The Better English category features all blog posts related to improving your English. There are tips on spelling, grammar, syntax and punctuation.

Be Careful with Contractions in English

Tricky Contractions in English

The English language contains so many contractions that it is easy to get confused. Let’s go over some basics…

  • Some time Vs. sometime

When should you use some time and when should you use sometime?

Tip: Some time refers to an amount of time, whereas sometime typically means eventually.

  • Into Vs. in to

Into is a preposition, and means to the inside of  (ex., When she walked into the room, she realised the meeting had already begun.”) Whereas the words in and to are, respectively, an adverb and a preposition.

Tip: Try speaking the sentence aloud, marking a pause between in and to. If it sounds unnatural, you should probably write into instead.

  • Who’s Vs. whose

Who’s is a contraction of who is, whereas whose is a possessive pronoun.

Tip: Replace who’s with who is in your sentence to see if it fits.

As part of our language services, we provide English proofreading services to customers.

The STAR Team

They look alike but have different meanings (Part 1)

Different meanings, Similar words

What are the different meanings of similar words?

Languid or limpid
Languid means something listless; weak or sluggish, whereas limpid means something clear or transparent.
Pretence (US pretense) or premise
Pretense is an attempt to make something that is not the case appear true. A premise is an assertion or proposition which forms the basis for a work or theory.

Examples

We reviewed an e-commerce website that claimed, “Our site has been built on the pretense that customer service is our priority.”

The marketing team obviously meant premise, i.e. the basis for the company’s devotion to customers.

Pretence is synonymous with faking; make-believe; insincere. This is certainly the last thing the marketing team wanted to imply.

Proofreading Advice

Spelling checks don’t pick up on these errors as they’re contextual; so remember to always have your new copy proofread.

The STAR Team

Source: Oxford English Dictionary

One L or two? Test your spelling skills!

Test your spelling skills with this quiz

Writing clear English is always hard but spelling can also be a challenge. Some words are particularly tough to spell. Improve your spelling skills with our quiz.

Here’s a quick test for you.

Choose the right word in each set of parentheses

  1. The central meeting room can __________ more people.
    • [accomodate / accommodate / accommodate]
  2. Success requires __________.
    • [committment / comittment / commitment]
  3. I was __________ when the plate fell on the floor.
    • [embarrased / embarrassed / embarassed]
  4. I’ve __________ so much on business I don’t know which country I’m in.
    • [traveled / travelled]
  5. We are looking for __________ suggestions for designs for our new brochure.
    • [inovative / innovative]

Warning! Answers below

  1. accommodate
  2. commitment
  3. embarrassed
  4. Both spellings are correct; traveled with one L is commonly used in the US, while travelled with two Ls is used in the UK and Ireland.
  5. innovative

The STAR Team

Apostrophes and how to use them

For something so small, apostrophes can cause a lot of trouble. Many people find it difficult to be sure when to use them, while some others think that their misuse is one of the worst mistakes that you can make when writing English. The rules are actually very simple.

What are apostrophes used for?

Rule 1: To denote one or more missing letters

The first use of apostrophes is to show that a letter has been left out. The apostrophe stands in for the missing letter(s) to avoid confusion.

-Cannot -> can’t

-Do not-> don’t

-It is-> it’s

Rule 2: To denote possession

The second use is to show who owns something.

-The boy’s dog

-The girl’s cat

-The doctor’s coat

If the item is owned by more than one person, the apostrophe goes after the “s”.

-The boys’ dogs

-The girls’ cats

-The doctors’ coats

If the plural doesn’t have an “s” at the end, the apostrophe goes before the “s”.

The children’s ice-creams.

What are apostrophes not used for?

Rule 3: Apostrophes are not used to denote plurals.

Rule 4: The exception that isn’t an exception

But what about its and it’s?

To recap, it’s is the shortened version of it is.

-It’s raining cats and dogs.

Its is the possessive form, just like mine, yours, his, hers, yours, ours and theirs, and does not have an apostrophe. Although at first glance it looks like an exception to Rule 1, it actually isn’t.

-The dogs chased its tail and the cat shook its head in disgust.

Less vs Fewer, Amount vs Number

Less versus fewer

Less or fewer / STAR Translation Imaging

Less vs Fewer, Which One’s Correct?

Answer is at the bottom of post.

Less of few

While you’re thinking about this little puzzle, you might like to consider the correct usage of the words less and fewer, amount and number.

These words cause problems for many native English speakers.

The incorrect usage can be seen everywhere, from car advertisements to supermarket signs. A classic example would be the 10 items or less signs in supermarkets, which should read 10 items or fewer or better still, “fewer than 10 items”.

Less vs fewer, how do you know which to use?

Less
The word less is used for items that cannot easily be counted: We have less milk than we thought; the balloon contains less air than yesterday; the cleaning took less time than I expected. These things can be measured, but not counted as such.
Fewer
Fewer is for things that can be counted: The milkman delivered fewer bottles of milk than we requested; there are fewer balloons now than yesterday as some have burst; I have to clean fewer rooms now that I live in a smaller house.

The words amount and number have a similar rule that applies.

Amount
Amount is used for items that can’t be counted e.g. He tries to eat only a small amount of cheese; he bought a huge amount of food for the party; she only spends a small amount of money on cleaning products.
Number
Number is for things that can be counted: She works with a large number of cheesemakers; he invited a small number of people to his birthday; she prefers not to use a large number of cleaning products.

Answer

Princes, the plural of prince; when you add an S to princes it becomes princess, a singular word!

Updated: 20th of February 2015

The STAR Team

Unfriend: Word of the Year 2009

Unfriend: Word of the Year 2009, New Oxford American Dictionary

Unfriend was named Word of the Year 2009

It has both currency and potential longevity. — Christina Lindberg

The word unfriend has just been named Word of the Year by the New Oxford American Dictionary.

Unfriend is defined as a verb that means ‘to remove someone as a friend on a social networking site such as Facebook’. “It has both currency and potential longevity,” stated Christine Lindberg, senior lexicographer for Oxford’s US dictionary programme. The word, however, is informal.

Other word finalists included …

hashtag
a method of tagging a topic on Twitter so it can be found by other tweeters
intexticated
people who are distracted by texting while driving

The STAR Team