November 1, 2011
What a dangerous tool is the spell checker. Curiously, it purports to check the spelling (and grammar) of a piece of writing whilst, of itself, being a bastardisation of language; surely, Mr Gates, you meant 'spelling checker'?
Be that as it may, we all use them and very good they can be. No longer is it enough to be good at spelling, now one has to be good at typing too, and very few of us are perfect at both. Mistakes abound in typed text, not matter how carefully constructed; before I publish this post, I will run the spell checker and it will tell me where I have gone wrong. No, actually, it will tell me where the programming 'thinks' (in the loosest sense of that word) I have gone wrong.
Please don't make the mistake of assuming that the spell checker is always right, though. Almost certainly, your vocabulary is greater than that of the program; fine, look at the words it tells you are wrong, but don't immediately think it is right and you are wrong. Make sure that the dictionary is set to the correct language (different varieties of English use very different spellings for the same word). Make sure that, if you add words to the program's vocabulary, they are spelt correctly; stick a wrongly spelled word into the vocab and that's it, you'll never realise for ever more that you're getting wrong.
I won't even start going into the grammar checker in this post.
Pitfalls of Spelling Checkers
October 28, 2011
'So' 'as', 'since' and 'yet' can all be tricky and merely offering definitions in order to clarify their uses usually only serves to confuse. For instance, the word 'so' can be used as an adverb (in 8 different ways), an adjective (in 2), a conjunction (in 2), a pronoun and as an interjection (So! You're here at last.)
The only way to become comfortable with them (and therefore to allow your reader to become comfortable) is to read, read, read again, and then write, write and write some more. Make sure as many people as possible read what you write, too - friends, family, colleagues. Writing is fundamentally achieved only by practice and apprenticeship.
Small words, writing practice, apprenticeship
October 27, 2011
English is claimed to be richest language that there has ever been; this is a claim that I suspect is sometimes made by people who little knowledge of languages other than this one, but English is certainly diverse and wonderful. It is verdant soil for writing.
One of the pitfalls to avoid when writing is repetition. It gives the impression of a poor vocabulary and, whilst the reader does not want to bamboozled by the author <a href="http://www.keithmccarthy.org/2011/10/17/47-difficult-words/" title="47. DIFFICULT WORDS" target="_blank"></a>, I think they do want to learn and want to think that the writer has thought about the text and has an ability to weave a spell. Yet it is all too easy to repeat words, if not in the same sentence, then in adjacent ones; the same word repeated twice in a paragraph may also jar. Hence, it is important to use synonyms - different words that mean the same thing.
Be careful, though. It is said, and this time I think I agree, that there are no perfect synonyms in English. There are subtle differences that those unfamiliar with the language may miss. It is always worth asking an experienced user of English to read your text.
synonyms, the richest language, English