Flushing out the Oxford comma to clear the NHS backlog

In early September this year, the new UK Prime Mister, Liz Truss (remember her?) appointed Conservative MP Thérèse Coffey as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. Soon after, the press reported that Thérèse Coffey had sent staff in her new departmental fiefdom a strict manual on writing. I haven’t seen the writing manual…… Continue reading Flushing out the Oxford comma to clear the NHS backlog

Time to stop talking about the time

The conjunction while can have 2 meanings: a temporal meaning, introducing a subordinate clause that refers to an action occurring at the same time as an action described by the main clause: They whistled while they worked.a concessive meaning, as a synonym for although: While they aren’t perfect, they are good enough. Avoid while for…… Continue reading Time to stop talking about the time

Addicted to ‘right node raising’

In this post, I look at a construction that I often saw in drafts of documents I was reviewing. Although the construction is grammatical and concise, readers find it difficult to process. I explain what this construction is and why it is difficult. I also summarise a published review of some of the vast linguistics…… Continue reading Addicted to ‘right node raising’

What is a preposition?

Traditional grammars define prepositions as always being followed by a noun phrase (a phrase headed by a noun).  However, Huddlestone and Pullum (2005) argue for a broader definition of prepositions. Their wider definition also captures some items traditionally viewed as subordinating conjunctions or adverbs. Table 1 illustrates some problems caused by the traditional classification. It…… Continue reading What is a preposition?

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

Scandinavian language challenge day 38

Today I worked through the last chapter (chapter 12) of Swedish in three months, covering: ‘either .. or’, ‘neither … nor’, ‘both … and”all and ‘whole’ the impersonal pronoun ‘man’ adjectives without a nounhow to translate some common English verbsspellingother words ‘either .. or’, ‘neither … nor’, ‘both … and’ Antingen … eller = either ……… Continue reading Scandinavian language challenge day 38

Scandinavian language challenge day 34

Today I worked through chapter 11 of Danish in three months, covering: numbers: fractions and collectivesadverbs of place and motionuses of adverbsconjunctions and adverbs used in pairsconfusable nounsother words Numbers: fractions and collectives The adjective halv means half and is inflected in the normal way: På en halVv dag spiste de et halvt får.(in half a…… Continue reading Scandinavian language challenge day 34

Scandinavian language challenge day 30

Today I worked through chapter 9 of Norwegian in three months, covering: more about conjunctionsmore about word orderconditional that clausesother words More about conjunctions Conjunctions—time: da (when)når (when)idet (As)mens (while) før (before)etterat (after)siden (since)inntil (until) Da expresses what happen once in the past (den gang: da). Når expresses what usually happens, what used to happen or…… Continue reading Scandinavian language challenge day 30

Scandinavian language challenge day 27

Today I worked through chapter 8 of Norwegian in three months, covering: future tensereflexive verbsrelative pronounmore about comparisonsco-ordinating conjunctionsother words Future tense Ways of talking about the future: with the present tense of the main verb:Kommer di i morgen? (Are you coming tomorrow?)Noen mennesker tviler på at flyplassen noen gang blir ferdig(some people doubt that the…… Continue reading Scandinavian language challenge day 27