Skip to main content

Tic vs. Tick (Grammar Rules)

This post looks at the differences between tic and tick with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Tic and tick are homophones that have very different meanings. One word is often tied to involuntary (or unconscious) movements or language, while the other has to do with clocks, sounds, counting, and bloodsucking arachnids.

(Common Writing Mistakes and How to Fix Them.)

So let's look at the differences between tic and tick and when to use each.

Tic vs. Tick (Grammar Rules)

Tic vs. Tick

Tic is a noun that refers to a frequent quirk of behavior or speech of a person. For instance, a person who says "um" frequently between words or the word "like" would be considered to have a verbal tic or a person who crosses their arms whenever they talk or runs their fingers through their hair when they lie would be said to have a physical tic. This also includes a twitching of muscles, especially on the face.

(Unlikable Characters: A Case Study.)

Tick can be used as a noun or verb. As a noun, tick can refer to a small bloodsucking arachnid, the sound of a clock (or a repetitive sound that replicates the ticking of a clock), or a small mark used for counting or checking items on a list. As a verb, tick can refer to the action of making ticking sounds, counting things, or referring to something working in the correct way (as in "takes a licking and keeps on ticking").

Make sense?

Here are a couple examples of tic and ticks:

Correct: One tic he has is to apologize even when something is not his fault.
Incorrect: One tick he has is to apologize even when something is not his fault.

Correct: Each tick of the clock stressed her out during the timed test.
Incorrect: Each tic of the clock stressed her out during the timed test.

OK, I'm not sure if this is the best trick for keeping these terms straight, but here we go. Since tic is mostly involuntary or unconscious, I like to think of it as the word without a "k" as in the action or speech was not given an "OK" by the person exhibiting a certain tic. I don't know if that means that all other ticks are OK, but I'm not sure how else to handle this one. Feel free to share better memory tricks in the comments below.

*****

Grammar and Mechanics

No matter what type of writing you do, mastering the fundamentals of grammar and mechanics is an important first step to having a successful writing career.

Click to continue.

In a Dream

In a Dream

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, set your story inside a dream.

Writer's Digest Best General Resources Websites for Writers 2022

Writer's Digest Best General Resources Websites for Writers 2022

Here are the top general resource websites as identified in the 24th Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

From Our Readers

What Book Ended in a Way That You Didn’t Expect but Was Perfect Anyway?: From Our Readers (Comment for a Chance at Publication)

This post announces our latest From Our Readers question: What book ended in a way that you didn’t expect but was perfect anyway? Comment for a chance at publication in a future issue of Writer's Digest.

From Script

A Deep Emotional Drive To Tell Stories (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, read interviews with filmmakers Wendey Stanzler and Maria Judice. Plus a one-on-one interview with Austin Film Festival’s executive director Barbara Morgan.

Paul Tremblay: On Starting With the Summary

Paul Tremblay: On Starting With the Summary

Award-winning author Paul Tremblay discusses how a school-wide assembly inspired his new horror novel, The Pallbearers Club.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: An Interview with Steven Rowley and Jessica Strawser, 5 WDU Courses, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce our interview with Steven Rowley and Jessica Strawser, 5 WDU courses, and more!

Writer's Digest Best Everything Agent Websites for Writers 2022

Writer's Digest Best Everything Agent Websites for Writers 2022

Here are the top websites by and about agents as identified in the 24th Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

Ashley Poston: On Love, Death, and Books

Ashley Poston: On Love, Death, and Books

Author Ashley Poston discusses how she combined her love of ghost stories, romance, and books into her new romance novel, The Dead Romantics.

Choosing Which Movements To Put in Your Fight Scene (FightWrite™)

Choosing Which Movements To Put in Your Fight Scene (FightWrite™)

Trained fighter and author Carla Hoch discusses how much of a fight's details to actually put into a story, and how even with fight scenes sometimes less is more.