Denise M Taylor

Writing Consultant I Editor I Proofreader I Teacher

This is my second article about words that have been used in the wrong context by writers whose manuscripts I have assessed, edited or proofread. Was it a historic or historical event? Was it a continual or continuous noise? Is someone illusive or elusive? The confusion can occur because these words are spelt similarly or sound similar, or both, so it’s understandable […]

Verbs have two voices: the ‘active’ and the ‘passive’. A sentence in which the subject performs the action of the verb creates an active voice and packs an immediate punch. A sentence using the passive voice is often dull and convoluted because some form of the helping verb ‘to be’ (am, is, are, was, were, being, been) attaches itself to […]

Verbs not only convey action and reveal personality in fiction, but they are capable of sharpening communication and meaning in non-fiction writing. The featured painting of horses by Lucy Kemp-Welch (‘Horses bathing in the sea’, 1899) captures the personality of each horse as they engage with the shoreline waves: one or two show fear, a couple rear, another hesitates, others submit. […]

Not long ago, I was proofreading a memoir written in Microsoft Word by a Melbourne writer who had contacted me after searching for ‘Proofreader Melbourne’. He spelt (or do you prefer ‘spelled’?) verandah without the ‘h’, which looks unfinished to me. When I added the letter ‘h’, the word was immediately underlined in red by MS Word, indicating that it […]

Are you gagging for another English­­­­ grammar quiz? If so, sharpen your red pencil and put on your proofreading thinking-cap! There is more than one error relating to grammar and punctuation in each of the following ten sentences. Can you spot them?  Each grammar ‘issue’ has been covered in the last few articles written for ‘The Art of Writing & […]

Throughout the last few months I’ve been keeping a record of some commonly confused, or simply confusing, words that I’ve come across in my job as an editor and proofreader. Do you ‘orient’ or ‘orientate’ yourself? Do you ‘inquire’ or ‘enquire’? Is an event ‘eminent’ or ‘imminent’? Some of these words are spelt so similarly, or sound so similar, that […]

Categories: Slideshow Articles

Would you write: ‘the earth is round’ or ‘the Earth is round’? The rules governing capitalisation of words in sentences may seem straightforward, but, as writers, editors and proofreaders know, distinguishing between ‘proper’ and ‘common’ usage is often difficult, and style guides vary in their rules. As the featured image illustrates, medieval manuscript writers enlarged and decorated the first letter […]

Socrates (469-399 B.C.), the classical Greek Athenian philosopher, believed there are two ruling and directing principles in all of us: one being an innate desire of pleasure; the other, an acquired judgement, which aspires after excellence. In his book ‘Simply English: An A to Z of Avoidable Errors’ (2014), Simon Heffer certainly aspires after excellence in grammar, and finds it […]

Does anyone care that ‘lay’ and ‘lie’ are frequently used incorrectly in sentences? Should we care? Apparently, the Oxford English Dictionary—Samuel Johnson’s dictionary—decided on these forms, and I’m thinking that maybe it’s time to lay them to rest, and not worry about their misuse anymore. I don’t hear my clients applauding me when I put a red line through ‘lay’ in […]

It takes courage for writers to ‘go out on a limb’ in order to develop, and commit to, an individual writing style that satisfies readers. On 9 March 1895, H. G. Wells, English writer and commentator, wrote a review in the ‘Saturday Review’ of Grant Allen’s controversial novel, ‘The Woman Who Did’: “The whole book … is strenuous without strength, […]