All posts tagged: English 101

Let’s Get Definitive

Following on from yesterday’s post on spelling and grammar, I thought to bore you senseless with the Indefinite Article, and Split Infinitives. And who doesn’t want to split their infinitive, right? Unlike the Definite Article The, A and AN refer to someone or something whose precise identity is not specified. And, although they are among the most common words in the English language, confusion still arises as to which should be used when. So here’s a reminder. A is used: (i) before all consonants: a woman, a tree, a rock. (ii) before an aspirated h: a horse, a hero, a humorist. (iii) before the letter u when sounded like ‘you’: a unit, a use, a union. (iv) before a diphthong eu: a European, a eulogy. (v) before words beginning with y: a year, a yellow balloon, a youth. AN is used: (i) before a vowel sound: an animal, an example, an umbrella. (ii) before a mute h: an hour, an honest woman, an historian. A split infinitive occurs when to is separated from the infinitive by …

Let’s Get Specific

NaNoWriMo is coming up on us fast and, for those of us out there who are considering taking the challenge, I thought it would be a good idea to share a few pointers with you all. Primers that you can refer to and or, if you feel so inclined, print out and keep at the ready as a reminder. Today I’m starting with spelling, grammar, and punctuation, things we easily miss and or forget. Spelling First rule of thumb, proofread your work by reading it out loud. Grammar • it’s = it is. • its = belonging to it, used exactly the same way as his or hers. • there = a location, as in: over there, there it is. • their = belonging to them, as in: their house, their car. • they’re = they are, as in: “They’re coming right at us!” • your = belonging to you, as in: your hat, your glove. • you’re = you are, as in “You’re starting to annoy me.” Punctuation • Terminal period and commas inside …

LOL and OMG Toll the Death-knell of the English Language

Really? I don’t think so. English is one of those languages that begs, borrows and downright steals from other languages to the point of stalking them down dark alleys. Where, before hitting them over the head with a dangling participle, rifles through a language’s pockets in search of any word it thinks it can get away with. It doesn’t care whether it’s bright, shiny, and new, or if it is dog-eared and long since forgotten. The only criteria is, can I use it? You have to remember, languages live by adapting or die by stagnating. English (and yes, we’ll include American, Canadian and Australian English here too) knows this and isn’t above grand theft and petty larceny in the verbiage world at large. So, to any and all of you out there bemoaning the death-knell of the English language when reading announcements that the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) has once again added new and controversial words to its pages. Ask yourselves, do we speak the same language of Shakespeare, or even the Victorians? Could you …

Grammatical Bad Habits

These are just a number of the more common mistakes we all do when writing, and, as such, I thought to share them with you in one easy-to-copy primer. all ready/already; all right/alright; all together/altogether We were all ready by the afternoon. I had already written to my accountant. Do you feel all right now? (Note: You should only ever use the American slang term alright in dialogue.) We were all together for my mother’s party. They kept three cats altogether in the house. get Get is one of the most overused verbs in the English language. Try to remember not to use have got for have or possess. AVOID: She’s got three cats. INSTEAD: She has three cats. AVOID: Will you get the prize? INSTEAD: Will you win the prize? however Try not to start a sentence with however. Its best position is second in the sentence, after whatever it qualifies i.e., I must, however, tell you… If placed further along in the sentence it loses its force and simply clouds its function. AVOID: …

Hyphen-Nation

It’s easy to become confused over the proper use of the humble hyphen. The main purpose of which is to join two (or more) words together, thereby making them a single compound word with its own meaning. As in: • an ex-President is a former President. • a co-director works with another director. The absence of a hyphen can also lead to misunderstanding: • I must re-cover the sofa (with new material). • I must recover the sofa (from the person I lent it to). • After his time in prison, he was a reformed character (no longer a criminal). • They re-formed the band and played in the garage (started up again). Prefixes like co- and pre- should have a hyphen when next to a word beginning with the same vowel, as in: co-ordinate, pre-empt. Hyphens can contribute considerably to clarity, as in: You must read two hundred odd pages a day which gives the impression you are only to read the odd pages, hence the hyphen in: You must read two hundred-odd pages …