by Jennie Ruby
If you have been confused by the use of the word inflammable, you are not alone. Confusion over this word has been around probably for as long as the word has been used in English, and especially since its synonym flammable has become widely used.
The trouble is the prefix "in-." Usually, putting in- on the front of a word changes the word to a negative: correct/incorrect. However, in the case of inflammable, the in actually means in--as in "in flames." Something that is inflammable is capable of being in flames.
If you want to describe something as fire proof, you need the word nonflammable. Or better yet, for clarity, stay away from the whole flammable/inflammable/nonflammable mess and call it noncombustible.
Contrast that with a similar confusing pair: invaluable and valuable. In this case, the prefix in- actually does indicate a negation of the word valuable--but not in the sense of having no value. Saying something is invaluable means that a value cannot be set upon it. Invaluable thus means priceless: so valuable that you cannot set a price on it. When you want to say something cost a lot of money, describe it as valuable. When you want to really value something, though, call it invaluable.
Are you an eLearning developer who has been tasked with creating an effective voiceover script? If so, consider attending Jennie's Writing Effective eLearning Voiceover Scripts class. Jennie also teaches the Writing Training Documents and eLearning Scripts and the Complete Review of Grammar class.
About the Author: Jennie Ruby is a veteran IconLogic trainer and author with titles such as "Editing with Word 2003 and Acrobat 7" and "Editing with MS Word 2007" to her credit. She is a publishing professional with more than 20 years of experience in writing, editing and desktop publishing.