Splitting hairs

Can you determine which is the correct word to use in the following sentences? Watch the fine line!

1. Are a hammer and chisel considered tools or implements?

2. Would the hum of a smoothly running motor be uniform or even?

3. If you are following a step-by-step procedure, are you being orderly or methodical?

4. Which is a more thorough removal - erasing or expunging?

5. If you are judging the value of something as an expert, are you appraising it or estimating it?


1. A tool is a device held and worked by the hands in performing a manual task - and the hammer and chisel definitely fit this definition. An implement is a general term for a simple mechanical device to get work done, such as a pail, a broom, or a tractor.

2. The hum would be even, meaning regular and steady in motion, sound, or action. Uniform emphasizes sameness as in color within a substance or consistency within a series, like a set of rules.

3. You are methodical, meaning following a plan carefully prepared in advance. Orderly suggests the arrangement of details or objects according to some rule or scheme. Chairs may be placed in an orderly fashion but a good editor works methodically through a text.

4. Both words refer to the striking out of a written word, causing a deletion. The literal meaning of expunge is to pick out with a sharp knife, thereby thoroughly removing what had been there. Today, it still means complete removal, so there is no trace, as in expunging testimony from a court record. The more common term, however, is erase, meaning to rub out or scrape off until whatever has been engraved has lost its visibility.

5. You are appraising, or making an expert judgment. An appraisal is generally considered to be correct and is usually expressed in money. An estimate is a judgment that is not likely to be exactly right. For example, a building may be estimated to be 50 feet high.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.