Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

Catherine Soanes

Catherine Soanes is an ex-lexicographer and EFL teacher.

Articles by Catherine Soanes


Performance-wise, adverbs are alive and kicking!

Adverbs

Thankfully, most of us negotiate post-educational life very well without having to do much (or any) conscious grammatical analysis. My hunch is that if you put twenty people into a room and asked them to say what an adverb is, they might look rather uncomfortable or even try to flee. If you applied some metaphorical […]

Swaggering bullies, strutting models, and parading bands

Swaggering bullies, strutting models, and parading bands

He marched forward on to the lectern with the possessive insouciance of a hoodie swaggering on to his sink estate. [Guardian 5 October 2011] This evocative description of British PM David Cameron as he stepped up to address the recent Conservative Party Conference prompted me to think about the verb ‘swagger’ and how it’s often […]

Hyphens in the headlines

Man eating chicken

Who’d have thunk it? The humble hyphen, the shorter sibling of the dash, is in the media spotlight, and for once it has nothing to do with dictionaries, either. The celebrity gossip websites have been buzzing with news of Lauren Pierce Bush, niece of former US President George W. Bush. Lauren’s marriage to David Lauren […]

Participles, and how not to dangle them…

Dangling kitten

True confessions time: back in the dim and distant days when I first embarked on lexicography, I was tasked with drafting potted biographies of famous people. In trying to be succinct, I had a rather bad habit of writing in the following vein: ‘Born in Russia, his most famous opera is …’ The problem stems […]

Punctuational perplexities

Punctuation

Are you punctilious about punctuation, or do you regard it as a hassle or a minefield? Many people, including no doubt the person who posted the example below on a social networking site, seem to share the latter view. It often appears that, rather than get it wrong, there are those who prefer to omit […]

A quest for agreement over collective nouns

Agreement

I’d like to begin with a quick mental workout. Do you know which of the following sentences, both found in the same British online newspaper in 2003, would be considered incorrect according to standard British and American usage, and why? Colchester police has also queried the proposal. Colchester police have launched a new tough approach […]

Let’s take a butcher’s at rhyming slang

Pork pie

Smile goggle-eyed at them and blow raspberries at them. Jo was chatting to me on the dog We would urge people to use their loaf when parking and make sure they don’t leave anything of value on display. Rhyming slang, although almost 200 years old, is alive and kicking today: all the above examples are […]

Keeping it short and tweet

Short and tweet

I’m getting addicted to @OxfordWords on Twitter, where you can see all the latest from Oxford Dictionaries plus some great interaction with our thousands of followers. There’s a real skill to tweeting well: as many of you know, there is a 140-character limit to Twitter posts, so it can take some ingenuity to get your […]

Tweets