Conniption over court appearance: A modern day hissy fit

Conniption

Last month I received a self-sealing letter in the post. These are usually some or other form of traffic infringement notice. Indeed, it was. But it was red. This was the first time in my life that I had received a fine in red. Reading further, I found the fine showed a photograph of a car that is not mine, for a date on which I was not available, in a city I haven’t visited for more than 10 years. “No admission of guilt”, the document warned.

Thinking I would have to show up in court to defend these outrageous allegations, I had a conniption. Or a conniption fit, as is sometimes incorrectly stated.

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Why is surgery an operation?

Why is surgery an operation?

When asking this question, it brings to mind a scenario in a sitcom. For example, in The Nanny, Fran could be devastated when she learns that Mr Sheffield has to go for surgery. “Oh, an operation,” she might exclaim, explaining to herself that her boss will be going under the knife.

In modern language, surgery and operation are used interchangeable but not in equal measure. Continue reading "Why is surgery an operation?"

Very, very, completely: Keep language crisp and clean

I was alerted to my default descriptive style about two weeks ago. It happened when I ran my own document through spell check prior to a more serious edit and it stopped me at ‘really, really’.

I realised these words were redundant and creating unnecessary hyperbole.

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Words and Phrases: Of Mondegreens and Mishearings

Blame the mishearing, blame the accent, blame the frame of reference – these give rise to mondegreens.

“According to the word watcher William Safire of The New York Times, the term mondegreen dates from a 1954 magazine article by Sylvia Wright in which she said she had misheard the folk lyric ''and laid him on the green'' as ''and Lady Mondegreen,'' says http://www.nytimes.com/1998/04/09/technology/sweet-slips-of-the-ear-mondegreens.html

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What’s missing from the language?

alphabet

Have you ever paid attention to the ampersand? Did you know that it and similarly formed words are called mondegreens?

Newspaper style prefers the use of a full “and” only permitting the use of this mondegreen (oh how titillating is the English language?) in a name such as Fick & Sons or Johnson & Johnson.  The ampersand, disrespected as it is in today’s press, had an important place in the history of the English language. Continue reading "What’s missing from the language?"

How to deal with your Grammar Gremlins

grammar-gremlin-image

In my job, as sub-editor at a community newspaper, I had to reprimand a reporter for shoddy work.

His report was submitted for subbing with several repeated paragraphs. When I pointed this out to him, he swore it was a systems error.

This was highly unlikely and even if it was, he should have made the necessary corrections to the piece before sending it on for subbing. Continue reading "How to deal with your Grammar Gremlins"

How to develop your writing style

Style Master
Ernest Hemingway

Usually I write about grammar, but what about style?

Grammar, if you know the rules, can with effort and dedication be learnt. Style, however, is unique to the individual.  Writing in your own voice almost as you speak, is how you will develop your style.

When you build your unique style, you readers will begin to recognise your work before they see your by line.

Ernest Hemingway used to begin his sentences with ‘and’ or ‘but’, that was his style; Dickens used aesthetically complex sentences, and that was his style. So, each writer has his own style, which is the sum of all the writing mannerisms, choice of vocabulary, and grammar constructions. Will your sentences be long or short? Will you use words that are simple or sophisticated? Continue reading "How to develop your writing style"