Medial S: The Old English S That Looks Like F

The title page of Milton's "Paradise Lost"Have you ever looked at a picture of a really old document or an inscription on the wall of an old building and thought, “Why are there F’s instead of S’s? Did F stand for S back then?” But no, it’s only some of the S’s that look like F’s, not all of them: You’ll see both letters right next to each other, so it’s not like they didn’t have the letter S back then. Confusing, right? Read more ›

Posted in Fun Stuff

Writing in British English vs. American English

US and UK flags

George Bernard Shaw famously said that “England and America are two countries divided by a common language,” and any American who’s ever been asked to write in British English has quickly seen why. The differences in American English vs. British English are many, and while there are a few rules of thumb you can follow when trying to adapt to British spelling, punctuation, and grammar rules, both dialects contain plenty of exceptions, contradictions, and things that just plain don’t make sense. Read more ›

Posted in Writing Tips

Want to Read More Books? Join the Club

Giant pile of books

Photo by Steven Guzzardi (Flickr)

We all know the benefits of curling up with a good book, both educational and psychological, and yet, like Henry Bemis, it seems like we never have enough time to do it. The to-read list just keeps growing, and in the time it takes you to finally finish one book, many more have been written that you might want to add to the list. But finding the time to read more books isn’t impossible. Sometimes, you just need more motivation to make it happen, and for that, peer pressure can help. Perhaps that’s why book clubs are booming in popularity: You don’t want to be the only one who didn’t finish the book in time for your book club meeting, do you? Read more ›

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Have it Both Ways: Words With Opposite Meanings

JanusEnglish can be a confusing language in many different ways, with words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently (like “lead” the element and “lead” the verb) and words that are pronounced the same but spelled differently (like “threw” and “through”). But one extra layer of confusion comes from auto-antonyms, also known as Janus words or contronyms. An auto-antonym, also sometimes called a self-antonym, is a word that means two opposite things at the same time. The English language contains a surprisingly large number of words that have opposite meanings, which can largely be attributed to the ever-shifting nature of words and their definitions. Can’t think of an auto-antonym off the top of your head? You’d be surprised how many words with opposite meanings you use every day without even noticing it. Make sure that if you’re using these words in your writing, it’s very clear which definition you mean! Read more ›

Posted in Writing Tips

Deciphering the Lyrics to “Auld Lang Syne”

Photo by in pastel (Flickr)

Photo by in pastel (Flickr)

Should old acquaintance be forgot” … something, something, mine? It’s easy enough to mumble your way through this traditional New Year’s song, especially considering that you might’ve had a bit too much champagne by that point anyway. But learning a little about the song that’s been referred to as “old lang syne,” “old anzine,” or “the old lang song” can help you gain a new appreciation for why “Auld Lang Syne” is such an appropriate tune to usher in a new year. (And if you’re at all Scottish, you might gain a little extra pride in your heritage, too.) Read more ›

Posted in Fun Stuff

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