Clarity – Word Order Matters

We have said many times that one of the main purposes of grammar is clarity. If your meaning is not clear, then your message is lost. To this end, we look at the placing of one word and how it can change meaning or simply confuse.   Word order matters!   Consider the following – taken from a public health website that exists for booking appointments for COVID vaccines:   We will only be booking second dose appointments  at clinics during these three weeks.   Is that clear to you? It wasn’t for this reader. Did it mean there is only one three-week period when one could book a second vaccine dose appointment (the opportunity would not arise again)? Or, did it mean that – for that three-week period – first dose appointments could not be booked, just ...

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How is your garden growing?

Wait? Isn’t this a site for editing and copywriting services? Why are you talking about gardening?   Ah, well, it’s just that time of year… No, seriously, it’s a metaphor.   In south-west Ontario, if you want to enjoy a beautiful garden for the whole of our – shortish – summer, then May/June,  is prime gardening time. A great deal of effort and hard work is required: digging, adding compost, planting, watering, weeding, etc., during the late spring – the reward is a garden that’s flourishing and that will continue to delight, with comparatively minimal maintenance required, for the rest of the season.     Sound familiar? If you’re starting any new enterprise, a considerable amount of effort is required at the plannin ...

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The oft-neglected subjunctive – it’s important that we be aware of it

  Unlike many European languages, the subjunctive mood is relatively rare in English. Nonetheless, if you’re wanting your written English to be flawless, it’s definitely worth understanding the appropriate use of the subjunctive.       Consider the following:   If I were you, I wouldn’t lend him money.   If your brother were here, he would back me up.   In the case of the first and third person singular, together with the past tense of the verb to be, the subjunctive mood is used – so the sentences above are correct. The reason is that in both cases the conditional is unlikely or impossible – I am not you and never could be; your brother is clearly not here. In these situations were is used in place of was.   As is often the case with popular culture, Californ ...

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