sometimes being direct is the best way

If you don’t like your cousin, you should write:

I don’t like my cousin.

Seriously. You don’t need to replace ‘like’ with fancy words, especially when you’re not sure of the meaning. Just because a sentence is simple, it doesn’t make it bad.

Today I came across this sentence: ‘I didn’t favour my cousin.’ From context, that didn’t really make sense. Someone was asking the narrator to share a room with said cousin, whom the narrator obviously dislikes. 

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don’t purchase illegally downloaded books

If you see someone selling ebooks on Shopee, especially if they’re popular titles by relatively large publishers and not something self-published, those are likely pirated copies. Ok, not just ‘likely’, they’re almost definitely pirated. Publishers tend to sell on their own platforms, or on Amazon or Google Play or Kobo and the like.

Books are expensive, I get that. But if you’re buying those pirated books, you’re not only funding someone who had nothing at all to do with getting those books out (except possibly crack the DRM so the books could be distributed illegally), you’re also not paying the people who actually did work on the book. You think, eh, it’s a big publisher, it can take a hit. But it’s not just the publisher. Publishers engage writers, editors, proofreaders, illustrators, designers, typesetters, printers, the people who do sales and marketing, system administrators, accountants, analysts, receptionists, security guards … you get the picture.

You want free ebooks? Try the library. Try Project Gutenberg for older works that are no longer under copyright. Follow Twitter accounts of authors or publishers—sometimes they announce free or highly discounted ebooks. There are options out there.

one million minutes will pass soon enough

‘How long does it take to get to the sun?’ Jenna asked, catching me off guard with the question. The workday had ended, but we were stuck in the office because a book I was supposed to approve for printing had run into a snag, and Jenna always went home later than almost everyone because she had to wait for her fiancé to pick her up. 

I gave the only answer I had off the top of my head. ‘Around eight minutes at the speed of light, but I kind of doubt that’s what you wanted to know.’ 

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‘join’ and ‘attend’

Let’s talk about the word ‘join’. We use it a lot in rojak Malay … and the usage translates wrongly when used in proper English. Semua benda nak join, kan? Join webinar petang ni, join concert malam esok, join jungle trekking hujung minggu depan. When you say that in Malay, you mean something like ‘we’re going to go do this thing together with other people’. It doesn’t quite mean that in English, unfortunately. See sense 3 and 4 in the definitions here.

It’s usually used in something like this:

Aku nak pergi breakfast. Kau nak join?

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‘metre’ and ‘meter’

If I get a technical paper or report to edit I usually ask which dictionary/spelling system you’re using (actually, I ask everyone this) and whether you’re working in SI units. 

Here’s something almost everyone stumbles over, every now and then—the difference between meter and metre. If you’re local, I tend to assume you’re using British English, since that’s what we use in school. For those of you spelling things the American way, there’s no issue at all since American English only uses meter.

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December reading wrap-up

Happy new year. Here’s to this year being better than the last.

If you’re curious about what I’d read in 2020, Goodreads compiles the data in its Year in Books page. Nothing terribly impressive there; I’m not a very fast reader. Some of them are audiobooks, which totally count, and there’s only one comic. Strange. I kept thinking I should check out more of those from the library and never got to it.

My favourite book of the year is A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine. (I’m excluding the Dorothy Dunnett rereads.) Space opera with a political bent as well as a smattering of alien literature—what’s not to love?

Books finished in December:

  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  • Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
  • Abaddon’s Gate by James SA Corey
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commas and restrictive nouns

Commas are pesky things, aren’t they? You’re either using too many or not enough.

Commas around a word or a phrase make the word or phrase non-restrictive, or in plain terms, not essential. The word or phrase bracketed by the commas conveys additional information. This applies in a number of situations, but today let’s talk about using commas with proper names.

Consider this:

Your teammate, Afiq, hasn’t been in the office for three days.  ❌

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printable calendars—2021 (full year) and January 2021

Anyone still in need of a 2021 calendar? Here are some PDF files. The monthly calendar is only for January.

2021 full year calendar

2021 calendex

I wasn’t planning on sharing these, but some of my friends liked them and l might as well record how terrible I was when I first started learning to use a graphics editing software, right? Right. 

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‘stressed’ and ‘stressful’

Anyone else feeling stressed out? I’ve been editing an article about stress, and now I’m all jittery and restless, both because of the content and the misuse of the word ‘stressful’. 

Working from home is stressful.  ✅

I feel stressful when I have to work from home.  ❌

Okay, so what is the difference between stressed and stressful? Both are adjectives. However, they don’t mean the same thing. 

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my love affair with the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett

So. My favourite book series is the Lymond Chronicles, written by the incomparable Dorothy Dunnett. You’ve probably never heard of it. It’s historical fiction, following the life of one fictional Scottish nobleman named Francis Crawford of Lymond (Lymond to you and me, Mr Crawford to irritated young girls trying to save him from himself, Francis to his very few friends) over the span of a decade or so. Here’s the thing: historical fiction is a genre I tend to avoid, but Dorothy Dunnett is just that good.   

My love for the series started quite accidentally. I was browsing in an old bookshop sometime in 2008 when I found myself eyeing a copy of The Game of Kings, the first book in the series, thinking that the title sounded familiar. Upon reading the blurb I realised it wasn’t what I expected at all—it was about a minor nobleman turned outlaw in 1547 Edinburgh who was trying to trace three men. I considered it for a while. On the one hand, if the title stuck to mind it probably was because someone had recommended it. On the other hand, I didn’t even read much historical fiction (my primary genre of choice had always been science fiction and fantasy), and knew nothing at all about sixteenth-century Scotland.

It was on sale. The cover had a castle and horses. Maybe it’ll have interesting sword fights, I thought, so I picked up the book, paid for it, and took it home with me.

Thus began my love affair with the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett.

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