Do you have nuts?
I saw this sign outside a restaurant recently:
“Please advise us if you have nuts and other allergies”.
At first glance they’re talking about two distinctly separate subjects: nuts and allergies. As if they’re expecting you to take the nuts with you to the restaurant and tell them you’ve got them.
Are you allergic to anything?
I suppose it is obvious that this sign should have read: Continue reading
An apostrophe used to show possession of something to someone can be a complicated thing. Do not confuse a possessive apostrophe with one used for a contraction of two words.
For clarity you should always consult a good style guide, such as New Hart’s Rules: The Oxford Style Guide or The Elements of Style by Strunk and White.
If you are submitting work to a publisher it is advisable to ask for their own house style as some of the examples in this article may differ from one publisher to another.
Show possession to one person or thing (singular noun)
Who’s versus Whose?
Homophones are sound-alike words. They are spelt differently but sound the same.
Each word has a distinct meaning. If in doubt consult your dictionary or style book. A good proofreader will pick up mistakes such as these but it’s best to get it right in the first place.
So, when do you use who’s and when do you use whose and how do you remember which is which? Continue reading
What would you of done?
In England, particularly, the word have is often pronounced to sound like of, as in, “What would you of done?” or “I could of done something about it”. This is also how people will write it!
Actually, in that very English of ways, what people are really saying is, “I could ‘av done something about it”. They’ve dropped the h in have and it sounds like of.
It doesn’t take much investigating to reveal that of is the wrong word to be using given the context demonstrated above.
The dictionary definition of the word of is as follows: Continue reading
When do you use ”to’ or ‘too’?
How do you remember whether to use ‘to’ or ‘too’ in a sentence?
It’s a common mistake made by many, but one that is easily avoided if you remember a few simple rules.
‘To‘ is a going word. It implies motion whether physical or metaphorical. From one place to another or from one state to another: “We are going to Tooting”; “His mood swung from bad to good”. ‘To’ can also be a connecting word, as in, “He was handcuffed to the policeman”.
To a place/somewhere (We’re going to the cinema)
To a thing (Handcuffed to a pillar)
To a person (That was an awful thing you did to her)
To a feeling (From one feeling to another)
‘Too‘ is used to increase something, whether the thing itself or the meaning of something: “There’s too much porridge on my plate”; “No job too big”. It implies excessiveness.
It is also used to add something to a statement, sometimes in place of ‘as well’: “Jane is coming too“.
I always remember that the more letter Os there are in the word, the more it is a more word, an increased thing.
Too little too late
Too far to go
I’ve got too much
It’s too hard
How do you remember which to/too to use? Have you ever got it spectacularly wrong?
The English language is a strange affair at times. Meaning is usually gathered from the words we use in the literal sense; the words and the order they are placed in a sentence tell you what the sentence as a whole means. But we don’t talk and write literally, neither do we hear or read, and consequently understand, literally.
I take it you are catching my drift so far? (I’m not really taking anything or expecting you to catch a drift, but I presume you know what I mean.) Continue reading
Synecdoche. What a wonderful word!
Someone mentioned the film, ‘Synecdoche, New York’ to me the other day. I’d never heard of it. I’d never heard the word synecdoche either so I decided to look it up – of course.
That’s what we writers and readers do because we want to extend our repertoire of words. The dictionary gave a pretty good definition but the best I found was on Wikipedia.
I came across the word oronym while researching the meanings of homophones, homonyms, homographs, and such.
Until I discovered the word, I had no idea there was such a name for a concept I was more than familiar with. Given the way the English language is structured and spoken, it should have come as no surprise.