Tips on how to improve your own writing

Leave it alone for a little while and then come back to it.

It’s always a good idea to come back to your writing after a couple of hours at least. That way you are looking at the content with a fresh pair of eyes and you are more likely to pick up on any mistakes.

Don’t rely on spellcheck.

Your computer will not tell you when you have used the wrong word when the word you have used exists. For example, you typed ‘cat’ but you were referring to a ‘cot’. It will not tell you that you have incorrectly used ‘too’ instead of ‘to’.

Go through your writing in different stages. For example, you can:

Check spellings;

Check grammar;

Check punctuation.

Print it out.

When you look at your writing in a different medium, you are more likely to notice typos and other errors.

Read it backwards.

When you read your writing this way your brain is less likely to autocorrect.

Read it out loud.

When you say the words out loud it can help you catch mistakes your eyes may miss.

Make sure you are consistent with names, spellings and certain types of punctuation such as quote marks.

Keep an eye out for variations on spellings and types of punctuation you may have used. Also, don’t forget to check that names are spelled correctly and the same way throughout your writing.

Ask a professional proofreader for help.

A second pair of eyes is always beneficial. Also, a professional proofreader has been trained to find the mistakes and make sure your writing is consistent in style.

French words and phrases used in English

I love the fact that English is a melting pot of words and phrases from many other languages. Here are some French words and phrases that we use in English.

blaséIndifferent to something because you have experienced or seen it so often before.
brunetteBrown hair.
cachetA sign of prestige.
déjà vuA feeling of having already experienced the present situation.
eclairA long thin cake made of choux pastry.
enfant terribleA person who behaves in an unconventional or controversial way.
laissez-faireA policy of leaving things to take their own course, without interfering.
nom de plumeA pen name.
pièce de résistanceA most remarkable item.
touchéA word used to concede a point.
tour de force A feat or skill.

What is a style sheet?

Do you need to use one?

If you want your writing to look polished and professional, consistency is key. One way to do this is to create a style sheet. A style sheet is a reference guide that clarifies how you plan to treat certain aspects of writing such as spelling, punctuation, numbers etc. Sometimes there is no right or wrong way but it’s a good idea to decide on one way and stick to it!

What should you include in a style sheet?

It’s totally up to you, but here are a few suggestions of what type of thing to include:

Spelling Preferences

Do you want to use -ise spellings or -ize spellings, e.g.  recognise or recognize?

Do you want to use British English or US English, e.g.  colour or color?

Abbreviations, Acronyms and Initialisms

Do you want to use full stops or not? Usually, abbreviations take a full stop, but acronyms and initialisms leave them out.


Do you want to use the serial (oxford) comma?

Numbers, Dates and Time

Generally, use words for numbers up to and including ten and use numerals for 11 and above.

How do you want to write the date? There are many different formats, and all are correct. You just need to decide on your preferred style. For example, you can write 12 August 1960, 12th August 1960, 12/8/60 (or 8/12/60 if you are in the US).

How do you want to write the time? Again, there are several ways to do this. You can use the 12-hour clock or the 24-hour clock. You can write am and pm or a.m. and p.m. It’s up to you.

There are many other items you can include in your style sheet such as capitalisation and hyphenation. It’s also a good idea to make decisions about the style of your document, such as the type of heading you want to use and what kind of bullet points you prefer.

If it all seems overwhelming, there are many resources online to help you get started. You could also hire someone, such as a proofreader, to devise a style sheet on your behalf.

Remember that consistent spelling, punctuation and formatting demonstrate professionalism and give you and your business credibility.

What is a contronym?

A contronym is a word that has two meanings that are contradictory to each other. They are spelled and pronounced in the same way but can be confusing if used in the wrong context. 

Here are a few examples.

He bolted the door.
He bolted from the shop with the stolen goods.  
To fasten
To collapse

He buckled his shoes.
His legs buckled from under him.
To add something
To remove something

She dusted the cake with icing sugar.
He dusted the furniture.
Moving quickly
Fixed, unmoving

He ran fast from the house.
The colours remained fast.
Hold up
To support
To hinder

My friend is always there to hold me up.
She was held up by bad traffic.

The light was turned off.
The alarm was going off.
To present
To conceal

The film was screened in London, Paris and Los Angeles.
He was screened by the curtain.
To add something
To remove

The gardener seeded the lawn.
I seeded the tomato so I could add it to the salad.
To remove
To hit

I stoned the peaches to make the dessert.
They stoned the villagers during the conflict.
To withstand
To wear away   

The company weathered the recession.
The rock was weathered.

British English versus American English

George Bernard Shaw once said:

“England and America are two countries separated by a common language.”

The English language is spoken widely around the world, however, there are still many variations in the way it is used, none more so than when we look at the differences between British English and American English. Here are a few examples.

Different spellings

British EnglishAmerican English

Different words

British EnglishAmerican English
candy flosscotton candy