Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

Celebrating language: the magic of Angela Carter

Celebrating Language; the Magic of Angela Carter

When Angela Carter was accused of overwriting, she cheerfully agreed that she pounced on opportunities to do so: ‘Embrace them? I would say that I half-suffocate them with the enthusiasm with which I wrap my arms and legs around them.’ The critic, Helen Stoddart, said she had ‘one of the most distinctive and daring voices […]

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H. P. Lovecraft and the Northern Gothic Tongue

H. P. Lovecraft

There is a very specific language of Gothic and horror literature that has its roots buried deep in the history of English: doom has been around since Old English; dread carries over from Middle English; eerie, that sense of vague superstitious uneasiness, enters Middle English through Scottish. The adjectives are harsh and guttural: moons are […]

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

Who's confident [confidant?] about using -ance, -ence, and

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 […]

Woman – or Suffragette?

Woman - or Suffragette?

In 1903, the motto ‘Deeds not Words’ was adopted by Emmeline Pankhurst as the slogan of the new Women’s Social and Political Union. This aimed above all to secure women the vote, but it marked a deliberate departure in the methods to be used. Over fifty years of peaceful campaigning had brought no change to […]

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Keeping it in mind – Poetry By Heart

Keeping it in Mind - Poetry by Heart

Writing West Midlands was delighted to be asked to run a Teachers’ Days as part of the Poetry By Heart competition. As Chief Executive of Writing West Midlands, and as a reader of poetry for many years, I had a particular interest in the process of memorizing poetry and of speaking it from memory. I […]

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Surfing the Information Superhighway: the changing face of Internet language

Surfing the Information Superhighway: the changing face of Internet language

It’s common to associate the Internet with all things modern and new, and so it’s perhaps unexpected that it can be considered to be nearly half a century old; the ‘symbolic birth date’ of the Internet has been declared 7 April 1969, the date of publication of the first RFC (Request for Comments) document. Much […]

May or might: what’s the difference?

may might

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 […]

Bigger and stronger hearts: poetry and memory

Bigger and stronger hearts: poetry and memory

Oxford University Press is partnered with The Poetry Archive to support Poetry by Heart, a new national poetry competition in England which will see thousands of students aged 14 to 18 competing to become national champion for their skill in memorising and reciting poems by heart. OUP will provide free content from OED Online, the […]

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