There, their, they’re!

One of the most common mistakes I can come across is the misuse of there, their and they’re. Here are some simple rules to help you remember their role in the English language:

‘there’ is used to denote a place 😊;
‘their’ denotes possession 👍; and
‘they’re’ is a contraction or short for ‘they are’👌.

If you have any burning grammar, spelling or punctuation questions, please feel free to drop me a line!

The toxic trough of dull writing

The Oxford Dictionary released this week, their ‘Word of the Year’ … toxic. If you would like to know why they chose this word, you can read all about it here (read the shortlisted words, they are far more interesting!)

We all have our favourite words that we tend to overuse in our writing. Three tips to overcome them are:

  1. After you’ve finished writing, leave it alone for as long as you can. Then read it again, but not in your own voice. Sound weird? Only if you decide to do it in front of your family! Seriously, give it a go! It picks up those comfortable slips we fall into.
  2. Use a thesaurus. The online versions, such as Oxford and Collins, are free, fast and contain the latest words.
  3. Read and read! Reading increases your vocabulary. A wider vocabulary means you now have some fantastic new words to insert into your writing that will wow your friends, family and work colleagues.

Don’t fall into the toxic trough of dull writing!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles of

Definite or indefinite … that is the question!

A very common mistake I find while proofreading is not placing ‘the’ (definite article) or ‘a’ and ‘an’ (indefinite article) in front of a noun.  The missing article throws the sentence into a ‘wordy heaven’ full of stilted text.

However, help is at hand … if you follow this simple rule:

‘the’ is used to indicate something specific;

‘a’ and ‘an’ is used to indicate something unspecific.

For examples of when to use definite and indefinite articles in your sentences, pop over to the brilliant Grammar Monster; your life will be all the richer!


The humble colon

For many people, the humble colon is just another name for your large intestine, but in the English language the colon, or :, is most commonly used as a punctuation mark to introduce a list or expand on a sentence.   However, it can do much more than this!  They can be used in quotations in formal writing and even to punctuate times and references.

For a short summary of how to use a punctuation colon in your sentences, grab a cuppa and watch this short video from Grammar Monster.

I dare you to use a punctuation colon today!



Overcoming autocorrect

We’ve all been there … written what we think is a smashing email or text message only to find an ‘autocorrect’ error after you have hit ‘sent’.

A friend recently posted on social media that he was disappointed that the NHS would not take back used crochets despite a national shortage; he meant to write crutches 😳. I’ve even come across a restaurant review that claimed they went for dinner with a couple of fiends 😨.

There isn’t an easy solution. When you have been reading the same text repeatedly, scientific research has shown that your brain goes into a form of autopilot, not spotting missing words, spelling errors and erroneous autocorrects; Fahrenheight or Fahrenheit is one such beauty.

If you rely on autocorrect for your spelling, particularly on your phone, type slowly and leave your text for a few minutes before you hit ‘send’; your brain will then be rested and refreshed to spot those pesky autocorrects!

Remember, don’t let autocorrect be your worst enema…

Confusing word choices!

Have you ever used biannual instead of biennial to describe a conference that occurs every other year? Tired of continuous interruptions when they are really continual? At this point you might be feeling disinterested, when you’re really uninterested?

If all or just a few of the above errors have appeared in your writing or public speaking, then don’t fear! Grab a cuppa and read this fab article by School Proof and your language will become purposeful to your reader or listener.

‘Words are a lens to focus one’s mind’ – Ayn Rand.


Dates / dates or d.a.t.e.s?

People often write dates in their documents in lots of different styles, but which style is correct?

There isn’t a straightforward answer I’m afraid, as it will depend on the type of document you are writing and how formal you want your writing to be, but consistency throughout your text is key!

This blog by Phil Williams gives you some great little tips, such as:

  1. The use of / . or – to separate abbreviated dates.
  2. Is it acceptable to drop the ‘the’ and ‘of’ within date text? Yes it is! In the Ministry of Defence, for example, all use of ‘the’ and ‘of’ before a date is removed so that ‘the 3rd of March 2018’ becomes ‘3 March 2018’.
  3. The use of a comma after the name of the day so that it reads Saturday, 3rd March 2018 (unless you are using the ‘the’ and ‘of’ style when it should read Saturday the 3rd of March, 2018).

One thing he doesn’t cover is should ‘th’ be in superscript? MS Word does like to do this automatically, but most publishers do not like a superscripted ‘th’. However, if you like the appeal of this style for your documentation, keep it in, but just be consistent in its use throughout your text.

Hope this helps a little in your daily scribblings, but please drop me a line if you have any questions.



Five top tips for filling in a funding application form!

Faced with an arts/community funding application form and can’t see the wood for the trees? Don’t worry, below are my five top tips to help you through the process:

  1. Discuss your idea or project you would like funding for with like-minded people. This is so that you can really focus on: a) what the main aim of the idea or project is; b) what you need to achieve it; and c) how much will it cost. This will then allow you to decide how much funding you would like to apply for.
  2. Avoid tackling the application form in one sitting. Break it up into manageable sections that you can fill in portion by portion. You won’t get tired and the form will seem easier to fill in.
  3. Make a list of the information you need to research. This may involve contacting other people or organisations and they need time to respond to your questions.
  4. Allow extra time for yourself to collate evidence of your costs as you may have to evaluate information from more than one supplier.
  5. After finishing your funding application, leave it alone for as long as possible, and then go back and read it from the point of view of the funding provider. It’s an important exercise as it will highlight whether all the evidence to support your application is there in the funding form!

Oh, and lastly, proofread your application! Good luck!

Keep yourself healthy – it will keep you in work!

When I started my own proofreading and copyediting business from home three years ago, I was faced with a dilemma. I suffer with a long-term health condition, and my previous employer had provided me with all the necessary workstation equipment I needed so that I could continue to work, pain free. However, as a newly self-employed person, I was faced with over a £1,000 bill for an ergonomic chair, alone.

Searching the internet for business support, I came across the UK government’s ‘Access to Work’ scheme. It works by covering the purchase cost of specialist equipment, adaptations, support and help getting to and from work. Please read my article below that I wrote for the SfEP magazine, Editing Matters, to find out more about the scheme and how you apply. If you have any questions, I would be happy to help ( or use my contact page).