English is a subject/object structured language. A normal English sentence goes like this: Subject -> Action -> Object. But, because English is a wonderfully flexible language, we are allowed to re-order our sentences. We can hide both subject and object within subtle layers of meaning. So how do you choose your sentence structure? And why […]
Erratic and excessive use of colons and semi-colons is one of my long-standing punctuation demons. For the final draft of my doctoral thesis before my viva I went on a massive cull, slashing semi-colons until there were a little less than 70 in the book (that’s about one every five pages), and I was still […]
Apostrophes are surprisingly difficult to use. They shouldn’t be. The rules surrounding them are straightforward. But even if you can get a handle on the rules, which I’ll talk about in the moment, errors can be difficult to spot when they inevitably slip through the editorial net. I had a document back from a very […]
Living in France has meant having to study French. Studying French has meant learning to use the subjunctive, a special type of conjugation that turns up when expressing doubt, sentiment, a personal judgement or a desire. So “je comprends le subjonctif” is right (I hope), but “c’est important que je comprends le subjonctif” is wrong […]
I'm a doctor of law and economics, a qualified barrister, and a retired British naval officer. I have written for journals, collections of academic writing, and newspapers including The Economist. I also write scripts, short stories, and am finishing a novel just so I can throw it on a bloody bonfire. This blog charts my efforts to avoid fiction-related fire hazards.