Tag Archives: language

Various

Language Tip 36 (2014-15)

How vs. what…like

These two expressions are sometimes interchangeable and sometimes not:
How are you?
What is she like?
The media tell us what the perfect body looks like. / The media tell us how the perfect body looks.

It is important to note that even in contexts that allow both expressions they cannot be combined. More directly: it is embarrassing when advanced speakers of English say “I know how the perfect summer looks like.”

Jason Blake and Monika Kavalir

All tips to date…

Various

Language Tip 35 (2014-15)

either vs. as well/too

Spot the error in these sentences:
“I don’t like vanilla ice cream and I don’t like chocolate cake too.”
“We are not disinclined to accepting the changes, and our customers are not adverse to the changes as well.”

Remember to use “either” instead of “too” or “as well” in negative constructions.
“I don’t like vanilla ice cream and I don’t like chocolate cake either.” (Assuming the meaning is “I don’t like ice cream or cake.”)
“We are not disinclined to accepting the changes, and our customers are not adverse to the changes either.” (Be especially vigilant when using double negatives.)

Jason Blake and Monika Kavalir

All tips to date…

www2.arnes.si
Various

Language Tip 34 (2014-15)

Take note vs. take notes

“Take note of this tip; take notes if you need help remembering.”

“To take note of something” means to pay attention to it.
E.g. “I took note of his advice, but I still ignored it.”

“To take notes” means to jot things down.
“What happened during the lecture? Dunno. I forget to take notes.”

Jason Blake and Monika Kavalir

All tips to date…
http://www2.arnes.si/~bjason/tips%20-%202014%202015.pdf

Various

Language Tip 33 (2014-15)

Get vs. acquire; get vs. become

“Get” and “acquire” are not interchangeable, because “acquire” means specifically to gain possession of and is normally not used with things you cannot actually have and hold, such as attention.

CORRECT: “I finally got her attention.”
INCORRECT: “I finally acquired her attention.”

Similarly, “get” and “become” are not always interchangeable. The short version: “get” is less formal than “become.”
One of us was taught a long time ago never to use “get” in an essay; the other one pretty much figured it out by themselves.

Consider the mixed-register tone of this:
“Hamlet, never a happy man, gets increasingly world-weary and melancholic as the play progresses.”

Jason Blake and Monika Kavalir

All tips to date…
http://www2.arnes.si/~bjason/tips%20-%202014%202015.pdf

Various

Language Tip 32 (2014-15)

Sentence fragments can sound very, very silly in English. Slovenian seems to have a higher tolerance for syntax-poor snippets of language.
Though we are tempted to say, “Always use full sentences,” that would be going too far!
Instead, a simple never-rule: never start a sentence fragment with a relative clause.
Which would look and sound strange.

Here’s an example in context:
“The world is swimming in horrible movies, whether they be violent action movies or saccharine, simplistic romances. Which is not surprising, given the necessity for studios to produce in a hurry.”

If you’re really really tempted and you feel a comma just wouldn’t do your thought process justice, use a dash:
“The world is swimming in horrible movies, whether they be violent action movies or saccharine, simplistic romances – which is not surprising, given the necessity for studios to produce in a hurry.”

Jason Blake and Monika Kavalir

All tips to date…
http://www2.arnes.si/~bjason/tips%20-%202014%202015.pdf

Various

Language Tip 31 (2014-15)

Two very useful expressions for (often useless and unproductive) reciprocal actions are:

1) to and fro
2) back and forth

Make sure, however, not to mix and match them!
NOT: “They threw insults back and fro.”
But: “They threw insults back and forth.”

With “to and fro” spelling is tricky when it switches word classes. If you want to use it as a noun or verb, look it up in the Oxford English Dictionary to make sure you’re sticking the hyphens and -s endings in the right places.
Example: the to-and-fro of the haggling process

Jason Blake and Monika Kavalir

All tips to date…
http://www2.arnes.si/~bjason/tips%20-%202014%202015.pdf

Various

Language Tip 30 (2014-15)

“According to” vs. “in accordance with”

Note the difference between these two expressions.
Perhaps it’s easiest to think of “according to” as a synonym for “says”, and “in accordance with” as a synonym for “in conformity with”.

1) According to Sarah, the party was fabulous.

In Sarah’s opinion, the party was fabulous.
Sarah reports that the party was fabulous.
I have it from the horse’s mouth that the party was fabulous.

Usually, there’s a flesh-and-blood, literal speaker with “according to.”

2) Searching online for “in accordance with” + “party” yields results like (i.e. similar to):

“In accordance with subsection 7, each party will pay his/her share of the rental.”

Usually, “in accordance with” pertains to a document or theory.

“According to Smith (2012) and Novak (2007), it is impossible to make hot dogs out of wool. In accordance with their theory, our wool – in spite of the loose affiliation with mutton – could not be turned into a hot dog or sausage of any variety.”

Jason Blake and Monika Kavalir

All tips to date…
http://www2.arnes.si/~bjason/tips%20-%202014%202015.pdf

Various

Language Tip 29 (2014-15)

Consider these structures. Which is correct?

1) “I was involved in a six year long fan relationship with a bad football team.”
2) “I was involved in a six-year long fan relationship with a bad football team.”
3) “I was involved in a six-year-long fan relationship with a bad football team.”

The winner is option 3, the one with all the hyphens.

This, however, is snappier (since “year” already indicates duration or long-ness).

“I was involved in a six-year fan relationship with a bad football team.”

Jason Blake and Monika Kavalir

All tips to date…
http://www2.arnes.si/~bjason/tips%20-%202014%202015.pdf

Various

Language Tip 28 (2014-15)

Amount vs. number vs. a lot

“Amount” is normally (especially in formal writing) used to talk about quantities of uncountable things, whereas “number” is used for countable items.

E.g.
“No amount of money could make me take a cold shower at any time of day.”
“No number of horses could make me take a cold shower at any time of day.”

Two little stylistic notes:
1) “A lot” sounds less formal than “many” or “several.”
2) Slovenians overuse “a number of…”

All tips to date…
http://www2.arnes.si/~bjason/tips%20-%202014%202015.pdf

Various

Language Tip 27 (2014-15)

War.

Capitalize the titles of wars, and use Roman numerals:

1) World War I or the First World War
2) World War II or the Second World War
3) the Cold War (“cold war” is fine if you use it generically – e.g. “A domestic cold war developed over who would do the dishes.”)

INCORRECT: World War 2
INCORRECT: the first World War

Although some style guides, such as Chicago, call for WW I, especially in less formal writing WW1 is fine (and generally more common than WW I).

Also, avoid writing “2nd World War” or the utterly Slovenglish “1. World War.”

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