Category: Grammar and writing help


Who’s confident [confidant?] about using -ance, -ence, and similar suffixes?

For those of you who’ve been following my occasional series about homophonous affixes (or, to put it another way, word-endings and -beginnings that sound the same when spoken!), you should now know your -ables from your -ibles and be proficient in fore- versus for- or four. There are plenty more similar-sounding affixes, though, so I thought […]

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may might

May or might: what’s the difference?

I’ve mentioned before that the grammatical ‘rules’ about which many of us care most passionately often differ from person to person (and, of course, they also change over time). We all have our own particular pain threshold:  I get inordinately ratty when apostrophes are misused, as evidenced by the fact that I can’t even resist […]

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who or whom

Who or whom? The great debate…

When I blogged last year about relative pronouns, I promised to return to the distinction between who and whom another time. Ta-da! That time has arrived! Reading the title above, some of you may ask: what debate? Many folk live their lives quite happily without hardly ever letting a ‘whom’ pass their lips, while others […]

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among amongst

Abolishing angst regarding among versus amongst

One of our readers raised the following useful query a few months ago: What’s the difference between among and amongst? Happy to help! In the spirit of the January sales that are just winding down here in the UK, I thought I’d make this blog a twofer and deal with while and whilst at the […]

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lose loose

Loose or lose?

Help! I am loosing the will to live with my smartphone! Aargh! I almost lost the will to live when I spotted the above mistake, but simultaneously wished that my Inner Spellchecker would give it a rest, so that I could simply appreciate the content of what I read rather than be distracted by spelling […]

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Is ‘themself’ a real word?

Where do you stand regarding the pronoun, themself? Is it perfectly OK to use it, or do you reckon that it’s beyond the pale? When I blogged about reflexive pronouns a while ago, I promised to revisit this grammatical outsider. Judging by the debate on the Net, themself stirs up much passion, with several pundits […]

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Fore or for? (And not forgetting four. . .)

Consider the following sentences, all real examples taken from the Oxford English Corpus (OEC). Are the words in bold spelled correctly? ?  According to the weather forcast it wasn’t supposed to snow in Birmingham today. ?  I’ll never foreget any of you. ?  His two sons are twenty-two and forteen years old. Pat yourself on the […]

What do you call the man in the red suit?

What do you call the man in the red suit?

  Last year on the OxfordWords blog, we posted a picture of a rather rotund gentleman, with a white beard and moustache, and some fetching white faux-fur trimmings on his red suit and hat. We asked ‘Who is this?’ and gave you a choice of Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Santa, Saint Nick, Santy, Kris Kringle, […]

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