Did you watch the “English 3.0” video examining the question: is the Internet having a detrimental effect on English and on “standards”? Here are my thoughts on the question. Social media = online conversation Much of the “bad writing” we see online is really just a form of conversation. People writing on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites are […]

Yesterday, 16 August, was International Apostrophe Day, and the cue for lots of apostrophe articles and Twitter posts. The following quick guide to when and how to use an apostrophe was taken from an article in The Guardian by David Marsh: If you can’t use an apostrophe, you don’t know your shit. How to use an apostrophe […]

Primary-school pupils in England have been sitting a new grammar, spelling and punctuation test (check out the specimen questions) as part of their final year assessment. Teachers have criticised the test, saying that there are better ways of assessing pupils’ English-language skills: Grammar is vital but you test someone’s writing skills by examining their writing. Just […]

It seems Birmingham isn’t the only city having bother with place name apostrophes, as shown by the Londonist website’s post on Should King’s Cross Have An Apostrophe?. Unlike Birmingham City Council, however, the various London authorities haven’t reached a unanimous decision. The simple truth is that there is no ‘official’ stance on the name. Or, […]

It seems that Italy too has got problems with spelling and punctuation, though in this case at graffiti rather than local authority level. The text in black above should read “L’orgoglio non serve”. Roughly translated, “Pride doesn’t serve any purpose”, to which an Italian Lynne Truss has responded “But apostrophes do”. This picture is from a […]

UK local authorities seem to have a fraught relationship with punctuation and spelling. Birmingham City Council decided in January 2009 to remove the possessive apostrophe from its place names — presumably the issue was too contentious to resolve otherwise. St Paul’s Square, King’s Norton and Druid’s Heath have thus become St. Pauls Square, Kings Norton and […]

I wrote on 21 July about quote-marks — how to decide whether you should be using curly (smart) or straight quotes and, once you’ve decided, how to type them using keyboard shortcuts where necessary. Translators, however, need to decide not just which quote marks to use but whether or not to “translate” them. For example, […]

Keyboard shortcuts are a great timesaver when you’re spending hours typing away on your computer. I’ve just learned a couple of new ones, for inserting smart (curly) quotes in text where autoformat functions, such as Word’s, don’t work, and for doing the opposite: inserting straight quotes when you’re working in AutoFormat mode. I discovered these tips […]

My post on Tuesday (26 October) was about how to type an ellipsis; this one goes into a wee bit more detail about when you should do so. I’ve lifted the following straight from Wikipedia, mainly to save time but also because I love the following phrase: “the ellipsis can also inspire a feeling of […]

Here’s a quick tip  that comes in handy for computer-typing in general and Twitter in particular (it saves you two characters). When you’re typing an ellipsis (three dots indicating an omission), instead of typing all three dots, type it as a single character by using the following keyboard shortcuts: Mac OS ellipsis: OPTION + semicolon […]