Catherine Soanes

Catherine Soanes is an ex-lexicographer and EFL teacher.

Articles by Catherine Soanes


Is it that, who, which?

That, who, or which

I have a twofold career: as well as writing blogs about grammar and usage, I also teach English as a foreign language. Explaining the more arcane and sometimes illogical nuances of English grammar to native and non-native speakers alike can be challenging, but I relish the chance to do so. I’ve found that some people […]

bears

Grisly bears and grizzly murders?

Most of us would agree that English spelling can be a minefield: one reason for this is that there are numerous words which sound the same when you say or hear them but which are spelled differently and which have completely different meanings: a few examples are pour/pore, flower/flour, and sight/site. Such words are known […]

Less or fewer? Which one is correct? Is "less is more" correct?

Less or fewer?

There are less problems with finding staff these days too. If anything, we’ve had fewer problems than we expected. Do you ever waver when it comes to choosing between less and fewer? You’re in good company, as the above examples (both taken from a British newspaper website on the same date) demonstrate. You may even […]

Back pedaling or back peddling?

Pedal or peddle?

English spelling is full of apparent idiosyncrasies – native speakers and learners alike grapple with doubling consonants, how to form plurals, ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’’, and have to dodge umpteen other potential pitfalls. Another rich source of mistakes is the fact that English contains pairs of similar-sounding words (homophones). These words have different […]

He or she? They? How to handle the singular non-gendered pronoun.

‘He’, ‘he or she’, ‘he/she’, ‘s/he’, or ‘they’

I enjoy reading your comments on Oxford’s blog posts: they provide an invaluable insight into your language concerns, likes, and dislikes. Your remarks strengthen my awareness that we have a sophisticated and grammatically knowledgeable audience: this keeps me on my toes, to say the least. Of course, I always aim to stay within the bounds […]

corporate jargon

Incentivizing proactive synergistic visions, going forward

Have any of you out there received a memo yet informing you that 21 May is National Memo Day? No? Me neither! Nevertheless, in honour of this world-shaking event, I thought it would be apt to imagine how such a memo might read: To: all stakeholders From: Director of Insight and Strategic Marketing Subject: Leveraging […]

Over-excited young man

Avoiding hyperbole in writing

The tendency to wax hyperbolic seems to be hard-wired into our brains. Electronic communications also encourage this leaning towards excessive emphasis. We really don’t want our online audience to be in any doubt *whatsoever* [see what I did there?] as to the meaning and tone of what we are writing, so we add emoticons, bung […]

There and they're, there and their - they're all hard to tell apart!

There, their, or they’re?

There are a handful of very ordinary, very frequently used words which cause no end of spelling problems to writers of English. They’re relatively rarely looked up in our online dictionary because people sometimes don’t realise that they’re misspelling them in the first place. Top amongst these are their, there, and they’re. The fact that each […]

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