Multiple use of an inapt adjective

Every Saturday, The Times carries a Feedback column, which often discusses issues of English language style and usage. One topic covered on 3 February 2024 was the adjective multiple. A reader had objected to a report stating that Britons were buying lunchtime meal deals ‘multiple times a week’. The reader asked whether The Times has…… Continue reading Multiple use of an inapt adjective

British sign language will be a GCSE subject

Schoolchildren will soon be able to study British Sign Language (BSL) as a GCSE. The target is for schools to be able to teach it from September 2025.   As part of the GCSE, students will be taught at least 750 signs and how to use them to communicate effectively with other signers in work, social…… Continue reading British sign language will be a GCSE subject

Simpler definitions for tax

The UK used to have an Office for Tax Simplification (OTS), created in 2010 to give the UK government the independent advice on simplifying the tax system. In 2022, the OTS issued a report Review of simplification: Approach and interpretation OTS Simplification Review – web copy ( A few months later, the UK government abolished…… Continue reading Simpler definitions for tax

Unneeded plural for a document title

When I worked for the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), we had an internal debate about the best way to create the plural form of the name for one type of document. The IASB publishes with each of its Standards a document called a ‘Basis for Conclusions’. This document explains conclusions the IASB reached in…… Continue reading Unneeded plural for a document title

Even I wouldn’t use a plural verb here

On the tail end of a radio interview a couple of days ago, I heard someone say ‘agriculture are playing an important part’. ‘Agriculture are’ combines a singular noun with a plural verb and sounded very odd to me. Not a slip of the tongue All of us sometimes get distracted in the middle of…… Continue reading Even I wouldn’t use a plural verb here

13 October International Plain Language Day

Today (13 October 2023) is International Plain Language Day International Plain Language Day – Plain Language Association International (PLAIN) ( In June 2023, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published ISO 24495-1 Plain language — Part 1: Governing principles and guidelines. ISO on Plain Language – Language Miscellany

When intonation affects word order

Can intonation constrain how syntax determines word order?  Jackendoff (2002) suggests that it can. As examples, he cites sentences (1), (1a), (2) and (2a). Normally, English syntax insists that the direct object precedes a time adverb, as in (1). The reverse order, as in (1a) is unacceptable. (1) John bought a computer yesterday.(1a) *John bought…… Continue reading When intonation affects word order

Ancient Indo-European language comes to light in Turkey

An excavation in Turkey has brought to light an unknown Indo-European language. The new language was discovered in north-central Turkey at Boğazköy-Hattusha. That site was the capital of the Hittite Empire, a great power in Western Asia inthe Late Bronze Age (1650 to 1200 BCE). Excavations in Boğazköy-Hattusha over more than 100 years have so far…… Continue reading Ancient Indo-European language comes to light in Turkey

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