custom, habit

custom, habit

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS

A custom is a social convention, whether that be a style of dress or an established way of behavior typical of a social group or a country or a particular period of time. While a custom is followed by a whole group, a habit is acquired by an individual, whether voluntarily or not.

The words are related, and both are derived from words for dress, so that it might be the custom among your friends to wear a certain costume, even if you like to ride and have acquired the habit of wearing a riding habit.

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The Writer's Stylebook is a unique collaboration between two former journalists -- my father, Lawrence, and me. Mr. Fellows, an impassioned wordsmith and journalist of long standing, created the original Stylebook, which he distributed to Connecticut newspapers and worked on for over a decade until his death 16 years ago. In 2003, the Connecticut Press Club published "Wordwatch: A Writer's Guide to Linguistic Distinctions," a compendium of nearly 300 of my father's word features. Unfortunately, that book is out of print and my father's features have been languishing in the attic of our family home in Westport -- until now. With the blessing of my mother, Ruth, I'm reviving the Stylebook and putting it online in the hope that it will find new readers. I think there's a need for a lively, illustrated guide to words and word usages that isn't wordy -- especially in today's fast-paced world!

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