The Grammar Factor – overloaded sentences, loose and lose

By Mary Morel | May 2014

What happens when we overload sentences?

I recently read the fine print of the Westpac brochure that came with my new credit card. (I received a new card because I was the victim of credit card fraud!)

I found this sentence:

overloaded sentences

‘A cardholder becomes eligible for this Overseas travel insurance when, before leaving Australia on an overseas journey, they have a return overseas travel ticket, and A$500 of each of their prepaid travel costs (i.e. cost of their return overseas travel ticket, and/or airport/departure taxes; and/or their prepaid overseas accommodation/travel; and/or their other prepaid overseas itinerary items) have been charged to the cardholder’s eligible credit card account.’ (71 words) I puzzled over this for ages before deciding it probably meant that before leaving the country you must have a return ticket with at least $500 of your travel expenses, including your ticket, pre-paid with your credit card.

Do you think that sentence was written by a lawyer? I was really surprised that such a sentence appeared in a Westpac bank brochure because the plain language movement has made such progress in the legal world.

Read my blog to find out more about overloaded sentences.

What overloaded sentences have you noticed? Email


Quotation marks

Question: If you are doing a quotation over a few paragraphs and cannot indent due to formatting restrictions, can you punctuate in the following way?

Ms Jane Smith said, “Xxxxx…

New paragraph: “Xxxxxx…

New paragraph: “Xxxxx…,” Ms Smith said.

Answer: Yes you can, but you don’t need ‘Ms Smith said’ at the end. You would end the last paragraph with a full stop and quotation marks. “Xxxx… . ”

(NB One way of indicating quoted material in business writing or non-fiction is to indent the whole quote in a slightly smaller font with no quotation marks.)

Loose and lose

Question: I often see Australians (and now I see it happening in US writing as well) writing ‘loose’ instead of ‘lose’.

  • ‘I don’t want to loose my marbles’, instead of ‘I don’t want to lose my marbles’.
  • ‘I’m loosing my marbles’, rather than ‘I’m losing my marbles’.
  • ‘I loosed my marbles’, rather than ‘I lost my marbles’. Is the verb ‘loose’ a real word if it is used in this way?

If so, what are its origins and which came first, ‘loose’ or ‘lose’?

Answer: People are just making a mistake when they confuse ‘loose’ (not tightly fitting) and ‘lose’ (can’t find), but your question made me wonder why we have two words so close in spelling and so far apart in meaning. I couldn’t find an answer apart from that the two words entered the language from different sources – ‘loose’ from Old English and ‘lose’ from Old Norse.

If you know more about these words, email

However, I did come across a memory jog for those who have trouble with these two words.

Remember ‘lose’ has lost an ‘o’.


Login, log-in and login

Several people commented that ‘log in’ should be used for the verb and ‘log-in’ or ‘login’ for the noun or adjective.

Another example given was ‘print-out’ for the noun and ‘print out’ for the verb. Adaption versus adaptation and preventive versus preventative

Last month I wrote about ‘adaption’ and ‘adaptation’ and a reader commented that a similar case is ‘preventive’ vs ‘preventative’.

I’ve written about this in a previous newsletter, but was interested to read what Grammar Girl had to say.


A reader informed me that proofreading the personal column in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age has been outsourced and he has noticed the following mistakes (names have been changed).

Alfred pissed away on Thursday

WATSON, Amanda Alice (nee Smith)  Dearly beloved husband of Henry, mother of Susan and John

If you have any pet peeves, email


More over, MOOCs

This Economist article argues that MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are ill-suited to the online medium because they are too long and lack interaction. So what works better? Read the article to find out.

Teens deserting Facebook

US teens are deserting Facebook in their millions and the biggest growth is coming from people 55+. Read the article to see where the teens are heading online.

The surprising benefits of ambiguous language

The fact that several words can change their meaning depending on the context makes language efficient. If words were too precise we’d struggle to express complex ideas. Read this BBC article to learn more.


online grammar
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