23 May 2013
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I recently heard that May 25th is ‘Towel Day’. Very strange name for a holiday, isn’t it?
But if you’ve read Douglas Adams’s book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (or if you’ve seen the movie), you can probably guess what Towel Day is about.
In the Guide, you learn that a towel is the most useful item to bring if you’re planning to travel throughout the galaxy. …
16 May 2013
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‘Luddite’ is the name given to the textile machine operators in 19th-century England who destroyed the machines they worked on as a form of industrial protest.
The real cause of their protests is debatable. But most people believe that Luddites saw the new machines as a threat, as something that could make their skills obsolete and put them out of a job.
9 May 2013
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I was attracted to an article in the Big Think Blog because of its title (‘Why Writing Fluently is Hard’ by Sam McNerney). In addition to the subject of writing fluently, McNerney also wrote about other ways to avoid falling into the ‘curse of knowledge’ trap, which I wrote about two weeks ago.
The curse of knowledge can lead us to assume that our readers have the same level of knowledge on the subject we’re writing about.
25 April 2013
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Knowledge is power
My husband and I have careers in education, something we strongly believe in, because it enables growth, enhances people’s lives and helps to establish civil society.
In that sense, knowledge is most definitely power.
The curse of knowledge
It’s hard to imagine knowledge having a negative effect. …
18 April 2013
Image by Dale Stewart
Spring is my favourite time of the year. Young spring green shoots and leaves are branching out on trees and shrubs, flowers are blooming and fruit is beginning to set. When I take a walk down our road, the fragrance of orange blossoms sweetens the air.
Since our very lives depend on the bounty that comes from the soil, it’s not surprising that so many metaphors in our language refer to plants. …
11 April 2013
What’s the difference between these two sentences?
· How can I improve my English?
· How could I improve my English?
Ability and Possibility
The fundamental difference between can and could is the difference between what someone or something is ableto do (can) and what is possible (could).
Modals: can & could
The words can and …
4 April 2013
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Your office chair may be making you sick.
Even if you have one of those wonderful new ergonomic chairs, sitting too long every day is harmful to your health.
I learned more about this while listening to a lecture given by Tony Schwartz, Director of The Energy Project.
In the lecture, Tony mentioned a relatively new field of research called ‘inactivity studies’. …
28 March 2013
A few weeks ago, I wrote about using a ‘copycat’ method to deeply learn how to write well. With this method, you copy a text word-for-word (either on paper or on your computer). By writing a model text down, you can more effectively soak up a writer’s style, their vocabulary choices and the correct grammar – thus improving your own writing over time.
21 March 2013
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Last week, we focused on metaphors of fire and love. Today, we’ll look at other metaphors connected with fire.
Part of understanding these metaphors has to do with connotation. A connotation is something that you associate a word with, typically either positive or negative. For example, the primary definition of …
14 March 2013
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Have you ever heard Elvis Presley’s hit song Burning Love? Frankly, it’s not one of my favourites. But while I was preparing to write about metaphors connected with fire, I also had something else on my mind. Next week, my husband and I will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. Together those two thoughts brought Elvis’s hit song to mind.
7 March 2013
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In this series, we’ll look at examples of ‘best practice’ business writing. The aim is to help you see what excellent writing looks like and how you can model your own writing after it.
But just reading a well-written text or even having someone point out what makes it good isn’t enough. You need to ‘soak in’ the excellence and make it your own.
28 February 2013
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The most fundamental issue about thinking from your reader’s perspective is to show respect for them. Today I’d like to talk about how to do that.
We’ll start by looking at an example of how NOT to. Then we’ll look at how to make what you write more ‘reader-centric’ and respectful.
Like everyone else with an email account, I regularly receive spam, those unsolicited advertising emails from people who claim that one of my ‘friends’ said I’d be interested in the writer’s products or services.
21 February 2013
There are three primary modifiers: adjectives, adverbs and prepositional phrases. Other modifiers include relative clauses (also called adjective clauses), determiners and appositives.
Modifiers enhance sentences by providing more information.
For example, you could say, ‘We had a meal at the restaurant.’ But that doesn’t tell you much about the meal. …
14 February 2013
Subordinate clauses are also called dependent clauses. They cannot stand on their own, so they need to be combined with independent clauses. When you combine these two types of clause, you create a complex sentence.
Just as a subordinate at work is someone who works at a lower position, a subordinate clause plays a ‘lower’ role in the sentence. …
7 February 2013
Coordinating clauses contain two (or more) independent clauses that are connected with conjunctions. Another name for this is a compound sentence.
The following coordinating conjunctions tie the two clauses together: and, but, for, or, nor, yet and so
When you join two independent clauses together, separate them with a comma. For example,
31 January 2013
A clause is a group of words that contains at minimum a subject and a verb. That sounds like the definition for a sentence, and it’s close, but not completely the same.
The reason why it’s not the same is that a clause doesn’t necessarily express a complete idea.
There are many types of clauses. But for today, we’ll just look at the two main types: independent and dependent.
24 January 2013
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Today we’ll discuss the building blocks of sentences: words. But before we start, let’s look at the answers to last week’s exercise on identifying types of sentence mistakes.
Answers to last week’s exercise
1. Please accept my sincere apologise for the inconvenience. [wrong word class; apologise (verb) should be …
17 January 2013
Today we begin a series called ‘Sentences 101’, designed to help you write grammatically correct sentences.
The series will cover the following topics:
· What is a sentence?
· What are the building blocks of a sentence?
· What is a clause?
· What are coordinating clauses?
· What are subordinate clauses?
10 January 2013
How many times have you heard that you should keep your writing simple?
My ‘sales pitch’ for writing simple sentences is that you’ll reduce the possibility of making grammar mistakes. After all, the longer the sentence, the easier it is to make a mistake.
But wait – there’s more!
I recently heard about a study done at Princeton University (USA) that found an even better reason to use plain text and basic vocabulary.
20 December 2012
Image by Jayel Aheram
For several years, my last post of the calendar year has been about doing low-tech stuff.
I’m not really sure how that began. Maybe because the end of the year is crunch time. We’re trying to get projects finished, reports written, plans prepared for the new year and so on. And to get all that stuff done usually requires the use of tech gadgets: our computers, mobile phones and iPads/tablets.