Writing Topics: word use

Word of the year 2013: troll

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I’ve picked ‘troll’ because it has recently changed its meaning. I’m not talking about the word in the sense of goat-bothering, flesh-eating monsters. I’m not even talking about the change it experienced around 20 years ago, when it started to refer to problematic users on internet message boards. A bit of history: most online forums […]

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You literally don’t know how to use that word

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If there is one word that is literally jumping off the page asking to be used properly, it’s “literally”. I’m sure all of you spotted the deliberate mistake in the previous sentence: words don’t actually jump off pages. Most of the time, they do things “figuratively”, the opposite of “literally”. There are some terrible offenders, […]

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Don’t shun the dictionary!

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You might think this one is obvious, but you’d be surprised how reluctant some people are to use a dictionary. Don’t expect your spellchecker to tell you the difference between “effect” and “affect” and where and when you should use one or the other. You should never assume you know what an unfamiliar word means, […]

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Jargon – still the scourge of modern business writing

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One of the great plagues of the world of business writing is jargon. I’m sure that most of you will inwardly cringe when reading about people trying to “actualise their goals”. One can, at a push, “realise” a goal, but they’re much better when they are “scored” instead. Jargon is a clumsy form of half-metaphor […]

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