Category: Grammar and writing help

Video: what do you call a new word made by combining two other words?

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I object! (To the Russian case system)

Russian: what’s not to love? Alluringly exotic alphabet? Check. Tantalizingly challenging vocabulary? Check. Enough espionage associations to spice up even the dullest of online dating profiles? Check. But when you’re learning Russian, it’s the grammar that gets you. Like Latin, Tamil, German, and Finnish – to name a few – Russian relies on a complex […]

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For a century it has been part of Oxford University Press style to retain or impose the Oxford comma consistently

What is the Oxford comma?

The presence or lack of a comma before and or or in a list of three or more items is the subject of much debate. Such a comma is known as a serial comma. For a century it has been part of Oxford University Press style to retain or impose this last comma consistently, to […]

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Passed or past?

Passed or past?

If you’ve ever been confused about using passed and past when writing, your brain cells may benefit from a short workout in the form of this mini-quiz. No punishing press-ups or unforgiving Lycra required – just read the following paragraph, and decide whether the words in bold type use the words passed and past correctly: […]

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Should it be one word or two? Is aswell a word? Do you have alot of something?

Alot, along, and away? Or a lot, a long, and a way?

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 metanalysis

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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magazines pile

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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