Category: Grammar and writing help

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

Read more »
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 […]

Read more »
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 […]

Read more »
Unusual words include pusillanimous, meaning 'lacking in courage'.

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 […]

Read more »
Advise or advice? Which one would you advise?

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 […]

Read more »
Do you know the difference between affect and effect?

Affect or effect: a visual guide

What’s the difference between affect and effect? We know that a lot of people get confused about the difference between affect and effect – so we’ve put together a handy infographic to help you out. You can even print it out and stick it above your desk for quick reference. All the essentials are here, […]

Read more »
Is data plural or singular or both?

What is the plural of data?

Your data was corrupted… Wah! First thought: I’ve lost some work. Second thought: shouldn’t that be ‘…data were corrupted’? In the strictest sense, yes, because it’s all a question of ensuring that you match singular subjects with singular verbs, and ditto plural subjects and verbs, a process called agreement. Easy when it’s a straightforward case, such […]

Read more »
Elicit vs. illicit: which one should it be?

Elicit vs. illicit

1. Such a question isn’t intended to elicit an answer. 2. VHF radio calls from the coastguard and other ships were illiciting no response. 3. He brazenly carried on an elicit affair with Bert’s wife. 4. She admitted to having been in possession of illicit drugs. 5. You can imagine the amount of booing this […]

Read more »

Tweets