The Grammar Factor – April 2011

northern Australia or Northern Australia?

Reader’s question: Do you need a capital letter in the word northern for northern Australia?

Answer: The word northern in northern Australia should be lower case because it isn’t a proper noun.

However, I don’t think this is a black and white issue for all descriptive names.

The Australian government style guide (Style manual) says:
‘Names that designate a group of nations geographically or politically are always capitalised.

For example:

South-East Asia   Central America   the Balkans

In contrast, purely descriptive – and unofficial – names for parts of a geographical entity usually do not need to be capitalised:

northern Australia   southern Italy

Sometimes, however, descriptive names of this kind develop semi-official status; they are then usually shown with initial capitals:

Central Australia   Far North Queensland.’

Number of

Reader’s question: Do you use the singular or plural with number of?

Answer: The decision depends on whether a or the precedes number. We use the singular with the number of and the plural with a number of.

The number of people with obesity is increasing.
A number of people in this city are obese.

In grammatical terms, the number in the first sentence is the head of a subject phrase (the number of people with obesity). In the second sentence, a number of modifies people.

Let’s know

Reader’s question: What do you think of saying ‘Let’s know us know what you think’ in work emails?

Answer: I think it is OK in informal speech and in emails to friends, but at work I would use a different expression, such as ‘Let me know what you think’.

Reading ages

Reader’s question: How do you work out a reading age manually?

Answer: Reading age tests measure the readability of writing by estimating the years of formal education needed to understand a text on a first reading. They are often used to make sure a text is suitable for its intended audience.

If you want to do a manual reading age test you can use a Gunning Fog Index:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunning_fog_index

Microsoft Word uses Flesch-Kincaid: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flesch%E2%80%93Kincaid_readability_test

Year end or year-end

Reader’s question:Which is correct: year end or year-end?


Answer:
I think both year end and year-end are acceptable.
Good on you and good for you


Reader’s question:
Is there any difference between ‘good on you’ and ‘good for you’.

Answer: I don’t think so. If you know any differences, please email mary@themfactor.com.au

Acronym of the month

OMG!

OMG has won the approval of the Oxford English Dictionary in its latest online update.

Short for ‘Oh my God’ or ‘Oh my gosh’, OMG’s first confirmed use was in 1917.

 
 

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