Write better English

First up: Happy new year everyone!

It’s a new year. A good time to start on our continuous journey of self-improvement. Which is why I suggest that we should all read this article about the 75 words that we often incorrectly use that can make us look dumb.

For example, what’s the difference between “adverse” and “averse”? How about the difference between “between” and “among”? And “continuously” and “continually”? I actually didn’t know the difference to that last one. Also, I realised that I often mixed up “everyday” and “every day”. Take some time to read the list. It’ll help you write better and appear that bit smarter. Trust me, it’ll be worth the effort.

There are a few common errors (at least common in Singapore) which aren’t in that list. Here are a few which I find quite irritating:

“Couple”. People use “couple” even when they aren’t referring to just two things. For example: “Here are a couple of things I want you to take note of – (1) blah blah blah, (2) blah blah blah, and (3) blah blah blah”. That’s not “a couple of things”! There are three things there! “Couple” should strictly refer to just two things.

“Dateline”. That word doesn’t exist. It should be “deadline”. Which, as my English teacher explained, is the line where you will die if you cross it. So stick to the deadline, otherwise you die.

“Revert”. We see this a lot in email exchanges in Singapore. “Please revert to me by the end of the day”. I don’t know how or why people started using “revert” this way. “Revert” means “return to (a previous state, practice, topic, etc.).” It assumes you were something, then turned into something else, and you are going to change back to the thing you originally were. No way in hell was I ever you, and I definitely don’t want to change back to what you are. So no. I won’t revert to you. Not by the end of the day, not ever. Instead of “revert”, use “respond”, “reply”, “get back to”.

Of course, it would take a lot more effort to be better at writing English. I make various errors too (my sentences are often too long, my paragraphs often too convoluted…). But I resolve to continuously work on it and keep improving. And I hope you will too. As Lee Kuan Yew said: “That which is written without much effort is seldom read with much pleasure.” Here’s to better, clearer written communications that we can all read with much pleasure.

[Featured image: taken from this site here]


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