Friday, 29 November 2013


Lately, I've been reading (not hearing though) a new word which has intrigued me a  great deal. When an online friend said at the end of our conversation, ‘laters’ I thought WHAT IS THAT?  'later' with a plural 's'? How does that happen?

I've now found out exactly what it means ‘see you later!’ It’s interesting that Professor David Crystal also comments on the unusual plural. I like David Crystal – he is a linguist but not a stuffy one – and he delivers great information.

Anyway, Professor Crystal comments that the plural 's' is often added on to pet names such as mums for mum or pops for dad or gramps for grandpa. It also, he adds, happens to proper names such as Wills for Prince William. The 's', he says, is sometimes added to a word to 'make it nice and friendly'. That is why then we have ‘laters’– it is a nice, friendly term, an up-to-date colloquialism  something like ciao or ta ta for now. The professor also makes the interesting observation that if you say ‘laters’ instead of ‘goodbye’ you will probably begin the conversation with ‘hey’ or ‘hi’ .

I’m not intrigued any more – thanks, Professor Crystal for making it all crystal clear to me, and I can start to use the term myself – as I inevitably will at some point! 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

PD James gives ten tips for writing a novel

Novelist PD James (PD stands for Phyllis Dorothy) has written over 20 books, including the Adam Dalgleish series, which has been made into a TV series.
Now 93, she says she wants to write one more detective novel. Hers has been a successful career, but she didn't get her first novel published until she was 42. (There's still time for many of us!)
Recently, in an article on the BBC website, she gave her top ten tips for novelists. In summary, these are:
1. You must be born to write.
2. Write about what you know.
3. Find your own routine.
4. Be aware that the business is changing.
5. Read, write and don't daydream!
6. Enjoy your own company.
7. Choose a good setting.
8. Never go anywhere without a notebook.
9. Never talk about a book before it is finished.
10. Know when to stop.
We would add an eleventh: Get your book properly proofread and edited at!
Read the full article here.

Friday, 22 November 2013

English for immigrants – and foreign languages for the English

Two recent news articles have caught my eye and set me thinking. One is on the new plans by community secretary Eric Pickles to promote effective learning of English as a second language by those settling in this country. The other is on recommendations for schools to introduce a range of new languages, and for language learning to take more priority than it presently does.

Eric Pickles has outlined a plan to help immigrants with their English. His idea is quite innovative really as it involves special supermarket checkout staff at Asda and the Co-op to be sympathetic listeners ready to help immigrant shoppers with their English skills. Apparently, the new members of staff are to wear badges to make them easily identifiable to people learning English as a second language.

Mr Pickles rightly points out that that those who don’t learn English will have limited opportunities, and will not be able to engage in everyday conversation with neighbours, nor engage with their children’s schools, hospitals or other public services. Six million pounds will be spent on this project, which will also involve setting up English lessons in places of worship such as mosques and temples.

Meanwhile, there is also a drive to encourage a lot more foreign language learning in our schools, and to introduce languages other than the usual French and German offerings. John Warne of the British Council warns that the UK will lose out economically and culturally if young people are not encouraged to take up more language learning. He recommends that languages such as Arabic, Chinese and Japanese should be made available as well as European languages.

The emphasis is not on fluency, which takes years to attain, but on functionalism, so that people can make themselves understood and be able to communicate with those of other cultures. However, a recent YouGov poll found that only a very small percentage of the UK population could hold a conversation in a European language.

To conclude: immigrants to this country need encouragement to learn English so as to communicate well, and our young people need more encouragement to learn languages other than English! The result should be an interesting one if the plans are carried out and the recommendations followed.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Selfie is word of the year

The English language is changing all the time, with new words being added. Oxford Dictionaries likes to recognise inventiveness and the changing language.

Oxford Dictionaries has just named the word “selfie” as the word of the year. The word means to take a picture of yourself, and has evolved from the practice which came from people taking self-portraits with their mobile phones, often for use on social media platforms. Apparently its frequency of use has increased by 17,000% in the last year.

Another word on the shortlist was “twerk” – a dance recently made notorious by the US actress Miley Cyrus, which really brought the word to the fore.

“Binge-watch” is a new one and means watching lots of TV.

Another one in the frame was “schmeat”, which means a form of meat synthetically produced from biological tissue.

Previous winners of this title have been “chav” in 2004, “credit crunch” in 2008 and “omnishambles” in 2012.

It seems that Oxford Dictionaries run a research programme which collects English words currently in use on the web each month. Hmmm, I hope they delete words that are unquestionably errors.

Selfie’s use can be traced back to 2002, when it was first used on an Australian forum, describing the picture he posted of himself as a “selfie”.

Selfie has not yet made it into the Oxford English Dictionary printed edition.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Who Could Ever Take the Place of the Great Doris Lessing (1919 – 2013)?

Doris Lessing, Nobel Prize winner and great literary icon of the 20th century died in the early hours of 17 November 2013 at the age of 94. Such a great prolific and successful author is both an inspiration and a mentor to new writers. Now she has gone, the world will be much the poorer, as she was quite unique and there is no one likely to take her place.

Raised on a farm in Rhodesia and turning to books as she grew up, Doris Lessing is a model for all those with a non-literary background who want to make their name in the writing world. Most  famed for her feminist, seminal work The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing always wrote with great daring, warmth and intellectual vigour. In 1988, she was informed that she had won the Nobel Prize for Literature – to which her famous response was, “Oh, Christ!” She neither expected nor aspired to win such an accolade, which gave her the freedom to write whatever she wanted to write and to say whatever she wanted to say. Margaret Attwood in The Guardian says that “Doris did everything with all her heart, all her soul and all her might…” which just about sums her up as a sincere, prolific and far-reaching writer.

If you are an aspiring writer and have something you really want to say just go on and say it. If your skills in spelling, punctuation and grammar are fine, that’s good too – but if not, don’t worry – send us your document and we will proofread it for you. Together we can make a good team and get your work published and recognised.

Oldies are Goodies

So now Christmas is well and truly upon us: we know this because the eagerly-awaited John Lewis advert has been screened. Hence, it’s Christmas. The visual impact of that particular ad is amazing but when we think about some of the iconic ads that have been aired over the years, perhaps we better remember the words that accompany them. “Beanz Meanz Heinz” was conceived over a pub lunch in 1967. "Snap! Crackle! Pop!" was first thought up in 1932. “Does Exactly What It Says On the Tin” is 19 years old and is still going strong.

Of course, there are others that are also memorable, possibly for being horrendously annoying a very long time. “Waaaasssuuupppp?” is the obvious one that springs to mind. The ad featured a lot of men shouting the phrase down the phone to each other: but it became a worldwide phenomenon with millions of people copying it. Out of interest, do you remember the product?*

My point is that a memorable or catchy tagline is a major selling point for products and services but not many of us can afford a TV ad campaign (or, for that matter, a highly-trained, possibly overpaid ad executive from a top agency). Most of us can, however, afford a website to advertise and publicise what we have to offer. A well-written, carefully-worded webpage is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to get your message across and to move up the rankings on Google. If you aren’t too good with words, then let someone else do it. Why? “Because You’re Worth It” (1971).


Thursday, 14 November 2013

Agatha Christie voted as top crime writer

The Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) has celebrated its sixtieth year in 2013 and held a poll to find the greatest crime writer, crime series and crime novel to mark the anniversary.

The CWA supports and promotes the work of crime writers, undeniably a hugely popular genre.

The winner of the Best Ever Crime Author was Agatha Christie, who wrote a staggering 66 detective novels (I wonder if anyone has ever counted up the murders!). Evidently she remains as popular as ever, with the Poirot series on ITV finishing last night with his final case Curtain.

Christie’s novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was voted the Best Ever Novel. It was one of her earliest novels (published in 1926) and features her most famous sleuth, Hercule Poirot. It has, as ever, a magnificent twist at the end.

The winner of the CWA Best Ever Crime Series was Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation. And again I wonder, how many murders . . .?

Crime novels are as popular as ever, but it is good to see that older novels have stood the test of time and are still being read by today’s audience.

Get your crime novel proofread by

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Do Children Prefer Tablets and e-Readers Over Traditional Books?

Last month, as she presented author Joanne Harris with an MBE for services to literature at Buckingham Palace, the Queen expressed her concern regarding children’s preferences for e-Readers and tablets over the traditional physical book.

This is obviously something close to the monarch’s heart – even though in her regal capacity she rarely voices such sentiments, she spoke, on this occasion, as a mother, grandmother and now great grandmother.

Joanne Harris is most famed for her best-selling novel Chocolat in 1999, published in 50 countries. After the ceremony she said: “She asked me what I thought about e-books and computer games and said that she feared that children were playing with those more than they were reading books. So I told her that we start them on e-books and computer games and TV and then try to get them on to books later.

The author added that the shape of books may change but that “people always need stories and the shape of those stories may alter”. It is her opinion that traditional books will be with us for a long time and it is great that both adults and children have a wide variety of reading choices.

Earlier this year, the National Literacy Trust published research showing that “a majority of children preferred to read on screens rather than books”, and 50 per cent of the nation’s two and three-year-olds use a tablet. More worryingly, children’s literacy skills seem to be taking a downturn, with the popularity of new technology.

So, is the book as we know it dying out in favour of e-Readers and tablets?  One solution may be to expose children to both worlds – e-Readers and traditional story books and let them make their own choices. 

For proofreading and editing of any type of book, see

Play Scrabble to improve your vocabulary

The board game Scrabble must be excellent for improving one’s vocabulary. But I guess that’s only true if you consult a dictionary and try new words.

Paul Allan has just become Britain’s national Scrabble champion, so he knows how to get the best from his own vocabulary, reported the Daily Telegraph. “The whole dictionary is there,” he said, “and it is a rich dictionary. There are no good or bad words. You’re looking for strategic advantage.

“You can use swear words and nobody bats an eye. You would do that in the small church hall tournament playing against a 90-year-old nun. You just play it as if it’s an ordinary word.”

Competitive spirit indeed!

His winning round against Allan Simmons, however, contained more mundane than exotic words, with “conlines” scoring the highest with 98. (It’s a poison found in hemlock.) Simple words used to clinch victory were: “ugh”, “be”, “zed”, “vet”, “yeah”, “dorm”.

Other words in Mr Allan’s winning round that might have you scrabbling for the dictionary were: “fy”, “litu”, “bandura”, “swarf”.

Christmas is just around the corner. If you haven’t got Scrabble in your house, why not treat the family and improve your vocabulary with a few games?

In the meantime, come to for the best in writing.