle and vied for influence within the Provisional Government and the Soviets. Notable factions include the Social-Democrats, Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries, and the Anarchists. These organizations competed with the Bolsheviks (“Ones of the Majority”), a far-left party led by Vladimir Lenin, for political power and popular influence.

The volatile situation in Russia reached its climax with the October Revolution, which was a Bolshevik armed insurrection by workers and soldiers in Petrograd that successfully overthrew the Provisional Government, transferring all its authority to the Bolsheviks. Under pressure from German military offensives, the Bolsheviks soon relocated the national capital to Moscow. The Bolsheviks which by now had secured a strong base of support within the Soviets and, as the supreme governing party, established their own government, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR). The RSFSR began the process of reorganizing the former empire into the world’s first socialist state. To further secure the new state, the Bolsheviks established the Cheka, a secret police that functioned as a revolutionary security service to weed out, execute, or punish those considered to be “enemies of the people” in campaigns called the red terror, consciously modeled on those of the French Revolution.

Russia erupted into a bloody civil war, which pitted the “Reds” (Red Army) (Bolsheviks) against its enemies collectively called the White Army. The RSFSR began establishing Soviet power in the newly independent republics that seceded from the Russian Empire. The RSFSR initially focused its efforts on the newly independent republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, and Ukraine. The RSFSR began unifying these nations under one flag and created the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). In 1923 the Russian Civil War concluded with the defeat of the White Army. The victorious Bolshevik Party reconstituted itself into the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and would remain in power for over six decades.
1936 CE1939 CESpanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War was a civil war in Spain between the Republicans and the Nationalists. Republicans were loyal to the left-leaning Popular Front government of the Second Spanish Republic, and consisted of various socialist, communist, separatist, anarchist, and republican parties, some of which had opposed the government in the pre-war period. The opposing Nationalists were an alliance of Falangists, monarchists, conservatives, and traditionalists led by a military junta. Nationalists won the war, which ended in early 1939, and ruled Spain until Franco’s death in November 1975.
1939 CE1945 CEWorld War II

World War II involved the vast majority of the world’s countries—including all of the great powers—forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis powers. World War II was a total war that directly involved more than 100 million personnel from more than 30 countries.

The major participants in the war threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. Aircraft played a major role in the conflict, enabling the strategic bombing of population centers and deploying the only two nuclear weapons ever used in war.

World War II was by far the deadliest conflict in human history; it resulted in 70 to 85 million fatalities, mostly among civilians. Tens of millions died due to genocides (including the Holocaust), starvation, massacres, and disease. In the wake of the Axis defeat, Germany and Japan were occupied, and war crimes tribunals were conducted against German and Japanese leaders.
1945 CE1991 CECold war

The Cold War is a term commonly used to refer to a period of geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies, the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc. The term cold war is used because there was no large-scale fighting directly between the two superpowers, but they each supported major regional conflicts known as proxy wars. The conflict was based around the ideological and geopolitical struggle for global influence by these two superpowers, following their temporary alliance and victory against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in 1945. Aside from the nuclear arsenal development and conventional military deployment, the struggle for dominance was expressed via indirect means such as psychological warfare, propaganda campaigns, espionage, far-reaching embargoes, rivalry at sports events, and technological competitions such as the Space Race.

The Western Bloc was led by the United States as well as a number of other First World nations that were generally liberal democratic but tied to a network of authoritarian states, most of which were their former colonies. The Eastern Bloc was led by the Soviet Union and its Communist Party, which had an influence across the Second World and was also tied to a network of authoritarian states. The US government supported anti-communist and right-wing governments and uprisings across the world, while the Soviet government funded left-wing parties and revolutions around the w
1922 CE1990 CEAfrica – Decolonisation

The decolonization of Africa was a process that took place in the mid-to-late 1950s to 1975 during the Cold War, with radical government changes on the continent as colonial governments made the transition to independent states. The process was often marred with violence, political turmoil, widespread unrest, and organized revolts in both northern and sub-Saharan countries including the Algerian War in French Algeria, the Angolan War of Independence in Portuguese Angola, the Congo Crisis in the Belgian Congo, the Mau Mau Uprising in British Kenya, the Zanzibar Revolution in the Sultanate of Zanzibar, and the Nigerian Civil War in the secessionist state of Biafra.
1948 CE2005 CEArab–Israeli conflict

The Arab–Israeli conflict is an ongoing intercommunal phenomenon involving political tension, military conflicts, and other disputes between Arab countries and Israel, which escalated during the 20th century, but had mostly faded out by the early 21st century.

Part of the Palestine–Israel conflict arose from the conflicting claims by these movements to the land that formed the British Mandatory Palestine, which was regarded by the Jewish people as their ancestral homeland, while at the same time it was regarded by the Pan-Arab movement as historically and currently belonging to the Arab Palestinians, and in the Pan-Islamic context, as Muslim lands. The sectarian conflict within the British Mandate territory between Palestinian Jews and Arabs escalated into a full-scale Palestinian civil war in 1947. Taking the side of the Palestinian Arabs, especially following the Israeli Declaration of Independence, the neighbouring Arab countries invaded the by-then former Mandate territory in May 1948, commencing the First Arab–Israeli War.
1947 CEPartition of British India

The Partition of British India in 1947 was the change of political borders and the division of other assets that accompanied the dissolution of the British Raj in South Asia and the creation of two independent dominions: India and Pakistan.[1][2] The Dominion of India is today the Republic of India, and the Dominion of Pakistan—which at the time comprised two regions lying on either side of India—is now the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. The partition was outlined in the Indian Independence Act 1947. The change of political borders notably included the division of two provinces of British India,[a] Bengal and Punjab.[3] The majority Muslim districts in these provinces were awarded to Pakistan and the majority non-Muslim to India.
1913 CE2013 CEChina

The Chinese monarchy collapsed in 1912 with the Xinhai Revolution, when the Republic of China (ROC) replaced the Qing dynasty. In its early years as a republic, the country underwent a period of instability known as the Warlord Era before mostly reunifying in 1928 under a Nationalist government. A civil war between the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) began in 1927. Japan invaded China in 1937, starting the Second Sino-Japanese War and temporarily halting the civil war. The surrender and expulsion of Japanese forces from China in 1945 left a power vacuum in the country, which led to renewed fighting between the CCP and the Kuomintang. The civil war ended in 1949 with the division of Chinese territory; the CCP established the People’s Republic of China on the mainland while the Kuomintang-led ROC government retreated to the island of Taiwan. Both claim to be the sole legitimate government of China, although the United Nations has recognized the PRC as the sole representation since 1971. From 1959 to 1961, the PRC implemented an economic and social campaign called the Great Leap Forward, that resulted in a sharp economic decline and an estimated 15 to 55 million deaths, mostly through man-made famine. From 1966 to 1976, the turbulent period of political and social chaos within China known as the Cultural Revolution led to greater economic and educational decline, with millions being purged or subjected to either persecution or politicide based on political categories. Since then, the Chinese government has rebuked some of the earlier Maoist policies, conducting a series of political and economic reforms since 1978, which has greatly raised Chinese standards of living, and increased life expectancies.

Map of the World from 3000 BCE to 2013 CE

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Common English Grammar and Punctuation Mistakes


Table of Contents




Verb Tenses

  • Table of Verb Tenses

Common Mistakes

  • List of common mistakes
  • Compound Possessives with Pronouns
  • Multiple Nouns With Shared Possession
  • Multiple Nouns With Different Possession
  • Job Title Capitalization Rules



Adjectives are words that describe the qualities or states of being of nouns: enormous, doglike, silly, yellow, fun, fast. They can also describe the quantity of nouns: many, few, millions, eleven.

Often, when adjectives are used together, you should separate them with a comma or conjunction. 

Please use three, white flowers in the arrangement.
Please use three white flowers in the arrangement.
I’m looking for a small good-tempered dog to keep as a pet.
I’m looking for a small, good-tempered dog to keep as a pet.

Coordinate adjectives

Coordinate adjectives should be separated by a comma or the word and. Adjectives are said to be coordinate if they modify the same noun in a sentence.

No one could open the old, silver locket.
Wrong because silver locket forms a unit modified by old.
No one could open the old silver locket.

Adjectives vs. adverbs

I feel badly about what happened.
I feel bad about what happened.

Use adjectives only if they are necessary, e.g.

  • big house vs mansion
  • large crowd vs throng
  • mixed-breed dog vs mutt


An adverb is a word that modifies (describes) a verb (he sings loudly), an adjective (very tall), another adverb (ended too quickly), or even a whole sentence (Fortunately, I had brought an umbrella). Adverbs often end in -ly, but some (such as fast) look exactly the same as their adjective counterparts.

That is a hastily, written note.
That is a hastily-written note.
That is a hastily written note.

Placement of adverbs

Place adverbs as close as possible to the words they are supposed to modify. Incorrect placement can change the meaning of the sentence, especially when it comes to the adverb only.

  • Phillip only fed the cat.
    (The only thing that Phillip did was feed the cat)
  • Phillip fed only the cat.
    (The only thing that Phillip fed was the cat)


Articles are words that define a noun as specific or unspecific. 

The definite article is the word the. It limits the meaning of a noun to one particular thing, e.g. Please give me the hammer.

The indefinite article takes two forms. It’s the word a when

  • it precedes a word that begins with a consonant.
  • it precedes a word that sounds like it begins with a consonant
She is an United States senator.
She is a United States senator.

It’s the word an when

  • it precedes a word that begins with a vowel
  • if it precedes a word that sounds like it begins with a vowel.
My mother is a honest woman.
My mother is an honest woman.

The indefinite article indicates that a noun refers to a general idea rather than a particular thing, e.g. Please give me a hammer.

The rules above also apply to acronyms and initialisms, e.g. an LCD display, a UK-based company, an HR department, a URL.


Conjunctions are words that link other words, phrases, or clauses together, e.g.

I like cooking and eating, but I don’t like washing dishes afterward. Sophie is clearly exhausted, yet she insists on dancing till dawn.

The most common coordinating conjunctions are for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so; you can remember them by using the mnemonic device FANBOYS. Commas are used when a coordinating conjunction is joining two independent clauses.

I’d like pizza or a salad for lunch. We needed a place to concentrate so we packed up our things and went to the library. Jesse didn’t have much money but she got by. (missing necessary commas)
I’d like pizza or a salad for lunch. We needed a place to concentrate, so we packed up our things and went to the library. Jesse didn’t have much money, but she got by.

Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions join independent and dependent clauses. 

Common subordinating conjunctions are because, since, as, although, though, while, and whereas. Sometimes an adverb, such as until, after, or before can function as a conjunction. If the dependent clause comes first, use a comma before the independent clause.

Before he leaves, make sure his room is clean.
I drank a glass of water because I was thirsty. Because I was thirsty, I drank a glass of water.


An interjection is a word that you throw in between sentences or thoughts to express a sudden feeling, e.g. Ouch! Oh my! Wow! Yikes!

Interjections in a Sentence

When used in a sentence, put the interjection inside parentheses or set it off with commas.

I forgot to do the homework assignment oops but my teacher gave me an extra day to finish it.
I forgot to do the homework assignment (oops), but my teacher gave me an extra day to finish it.
Gee I hadn’t thought of that.
Gee, I hadn’t thought of that.


A noun is a word that names something, such as a person, place, thing, or idea. 

Proper nouns vs. common nouns

A proper noun is a specific name of a person, place, or thing, and is always capitalized.

Does tina have much homework to do this evening?
Does Tina have much homework to do this evening?
I would like to visit new york.
I would like to visit New York.

A common noun is the generic name of an item in a class or group and is not capitalized unless appearing at the beginning of a sentence or in a title.


Prepositions indicate relationships between other words in a sentence.

Ending a Sentence With a Preposition

You are allowed to end a sentence with a preposition. Not doing so can result in an unnatural sentence.

There’s no one else to hide behind. (Grammatically correct and natural)
There’s no one else behind whom to hide. (Grammatically correct, but unnatural)
Where did you come from? (Grammatically correct and natural)
From where did you come? (Grammatically correct, but unnatural)

It is sometimes more elegant to move a preposition to an earlier spot in a sentence, especially in very serious and formal writing. But if you do move the preposition, remember to delete it from the end.

This is something we must meditate on.
This is something on which we must meditate.
This is something on which we must meditate on.

Unnecessary Prepositions

Where is your brother at?
Where is your brother?
For many people, the reality of an entry into a new area of employment is cause for a host of anxieties.
Changing careers makes many people anxious.
Alex hit the baseball up over the fence.
Alex hit the baseball over the fence.


Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns are pronouns that refer to specific individuals and groups, e.g. I/me, She/her, He/him, They/them, We/us, You.


Antecedents are the things that pronouns refer to, e.g. My family tests my patience, but I love them

Relative pronouns

Relative pronouns connect relative clauses to independent clauses. Relative pronouns are that, what, which, who and whom.

  • who refers to people
  • which and that refer to animals or things


  • The woman who called earlier didn’t leave a message. 
  • All the dogs that got adopted today will be loved. 
  • My carwhich is nearly twenty years old, still runs well.

Who vs. whom—subject and object pronouns

  • who is for the subject of a sentence
  • whom is for the object of a verb or preposition


  • Who mailed this package?
  • To whom was this package sent?

Demonstrative pronouns

That, this, these, and those.

Indefinite pronouns

Indefinite pronouns are used when you need to refer to a person or thing that doesn’t need to be specifically identified. Some common indefinite pronouns are one, other, none, some, anybody, everybody, and no one

Reflexive pronouns

Reflexive pronouns end in -self or -selves, e.g. myself, themselves.

Example: I saw myself in the mirror.

Using myself when you mean me is a common mistake writers and speakers make. Reflexive pronouns are only correct when the subject and object of a sentence are the same. 

Intensive pronouns

Intensive pronouns look the same as reflexive pronouns, but their purpose is different. Intensive pronouns add emphasis.

Example: told them I could do it myself.

Possessive pronouns

E.g. my, your, our.

Example: I crashed my bike into a telephone pole.

Independent possessive pronouns

E.g. mine, yours, theirs.

Example: She forgot her jacket, so I gave her mine.

Interrogative pronouns

Who, what, which, and whose. 

Example: What is your name? 

Reciprocal pronouns

Each other, one another.

Distributive pronouns

Either, Each, Neither, Any, None

Pronouns and gender identity

The most common gender-neutral pronoun is the singular they. 



Apostrophes : Contractions and Omissions

A contraction is a shortened form of a word (or group of words) that omits certain letters or sounds, e.g. He would=He’d. I have=I’ve. They are=They’re. You cannot=You can’t.

Less common contractions

  • something -> somethin’
  • ever -> e’er
  • you all -> y’all
  • 1960s -> 60’s

Apostrophes and Possessive Nouns

For most singular nouns, add apostrophe+s:

  • The dog’s leash.
  • The writer’s desk.
  • The planet’s atmosphere

For most plural nouns, add only an apostrophe:

  • The dogs’ leashes (multiple dogs).
  • The writers’ desks (multiple writers).
  • The planets’ atmospheres (multiple planets).

For plural nouns that do not end in s, add apostrophe+s:

  • The children’s toys.
  • The geese’s migration route.

Style guides vary in their recommendations of what to do when you have a singular proper noun that ends in s.

  • Charles Dickens’ novels 
  • Kansas’ main airport
  • Charles Dickens’s novels 
  • Kansas’s main airport

No matter which style guide you use, add only the apostrophe to plural proper nouns that end in s:

  • The Harrises’ house
  • The Smiths’ vacation

How to Write Joint Possession

When one thing belongs to two or more people, make only the final name possessive:

  • Bob and Jim’s bait shop (Bob and Jim co-own the same bait shop)
  • Ryan, Jessica, and Elinor’s parents (All three share the same parents)

When you’re talking about separate things that belong to different people, make all the names possessive:

  • Bob’s and Jim’s bait shops (Bob owns one bait shop and Jim owns a different one) 
  • Ryan’sJessica’s, and Elinor’s parents (Each has a different set of parents)

Apostrophes and Plurals

With very few exceptions, apostrophes do not make nouns plural. The one notable exception to this rule is the plural form of lowercase letters, which are formed with an apostrophe to prevent misreading:

Don’t forget to dot all your is.
Don’t forget to dot all your i’s.


A colon introduces an element or series of elements that illustrates or amplifies the information that preceded the colon. While a semicolon normally joins two independent clauses to signal a close connection between them, a colon does the job of directing you to the information following it. When a colon appears in a sentence, it usually gives the silent impression of “as follows,” “which is/are,” or “thus.”

  • There are three types of muscle in the body: cardiac, smooth, and skeletal.
  • We have two options here: stay and fight, or run like the wind.
  • He ended with the immortal words of Neil Young: “Rock and Roll can never die.”

Misuse of Colons

The three types of muscle in the body are: cardiac, smooth, and skeletal.
The three types of muscle in the body: cardiac, smooth, and skeletal.
When I graduate, I want to go to: Rome, Israel, and Egypt.
When I graduate, I want to go to Rome, Israel, and Egypt.


While a period ends a sentence, a comma indicates a smaller break. Some writers think of a comma as a soft pause—a punctuation mark that separates words, clauses, or ideas within a sentence.

Comma with Subjects and Verbs

With few exceptions, a comma should not separate a subject from its verb.

My friend Cleo, is a wonderful singer.
My friend Cleo is a wonderful singer.
The things that cause me joy, may also cause me pain.
The things that cause me joy may also cause me pain.
Navigating through snow, sleet, wind, and darkness, is a miserable way to travel.
Navigating through snow, sleet, wind, and darkness is a miserable way to travel.

Comma Between Two Nouns in a Compound Subject or Object

Don’t separate two nouns that appear together as a compound subject or compound object.

Cleo, and her band will be playing at Dockside Diner next Friday.
Cleo and her band will be playing at Dockside Diner next Friday.
Cleo will wear a sparkly red blazer, and high heels.
Cleo will wear a sparkly red blazer and high heels.

When a subject or object is made up of two items and the second item is parenthetical, you can set off the second item with commas—one before it and one after it. But you don’t need a comma when you’re simply listing two items.

Comma Between Two Verbs in a Compound Predicate

You get a compound predicate when the subject of a sentence is doing more than one thing. In a compound predicate that contains two verbs, don’t separate them with a comma.

Cleo will sing, and play the banjo.
Cleo will sing and play the banjo.
I meant to buy tickets for Cleo’s show, but ran out of time.
I meant to buy tickets for Cleo’s show but ran out of time.

Don’t use a comma in compound predicates unless there is a chance of misreading:

  • Cleo spotted the man who entered the diner, and waved.

In the sentence above, you need the comma to make clear that it was Cleo who waved, not the man.

Comma Splices

When you want to join two independent clauses, you need a conjunction or a semicolon. A comma alone isn’t strong enough to join them. This kind of mistake is called a comma splice.

We were out of milk, I went to the store.
We were out of milk, so I went to the store.
We were out of milk; I went to the store.
We were out of milk. I went to the store.

Comma After Introductory Phrase

A comma normally follows participial phrases that introduce a sentence:

  • Grabbing her umbrella, Kate raced out of the house. Confused by her sister’s sudden change in mood, Jill stayed quiet.

When an adverbial phrase begins a sentence, it’s often followed by a comma but it doesn’t have to be, especially if it’s short. As a rule of thumb, if the phrase is longer than about four words, use the comma. You can also use a comma with a shorter phrase when you want to emphasize it or add a pause for literary effect.

  • After the show, Cleo will be signing autographs.
  • Behind the building there is enough space to park two limousines.
  • Without knowing why, I crossed the room and looked out the window.
  • In 1816 life was very different.
  • Suddenly, an angry black cat sprang from the shadows.

But, if there is a chance of misreading the sentence, use the comma:

Before eating the family said grace.
Before eating, the family said grace.

Comma Within a Comparison

Don’t use a comma before “than” when you’re making a comparison.

This box is lighter, than that box.
This box is lighter than that box.
Hardcover books are more expensive, than paperback books.
Hardcover books are more expensive than paperback books.

Commas with Interrupters or Parenthetical Elements

Interrupters are little thoughts that pop up in the middle of a sentence to show emotion, tone, or emphasis. A parenthetical element is a phrase that adds extra information to the sentence but could be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence. Both interrupters and parenthetical elements should be set off with commas.

The weather I was happy to see was beginning to clear.
The weather, I was happy to see, was beginning to clear.
Geoff’s cooking skills if you can call them skills left something to be desired.
Geoff’s cooking skills, if you can call them skills, left something to be desired.
It was sadly the last day of camp.
It was, sadly, the last day of camp.
Mary unlike Anne is very organized.
Mary, unlike Anne, is very organized.

Comma with a Question Tag

A question tag should be preceded by a comma.

  • These willow trees are beautiful, aren’t they?
  • You didn’t actually write a 600-page vampire romance novel, did you?
  • I know, right?

Comma with Direct Address

When addressing another person by name, set off the name with commas.

  • Mom, I can’t find my shoes!
  • Cleo, there’s someone on the phone for you.
  • Hello, Chester.

Comma with an Appositive

An appositive is a word or phrase that refers to the same thing as another noun in the same sentence. Often, the appositive provides additional information about the noun or helps to distinguish it in some way. If you could remove the appositive without changing the meaning of the sentence, it is said to be nonessential and should be set off with commas. If the appositive is necessary, it’s said to be essential and it should not be set off with commas.

Nonessential appositives:

  • My sister, Angela, is a wonderful cook.
  • The painter, one of the city’s most promising young artists, began showing his work in galleries before he was sixteen.
  • Chocolate, my favorite treat, always makes me feel better after a bad day.

Essential appositives:

  • Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Raven is a classic.
  • Alec Baldwin’s brother Stephen is the most underrated Baldwin.
  • The detective Sherlock Holmes is one of literature’s greatest sleuths.

Commas in Dates

When writing a date in month-day-year format, set off the year with commas.

  • July 4, 1776, was an important day in American history. I was born on Sunday, May 12, 1968.

If you are using the day-month-year format, however, commas are unnecessary.

  • Applications are due by 31 December 2016.

If you are referencing a day of the week and a date, use a comma:

  • On Tuesday, April 13, at three o’clock, there will be a meeting for all staff.
  • Please join us on Saturday, June 14, 2010, for the marriage of Annie and Michael.

When you are referencing only a month and year, you don’t need a comma.

  • The region experienced record rainfall in March 1999.

Comma Between Coordinate Adjectives

When multiple adjectives modify a noun to an equal degree, they are said to be coordinate and should be separated by commas. One way to tell whether the adjectives are coordinate is to try switching the order of them. If the sentence still sounds natural, the adjectives are coordinate.

  • That man is a pompous, self-righteous, annoying idiot.
  • That man is a self-righteous, annoying, pompous idiot.
  • The sweet, scintillating aroma of cinnamon buns filled the kitchen.
  • The scintillating, sweet aroma of cinnamon buns filled the kitchen.

If the adjectives are not coordinate, don’t separate them with a comma.

The adorable, little boy was eating ice cream.
The adorable little boy was eating ice cream.

Comma Before But

Use a comma before the word but if it is joining two independent clauses:

Cleo is a good singer but she’s an even better dancer.
Cleo is a good singer, but she’s an even better dancer.

If but is not joining two independent clauses, leave the comma out.

My teacher is tough, but fair.
My teacher is tough but fair.
Life is, but a dream.
Life is but a dream.

Comma Before And

When you have a list that contains only two items, don’t use a comma before the and.

My dog Charlie is cute, and smart.
My dog Charlie is cute and smart.
Cleo’s favorite activities are singing on stage, and relaxing in the sunshine.
Cleo’s favorite activities are singing on stage and relaxing in the sunshine.

When correcting a comma splice, that is when joining two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction, put the comma before and.

Commas with Lists

When you have a list that contains more than two elements, use commas to separate them.

Julie loves ice cream books and kittens.
Julie loves ice cream, books, and kittens.
Julie loves ice cream, books and kittens.
I cleaned the house and garage, raked the lawn, and took out the garbage.
I cleaned the house and garage, raked the lawn and took out the garbage.

The comma before the and in a list of three or more items is optional. 

Serial Comma (Oxford Comma)

When you are listing three or more items, commas should separate each element of the list. However, the final comma—the one that comes before the and—is optional. This comma is called the serial comma or the Oxford comma.

Mary needs bread, milk, and butter at the grocery store. (With serial comma)
Mary needs bread, milk and butter at the grocery store. (Without serial comma)
I still have to buy a gift, pack the suitcases, and arrange for someone to water the plants while we’re at the wedding. (With serial comma)
I still have to buy a gift, pack the suitcases and arrange for someone to water the plants while we’re at the wedding. (Without serial comma)

Though the serial comma is optional, it is occasionally necessary for clarity.

  • I dedicate this award to my parents, Jane Austen and Albert Einstein.
    (Is the award dedicated to the parents and to Jane and Albert or are Jane and Albert the names of the parents?)
  • I dedicate this award to my parents, Jane Austen, and Albert Einstein.
    (The award is dedicated to the parents and to Jane and Albert)

Comma Separating a Verb and Its Object

Don’t separate a transitive verb from its direct object with a comma.

I’m glad I trained, Charlie not to beg for scraps.
I’m glad I trained Charlie not to beg for scraps.
Mary said, she likes chocolate.
Mary said she likes chocolate.

Comma with Nonrestrictive Clause

A nonrestrictive clause offers extra information about something you have mentioned in a sentence, but the information isn’t essential to identify the thing you’re talking about. Nonrestrictive clauses are usually introduced by which or who and should be set off by commas.

  • Posey’s Cafe, which Chester recommended, is a fantastic restaurant.
  • My wife, whom I love dearly, is a brilliant physicist.

Comma with Restrictive Clauses

A restrictive clause adds necessary information about something you have mentioned in a sentence. Restrictive clauses are often introduced by that or who and should never be set off by commas.

The cafe, that Chester recommended, is a fantastic restaurant.
The cafe that Chester recommended is a fantastic restaurant.

Comma Between Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions are conjunctions that come in pairs (such as either/or, neither/nor, and not only/but also) and connect words or phrases in a sentence to form a complete thought. Typically, commas are unnecessary with correlative conjunctions.

Either the blue shirt, or the red sweater will look good with your jeans.
Either the blue shirt or the red sweater will look good with your jeans.
You can wear a pashmina not only for warmth, but also for fashion.
You can wear a pashmina not only for warmth but also for fashion.

Comma Between Direct Quote and Attributive Tag

An attributive tag is a phrase like “he said” or “she claimed” that identifies the speaker of a quote or piece of dialogue. Attributive tags can come before, after, or even in the middle of a quote. Use commas to separate attributive tags from quotations.

  • The professor remarked, “How attentive you have been today!”
  • “Once you know the solution,” Tiffany said, “the whole problem seems very simple.”
  • “You have ice cream on your nose,” my friend snickered.
  • “When you leave the house,” my mother yelled, “don’t slam the door!”

If a quotation before an attributive tag ends in a question mark or exclamation point, however, there’s no need for a comma.

“You have a spider on your nose!”, my friend yelled.
“You have a spider on your nose!” my friend yelled.
“Where did that spider come from?”, I asked.
“Where did that spider come from?” I asked.

Comma Inside Quotation Marks

In American English, commas always go before closing quotation marks.

  • “Pass me that thesaurus,” said Matthew.
  • “If you knew what was good for you, you’d sit down and finish that essay right now,” my roommate said.
  • “We’re going down to the soup kitchen to help serve dinner,” her mother called.

In British English, however, unquoted punctuation typically follows the quotation marks. If you are writing for a British audience, put the comma after the closing quotation mark. Furthermore, British English tends to use single quotes rather than double quotation marks.

Comma Before Parenthesis

After opening the new cookie tin, (and eating several of the cookies), Chester had a hard time replacing the lid. 
After opening the new cookie tin (and eating several of the cookies,) Chester had a hard time replacing the lid.
After opening the new cookie tin, Chester had a hard time replacing the lid.
After opening the new cookie tin (and eating several of the cookies), Chester had a hard time replacing the lid.

Comma with As Well As

The phrase “as well as” usually doesn’t require commas unless it’s part of a nonrestrictive clause.

  • Please proofread for grammatical mistakes as well as spelling.
  • Spelling mistakes, as well as grammatical errors, are distracting to readers.

Comma with Such As

The phrase “such as” requires commas if it introduces a nonrestrictive clause.

  • Coniferous trees, such as pine and spruce, do not drop their needles in the winter.

If “such as” introduces a restrictive clause, omit the commas.

  • Trees such as pine and spruce do not drop their needles in the winter.

Comma Before Too

Using a comma before “too” is optional. A comma simply adds emphasis.

  • I like bananas too.
  • I too like bananas.
  • I like bananas, too.
  • I, too, like bananas.


There are three forms of dashes: em, en, and the double hyphen. The most common types of dashes are the en dash (–) and the em dash (—).

Em Dashes

Em dashes can replace parentheses at the end of a sentence or when multiple commas appear in a parenthetical phrase.


  • After a split second of hesitation, the second baseman leaped for the ball (or, rather, limped for it).
  • After a split second of hesitation, the second baseman leaped for the ball—or, rather, limped for it.

Em dashes can also replace colons.


  • He is afraid of two things: spiders and senior prom.
  • He is afraid of two things—spiders and senior prom.

Writers and transcriptionists replace unknown, censored, or intentionally omitted letters with em dashes. In these cases, em dashes appear in pairs or threesomes.


  • A former employee of the accused company, ———, offered a statement off the record.
  • “H—— are all the same. They cause trouble wherever they go.”
  • Carved into the dresser drawer was a faded inscription: “Made for Kristina, by your de——ted sailor.”

En Dashes

The en dash is often used to indicate spans of time or ranges of numbers. In this context, the dash should be interpreted as meaning either “to” or “through.” 


  • The teacher assigned pages 101–181 for tonight’s reading material.
  • The scheduled window for the cable installation is 1:00–3:00pm.
  • The 2015–2016 fiscal year was the most profitable year for the new business.

The en dash may also be used to indicate a connection between two words.


  • The pro-choice–pro-life argument is always a heated one.
  • The Nobel Prize–winning author will be reading from her book at the library tonight.


Those three little dots are called an ellipsis (plural: ellipses). You can use an ellipsis to show that you’ve omitted some words, e.g.

  • Hamlet asked whether it was “nobler . . . to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles.”

You can also use an ellipsis to show a pause in speech or that a sentence trails off. This technique doesn’t belong in formal or academic writing, though. You should only use the ellipsis this way in fiction and informal writing.

  • Andrew, can you, um . . . never mind, I forgot what I was saying. So, do you think we should . . . ?

How Many Dots?

There are 3 dots in an ellipsis. But, if the ellipsis comes immediately after a grammatically complete sentence, that sentence still needs its own period. So you would end up with a period followed by 3 dots. For example:

“Call me Jonah. My parents did, or nearly did. They called me John.”

could be shortened to

“Call me Jonah. . . . They called me John.”


Whether you put spaces between the dots or not is a matter of style. The Chicago Manual of Style calls for spaces between every ellipsis point. The AP Stylebook says to treat the ellipsis as a three-letter word, with spaces on either side of the ellipsis but no spaces between the dots. For example,

  • Chicago Style: um . . . never mind
  • AP Style: um … never mind

Exclamation Point (or Exclamation Mark)

Exclamation points go at the end of exclamatory sentences. An exclamatory sentence is one that expresses a strong or forceful emotion, such as anger, surprise, or joy.

  • I got a perfect score on the SAT! Get out of my sight!

Occasionally, you might see one at the end of a sentence that is phrased as a question.

  • Careful! That spider is poisonous. Holy cow! How could I have forgotten to pack underwear!

Exclamatory Quotations

Put the exclamation point inside the closing quotation marks if it applies to the words enclosed by the quotation marks.

  • “There’s a spider on my arm!” yelped Jeremy.

If the exclamation point applies to the sentence as a whole, then place it at the very end.

  • And then the paramedics tried to tell Jeremy it was “only a spider”!

Exclamation Points and Parentheses

Put the exclamation point inside the parentheses when it applies to the words inside the parentheses.

  • Jeremy didn’t find out until later what kind of spider it was (a black widow!).

Put the exclamation point outside the parentheses if it applies to the whole sentence.

  • They settled out of court and Jeremy got a million dollars (cash)!

Exclamation marks are considered to be relatively casual, so using them in business or formal academic writing is a no-no. Instead of relying on exclamation points to convey your urgency or excitement, use more vivid vocabulary. Instead of “Make sure you finish this by tomorrow morning!” try “It’s crucial that you finish this before tomorrow morning’s deadline.”


A hyphen (-) is a punctuation mark that’s used to join words or parts of words. It’s not interchangeable with other types of dashes. Use a hyphen in a compound modifier when the modifier comes before the word it’s modifying.

Hyphen with Compound Modifiers: Two-Word Adjectives Before Nouns

A compound modifier is made up of two words that work together to function like one adjective. When you connect words with the hyphen, you make it clear to readers that the words work together as a unit of meaning.

Use a Hyphen in an Noun and an Adjective (Before the Noun They Describe)

This rock-hard cake is absolutely impossible to eat.
We’re looking for a dog-friendly hotel.

Don’t Use a Hyphen in Compound Modifiers That Come After the Noun They Describe

Generally, you need the hyphen only if the two words are functioning together as an adjective before the noun they’re describing. If the noun comes first, leave the hyphen out.

  • This wall is load bearing.
  • It’s impossible to eat this cake because it is rock hard.
  • Is this hotel dog friendly?

Don’t Use a Hyphen in an Adverb and an Adjective (Before the Noun They Describe)

You also don’t need a hyphen when your modifier is made up of an adverb and an adjective.

Do you expect me to believe this clearly-impossible story?
Do you expect me to believe this clearly impossible story?

Don’t Use a Hyphen in a Multi-word Proper Noun (Before the Noun They Describe)

You also don’t need a hyphen when your modifier is made up of a proper noun consisting of multiple words as the capital letters group the words. Source

Our product as Six-Sigma accuracy?
Our product as Six Sigma accuracy?

Use a Hyphen in a Noun or Adjective and a Present Participle (Before the Noun They Describe)

When we combine a noun or adjective and a present participle (a word ending in ‑ing) to form a unit of meaning that describes another word, use a hyphen to make that unit of meaning clear.

It’s recommended you don’t take down any load bearing walls when renovating.

In this sentence, it sounds like you shouldn’t take down any load that is holding up a wall. A hyphen should be inserted between load and bearing to make it clear that we’re talking about walls that are bearing a load.
It’s recommended you don’t take down any load-bearing walls when renovating.
There are some beautiful looking flowers in the garden.

Without the hyphen between beautiful and looking, your reader may stumble over the sentence. Perhaps there’s a new type of daisy called the “looking flower”?
There are some beautiful-looking flowers in the garden.

Don’t Use a Hyphen With a Noun or Adjective and a Present Participle (After the Noun They Describe)

Don’t use a hyphen when the modifier comes after the noun it’s describing. Compare the following:

  • Fast-acting medication can be useful when one has a headache.
  • This medication is fast acting.

Don’t Use a Hyphen in an Adverb and a Participle (Before the Noun They Describe)

The room was like a heavily-decorated chocolate box.
The room was like a heavily decorated chocolate box.

Use a Hyphen in a Noun and Past Participle (Before the Noun They Describe)

Compound modifiers that contain a past participle also follow the same rules as any other compound modifier. Use a hyphen when the compound goes before the noun it modifies:

The municipal government is funding a community-based education system.
Wind-powered generators can be excellent sources of electricity.
Many veterinarians find meat-fed cats to be quite healthy.

Don’t Use a Hyphen in a Noun and Past Participle (After the Noun They Describe)

Don’t use a hyphen when the compound comes after the noun it describes. Compare the following:

  • A well-known local singer will perform tonight.
  • The singer performing tonight is well known.

Hyphenated Compound Words

Hyphenated compound words are the ones (obviously) with a hyphen between the words. Over time, many hyphenated compounds become closed compounds—teen-ager became teenager for instance. Check a dictionary if you’re not sure whether to use a hyphen or not. Here are a few examples of common hyphenated compound words:

  • Mother-in-law
  • Master-at-arms
  • Editor-in-chief
  • Ten-year-old
  • Factory-made
  • Twelve-pack

Closed Compound Words

Hyphenated words tend to become closed compounds (single words with no hyphens) over time. Email instead of e-mail, for example, is increasingly common. If you aren’t sure whether a words is a closed compound or a hyphenated one, check your preferred dictionary.

  • Notebook
  • Superman
  • Waistcoat
  • Bookstore
  • Fireman

Open Compound Words

Open compounds are typically made up of two nouns that are used together to represent a single idea. “Open” means that there is a space between the two words and no hyphen. A good dictionary is the best place to check whether a compound is open or not.

  • Living room
  • Real estate
  • Dinner table
  • Coffee mug

Hyphens and Numbers

Numbers between twenty-one and ninety-nine should be hyphenated when they’re spelled out.

  • Fifty-six bottles of pop on the wall, fifty-six bottles of pop…
  • No, I won’t party “like it’s nineteen ninety-nine.”
  • I’ve got a hundred twenty-two of these gizmos to sell.

Hyphen in Compound Adjective With Numbers

When numbers are used as the first part of a compound adjective, use a hyphen to connect them to the noun that follows them. This applies whether the number is written in words or in digits.

  • The president of the company gave a 10-minute speech to the Board of Directors.
  • He is knowledgeable in thirteenth-century politics.
  • The boy threw a rock at the second-story window.

However, a hyphen is not required if the number is the second word in the compound adjective.

  • He is a victim of Type 2 diabetes.
  • This elevator doesn’t go down to Basement 3.

Hyphen In Compound Adjective With Fractions

When using a fraction (e.g. half or quarter) as part of a compound adjective, it should be hyphenated so the reader understands which fraction is modifying which noun.

  • I half-wanted to commit a felony.
  • A quarter-million dollars is still a large amount of money.
  • You’ll need one-third of a pound of flour and one egg.
  • That’s a half-baked idea if I ever heard one!

Hyphen With Prefixes: Ex-, Self-, All-

Use a hyphen with the prefix ex- (meaning former).

  • Don’t sit Adam next to Martha! She’s his ex-wife!
  • Though he no longer held an official position, the ex-mayor still attended all the town’s functions.

Use a hyphen with the reflexive prefix self-.

  • Lying on the floor beside the plant he had knocked over and chewed on, the cat looked extremely self-satisfied.
  • Do you want a self-serve or a full-serve gas station?

Make sure you don’t confuse the prefix self- with the noun self.

  • The self serves no other.

When using all as a prefix, add a hyphen.

  • It’s a bad leader who thinks of himself as all-powerful.

Hyphens with High or Low

When using high or low as part of a compound adjective, use a hyphen when the compound comes before the noun it’s modifying. Some examples of compound adjectives using high and low include high-level/low-level and high-impact/low-impact.

  • Low-flying airplanes contribute to the noise pollution in the area.
  • This car runs best on high-octane gasoline.
  • Low-income families often face more stress than their higher-income counterparts.
  • A high-interest savings account is one of the best ways to save money.

Parentheses and Brackets

Parentheses are punctuation marks that are used to set off information within a text or paragraph. They can enclose a single word, a phrase, or even an entire sentence. Typically, the words inside the parentheses provide extra information about something else in the sentence.

  • Curators from the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) have announced a new dinosaur exhibit. While walking down the street (paying more attention to her phone than to her feet), Catherine tripped over the curb and sprained her ankle.

Brackets, sometimes called square brackets, are most often used to show that words have been added to a direct quotation. Sometimes, when quoting a person or document, adding a word or two is necessary to provide enough context for the quote to make sense. For example, the original sentence you want to quote might read “We went and had a great time.” Out of context, this sentence doesn’t mean much. But you can add bracketed information to make the context clear.

  • “We went [to the new dinosaur exhibit] and had a great time.”

It’s extremely important to use brackets when you change a direct quote—forgetting to add them results in a misquote.

Parentheses or Brackets With Surrounding Punctuation

Treat parentheses or brackets and the words inside them as separate from the rest of the sentence. Any sentence that contains a parenthetical element should still make sense if the element is removed.

Meena (studied all night for) the grammar test.
Meena studied (all night) for the grammar test.
Meena studied for the grammar test.

Periodsquestion marks, and exclamation points should go before the closing parenthesis or bracket only if they belong to the words inside the parentheses or brackets. If the punctuation belongs to the surrounding sentence, put them outside the parentheses or brackets. Never put a comma immediately before a closing parenthesis.

After dinner (an enormous, healthy salad,) Posey treated herself to ice cream.
After dinner, (an enormous, healthy salad) Posey treated herself to ice cream.
After dinner (an enormous, healthy salad), Posey treated herself to ice cream.


Periods and Quotation Marks 

In American English, the period goes inside the closing quotation mark at the end of a sentence.

  • My mother loved to remind me of the old saying “waste not, want not.” Phillip said, “I can’t remember where I heard about the banjo concert, but I sure want to go.”

Periods and Parentheses

When a complete, independent sentence is entirely enclosed by parentheses, the period goes inside the closing parenthesis.

  • Charlie scarfed up every Cheeto that fell out of the bag. (I wasn’t fast enough to stop him.) At least we won’t have to sweep the floor.

But, if the parenthetical material is nested inside another sentence, the period should go on the outside.

  • Charlie barked wildly when he caught the scent of fresh bacon (his favorite).


An ellipsis (plural: ellipses) looks like three periods in a row with spaces in between them. There are two main uses for ellipses. One is to show that part of a quote has been omitted.

  • Hamlet asked whether it was “nobler . . . to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles.”

You can also use an ellipsis for literary effect, to represent a dramatic pause or a thought that trails off.

  • The bus was supposed to come at 3:00 so we waited and waited . . . and waited. Wait a minute . . . If you’re not watching Charlie, who is? I guess we could meet you there later. If there’s time . . .

Question Mark

Question Marks and Quotation Marks

Keep the question mark inside the quotation marks if it logically applies to what is enclosed by the quotation marks. You’ll often see this in written dialogue:

  • The chicken asked, “Why is everyone so concerned about where I’m walking?” “What do you have to hide?” asked the nosy reporter.

If the question mark applies to the sentence as a whole instead of to the phrase inside the quotation marks, put it at the very end:

  • Haven’t you ever heard the expression “It’s a free country”?

This holds true even when you have a quotation containing a question:

  • “When I spoke to the chicken, she said ‘Why won’t you leave me alone?’” recalled the reporter.

And for a quoted question containing a quoted statement:

  • “What did the chicken mean,” the reporter wondered, “when she said ‘It’s a free country’?”

When you have a question mark that applies to both the quoted phrase and the rest of the sentence, just use one question mark:

  • Who said “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

Question Marks and Parentheses

If a question mark applies to the parenthetical information, place the question mark inside the parentheses:

  • I saw the chicken (or was it the rooster?) crossing the road.
  • The chicken wrote a bestselling memoir called My Road (published abroad as Who Needs a Crosswalk?).

When the question applies to the whole sentence, put it outside the parentheses:

  • Will the chicken cross the road again tomorrow (April 1)?

Quotation Marks and Dialogue

Quotation marks are used to identify words that someone has said or a direct quote from a person in an article or quoting material that was written by someone else.

American vs. British Quotation Marks

American English uses double quotation marks (“ ”) for quotes and reserves single quotation marks (‘ ’) for quotes within quotes. In British English, the convention is the opposite. Another difference is that in American English, periods and commas go before closing quotation marks. In British English, they go after the closing quotation mark. The guidelines below apply to American English.


When writers become confused about quotation marks, it usually has to do with where to put other nearby punctuation. Below is an example of a conversation between two characters, with their dialogue correctly punctuated.

  • Martin said, “I’m going over to Jennifer’s house for a few hours.”
  • “You can’t be serious!” cried Fauntleroy.
  • “Oh, but I am,” Martin replied.
  • “How will you get there?” Fauntleroy asked.
  • “I thought I’d take the bus.”
  • “And,” Fauntleroy continued, “exactly how long is ‘a few hours’?”
  • “Probably two or three.”
  • “Well . . . fine. Tell Jennifer I said hello.”

Non-Dialogue Quotations

The mayor said his two golden retrievers were “the best dogs in the world. I’m not a cat person.”
The mayor said his two golden retrievers were “the best dogs in the world” and added that he was not a cat person.

Scare Quotes

Occasionally, writers enclose certain terms they wish to distance themselves from in quotation marks. 

  • Silicon Valley has fully embraced the “sharing economy.”

Sometimes, scare quotes are needed to indicate that the writer is not talking about something in general, but rather a specific term itself.

  • For too many people, “computer security” is an oxymoron.


Semicolons (;) are as basic as a period stacked on top of a comma.

The most common use of the semicolon is to join two independent clauses without using a conjunction like and. Don’t use a capital letter after a semicolon. A semicolon should be followed by a capital letter only if the word is a proper noun or an acronym.

  • We can go to the museum to do some research; Mondays are pretty quiet there.

You can use a semicolon to join two closely related independent clauses. Let’s put that another way. The group of words that comes before the semicolon should form a complete sentence, the group of words that comes after the semicolon should form a complete sentence, and the two sentences should share a close, logical connection:

  • I ordered a cheeseburger for lunch; life’s too short for counting calories.
  • Money is the root of all evil; I don’t believe the reverse is necessarily true.
  • Martha has gone to the library; Andrew has gone to play soccer.

Notice that the letter following the semicolon is not capitalized. 

Delete the Conjunction When You Use a Semicolon

  • I saw a magnificent albatross, and it was eating a mouse.
  • I saw a magnificent albatross; it was eating a mouse.

Use Semicolons in a Serial List

You can use semicolons to divide the items of a list if the items are long or contain internal punctuation. In these cases, the semicolon helps readers keep track of the divisions between the items.

  • I need the weather statistics for the following cities: London, England; London, Ontario; Paris, France; Paris, Ontario; Perth, Scotland; Perth, Ontario.
  • My plan included taking him to a nice—though not necessarily expensive—dinner; going to the park to look at the stars, which, by the way, are amazing this time of year; and serenading him with my accordion.

Use Semicolons With Conjunctive Adverbs

When you have a conjunctive adverb linking two independent clauses, you should use a semicolon. Some common conjunctive adverbs include moreover, nevertheless, however, otherwise, therefore, then, finally, likewise, and consequently. 

  • I needed to go for a walk and get some fresh air; also, I needed to buy milk.
  • Reports of the damage caused by the hurricane were greatly exaggerated; indeed, the storm was not a “hurricane” at all.
  • The students had been advised against walking alone at night; however, Cathy decided walking wasn’t dangerous if it was early in the evening.
  • I’m not all that fond of the colors of tiger lilies; moreover, they don’t smell very good.


There are two types of slashes: a backslash (\) and a forward slash (/). The backslash is used only for computer coding. The forward slash, often simply referred to as a slash, is a punctuation mark used in English.

A Slash to Indicate Or

  • When leaving the classroom, the teacher noticed that a student had left his/her backpack.
  • College freshmen should bring a mattress and/or cot to sleep on during orientation.
  • If/when Mary ever shows up, we can all head out to the party together.
  • Burgers or pizza for dinner? Yeah, either/or is fine with me.

A Slash to Form Abbreviations

Slashes can also be used to form some abbreviations or shortened forms of words or phrases, although these shouldn’t be used in formal writing.

  • w/o = without
  • w/ = with
  • c/o =
  • care of (used when posting a letter or parcel)
  • a/c = air conditioning

A Slash to Indicate Connecting and Conflicting Relationships

Slashes can also be used to note that there is a connection or conflict between two words or phrases in a sentence.

  • The pro-life/pro-choice debate is a hot-button issue for many voters this election.
  • The designer often works in his bonus room/home office.

Space Before and After Slash

When a slash signifies alternatives between only two words, don’t use spaces before or after. 

  • Add chili flakes and/or black pepper to the recipe.

When using slashes to signify alternatives between phrases or multi-word terms or compounds, a space before and after the slash makes text easier to read.

  • World War I / First World War


An abbreviation, simply put, is a shortened form of a word. Some readers may not know what an abbreviation means. If the abbreviation is obscure or unfamiliar, make sure to explain what it means the first time you use it.

Acronyms and Initialisms

Typically, acronyms and initialisms are written in all capital letters to distinguish them from ordinary words. (When fully spelled out, the words in acronyms and initialisms do not need to be capitalized unless they entail a proper noun.)

An acronym is pronounced as a single word, rather than as a series of letters. 

  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration = NASA
  • self contained underwater breathing apparatus = scuba
  • light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation = lase

Initialisms are pronounced as a series of letters.

  • National Football League = NFL (en eff ell)

If you need to use an indefinite article before an acronym or initialism, use the initial sound of the word (not necessarily the initial letter) guide your choice.

Abbreviations for Courtesy Titles and Academic Degrees

Titles such as mister, miss, and doctor, as well as the names of academic degrees such as bachelor of arts and doctor of philosophy are almost always abbreviated. In American English, title abbreviations are followed by a period; in British English, the period is omitted.

  • Mr. = Mister
  • Mrs. = Mistress (pronounced “missus”)
  • Ms. = (pronounced “miss” or “miz”)
  • Sr. = Senior
  • Jr. = Junior
  • Dr. = Doctor
  • Mr. Green asked Ms. Grey if she had met Dr. Jekyl. (American style)
  • Mr Green asked Ms Grey if she had met Dr Jekyl. (British style)

B.S. = Bachelor of science

  • B.A. = Bachelor of Arts
  • M.A. = Master of Arts
  • M.B.A. = Master of Business Administration
  • Ph.D. = Doctor of Philosophy

The periods are optional with abbreviations of academic degrees. Follow whichever style your style guide recommends, or just choose one and use it consistently. When an academic degree is used like a title, it follows a person’s name and is set off by commas:

  • Molly Beagle, Ph.D., runs the canine cognition lab at Stanford University.

Latin Abbreviations

e.g.: exempli gratia It means “for example.” Use e.g. when you want to provide specific examples of a generalization.

  • We expect volunteers from many surrounding cities, (e.g., Springfield, Oakdale, Hogsmeade.)

i.e.: id est It means “that is.” Use i.e. when you want to provide more specific information about something you mentioned.

  • After a reasonable amount of time has passed—i.e. two business days—please report the missing shipment to our customer service department.

etc.: et cetera It means “and so forth.” Use it when you’re providing a partial list of details.

  • You should see the doctor when you have flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, etc.)

Other Common Abbreviations

Below are a few other abbreviations that are common in English. Remember that abbreviations are not always completely standardized. One style guide may advise you to abbreviate Thursday as Thurs. while another may argue for Thu. Likewise, some style guides allow you to omit the periods with these abbreviations, but it’s never wrong to include periods. So if you aren’t sure whether to use the periods, err on the side of leaving them in.

Times and dates

a.m. (ante meridiem) = before noon p.m. (post meridiem) = after noon

  • The mall opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 8 p.m.

Jan., Feb., Mar., Apr., May, Jun., Jul., Aug., Sep., Oct., Nov., Dec.

  • I was born on Nov. 6, 1980.

Mon., Tues., Wed., Thurs., Fri., Sat,. Sun.

  • The class will run Mon.-Fri. next week.


U.S. (United States) U.K. (United Kingdom) E.U. (European Union) U.A.E. (United Arab Emirates)

  • The U.S. highway system seems enormous to visitors from the U.K.

Units of Measurement

in. (inches) ft. (feet) lbs. (pounds)

mm. (millimeters) cm. (centimeters) m. (meters)

mg. (milligram) g. (gram) kg. (kilogram)

My cat weighs 10 lbs., which is about 4.5 kg.

Spelling Rules

English spelling of some words is wildly different from the way we pronounce them (It’s fuchsia, right? Or is it fuschiaFushia?)

Around Shakespeare’s time, when spelling was first becoming standardized, the spelling of most English words was mostly phonetic—or at least more phonetic than it is today. For example, English speakers did once pronounce the k at the beginning of words like knife and knee. But even though no one has pronounced knee as “kuh-nee” in centuries, we still hang on to the old spelling.


Capitalize the First Word of a Sentence

  • The cat is sleeping.
  • Where did I put that book?

Capitalize Names and Other Proper Nouns

  • My favorite author is Jane Austen.
  • Have you met my dog, Boomer?

Names are proper nouns. The names of cities, countries, companies, religions, and political parties are also proper nouns, so you should capitalize them, too.

  • We experienced some beautiful Southern California weather last fall when we attended a Catholic wedding in San Diego.

You should also capitalize words like mom and grandpa when they are used as a form of address.

  • Just wait until Mom sees this!
  • My mom is not going to like this.

Don’t Capitalize After a Colon (Usually)

  • I have one true passion: wombat racing.

One exception is when the word following the colon is a proper noun.

  • There is only one place I want to visit: New York City.

The other exception is when the words following the colon form one or more complete sentences.

Maggie wears a brimmed cap at all times for these two reasons: Strong light often gives her a headache. She also likes the way it looks.

Capitalize the First Word of a Quote (Sometimes)

Capitalize the first word of a quote when the quote is a complete sentence.

  • Mario asked, “What is everyone doing this weekend?”
  • Stacy answered, “My sister and I are going to the water park.”

Don’t capitalize the first word of partial quotes.

  • Gretchen said she was “way too busy” to join the gym.
  • Mr. Thompson described the rules as “extremely difficult to understand if you don’t have a law degree.”

Capitalize Days, Months, and Holidays, But Not Seasons

The names of days, months, and holidays are proper nouns, so you should capitalize them.

  • I hate Mondays!
  • Tom’s birthday is in June.
  • Oh no! I forgot about Valentine’s Day!

The names of seasons, however, are not proper nouns, so there’s no need to capitalize them.

  • I hate winter!
  • Having a summer birthday is the best.

Capitalize Most Words in Titles

Just use

  • Sense and Sensibility is better than Pride and Prejudice.
  • The first movie of the series is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Capitalize Cities, Countries, Nationalities, and Languages

  • English is made up of many languages, including Latin, German, and French.
  • My mother is British, and my father is Dutch.
  • The capital of Botswana is Gaborone.

Capitalize Time Periods and Events (Sometimes)

Specific periods, eras, and historical events that have proper names should be capitalized.

  • Most of the World War I veterans are now deceased.
  • In the Middle Ages, poor hygiene was partly responsible for the spreading of bubonic plague.
  • Middle school students often enjoy studying the social changes that took place during the Roaring Twenties.

However, centuries—and the numbers before them—are not capitalized.

  • In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, England blossomed into an empire.

Compound Words

When adverbs ending in -ly combine with another word, the resulting compound is always spelled as two separate words.

  • largely irrelevant
  • newly formed

There are a great many grammar rules regarding hyphens in compound words. One important rule of thumb to remember is that in most cases, a compound adjective is hyphenated if placed before the noun it modifies, but not if placed after the noun.

  • a long-term solution
  • an up-to-date user guide
  • This is not a good solution for the long term.
  • This user guide is not up to date.

It’s often necessary to consult the dictionary to determine whether these terms should be hyphenated or not.

Verb Tenses

Simple PresentSimple PastSimple Future
read nearly every day.Last night, I read an entire novel.will read as much as I can this year.
Present ContinuousPast ContinuousFuture Continuous
am reading Shakespeare at the moment.was reading Edgar Allan Poe last night.will be reading Nathaniel Hawthorne soon.
Present PerfectPast PerfectFuture Perfect
have read so many books I can’t keep count.had read at least 100 books by the time I was twelve.will have read at least 500 books by the end of the year.
Present Perfect ContinuousPast Perfect ContinuousFuture Perfect Continuous
have been reading since I was four years old.had been reading for at least a year before my sister learned to read.will have been reading for at least two hours before dinner tonight.

Common Mistakes

Who’s vs Whose

“Who’s” is a contraction of “who is” or “who has”. For example,

  • Who’s watching TV?
  • Do you know who’s going to speak?
  • Who’s ready to go?
  • Who’s in the kitchen?
  • Who’s your doctor?
  • Who’s this?
  • Who’s already eaten?
  • Who’s been here before?
  • Who’s been watching that show?

“Whose” is the possessive of “who”. It’s always followed by a noun.

  • Whose book is this?
  • Do you know whose car this is?
  • I know a woman whose kids study there.
  • Whose side are you on?
  • An idea whose time has come.

It’s vs Its

“It’s” is a contraction of it is or it has.

  • It’s time to go.
  • Do you think it’s ready?
  • I read your article – it’s very good.
  • Do you know where my purse is? It’s on the table.
  • It’s been a long time.

“Its” is the possessive form of it.

  • That’s an interesting device – what is its purpose?
  • I saw Les Misérables during its initial run.
  • This stove has its own timer.
  • The bird lost some of its feathers.
  • Where is its head office?

Assure vs Ensure vs Insure

Assure most commonly means “to remove doubt about, to guarantee, to set one’s mind at rest.”

  • I assure you that we will be on time.
  • He assured us that there were no delays.

Ensure means “to make sure or certain” and must be followed by a direct object.

  • Winning the lottery ensured our happiness.
  • His loyalty will ensure your safety.

Insure refers to the provision of insurance: coverage against a specified loss.

  • My new car is not yet insured.
  • Our house was insured when the storm hit.

Bi- vs Semi-

Bi– comes from the Latin meaning two. When used with a temporal word, bi- means “every two” or “every other.”

  • This magazine is published bi-weekly, every other Friday.
  • Congressional elections are held biennially, on even-numbered years.
  • The U.S. celebrated the bicentennial of its 1776 founding in 1976.

Semi– comes from the Latin meaning half. When used with a temporal word, semi– means “twice.”

  • Our semi-annual meetings are in January and July.
  • I get paid semi-monthly, on the 5th and 19th of each month.
  • The semi-weekly deliveries occur on Monday and Thursday.

e.g. vs i.e.

e.g. stands for exempli gratia, which means “for example.” Use e.g. to introduce one or more possibilities among many.

  • He wastes his money on junk, e.g., cars that don’t run.
  • I’ll listen to anything, e.g., country-western, rap, light jazz.

i.e. stands for id est which means that is. Use i.e. when what you are introducing is equivalent to or an explanation of what comes before it in the sentence. Basically, i.e. means “in other words.” It’s used to reword or provide an alternate explanation.

  • He wastes his money on junk; i.e., stuff that he will never get around to fixing.
  • I’ll listen to anything; i.e., I like any kind of music.

Everyday vs Every day

Everyday is an adjective that means commonplace, ordinary, or normal.

  • These shoes are great for everyday wear.
  • You shouldn’t wear an everyday outfit to the wedding.
  • Don’t use the everyday dishes – it’s a special occasion.

Every day means “each day.”

  • I go to the park every day.
  • I have to work every day this week except Friday.
  • Every day I feel a little better.

Farther vs Further

Farther means “more far, more distant” in physical space.

  • Tom ran farther than Bill.
  • Which is farther, New York or Los Angeles?

Further means “more far, more distant” figuratively or non-physically.

  • Nothing could be further from the truth.
  • Who is further along in her research?

It can also mean “more/additional”:

  • Do you have any further ideas?
  • Nothing further, Your Honor.

And further is also a verb: “to advance”:

  • This class will further your understanding of ethics.

Furthest means “the most far, most distant” figuratively.

  • That is the furthest thing from my mind.

Good vs Well

Good is an adjective, which means that it modifies nouns.

  • This is a good movie.
  • What a good idea!
  • You speak good English.
  • This movie looks good.
  • His ideas are good.
  • Your English is good.

Well is an adverb, which means that it modifies verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.

  • Did the movie do well at the box office?
  • It was a well-defined idea.
  • You speak English well.

Well can be used as an adjective to mean “in good health.”

  • You look well.
  • I don’t feel well.

Hers vs Her’s

Hers is the third person singular feminine possessive pronoun – it replaces the possessive adjective “her” + a noun. Though you may see her’s written even by native speakers, it is incorrect. Hers should never have an apostrophe.

  • I found a book – is it hers?
  • Is this his or hers?

I vs Me

I is the first person singular subject pronoun, which means that it refers to the person performing the action of a verb.

  • You and I need to get ready.
  • Tom and I are going to the movies.

Me is an object pronoun, which means that it refers to the person that the action of a verb is being done to, or to whom a preposition refers.

  • Between you and me, this is a bad idea.
  • She needs to talk to Joe or me.

If I would have …

When talking about something that didn’t happen in the past, many English speakers use the conditional perfect (if I would have done) when they should be using the past perfect (if I had done).

If I would have known, I would have told you.
If I had known, [then] I would have told you.
If I would have gotten paid, we could have traveled together.
If I had gotten paid, we could have traveled together.
If you would have asked me, I could have helped you.
If you had asked me, I could have helped you.
We wish we would have known.
We wish we had known.
Tom wishes you would have stayed.
Tom wishes you had stayed.
I wish they would have been honest.
I wish they had been honest.

Lay vs Lie

Me vs Myself

Ours vs Our’s

Theirs vs Their’s

Who vs Whom

Yours vs Your’s

Compound Possessives with Pronouns

Doug and I’s dog
Doug and my dog
Doug’s and my dog.
John and I’s wedding.
John’s and my wedding

Multiple Nouns With Shared Possession

That’s Jack and Jill’s hill. (The hill belongs to Jack and Jill)
George, Jerry, and Elaine’s relationship is not always friendly. (The relationship belongs to George, Jerry, and Elaine)
Have you been to Mom and Dad’s house lately? (The house belongs to Mom and Dad)

Multiple Nouns With Different Possession

Jan’s and Tony’s cars are both acting up. (Jan and Tony own two separate cars)
George’s and Harriet’s grades were good enough for them to graduate. (George and Harriet receive separate grades)
Matilda’s, Yvette’s, and Carlos’s ambitions led them to their careers. – (Matilda, Yvette, and Carlos each have different ambitions)

Job Title Capitalization Rules

The following rules generally apply for job titles. These rules even apply to executive titles at a company.

  1. You should capitalize specific job titles. However, do not capitalize a job title if it is used as a general job description. For instance:

Specific job title: “As the Program Chair of the Department of Management…”

General job title: “I am seeking a position as a program chair…”

2. Capitalize a job title if it precedes the name of the person. For instance:

Chief Executive Officer Mark Thomas.”

Vice President Henry Griffin.”

3. Capitalize a job title if it used as a heading in the resume. For instance:

“Chief Operating Officer (2015-2016)”

“Branch Manager (2010-present)”

4. Do not capitalize a job title when it is used to describe the person. For instance:

“Mark Thomas, the chief executive officer of…”

“the vice president of administration, Henry Griffin…”

5. Do not capitalize on job titles if you place them as part of a summary of jobs.

“In my fifteen years as an employee, I worked as a professional teacher, a college professor, a clinical instructor, and a clinical nurse.”

Online Tools to Improve Your English Writing

As a blogger and a person who works in marketing, I deal with a lot of English text content. Though English is my native language, it is not my specialization, although that is quickly changing the more I read and write. Here are some online tools I’ve found very useful for anyone wanting to improve their writing.


Grammarly can do many things including alerting you to typos, incorrect grammar, wordy phrases, inconsistent spelling, and more. It does this by underlining words in red or blue so you can quickly jump to words or phrases that could be improved. For example, in the screenshot below, the word “effect” is misspelled. On the right, there is an explanation of the typo and a link to learn more. Clicking on the box will fix the typo.

If you double-click on a word, you can get synonyms.

Grammarly has a great handbook in their blog that explains many grammar topics concisely and with good examples.

Note that Grammarly is not perfect and does not replace human review. is the first sentence search engine that helps you write better English by giving you contextualized examples taken from reliable sources.

As you can see in the screenshot above, Ludwig can do many things including

  • Find your sentence in the best contexts
  • Translate in English in the smartest way
  • Get definitions, synonyms and examples
  • Compare the frequency of two sentences
  • Discover the missing word
  • Paraphrase your sentence
  • Compare the frequency of words
  • Order a group of words


WordTune helps you rewrite words and sentences. They can be shortened, expanded, and made to sound more casual or formal.

If you highlight a word and click on the WordTune icon, you can get synonyms.

Learn a Language by Watching Movies

One of the best ways to learn a language is by watching movies. But, video players usually only let you show one subtitle language at a time. Also, you can’t easily repeat what was just said or slow down the video when a character may be speaking too quickly. Here’s one way to make it easier to learn a language by watching movies. This example assumes the video is on Netflix.

1. Download the video and subtitles

Let’s say you want to learn Spanish and you speak English. One popular video series is Money Heist. You can download one or all episodes using Flixicam. Flixicam costs XXX. Since the purpose of this activity is to learn a language, you can download the video in the lowest resolution, e.g. 480p, so that the file is too big. Money Heist is at this URL: When you play the video, you can click on the subtitles icon to see what subtitle languages are available. Unfortunately, in this case, there aren’t any Spanish subtitles, but you may be able to find Spanish subtitles online.

In this case, you can search online for the Spanish subtitles, e.g. at

2. Merge subtitles

When watching a video, it helps to see two subtitles at once – one of the language you are learning and one of the language you understand. You can merge two subtitle files using an online tool.

3. Load video and subtitles in a subtitle editor tool

Subtitle editing tools may be designed to edit subtitles, but they’re also good for learning a language. The one I use is HappyScribe free online subtitle editor because I like the interface.

Just open the editor, upload your video, import the merged subtitle file, and start watching, listening and learning. Click on any subtitle paragraph to jump to the corresponding location in the video. Click on it again to repeat what was just said.

Change the playback speed to slow down the speech, if necessary.

The downside to this particular subtitle editor is it is online which means you have to upload your video which can take quite some time on a slow internet connection. You can also install a subtitle editor program on your computer which would eliminate the need to upload large videos. For example, here’s a simple one for Windows called Open Subtitle Editor.

Another one is Subtitle Edit.

However, with this one, I don’t see an option to change playback speed. If you use this one, you’ll probably want to go to Options > Settings > Double-clicking line in main window list view will “Go to video position and play”.

How to Build Muscle

There are 3 main things that affect muscle growth:

  1. food
  2. strength / resistance training
  3. rest

To grow muscle, you need to

  • do strength training to break down muscle
  • have a moderate calorie surplus
  • have sufficient protein consumption (1 gram of protein per pound of body weight)
  • rest to build muscle

If you have a calorie deficit, your body will expend more energy resulting in weight loss in the form of BOTH fat and muscle loss.

If you have an excessive calorie surplus, you will GAIN weight, and grow some muscle but also gain a lot of fat.

You build muscle when the amount of protein synthesized into muscle during rest is greater than the amount of muscle protein breakdown during strength training. Without sufficient protein, you will just gain fat and little muscle.


Both creatine and whey protein powder have been shown to increase muscle mass when taken in combination with resistance exercise.

Creatine increases exercise capacity during high-intensity exercise. This leads to improved recovery and adaptations such as increased muscle mass.

Meanwhile, ingesting whey protein in combination with exercise provides your body with a high-quality source of protein, enhancing muscle protein synthesis and leading to increased muscle gains over time.

While both creatine and whey protein promote muscle gain, they differ in the ways they work. Creatine increases strength and muscle mass by increasing exercise capacity, whereas whey protein does so by stimulating increased muscle protein synthesis.



Muscles are made out of protein, among other things. So, you’re going to need to consume enough protein to build muscle. You should target 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. For example, I currently weigh 178 lbs, so I should consume 178 grams of protein. Here are some protein-rich foods.

FoodQuantityProtein (g)CaloriesProtein / Calorie Ratio
Eggs1 large67811%
Egg White1 large41822%
Almonds1 ounce61643.6%
Chicken Breast1 roasted w/o skin5328418%
Oats1 cup113073.5%
Cottage Cheese1 cup2816317%
Greek Yogurt6 ounces1710017%
Regular Milk1 cup814916%
Soy Milk1 cup6.31056%
Broccoli1 cup chopped3319.6%
Lean Beef3 ounces2518613%
Tuna1 can (142 grams)2712821%
Quinoa1 cup cooked82223.6%
Whey protein concentrate supplement1 scoop (33 g)2513019%
Whey protein isolate supplement1 scoop (33 g)3013023%
Lentils1 cup boiled182308%
Ezekiel Bread1 slice4 805%
Pumpkin Seeds1 ounce91585.6%
Turkey Breast3 ounces2612520%
Shrimp3 ounces208424%
Brussel Sprouts1/2 cup2287%
Peanuts1 ounce71614.3%

Other protein-rich foods

Pistachios, cashews, parmesan cheese, swiss cheese, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, regular full-fat yogurt, kefir, soybeans, kidney beans, chickpeas, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds.

Consuming a lot of protein without supplements can be difficult because you might feel full before you’ve reached your target daily intake. Also, it can be expensive. For that reason, most bodybuilders take protein supplements. When choosing a protein supplement, it’s important to stay away from ones with a lot of added sugar. The most popular protein supplement is whey protein. To be safe, opt for pure whey protein. I personally get the unflavored Nutricost Whey Protein Concentrate. It contains only one ingredient: Whey protein concentrate. 1 scoop contains 25 g of protein and 130 calories.

You can also buy whey protein isolate, which has 90 – 95% protein compared to whey protein concentrate, which has 60 – 80% protein. Source


Creatine monohydrate is the best-studied and most effective form of this supplement. There are 2 dosing regimens:

Option 1

  1. Loading phase: Take 20-25 grams split into 4 or 5 equal doses over 5-7 days.
  2. Maintenance phase: Then, take 3-5 grams per day to maintain your muscle stores of the compound.

Option 2

Skip the loading phase and start the maintenance phase.

Both options are effective. The first option will allow you to experience the benefits 4x faster. Source

I personally take unflavored Nutricost Creatine Monohydrate.

Other Foods

Now, don’t go consuming nothing but protein shakes. They are meant to be supplements and not food substitutes. You can eat whatever else you want, but generally, you should avoid processed foods and foods with lots of added sugar. I have personally found the Keto diet (very low-carb diet) to be one of the best, if not the best, diets. I was able to lose 20 lbs following the Keto diet. It’s not just good for losing weight, but it’s also good for overall healthy eating.


While you can build muscle in a calorie deficit (losing weight), it will be quicker to build muscle by having a moderate calorie surplus. In order to determine how many calories is “moderate”, you first need to know your maintenance calories – the number of calories to consume each day to neither lose nor gain weight.

Maintenance Calories

Your maintenance calories is the number of calories you consume and burn each day to neither lose nor gain weight. Use the calorie calculator from the Mayo Clinic to determine your maintenance calories. It uses the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation, which pros consider the gold standard.

Slight Calorie Deficit to Lose Weight Without Losing Muscle

On days you don’t lift weights, you want to lose fat. You can do this by counting calories consumed and, if you are doing cardio exercises (treadmill, etc), subtracting calories burned such that your net calorie deficit is 5-10% of your maintenance calories. In my case, that would be 2200 – 10% = 1980 calories. You don’t want a huge calorie deficit because then you’ll lose fat and muscle.

Moderate Calorie Surplus Gain Muscle

On days that you lift weights to build muscle, depending on how much muscle you want to put on and how quickly you want to gain it, add 5% to 15% to your maintenance calories. In my case, that would be 2200 + 15% = 2530 calories.

Example Weekly Schedule

MondayRestCalorie Deficit
TuesdayStrength TrainingCalorie Surplus, Extra Protein
WednesdayCardioCalorie Deficit
ThursdayRestCalorie Deficit
FridayStrength TrainingCalorie Surplus, Extra Protein
SaturdayCardioCalorie Deficit
SundayStrength TrainingCalorie Surplus, Extra Protein

On calorie-surplus days, your body needs the extra calories above your maintenance calories to build new muscle while you sleep.

Example Meal Plan

Here’s my daily meal plan.


  • 4 eggs in a bowl microwaved for 2 minutes
  • 1 cup of espresso coffee with frothed milk, 1/4 teaspoon of Truvia sugar substitute (erithrytol + Stevia extra), and cinnamon


Protein shake containing


5 air-fried skinless chicken legs (60 g protein, 380 calories) with one Anaheim pepper

Post-Dinner Drink

Another protein smoothie, but substitute the Acai with 3 or 4 frozen strawberries

Post-Workout Drink

Chocolate-flavored Premier 30g Protein Drink (30 g protein, 160 calories)

Total Daily Protein and Calorie Consumption

FoodQuantityProtein (gr)Calories
Protein shake148544
Chicken drumsticks560380
Protein shake148544
Protein drink130160
Snacks (nuts)?

Without eating snacks, my total daily calorie intake is 1928.

Strength / Resistance Training

Muscle size increases when a person continually challenges the muscles to deal with higher levels of resistance or weight. This process is known as muscle hypertrophy.

Muscle hypertrophy occurs when the fibers of the muscles sustain damage or injury. The body repairs damaged fibers by fusing them, which increases the mass and size of the muscles. This increase, however, does not happen while you actually lift the weights. Instead, it occurs while you rest.

You need to be consistent and lift progressively heavier weights. To do this, you should keep track of your efforts. Personally, I log my workouts using the free version of the FitNotes app.

Sets and reps

A standard way of exercising each muscle is by grouping each exercise into 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps (repetitions). For example, if you bench press, you can choose a weight such that for the first set, you lift X lbs until you reach failure (can no longer lift / perform a complete cycle) after the 12th rep. Then, for the 2nd set, you do the same until your failure is maybe at the 10th rep. And for the 3rd set, you fail maybe at 8 reps.

1100 lbs12
2100 lbs10
3100 lbs8

Note that more important than the number of reps is the effort to lift until failure. If, after a while, you feel that you can do more than 12 reps at X lbs for the first set, then you need to increase the weight and continue to lift until failure, regardless of the exact number of reps you can do. This is called “progressive overloading.”

Let me repeat that. Train until failure such that you can barely complete your last rep with proper form. The last 2 to 3 reps before failure are the ones that count towards building muscle.


You might be tempted to hold your breath while you’re lifting weights. Don’t hold your breath. Instead, breathe out as you lift the weight and breathe in as you lower the weight. Lowering weights requires less exertion, which makes it an ideal time to inhale. By breathing correctly, you’ll be able to lift more and limit fainting and injury.


Here’s a diagram of some of the more obvious muscles that you’ll want to target when lifting weights.


There are many types of strength training exercises you can do among free weights and machines. I personally prefer using machines as they are more comfortable and help you perform exercises using proper form and reduce the chance of injury. However, some exercises produce better results when using free weights, e.g. dumbbell or barbell chest press instead of a chest press machine. Here are some of the upper body exercises I prefer.

Exercise Database


When you start a workout, your muscles will have rested and you will be able to lift the most weight for any given exercise. As you progress through your workout, you will have less strength when performing other exercises. For that reason, it’s good to be selective in the order of the exercises you perform. For example, I would do 10 or so different exercises in the following order:

OrderExerciseMuscles Targeted
1V-Bar Tricep PushdownTriceps (Tris)
2Dumbbell chest press (flat)Chest
3Dumbbell chest press (30° incline)Upper chest
4Hammer Strength MTS Shoulder PressShoulders
5Biceps Curl MachineBiceps (Bis)
6Plank exerciseAbs, Core
7Lat PulldownBiceps and Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)
8Triceps PressShoulders and Triceps
9Lat RowLats, Delts and Back
10V-Bar Tricep PushdownTriceps (Tris)
11Row MachineLats, Delts and Back
12Biceps Curl MachineBiceps (Bis)

Each exercise, except the plank, is done with 3 sets. This sequence takes about 1.5 hours and I burn on average 500 calories.

Muscles by Volume

Many men generally want a bigger upper body. Oftentimes, they’ll focus exercises on 2 muscles: chest and biceps. However, to have a larger upper body, they may be better off targeting larger muscles. Following is a list of the 10 largest muscles in the body.

Quadriceps femorisLower thigh1,420 cm3
Gluteus maximusBack of pelvis760 cm3
DeltoidShoulder380 cm3
Triceps BrachiiBack upper arm370 cm3
IliopsoasHips350 cm3
Pectoralis majorChest290 cm3
Biceps femorisTop of the thigh269 cm3
Latissimus DorsiMid back262 cm3
Biceps BrachiiFront upper arm143 cm3
SartoriusUpper and inner thigh126 cm3

Muscle Gain By Weight

The longer you lift weights, the harder it becomes to grow more muscle. Following are average muscle weight gains for men and women at different stages of resistance training.

Newbie1.5 lbs / month0.5 lbs / month
Intermediate0.5 lbs / month 0.3 – 0.4 lbs / month
Advanced0.25 lbs / month 0.1 – 0.2 lbs / month
Year of Proper TrainingPotential Rate of Muscle Gain Per Year
120-25 lbs (2 lbs / month)
210-12 lbs (1 lb / month)
35-6 lbs (0.5 lbs / month)
4+2-3 lbs (not worth calculating)

You may have heard that muscle weighs more than fat. However, according to science, a pound of muscle and a pound of fat weigh the same. The difference between the two is density.


In order for your muscles to grow, you need to have sufficient rest. Make sure to sleep enough, e.g. 8 hours a day. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually build muscle while you’re lifting weights. You do need to lift weights to add mass, but training actually causes muscle breakdown.

How to Tell if You’re Gaining Muscle

  1. You’re Gaining Weight
    Track your weight at the same time each day and plot it on a chart to see your long-term progress. 
  2. Your Clothes Fit Differently
    Getting jacked will often mean your clothes start to fit differently – usually in a good way. If you’re noticing your shirts are fitting a bit tighter around your shoulders, chest, and biceps, or your pants are getting snug in the thigh and hip area, these tend to be good signs you’re gaining healthy weight. 
  3. You’re Building Strength
    If you can lift heavier weights, then you are probably building muscle. Track your strength using a log and practice progressive overloading. 
  4. Your Muscles Are Looking “Swole”
    Feeling puffier or bigger is normal and likely a good sign you’re growing your muscle fibers. Lifting weights increases fluids to your muscle, giving you that post-weight training pump, especially when you are just getting started with strength training. Over time, some of the water retention may diminish, but you should continue to feel bulkier. 
  5. Daily or Weekly Progress Photos
    Stand in front of a mirror and take a full-body photo. Repeat and assess your visual transformation regularly.
  6. Your Body Composition Has Changed
    Ultimately, the most efficient way to measure your muscle gain progress is to assess your body composition at the beginning and end of your bulk. You can opt for an affordable and convenient at-home scale, or schedule a DXA/DEXA scan that estimates your body fat percentage within a 1.6% margin of error. 

The best way to know you are gaining muscle is if you are progressively able to lift heavier weights because the only way you can lift heavier weights if you have bigger muscles.

Tracking Progress

If you use an app to keep track of your progress, you can periodically calculate your percent gains and improvements over time. Here’s an example of my actual gains.

ExerciseDec 26, 2021March 12, 2022% increaseTarget area
V-bar pushdown5072.545%Triceps
Chest press machine7012071%Chest
Lat pulldown machine9013044%Back
Shoulder press machine407075%Shoulders
Tricep pushdown machine11517047%Triceps
Bicep curl machine6511069%Biceps

Gadgets and Accessories

To support your strength training goals, I have found the following gadgets useful.

Wi-fi body scale

I have the Withings smart wi-fi body scale. It automatically records my weight, and in the app, I can see my weight change over time.


I have the Fossil Men’s Gen 6 Touchscreen Smartwatch. It’s got a ton of features.

Whenever I enter the gym, I start tracking my heart rate and calories burned. When I’m done, I stop tracking. I can see a history of my calories burned and workout duration over time.

Bluetooth Headphones / Earphones

I have the Sony Wireless Behind-Neck Headset (WI-C400). Many people like to wear Beats headphones. I prefer the behind-the-neck style headset because it’s lightweight and doesn’t move around as I exercise, including when I do sit-ups.

Compression T-Shirt

I have the Under Armour Men’s HeatGear Compression Short-Sleeve T-Shirt. It allows you to see your body shape so you can see how you’re progressing. I find it motivating to see physical progress.

Weight Training Workout Gloves

Repeatedly lifting weights can result in calluses (thickened skin that forms as a response to repeated friction or pressure). Workout gloves tend to have a cushion to protect your skin. I find it much more comfortable to lift with gloves on.


  • Stay in a positive protein balance by hitting your protein consistently.
  • Get your protein from high-quality sources like meat, eggs, dairy, and soy.
  • Your body needs energy to grow, so you need to be in a moderate calorie surplus.
  • Make sleep a priority — both quantity and quality.
  • Hit the weights consistently, and train harder by adding volume (in weight, reps, and sets) over time – progressive overloading.

Why Some Countries Are Poor

Every now and then I come across a documentary that shows extreme poverty in many places around the world. I can’t help but wonder why many of these countries don’t appear to be progressing whereas others that used to be poor, like China and Singapore, have become rich in a relatively short period of time. This article examines some of the reasons that prevent countries from growing.

Inclusive vs Extractive Institutions

In the book, “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty”, the authors argue that nations fail because of their institutions (judicial, economic, political, etc). A given country’s prosperity is determined by its economic institutional landscape – the systems and regulations that direct economic behavior within its borders. That landscape includes property laws, the strength of public services and access to finance.

Inclusive economic institutions stimulate economic success and are designed to encourage participation in economic activities. They also nurture economic freedom. Examples of countries with inclusive institutions are the US and South Korea.

Extractive institutions derive incomes from groups within society for the benefit of other groups. Examples of countries with extractive institutions are North Korea and Sierra Leone.

The main characteristic of inclusive political institutions is pluralism. This means that various groups in a given society are politically represented, therefore power is shared between them. For institutions to be truly inclusive, it’s also essential that they are centralized. Centralization of power results in the rule of law being upheld; there is no need for these different groups to fight each other for superiority.

This 544-page book is available on Amazon. You can read a summary of it in 30 minutes on Blinkist.

High Levels of Corruption

According to Transparency International, there tends to be less corruption in rich countries and more corruption in poor countries. This makes sense since growth would be limited if governments steal their people’s money.

The problem with corruption is if you elect a new leader / president who isn’t corrupt, they will have a hard time eliminating corruption if other government officials are used to being corrupt. You likely need to sack all government officials and hire new ones who hopefully aren’t corrupt.

No Access to Education

According to this UNESCO study, it’s clear that there’s a correlation between poverty and education.

Pupil-to-Teacher Ratio

If we look at the countries ranked by primary school pupil-to-teacher ratio, we find, unsurprisingly, that there tends to be a smaller percentage of teachers in poor countries than in rich ones.

Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics (

Literacy Rate

Another interesting metric is literacy rates. According to this map, we see consistent results showing poorer countries tend to have more illiterate people.

Education Index

Another interesting metric is the education index.

Tuition Costs

Another issue is the cost of education. While most countries offer free primary school education, most require tuition for a college education. Many rich European countries offer free college education and some, like in the U.S., offer very affordable college tuition. U.S. students can also get free money (grants) and low-interest loans to help pay for college.

High Population

In high-population countries, there aren’t enough resources (jobs, schools, teachers, etc) to support the large population. This situation becomes one of supply and demand where there is a large supply of unskilled workers and a short supply of resources. This results in a large percentage of the population becoming poor because, for example, they are unavailable seats to a nearby school or they are unavailable jobs.

According to this article by the World Economic Forum, there is a correlation between population size and a country’s wealth. In rich countries, people tend to have fewer children whereas in poor countries, people tend to have more children.

There is also a correlation between population size and education. Education leads to lower birth rates and slows population growth. This makes it easier for countries to develop. A more-educated workforce also makes poverty eradication and economic growth easier to achieve. Of course, economic growth brings with it another problem: increased consumption.

In one study, it was found that uneducated Malian women gave birth to almost 7 children whereas educated ones only gave birth to 4.

In order to slow population growth, some countries have tried to limit the number of children born. However, when China did this, it just turned a problem of population growth into one of an aging society.

According to an article on the US National Library of Medicine
National Institutes of Health website, fertility rates tend to be higher in poorly resourced countries. In developing countries children are needed as a labor force and to provide care for their parents in old age. In these countries, fertility rates are higher due to the lack of access to contraceptives and generally lower levels of female education. When children are put to work, e.g. by selling water or tissue at busy intersections, they are not in school and end up following in their parents’ footsteps, i.e. having many kids to make them work. Also, couples don’t expect help from the government when they’re old so they have kids who they expect will take care of them later on in life.

Human Capital

Human capital—the knowledge, skills, and health that people accumulate over their lives—is a central driver of sustainable growth and poverty reduction. More human capital is associated with higher earnings for people, higher income for countries, and stronger cohesion in societies. Unsurprisingly, the developed countries tend to be the ones with a high human capital index (HCI) value. Here’s a subset and the ranking.

RankEconomyHCI Value
2Hong Kong0.81
3Japan, South Korea, Canada,
Finland, Macao, Sweden
5United Kingdom0.78
11United States0.70
16China, Bahrain, Chile, Turkey0.65
India, Egypt0.49
Central African Republic0.29

Human Capital Index (HCI) Report For 2020

Low Taxation & Tax Evasion

Low tax revenues means that a government can only fund basic services such as policing, the courts and the armed forces. In order to provide universal healthcare, education, and a social safety net for all of a country’s residents, higher tax revenues are required. According to the UN, this can be achieved if a country’s tax revenues are at least 20% of their GDP [1]. If achieved, this would result in an increase in a society’s quality of life. The Human Development Index (HDI) [2] is a ranking of a society’s quality of life by country. The index groups countries into 4 categories. Following is a 2016 listing of those categories with a sampling of countries. The listing also shows each country’s 2015 tax revenue-to-GDP ratio [3]. Each country’s estimated 2017 GDP per capita per the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is also listed to give an idea of the average individual’s annual income for that country [4]. In addition, I note whether a country is an Islamic country.

[1] Why developing countries need to toughen up on taxes
[2] List of countries by Human Development Index
[3] List of countries by tax revenue to GDP ratio
[4] List of countries by GDP (PPP) per capita

RankCountryIslamicHDITax Revenue-to-GDP RatioGDP per capita
Very high human development
10United States0.92026.0$59,495
38Saudi ArabiaYes0.8475.3$55,263
High human development
Medium human development
Low human development

Interestingly, the top 10 countries with the highest quality of life are the countries that collect the most tax from their residents.

If we take the average tax revenue as a % of GDP for all countries in each category, we get the following table.

Country GroupAverage Tax Revenue as % of GDP
Top 10 Very High Human Development36.75
Very High Human Development31.92
High Human Development22.08
Medium Human Development17.09
Low Human Development15.08

Based on the two tables above, it appears that, in general, the more taxes a country collects (higher tax-revenue as % of GDP), the higher the quality of life of its residents.

In addition to higher taxation, tax policy should be progressive such that the poor do not may as much or more as middle and upper-class people. Also, corporations and rich people should not be able to evade taxes using loopholes.

GDP Per Capita From 1960 to 2020

Below is a graph of the change in GDP per capita of a few countries. Singapore was able to catch up to the US in a short period of time. China and India have many similarities, e.g. two of the most populated countries. Both countries started growing around the same time but clearly China grew rapidly whereas India barely grew.

Source: The World Bank

Case Studies

How China Went From Poor to Rich

Some key things that supported China’s growth:

  • More highly-educated people
  • Special Economic Zones (SEZ)

China has 1.4 billion people. 1/5th of all humanity. Chinese was successful up until the 17th century when China closed its doors and decided it didn’t need Western gadgets. Many people ended up dying due to starvation. 14 million Chinese people died in WWII. Mao Tse Dong ruled China and closed all universities. Deng Xioping had a vision to make China prosperous. His slogan was “To be rich is glorious”. Like Mao, he believed that to ensure stability and to prosper, you needed one-party rule. When Mao Tse Dong died in 1976, Deng asked to be in charge of China’s education and science. Deng allowed everyone to take university exams for free. The first exams started in December of 1977. 5.7 million people applied for exams but only 5% could be admitted. In 1978, Deng emerged as preeminent leader. In 1978, Deng went with a delegation of 30 people to Europe. He witnessed how advanced Europe was and how far back China had fallen behind. Deng then went to Singapore and Japan. He noticed that trains in Japan could travel at 210 kph whereas those in China could only go up to 60 kph. He saw robots making cars in Japan. Deng wanted Chinese people to see how people in Japan and Singapore lived so he showed them on TV. Chinese people were in shock to see Japanese people work and have their own refrigerators at home. China embarked on an economic and social experiment – mixing the Communist command economy with the energy of capitalist enterprise. Chinese students were sent to foreign universities. There was a concern that Chinese students may not want to return to China. There was a huge investment in primary and secondary education – especially for women. By the early 80s, the signs of reform were everywhere from the schools to the cars on the streets where there were once only bicycles. The rural population of China had been moving to the cities at a rapid pace. In just 4 years, China’s agriculture, education and industry were reformed. Private business was allowed to flourish. China’s low production costs offered huge opportunities to the outside world. With its fast, expanding urban workforce, China’s GDP would increase nearly 70 times in 40 years. The Chinese way was a marriage of one-party rule with capitalist enterprise. China didn’t want to be dependent anymore on outside people for technology.

How South Korea Went From Poor to Rich

Some characteristics of South Korea

  • Highly-educated people
  • Export-led industrialization
  • Extremely hard-working culture and attitude

How Singapore Went From Poor to Rich

Some characteristics of Singapore

  • Education in Singapore is obligatory
  • Education is mostly free
  • Almost everyone in Singapore is literate
  • Real-life skills are prioritized
  • Singapore is a leader in science and reading
  • Teachers work longer days
  • No corruption
  • Effective government policy