Writing English to help second-language readers

I’ve spent much of the last 28 years writing or editing documents for a readership that includes many readers who didn’t learn English from birth. In this post, I give some tips on writing more clearly to help readers with English as a second language.  General advice on writing plain English is not enough to…… Continue reading Writing English to help second-language readers

In defence of brackets (2)

Here’s another case where brackets are clearer than commas. A sentence I saw recently said: We studied 693,111 tweets, by 13,102 users, that were geo-encoded in Croatia. That wording makes it unclear what geo-encoded modifies. Does it modify tweets or does it modify users? The intended meaning is 693,111 tweets that were geo-encoded… Using brackets…… Continue reading In defence of brackets (2)

Say “nein” to Anglo-saxon punctuation!

Seen on the way from Basel airport on 3 October 2013: “Alle Pizza’s werden geliefert.” English grocers are notorious for serving apostrophes with everything. But now the malady has spread to a language that doesn’t even have apostrophes. (German does use the apostrophe to show that a letter or sound has been omitted.)

In defence of brackets

Editors (both professional and amateur) have often warned me against using brackets. They are averse to brackets because they view brackets as a sign of indecisiveness and of an addiction to parenthetical digressions. They often suggest commas instead of brackets. Up to a point, their aversion is justified. Yet commas are sometimes less clear than…… Continue reading In defence of brackets

The world in 1529

A nearly monosyllabic (in Italian) statement about the state of the world in 1529. Language Log » Filosofia monosillabica (upenn.edu) My attempt at a translation: Those who can, don’t want toThose who want to, can’tThose who know how, don’tThose who do, don’t know howAnd thus the world goes badly Pedants’ corner My translation commits an…… Continue reading The world in 1529

Puzzle: answer

Last month I set the following puzzle. Here is a sequence of 11 consecutive instances of ‘had’: had had had had had had had had had had had I asked readers to punctuate this sequence to turn it into a perfectly valid English text. Here is the context: John and Tom had each written a…… Continue reading Puzzle: answer