e-newsletters about writing
The e-newsletters I enjoy are:
- ‘The Better Writing Skills’ by Tim North
- ‘Better Writing at Work’ by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston
- ‘The Marketing Minute’ by Marcia Yudkin
- ‘Grammar Girl’ by Mignon Fogarty
- ‘About Grammar & Composition’ by Richard Nordquist
What other e-newsletters do you recommend?
Under the pump
Question: Can you shed any light on where the phrase ‘under the pump’ meaning ‘under pressure’ comes from? I wondered if this expression might be to do with water pumps and fire brigades.
Answer: I couldn’t help with this question – if you know more, please email email@example.com
Me or myself
Question: Which is correct?
Please contact me or Elisa.
Please contact Elisa or me.
Please contact Elisa or myself.
Answer: I would use the second sentence. The first sentence is also correct, but out of politeness we tend to put the other person’s name first. The last sentence is incorrect.
In the first and second sentences, we are using ‘me’ as the object in the sentence. The subject (you) is implied. We use ‘myself’ when we refer back to ‘I’ in the sentence (I looked at myself in the mirror.)
I cover pronouns in my Grammar Guide, which is available as a Kindle book.
Question: Can you use a plural determiner before ‘information’? For example, ‘create a spreadsheet where we can fill in these information’.
Answer: ‘Information’ is always singular so you can write ‘this information’, ‘that information’ or ‘the information’, depending on the context, but not ‘these information’.
A reader commented that one of his pet peeves is ‘under way’ as one word.
Another reader sent me a copy of a letter he sent to Queensland Rail:
Why is it so hard for you to make announcements on trains and at stations in plain English? I’m reluctantly getting used to being called a customer instead of a passenger, being asked to exit the train not just leave it, and ignoring the grammatical howler that allows trains to stop stations not stop AT stations.
But I can’t ignore the nonsense that is your latest announcement about security. I think I can guess what an ’emergency security incident’ is, but what is wrong with just saying ‘If there is an emergency…’? What value does the word ‘incident’ add? It’s like calling weather ‘weather conditions’.
Who makes this stuff up?
INTERESTING STUFF ABOUT WRITING
Signs that should be taken down
Take a look at these hilarious signs. My favourite is a sign for a senior citizens centre beside a cemetery.
Steven Pinker’s views on writing
Steven Pinker’s latest book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, received a lot of media attention. If you want a taste of his views, read his article on ‘Why Academics Stink at Writing’.
Grammar Girl’s editing checklist
I thought you might be interested in Grammar Girl’s editing checklist. Is there anything you’d add to it? A joke sent by a reader Knock knock. Who’s there? To. To who? No, to whom.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
‘One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.’ Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums