& & ?
In a newsletter from Winston Marsh (www.winstonmarsh.com.au), I learned that Melbourne restaurateur Paul Mathis is on a mission to introduce a new symbol for ‘the’ into the language. Paul Mathis argues that as ‘and’ (the fifth most used word in the English language) has the ampersand (&), then ‘the’ as the most used word warrants a symbol too.
PUBLIC WORKSHOPS AND DIRECTORS’ BRIEFING
Write to Govern
I am facilitating two public workshops on writing board papers:
• Sydney on 20 August
• Perth on 29 August
Learn more at: http://www.csaust.com/learning.aspx
Directors’ briefing – Reporting and the Board: A two-way street
Join me at this early evening event in Sydney on 27 August.
Learn more at http://bit.ly/16rZled
Position of adverbs
Reader’s question: Where should ‘ideally’ go in the following sentence. I prefer the second version.
Students will ideally be placed in schools in paired groups.
Ideally, students will be placed in schools in paired groups.
Response: I agree. Comment and viewpoint adverbs (e.g. luckily, officially, presumably) often come at the beginning to highlight what we are about to say.
Read more at http://bbc.in/18V4ThH
Reader’s question: Should ‘undercover’ be hyphenated, one word or two words in the following sentence.
The application fee was paid by cheque undercover of X’s letter dated 31 July 2013.
Response: I would change ‘undercover’ to ‘enclosed’, but if you don’t choose that option, I would use two words: ‘under cover’.
The application fee was paid by cheque enclosed with X’s letter dated 31 July 2013.
The application fee was paid by cheque under cover of X’s letter dated 31 July 2013.
Reader’s question: Is it acceptable to hyphenate ‘on-the-job’ in ‘on-the-job training’?
Response: Yes, because the words ‘on-the-job’ are acting as a single concept to describe the training.
Relations or relatives?
A reader’s response to the questions last month about the difference between ‘relations’ and ‘relatives’ was as follows: You can have sexual relations with anyone but not usually with your relatives.
Garbage tins, trash cans or dustbins?
A reader said that in ‘Column 8’ in The Sydney Morning Herald a writer said he’d written the words ‘ended up in history’s garbage tins’. ‘Garbage tins’ was changed to ‘trash cans’ in the US edition, and ‘dustbins’ in the UK edition.
What about rubbish bins?
On a lighter note from the Marx Brothers:
ZEPPO: The garbage man is here.
GROUCHO: Tell him we don’t want any.
Past participles (often called -ed participles)
A reader commented that many apparently well-educated English-speaking people use ‘got’ as a past participle when the correct form is ‘gotten’. He also noticed that Hilary Mantel used ‘rode’ as a past participle instead of the correct form ‘ridden’.
My editor’s response: ‘Gotten’ is obsolete in British English. It’s a US usage. Mantel’s use of ‘rode’ may either reflect 16th century usage or the origins of the character speaking or narrating. For example, Midlands and Yorkshire speech tends to use such forms: ‘I’ve rode all over the county’.
Last month, a reader complained about the American use of ‘outside of the house’.
A reader replied that British and Australian English used to do the same, but over time, the ‘of’ dropped out.
He says: ‘We speak about the “left side of the road”, the “right side of politics” without hyphenation or elision; the problem, if there is one, is that “inside” and “outside” have joined “side” with their qualifiers, whereas “left” and “right”, as qualifiers, have not. So, while we might chide the Americans for being long-winded when adding “of” to their sentences, they are merely following what we used to do for all aspects of “side”.’
POWER OF OUR BRAINS
I’m sure most of you have seen the email that circulated a few years ago where the first and last letters of each word were correct, but the letters in the middle were scrambled. For example:
It dseno’t mtaetr in what oerdr the ltteres in a word are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is that the frsit and last ltteer be in the rghit pclae.
But I had not seen it done with numbers before. Try reading the following.
H0W 0UR M1ND5
17 WA5 H4RD
N0W, 0N 7H15
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
‘Writing, like life, is a voyage of discovery.’