Pruning your verbiage

As an editor of many business reports, websites and project stories I often find myself patiently explaining that less is more.  Whilst it is easy to get caught up in the magnificence of your achievements (or requests or news….) sometimes the quicker (and simpler) you say it the better – as demonstrated here.

word edit

Enough said!

trimming a hedge


Go forth and trim.



January 30, 2014 at 12:07 pm Leave a comment

Pause, punctuate!


Is it the age of SMS? Could it be the urgency with which we comunicate? Or perhaps it’s the annonymity of online chat that encourages the younger generation to be so relaaxed with punctuation, whatever the reason there is a need to pause and think about punctuation and its importance for clear communication. But don’t just take my word for it, I was prompted to post this after reading a good, clear article on punctuation posted by English professor Janis Bell from the USA. Now I know we have our own versions of english but on punctuation we (mostly) agree, so take a read of her article and prosper!

Punctuation article




November 19, 2013 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

The language of age


I received one of those annoyingly slow powerpoint presentations tonight, you know the kind with stunning photography but terrible typography that comes on one agonisingly slow line at a time, all in different fonts and colours. I persevered and was rewarded with this little insight into how we use language to describe our age which I have summed up here (in around 50 words instead of the 500 on the ppt.!)

You’re nearly 5! (usually preceded by 41/2, 43/4’s etc – how exciting)

You’re about to be ten (double figures – impressive!)

You’re into your teens (dig that) 

You become 21 (how mature!)

You turn 30 (and the language turns too)

You’re pushing 40 (bit of an effort now)

You reach 50 (phew)

You make it to 60 (just)

You hit 70 (woah, slow down)

You’re only 75 (see, not that old really)

You’re a healthy 100! 

September 2, 2013 at 12:49 pm Leave a comment

Literal Humour

 As a University lecturer I thought I’d heard every excuse and retort but these clever answers turn the table on the teacher (or demonstrate some pretty unique thinking?). Not sure I appreciate the last one though!


TEACHER: John, why are you doing your math multiplication on the floor?
JOHN: You told me to do it without using tables.
TEACHER: Glenn, how do you spell ‘crocodile?’
TEACHER: No, that’s wrong
GLENN: Maybe it is wrong, but you asked me how I spell it.
TEACHER: Donald, what is the chemical formula for water?
TEACHER: What are you talking about?
DONALD: Yesterday you said it’s H to O.
TEACHER: Winnie, name one important thing we have today that we didn’t have ten years ago.
TEACHER: Glen, why do you always get so dirty?
GLEN: Well, I’m a lot closer to the ground than you are.
TEACHER: Millie, give me a sentence starting with ‘ I. ‘
MILLIE: I is..
TEACHER: No, Millie….. Always say, ‘I am.’
MILLIE: All right… ‘I am the ninth letter of the alphabet.’
TEACHER: George Washington not only chopped down his father’s cherry tree, but also admitted it.
Now, Louie, do you know why his father didn’t punish him?
LOUIS: Because George still had the axe in his hand…..
TEACHER: Now, Simon , tell me frankly, do you say prayers before eating?
SIMON: No sir, I don’t have to, my Mum is a good cook.
TEACHER: Clyde , your composition on ‘My Dog’ is exactly the same as your brother’s..
Did you copy his?
CLYDE : No, sir. It’s the same dog.
TEACHER: Harold, what do you call a person who keeps on talking when people are no longer interested?
HAROLD: A teacher

August 5, 2013 at 12:02 pm Leave a comment

Using the element of surprise to engage

I came across these British classified ads that made me laugh and wished more print advertising used the element of surprise to engage!  

FREE PUPPIES 1/2 Cocker Spaniel, 1/2 sneaky neighbor’s dog.  

FREE PUPPIES. Mother is a Kennel Club registered German Shepherd. Father is a Super Dog, able to leap tall fences in a single bound.  

COWS, CALVES: NEVER BRED. Also 1 gay bull for sale.  

JOINING NUDIST COLONY! Must sell washer and dryer £100.  

WEDDING DRESS FOR SALE . Worn once by mistake. Call Stephanie.  

FOR SALE BY OWNER. Complete set of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 45 volumes. Excellent condition, £200 or best offer. No longer needed, got married, wife knows everything.  

August 5, 2013 at 11:58 am Leave a comment

There, their, they’re!

Now I know the title of this post sounds like an old aunt reassuring a teenager after a break-up, “there, there there, dear it will all be OK” and sadly many people might even read it that way but our fabulously tricky english language has actually given us three words that sound exactly the same but mean very different things. The problem is, it seems that the difference is no longer taught at school as anywhere between 50-100% of students I teach that come straight from their (yes, their, not they’re or there) final year of school do NOT seem to know when to use which. So apologies if I am preaching to the converted here but I just had to add a few tips to my blog in case it can help even 1 more person get it right.

Here and There 

You should use there when you are refering to a physical or abstract place.

He is over there./  I will meet you there. / The cafe is there. / There is the dog.

A ‘there’ can often be replaced with a here and it will still makes sense

They are – They’re

They’re is a contraction for they are. The a is replaced by the apostrophe and the sentence should make sense if you say it out loud as they are .

They’re going to be here any minute. / They’re both coming for dinner. / They’re here!

Be possessive with their

A trick I always use is that their has an i in it so it is possessive. It is the only their with an i, which helps! Their is commonly followed by a noun and can usually be replaced with our and still work.

Their hats are on./ It is their turn to set the table. / Where are their shoes?

And now for the ultimate challenge – to wrangle all three into a meaningful sentence…..

“There is no chance they’re going to be allowed to use their ignorance of spelling to incorrectly use their, they’re and there in my class any more.”

Now for the next challenge: to, two and too!

February 25, 2013 at 11:14 pm Leave a comment

How one letter can change a word – drastically!

The English language is endlessly fascinating (no, stick with me on this one) . Not only can one letter change the entire meaning of a word it can also completely change how it is pronounced.

Just try adding an S in front of laughter. Not only do you get another word with opposing meaning but suddenly the aught has gone from sounding like arft to ort.

Other words seem to be an almost unintentional extension of themselves. Think of how a simple rearrangement of one letter in prenatal becomes parental.

Then there are many examples of how adding a single letter can lead to new connotations, some appropriate like lean-clean, others not so like adding s to hit.

Some words share almost the same construction but surely their  etymology is not related at all. Add an s to the end of needles and whilst I agree that needles should indeed be needless the two are hardly associated.

I would love to hear of any other examples anyone has where rearranging or adding a single letter can lead to interesting connections!

January 17, 2013 at 12:28 pm Leave a comment

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