Plane English?


Some time ago I was listening to the radio and an official from the Coastguard Service was talking about deploying their ‘fixed-wing assets’. It took me a few seconds to realise she meant aircraft.

Specialist language is fine when you are talking to colleagues in your own profession, or when writing for a book – or a magazine – with a specific area of interest, but a novel needs to be more far-reaching than that. As writers we want to reach the widest audience possible.

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They’re There Their

This is one you often see written incorrectly (usually it’s there and their that are confused). All three words sound just the same – a homophone.

However, each one has a very distinct meaning. When 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.

To put it simply: Continue reading

The Meanings of Words – Synecdoche

SynecdocheSynecdoche. 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 (as it was such a tantalising word) 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 and understanding.

The best definition I found was on Wikipedia.

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Homophone to Homonym : Dessert, Desert, Desert

Desert DessertThe English language is a minefield where spelling and pronunciation are concerned. It’s no wonder it’s one of the most difficult languages to learn.

We have words that are spelt the same or pronounced the same but have different meanings (homonym) and words that are spelt differently but pronounced the same and have different meanings (homophone).

Just to recap here:

Homonym = Two or more words spelt the same or pronounced the same but having different meanings.

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Homophones: Sound-Alike Words – Whose and Who’s

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

Surprise yourself with simple language

Making yourself understood

Language is what we rely on to understand something we are being told. We expect to know what it means.

The only way we can do that is if the giver of the information delivers it clearly.

Your choice of words, the sequence you put them in and the structure of your sentences will set the feel and flavour of your writing as well as making it legible and intelligible.

Write in your own words

One of the tricks about writing is not to be grand. If you try for that memorable phrase or sentence, it won’t come and your writing will appear false and pretentious.

Write as you speak. Write in your own words. Forget the amazingly profound and just write. You will surprise yourself now and again. Sometimes it is the most simply put phrase that has the most effect.


That place we call imagination is a meditative process where we lose ourselves in the world we are creating. It is from that place that words and phrases arise. When you are writing ‘in the zone’ your mind will start making connections between concepts and thoughts almost subconsciously.

It is those subconscious processes that will widen your range of description and put the words on the page that please you. They can almost seem to come from nowhere.

Feed your creativity

Reading helps to feed your imagination and writing helps to exercise and express it. Without either you will not have the language or the words to make something beautiful and memorable.

What Would You Of Done?

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


Well, I learnt a new word today: ‘toponym’.


The dictionary defines it thus: noun: a place name, especially one derived from a topographical featureIts origins are from the Greek topos place + -onym ‘name’.

Wikipedia defines toponymy as the study of place names (toponyms), their origins, meanings, use, and typology.

The word can refer to a non-specific feature, such as lover’s leap (or lovers’ leap or lovers leap – for the apostrophe-minded amongst you), hence it is anywhere that lovers may leap from. It also refers to a name that describes the place (I suppose lovers leap does that too if you know where it is); Northumberland is the ancient territory (land) of those living north of the River Humber.

Are you getting the drift of it now?

What other toponyms can you come up with?