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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‘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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‘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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‘extend’ and ‘extent’

A report I’m editing keeps using the phrase ‘to a certain extend …’. It is slowly driving me up the wall. You need a noun there. To a certain extent. To a large degree. In some measure.

When you say both parties agree with each other to a certain extent, it means they agree up to some limit. There are still things they don’t agree on. If something is true to a certain extent, then not all of it is true.

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look up your loanwords

I was editing a passage about a young woman who enjoyed baking, and her interest in making cute cakes came from her grandmother, who baked every weekend for her guests who came for high tea. Thus: ‘She vowed that she would become a patisserie.’

It startled me into laughter. Aspiring to become a French bakery wasn’t a terrible career choice, all in all. 

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online dictionaries with simplified definitions

A tip: If the definition of a word in your usual dictionary (or Google) is a bit difficult to understand, try looking it up at the Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries website. The definitions there are simplified and friendlier to students, and there are example sentences showing word usage. 

I used to have a physical copy of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary sitting on my desk at my last job. I don’t think I ever opened it, though. It’s easier to look things up online.

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