Math or Maths?

Is “math” or “maths” the correct word to use as the shortened or colloquial form of the word mathematics? The answer is that it depends on where you are. To North American speakers of English, the word to use is “math”, as in “I majored in math”, and “maths” would sound wrong. Speakers of British … Read more

15 English Words of Indian Origin

The English language has absorbed words from cultures the world over. The following is a list of some English words whose origins lie in the Hindi, Urdu or Sanskrit languages spoken in India, Pakistan and other countries. These words have entered English through a variety of routes, but the presence of many dates back to … Read more

Writing Prompts 101

Even if you are not a professional writer you probably already heard about writing prompts. They represent a very effective tool for any writing project, so it’s a good idea to know how to use them. What Is A Writing Prompt? If you’re a fiction writer, you may want to consider using writing prompts to … Read more

Bits and Bytes

In its election manifesto, one of the major political parties in the UK recently promised to provide “virtually every household in the country a broadband service of at least 2 megabytes per second by 2012.” The “2 megabytes per second” was actually a mistake. A speed of two megabytes per second is the same way … Read more

20 Computer Terms You Should Know

A great deal of jargon is used when talking about computers, and it’s surprising how often these terms are used incorrectly. Even published, successful novels sometimes do so. The following list provides an explanation of some of the more common computing terms you may come across or need to employ in your own writing. Internet, … Read more

Poetry Rhythm And Metre – Part 2

Our previous post looked at the basics of poetry rhythm and metre (or, in the US, meter). This post goes into further detail on the common rhythms employed by poets, and it covers some of the terminology used to describe and discuss them. Not all poetry pays close attention to metre, but a great deal … Read more

16 Manuscript Format Guidelines

If you submit manuscripts to publishers or agents, you’ve probably come across the demand that you use “standard manuscript format” (or “SMF”) for your submissions. However, it isn’t always spelled out what this actually means. Generally speaking, the term indicates that you should format your document with the following guidelines in mind: Type your document, … Read more

Ferment and Foment

Is “foment” the same as “ferment”? People stirring up discord are often described as “fomenting trouble”. If you search for the phrase on the Internet you’ll find, for instance, Indian agents fomenting trouble in Canada and the Russian Kremlin fomenting trouble in Belarus, to pick just two recent examples. But quite often, the phrase used … Read more

Poetry Rhythm And Metre – Part 1

Previous poetry writing tips have looked at rhyme and alliteration. Another fundamental aspect of poetic language is its rhythm. This post is the first of two that will look at this topic and the related notion of metre (or, if you prefer, meter). In the English language, rhythm is created by a series of stressed … Read more

Ingenious vs. Ingenuous

Be careful with ingenious and ingenuous. Sometimes a single letter can make a great deal of difference to the meaning of a word. Take, for example, the two words ingenious and ingenuous. Ingenious means clever, original or inventive. It derives ultimately from the Latin word ingenium, which means a natural capacity or talent. It’s the … Read more

Overwhelm and Underwhelm

If you can overwhelm and underwhelm, can you also “whelm”? Both overwhelm and underwhelm are common enough words, but they appear to imply the existence of a root word “whelm”. Does such a word exist and, if so, what does it mean? The Oxford definition of overwhelm is as follows : verb 1. submerge beneath … Read more

Hyper and Hypo

Be careful with hyper- and hypo-. These two prefixes are easily confused as they sound so similar but they have, in fact, more-or-less opposite meanings. Hyper- means over, excessive, more than normal, as in such words as hyperbole (extravagant and obvious exaggeration) and hyperactive (abnormally or pathologically active). The prefix derives from the Greek word … Read more