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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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The real magic of a letter to Santa

As Christmas carols fill the air everywhere from shopping centres to temporary stages on local football fields, those of us who celebrate Christmas are busy planning and carrying out our festive season traditions. The tradition of children writing a letter to Santa Claus dates back more than 150 years and, perhaps surprisingly, is still going […]

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Sans Forgetica: the font to remember

Why would anyone design a font that is deliberately difficult to read? The answer is simple: to help people retain the information they are reading. A team of designers and behavioural scientists at RMIT University has created a new font for the specific purpose of aiding memory retention. It may seem counterintuitive, but by employing […]

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