Articles

Chameleon words: alternative versus alternate
1 May 2020

Chameleon words: alternative versus alternate

English is a wonderfully flexible language. We borrow words from other languages, like 'ballet', 'chocolate' and 'patio', and make up words, like 'hangry' and 'mansplain'. Words go in and out of fashion, others disappear only to reappear again decades later. Other words, like 'alternate' can mean different things to different people. 

Worse, worser, worst and other blunders
31 January 2020

Worse, worser, worst and other blunders

English grammar is not renowned for being logical. No sooner do we think we understand a grammatical rule and we find an exception. If we write ‘quick, quicker, quickest’ to show the comparative speeds between competitors, why don’t we write ‘worse, worser, worst’, or ‘bad, badder, baddest’ for that matter?

Australian words that defined a decade
24 January 2020

Australian words that defined a decade

Around 1,000 words are added to the English language every year. Each December, the Australian public votes on their favourite word. Find out Macquarie Dictionary's winning People's Choice words for the last decade.

Keeping the grammar trolls at bay: how to match singulars and plurals
6 December 2019

Keeping the grammar trolls at bay: how to match singulars and plurals

The grammar trolls are ever ready to pounce, especially on unsuspecting victims who mismatch singulars and plurals. When trolls spot this error, they experience a great sense of superiority. Don’t give them the satisfaction! Instead, find out how to get it right.

English as a second language: help or hindrance?
29 October 2019

English as a second language: help or hindrance?

Over 23% of Australia’s workforce was born overseas in over 114 countries, giving us a rich and diverse pool of talent. Of these, 13% of workers were born in non-English speaking countries. Despite the many variations in first language, education and background, it is risky to assume that someone who was born and schooled in Australia, or who has English as their first language, will be a better writer than someone with English is a second language. Find out why.

Quotation marks: single or double?
27 September 2019

Quotation marks: single or double?

When do you use double quotation marks and when do you use single? Is it correct to use quotation marks to emphasise a word? Do you need to italicise quoted material? Although they may seem like insignificant marks on the page, quotation marks (also known as inverted commas) are designed to add clarity to the meaning of your communication, so it's worth learning how to get them right.

The devil is in the detail: the high cost of real-life communication disasters
11 September 2019

The devil is in the detail: the high cost of real-life communication disasters

Many professions from forensic scientists, to engineers, to performing artists to legal practitioners quote the expression ‘the devil is in the detail’. It’s the idea that although something may appear simple or insignificant, there could be hidden problems. There have been many cases where lack of attention to detail has cost organisations as well as individuals millions of dollars, reputational damage and emotional distress.

Gonna, wanna and cos: bad grammar or accepted modern usage?
12 August 2019

Gonna, wanna and cos: bad grammar or accepted modern usage?

Listen carefully to many native English speakers and you’re more likely to hear them say ‘gonna’, ‘wanna’ and ‘cos’ rather than a clearly enunciated ‘going to’, ‘want to’ and ‘because’. Known as 'reductions' (lost sounds in words), these casual forms have also been infiltrating written communications including emails, social media posts and newspaper articles. But are these terms acceptable in business writing?

What’s the difference between enquiry and inquiry, program and programme?
12 August 2019

What’s the difference between enquiry and inquiry, program and programme?

There are many words in English that sound the same but are spelled differently. Two of these are 'enquiry' and 'inquiry', and 'program' and 'programme'. Is there a difference in meaning? Or does it simply come down to personal preference?

Should defined terms begin with a capital letter?
14 December 2018

Should defined terms begin with a capital letter?

Putting a capital letter at the beginning of a term that has been defined within a document is a technique sometimes used to identify these terms throughout the document. Does this technique help or hinder the reader?