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Four writing styles and when to use them

If you were to read the instructions for operating a nuclear reactor, you would expect it to be written very differently to a novel about a nuclear accident, or a newspaper editorial about the merits (or otherwise) of nuclear power. Broadly speaking, there are four different styles of writing: expository, descriptive, persuasive and narrative. The […]

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Nouns for the masses

Noun words are members of an extensive family, but their variety can be confusing. A while back, I spoke with a friend who came to English later in life, her first language being Mandarin. We were collaborating on a writing project, and she wondered why it was ‘two pieces of fruit’ and not ‘two fruits’. […]

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Where words go when they die

The current online version of the Macquarie Dictionary lists 138,000 words and 210,000 different definitions. According to an online survey of 2 million (admittedly self-selected) people, the average adult has a vocabulary of 20,000–35,000 words. Which begs the question, what happens with the rest? Some words are part of industry jargon or have a technical […]

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Is English becoming toxic?

Despite a global push for the use of plain English to boost reader understanding and accessibility, recent language trends and buzzwords suggest that English is actually becoming less accessible for the average user. The desire to be avant-garde, politically correct (i.e. inclusive and inoffensive) or earnestly non-committal (particularly popular in the political arena) is seeing […]

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A Style manual for the digital age

Whenever I find myself editing a document, there are two resources I keep close at hand – a dictionary and the Australian Government Style manual. Unlike the dictionary, which I can access online (depending on the version required), the Style manual has always been a physical publication. Hopefully that is soon to change. The Commonwealth […]

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