Category Archives: grammar

Collective Nouns

 

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A lot of things have been irritating me in people’s use of the English Language, but recently it seems the fact that a collective noun is singular has disappeared.

One I hear frequently, being a fan of Manchester United, is in one of their songs.

‘U-N-I-T-E-D United are the team for me.’

Now we would not say, ‘some team’, or ‘those team’. We would be aware that ‘team’ is singular in those cases, so why, in this one case, does ‘team’ suddenly become plural?
Is it one team, or several? No, it’s one team, so it’s singular.

Similarly ‘Crowd’. ‘The crowd are…’ is now commonplace. ‘The crowd are cheering.’ Again, we would not say ‘Those crowd’ or ‘Some crowd’ We’re talking about one crowd, so it’s singular.

I can understand it in some instances where there is a plural noun involved, as in ‘A crowd of people’, but it’s still the crowd we’re referring to.
‘The crowd of people was making its way toward the exit.’

We often get ‘The flock of sheep are…’ instead of ‘The flock of sheep is…’.

‘The bunch of flowers John gave Mary is beautiful.’ not ‘The bunch of flowers John gave Mary are beautiful.’
Just remember that if you wouldn’t say ‘some bunch,’ or ‘some crowd,’ you use the singular verb. It’s not the individual flowers we’re referring to here, but the bunch. One bunch, Singular.

Please save my sanity and be careful when you come across a collective noun and decide whether or not you should use the plural. Chances are, you shouldn’t.

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3 Apostrophe Rules You Need!

The Apostrophe explained in an excellent way.

Please reblog this so it gets to as much of the English-speaking world as possible and help save my sanity.

 

via 3 Apostrophe Rules You Need!

Punctuationg Dialogue

Today I’m going to talk about punctuating dialogue.
First of all, let me begin by defining some terms. I find writers, like many other professions, use their jargon so often they forget that new people may not know them. So here goes.
1. Tags. These are the words used to indicate who is speaking. They are things like ‘he said’, ‘Judith whispered’ and the like.
2. Beats, These are words telling you what someone is doing. e.g. Fred paced to the window. ‘Are you sure she said that?’ he asked.
Here, ‘Fred paced to the window’ is a beat.
Now we’ve got that out of the way, lets continue with our punctuation.

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I admit that when I started writing, I was unsure about this. I did not know what punctuation to put after the speech and after the tag. I learned by reading books and other writers’ blogs. Not a bad way to learn. In fact, a very good way to learn.
The first thing I should note is that US English and British English use quotation marks the opposite way round from each other. As I am British, I use British English, and the dialogue in my books is the British Standard.
In British English, we use single quotation marks for direct speech and double quotation marks for speech quoted within that speech. (Not very good English there. I apologise.)
Mary said, ‘Jaqui, go and see who rang the doorbell.’
and,
Jaqui said, ‘It’s John. He said, “I’ve come to return the book you lent me.” Do you want to see him?’
In American English it’s the other way round. The above would look like this:
Mary said, “Jaqui, go and see who rang the doorbell.”
and
Jaqui said, “It’s John. He said, ‘I’ve come to return the book you lent me.’ Do you want to see him?”
The quotes, either British or US go round direct speech only. If it is indirect, then there are no quotes.
This would be wrong.
‘John said that he came ‘to return the book you lent him’.
Whenever we write ‘he said’. ‘she whispered’, etc, we always separate it from the quote using commas. See the above examples.
Now should the punctuation be inside or outside the quotation marks? That depends on whether it is part of the quotation or not, Here are some examples.
‘How can he return a book’, said Mary, ‘when I never lent him one?’
‘Said Mary’ interrupts the sentence she is saying, which is, ‘How can he return a book when I never lent him one?’ The comma goes outside the quotation marks.
But if the quotation mark is part of what is being said, then it goes inside.
John said, ‘Did you not lend me this book then?’
The question mark is part of John’s speech so it goes inside the quotation marks. If it was a full stop (period if you are in the USA) then, as it ends John’s speech, it would go inside as well.

John said, ‘I’m sure I borrowed it from you.’

The punctuation goes outside the quotation marks if it is not part of the quoted material.

Now, if you have a beat, then that is completely separate.
Susan walked to the window and looked out. ‘Tell John to come in and bring the book up.’
There is a full stop (period) after the beat and not a comma because it is a separate action. I would say that we only put a comma after or before a tag, not a beat.
That’s enough for now, Hope I’ve not confused you.
Please feel free to make a comment of any kind.

2 more words that cause confusion (and are driving me insane)

 

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Last month I talked about the words NUMBER and AMOUNT. Today I’m going to talk about some similar words that get confused.
These words are FEWER and LESS.

I say they are similar to the previouys words because the same rules apply. So many people will say something like,
‘There were LESS people at the match this week than last week.’
This is WRONG. IN this case, it should be FEWER.
Just as NUMBER refers to things we count, like people, goals, sheep in a flock, minutes in an hour, items in a shopping trolley etc., so FEWER also refers to those things.
FEWER is a digital word. It refers to things we COUNT.
LESS refers to things we MEASURE. Thus we would have something like,
There is LESS snow today than the same time last year.
or There is less flour in this cake than that one.
BUT There are fewer eggs in this cake than that one.
We MEASURE the flour, but we COUNT the eggs.

Please leave a comment on this post. I love hearing from you, and reblogging would help get the message across to more people and save me from continually shouting at the TV and radio.

2 frequently misused words

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There are two words that most people get wrong, these days. Strangely, they do not have similar spelling, nor similar sounds. When they are used wrongly, it grates on me.

Many well-educated people do not seem to be able to get it right, either.

What are these words?

They are Number and Amount.

The word ‘Number’ is rarely misused but ‘Amount’ is. All the time.

Let me try to explain the difference.

NUMBER This refers to, not surprisingly, the number of things.

It is used when we count things. 1,2,3,4,5 etc.

We can also say, for those techies amongst us, it is a digital word.

It tells us how many of something there is.

AMOUNT This refers to a measurement.

It is used when we don’t actually count individual things.
It is an analogue word.

It tells us how much of something there is.

Thus, to say ‘The amount of people at the party was 30′ is wrong. We are counting those people, not measuring them.

However, it is correct to say ‘The amount of rain that fell in October was less than normal.’ We are measuring the rainfall.

I don’t thing I’ve ever heard number used for a measurement, unless it is something like ‘The number of inches of fabric you need is…’, but then it’s counting, not measuring.

I would like this to get to as many people as possible, as I am getting increasingly stressed by this incorrect usage. Please re-blog it for my sanity’s sake.

Strangeness in the English Language

English is a strange language. There are many words spelled the same but pronounced differently, also there are words pronounced the same, but spelled differently. then there are words that are the same in spelling and pronunciation but have different meanings, depending on context.

The strangest, in my opinion, are words ending in -ough.

We have:

 Though, pronounced ‘tho’
 Bough, pronounced ‘bow’. (although that in itself has different pronunciations)
 Enough, pronounced ‘enuf’
 Thought, pronounced ‘thort’
 Through, pronounced ‘threw’

No wonder foreigners have some difficulty with it, although (another one, similar to ‘though’, here) it seems they are able to manage quite well if the number of foreigners who speak the language extremely well is anything to go by.

I was in an Italian restaurant in Germany and was greatly amused to see the German waiter speaking to a French customer in English. This also happened when I was in Croatia. The Croatian receptionist spoke to a visitor, whom I think was Russian, in English. These strange inconsistencies seem not to faze them, even if they confuse some native speakers!

How to correct two simple wordprocessing errors.

There are two things that I want to tell you today. they are things that annoy me somewhat when I come across them. the first is how to create superscripts and subscripts.
So often I read 25C or H2O. They are both wrong. The Celcius scale is measured in degrees. and the formula for water needs the dropped 2 or it means, if it means anything, one atom of hydrogen and two of oxygen Which is an impossibility anyway.
This is a very simple thing to rectify. Simply click on ‘format’ on the toolbar and click on Font.
You will get the following window opening.

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Check the superscript or subscript box, whichever you want and click OK. Then type what you want to be super- or subscripted. Go back to Format, Font and uncheck the bod. Click OK and you’re ready to go.

Unfortunately, WordPress does not recognise the superscript nor the subscript, and when I copied this into WordPress, it came out without these corrections. I had to remove the corrected words.

 

 

The other thing that irritates me when reading is when there is an apostrophe at the beginning of a word. (such as ’till, an abbreviation of until) So often, this comes out as ‘till, which is. of course a quotation mark and not an apostrophe. (A quotation mark that is not closed, either.)
In order to prevent this, it is very simple. You can fool Word into thinking it’s an apostrophe in the middle of a word by not pressing the space bar until after you’ve typed the two words.
EG. Wait here’till I arrive.

Then you simply go back and put in the space. Word will then keep the apostrophe the right way round.

Wait here ’till I arrive.

Both quite simple really, but are usually done wrongly, either because the writer knows no better, or through ignorance of the means to correct it.