January 21, 2015

Clench vs. Clinch: Grammar & Writing Tips

Happy Wednesday!

Wednesdays are now my days to share a writing or editing tip.

Without further ado...

Clench versus Clinch

For simplicity, clench is to grasp or hold firmly (clench something in your hand or clench your teeth--see picture to the right) and clinch is to settle decisively (clinch a win).

However, like most things related to our beautiful language, there is an exception:

Boxing. an act or instance of one or both boxers holding the other about the arms or 
body in order to prevent or hinder the opponent's punches. (from Dictionary.com)

As I began to further research what I thought would be a simple post, I also found that Dictionary.com listed "a passionate embrace" as a slang definition of clinch. I'm guessing that came from the boxing clinch above. Too funny... that's not very romantic at all.

Furthermore, Grammarist.com stated:
Some dictionaries list clench and clinch as variants of each other, but this is just because the words have been confused so often for so long. Edited publications and careful writers keep them separate.

So, I guess these Wednesday Grammar Tips won't always be simple. When in doubt, I look something up via a trusted source. I like Grammarist and Grammar Girl, and The Chicago Manual of Style is my editing bible.

Most often, I see the mistake of an author saying a character clinched his/her teeth or clinched a spell book. In those cases, it should be clenched. 

Is there an editing/grammar issue that's always caused you trouble? If so, share it in the comments so I can feature it on a future post. 

Whether you are editing, writing, or reading today, I hope you enjoy every single word!


nicole said...

Thanks for sharing this. My Tuesday Tip for this week was also clench vs. clinch and I ran across your post. I hope you don't mind but I did link back to this post in case any of my readers needed or wanted further clarification. Nicole at proofbeforeyoupublish.com

Tia Bach said...

So glad you appreciated this blog post, Nicole. Thrilled that you linked to it. I'm going to check out your blog. It sounds like it's right up my alley.