All posts tagged: Language


These are all words that sound identical but are spelt differently, and have different meanings. For example, hair and hare sound the same but their meanings are totally different. After all, you wouldn’t want to have hares growing out of your head, now would you? Spelling is one of the biggest causes for confusion in the written language, whatever the language. So, just to bore you silly and as I have absolutely nothing better to write about today, here are some of the most common homophones. 0

The Indefinite Article

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. See, it’s all as clear as mud…as I thought it would be. Now, I wonder who is going to be first to ask me, is a diphthong the same as a bikini thong? Hmm… 0

Split Infinitives

Following on from Grammatical Bad Habits and Hyphen-Nation comes Split Infinitive. And no, before you ask—however much of a sci-fi geek I am—this has nothing to do with Space travel, Star Trek or, in fact, Buzz Lightyear. A split infinitive occurs when to is separated from the infinitive by an adverb or adverbial phrase. It used to be considered the cardinal sin of good English, but it’s now accepted that there are many instances when a split infinitive is justified. In general, however, it is easy enough to avoid. (i) She did not want to entirely surrender to his will. (ii) He was instructed to discreetly talk to the Press. In both sentences there is no need for the split infinitive, as the adverb (entirely, discreetly) can be placed outside the infinitive like this: (i) She did not want to surrender entirely to his will. (ii) He was instructed to talk to the Press discreetly. or, (iii) He was instructed to talk discreetly to the Press. The easiest rule to remember about the split infinitive …

Grammatical Bad Habits

These are just a number of the most 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: …


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 …