Apostrophe do’s and don’ts by Angela Caldin

A long time ago I have a strong memory of being taught about apostrophes in our grammar lessons at school in the 1950s. We were definitely taught to put an apostrophe in that decade and to write the 1950’s. I’m not quite sure what the reasoning was for putting the apostrophe in, but I’m glad that modern usage has decided that we’re dealing with a plural noun and that no apostrophe is required. Mrs Walsh, our English teacher, is probably turning in her grave to see that we now refer to MPs… Read More

Words sometimes confused: peak, peek and pique by Angela Caldin

Peak Peak can be a verb or a noun. The verb refers to reaching a maximum, or coming to a highest point, literally or figuratively: The noun refers to the highest point of something, like the peak of a mountain: Peek Peek can also be a verb or a noun and is related to sight; it often refers to looking, especially furtively or quickly or through a small space: It’s the word in peekaboo, a traditional game for amusing babies. Peek is also the word in the phrase sneak peek. It might… Read More

To whom it may concern by Angela Caldin

It doesn’t concern many people actually because the pronoun whom has been steadily falling out of use over the last hundred years or so. It’s rarely used in speech nowadays and there is speculation that it will soon become extinct. But you’ll still find it in formal writing and many writers pride themselves on using it correctly. As whom declines, who is used more and more and these two words may seem interchangeable.  But there is a difference. Who functions as a subject in a sentence whereas whom functions as an object…. Read More

Due to or because of by Angela Caldin

Does anyone else remember being told at school to be very careful when using due to, because in some situations it could be grammatically wrong? I avoid using due to for that very reason, but today I decided to find out what the distinction is between due to and because of. It turns out that due to acts as an adjective, which describes or modifies a noun. It can be replaced by caused by. It follows some form of the verb to be. For example: The car accident was due to poor… Read More

Empathy and sympathy by Angela Caldin

I was pondering the other day on the difference between empathy and sympathy and having a bit of difficulty distinguishing between the two. Empathy, it seems, is a fairly modern concept encompassing the ability to understand emotionally and cognitively what other people feel. It’s the ability to see things from another’s point of view, and imagine yourself in the place of another. In essence, it is putting yourself in someone else’s position and feeling what they are feeling. Sympathy, on the other hand, is a feeling of pity or sense of compassion… Read More