Category: Grammar and writing help

Video: what is the Oxford comma?

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Passed or past?

Slumped in a post-festive food coma? Feeling the after-effects of watching too much stultifying TV? If so, perhaps the last thing you want to ponder is the distinction between passed and past. On the other hand, you may be eager for some virtuous self-improvement to begin the New Year on an upbeat note. If you’ve […]

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Two words or one?

Is there a space between a and lot, or is the spelling alot OK? What’s the difference between away and a way? If you’ve ever pondered over questions similar to these, the dilemma of ‘two words or one?’ is one which you’ll have grappled with when putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. On […]

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Video: acronyms and initialisms – what’s the difference?

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Apron, adder, and other words that used to begin with ‘n’…

The words app and nap might rhyme, but to say they sound exactly the same is quite clearly wrong. Well, it is quite clearly wrong until you precede them with the indefinite article. There is nothing (apart from context) to distinguish an app from a nap in spoken English, unless you rather take your time […]

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Why do we need grammar?

It’s not often that the word ‘inspiring’ is used to describe a day of grammar talks, but I was not the only one to think so at last week’s English Grammar Day at the British Library. With a queue out the door and tickets sold out, it’s clear that grammar’s back. After years of conspicuous […]

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Unusual words with surprising meanings

When you hear or read a new word, it can be difficult to work out what the meaning might be intuitively. That, of course, is partly what dictionaries are for. When a word sounds like another, though, you might be misled into thinking you can guess its meaning… Here are some definitions of words which […]

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Advise or advice

Advise or advice?

What’s the difference between advise and advice? Do you know? Does it matter? Well, yes, it does, because apart from the obvious fact that one has the ending -ise and the other -ice, there’s a highly significant distinction: one’s a verb and one’s a noun. These grammatical and spelling differences involve a related semantic one […]

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