All and only

The phrase ‘all and only’ is concise and expresses a precise logical meaning, but it is too compressed for most people to understood it. I first came across the set phrase ‘all and only’ at the age of 25 when I began working in continental Europe. One of my new colleagues often drafted letters containing…… Continue reading All and only

ULEZ, uljez, izlaz

London has just extended the boundary of its Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). Drivers of motor vehicles causing heavy emissions must pay to drive in the ULEZ. The word ULEZ has the shape and feel of some Croatian words. The common prefix u- means ‘in’ or ‘into’ and is derived from the preposition u. (In other…… Continue reading ULEZ, uljez, izlaz

In defence of brackets (3)

Most writers don’t use brackets often enough. I’ve given before a couple of examples where using brackets makes a text clearer. Here’s another example. I recently read something saying in Coity, near Bridgend, where they lived until her death. This wording doesn’t make it clear enough that these people lived in Coity, not in Bridgend.…… Continue reading In defence of brackets (3)

Darwin seems to have been to Australia

It seems you can’t say ‘Charles Darwin has visited Australia’, but you can say ‘Charles Darwin seems to have visited Australia’. Why is that?  In a previous post, I mentioned ‘lifetime effects’ in the use of the perfect tense in English. Sentence (1) is one example from that earlier post. (1) * Charles Darwin has…… Continue reading Darwin seems to have been to Australia

The lower of one thing or the lower of 2 things?

Which conjunction do English speakers use with the comparative form of adjectives to describe a test applied to 2 nouns in order to select one of those nouns?  I have the impression that American English uses, for example, ‘the lower of A or B’ where British English uses ‘the lower of A and B’. I…… Continue reading The lower of one thing or the lower of 2 things?

ISO on Plain Language

In June 2023, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published ISO 24495-1 Plain language — Part 1: Governing principles and guidelines. Scope of ISO 24495 ISO 24495: establishes governing principles and guidelines for developing plain language documents. The guidelines detail how the principles are interpreted and applied. is for anybody who creates or helps create…… Continue reading ISO on Plain Language

A pause can change syntax and meaning

Trying to write something concisely, I came across a quirk of English. I ran into an example where inserting a pause changes both the syntax of a sentence and its meaning. Here’s the context. Sarah Wells married Joseph Randall, but Joseph died within a few years. After that, Sarah remarried. Her second husband was Louis…… Continue reading A pause can change syntax and meaning

Theta in an index

Here is an oddity: a foreign character appearing in an English book index as the first letter in an indexed phrase. The character is the Greek θ (theta). It appears in that index as the first letter in 5 phrases: θ feature; θ position; θ identification; θ position(s); θ role; θ structure. Where can you…… Continue reading Theta in an index

Not-the best place for-a hyphen

I was reading yesterday about a football club that has 2 ‘co-sporting directors’. That is an odd place to put the hyphen. People do often put a hyphen after the prefix co. Indeed, I often do that myself, to make it easier for readers to see the structure of the word. But in this case,…… Continue reading Not-the best place for-a hyphen