Catherine Soanes

Catherine Soanes is an ex-lexicographer and EFL teacher.

Articles by Catherine Soanes


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 […]

Explore some of the irregular plurals in English, including bacterium.

Irregular plurals in English

Bacterias, bacteriae, bacterium: which of the three plurals of bacterium is the correct one? Read on, I’ll enlighten you soon as to the correct irregular plural. Are you already awarding yourself a pat on the back for knowing the right answer? With English spelling and grammar setting a fair few traps for the unwary, it’s a reason […]

Rein or reign it in?

Rein or reign?

It wasn’t that many moons ago that horses were an integral part of our daily lives: in war and peace, in commerce and agriculture, they proved their worth by pulling various carts, carriages, and barges or they carried individual riders, from messengers to cavalry, on their backs. Since the dawn of the age of the […]

Lie or lay? What is the cat doing?

What’s the difference between ‘lie’ and ‘lay’?

There’s an abundance of evidence in every type of writing, from journalism to legal reports, that many English speakers are all at sea when it comes to understanding the differences between lie and lay If you confess to being among their number, it’s not entirely your fault: the situation is bewildering in some respects, all part […]

Menacing

Exploring the words ‘menacing’, ‘intimidating’, and ‘threatening’

…an accountant found guilty of sending a “menacing tweet” was the victim of a legal “steamroller” that threatened to make the law look silly… The Telegraph 8 February 2012 What comes into your head when you see the words ‘menacing’ and ‘tweet’ side by side, as in the above? It initially struck me as being […]

Tweets