General Writing and Grammar Help/Word forms


Hello Roy, I have two questions with regard to certain words and what form they should take for the specific context in which I wish to use them within a short novel I am currently writing.

1.  Is there a way of writing this sentence and using the word unlikelily or attempting to have the word coined as a new word?
"There could not be more than ten left in the world, most likely less than five and possibly but [ unlikelily ] only one remains."-

Why isn't 'unlikelily' a word, or 'likelily' for that matter?
I'm no expert on grammar etc but I believe there should be a way of writing the sentence in that form, without editing the syntax of the sentence to something like -
"...and it's possible (but unlikely) that only one remains."

2. "No one spoke when I played the instrument. They held their tongues out of respect.  I did not always understand this. [Prodigial] or [Prodigious] from the earliest age.. Maybe prodigal is more appropriate."

I am wondering how to say that 'I' was prodigious (musically)-like a child prodigy- from an early age, not vast or careless with my wealth.

Thank you very much for your time,
Ross McNiffe

Hello Ross

1. You would think that logically, the word 'unlikelily' OUGHT to exist - but it doesn't.

And I think trying to will the term into being is unlikely to succeed.

So I think your "it is possible (but unlikely)" is the best solution.

2. Prodigal and prodigious may LOOK very similar - but they mean different things.


Spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.
A person who spends money in a recklessly extravagant way.



   Remarkably or impressively great in extent, size, or degree.
   Unnatural or abnormal.

I would suggest you make it clear that you are speaking of a 'prodigious talent'

Hope that helps.

Best wishes

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Roy Johnson


I can answer questions on English language, grammar, writing skills, and study skills. I am particularly experienced in the writing skills required for academic essays, term papers, reports, dissertations, and post-graduate theses.


I have forty years experience as a tutor and as the author of books on writing and study skills. For thirty years I was a tutor for the Workers' Educational Association, which specialises in courses for adult students and preparing mature students for university. I was also a tutor for the Open University between 1975 and 2010. During that time I have also written a number of books on writing and study skills. In the last ten years or more I have specialised in creating computer-aided learning materials and online learning courses.

"Making the Grade" (Manchester University Press) 1990 "Studying Fiction" (Manchester University Press) 1991 "Marking Essays" (Clifton Press) 1993 "Revision and Examinations" (Clifton Press) 1993 "Writing Essays" (Clifton Ress) 1996 "Study Skills" (Clifton Press) 1996 "Electronic Writing" (Clifton Press) 1996 "Improve your Writing Skills" (Clifton Press) 2010 "Writing Essays 3.0" (Clifton Press) 2008 [computer program] "English Language 3.0" (Clifton Press) 2008 [computer program] "Study Skills 2.0" (Clifton Press) 2008 [computer program]

My first degree was in mechanical engineering (HNC). I then switched to literary studies and philosophy. My second degree was a BA in English and American Literature (from Manchester University - UK). I also have an MA in Comparative Literary Studies, and my doctoral thesis (PhD) was in the relationship between literature and politics.

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