Denise M Taylor

Writing Consultant I Editor I Proofreader I Teacher

Dangling modifiers (often participles) continue to hang around in sentences, probably because most writers (and readers) are indifferent to them. Some work, but most don’t. This month I have encountered so many of the latter from various sources that it has piqued my interest and motivated me to do some thinking on the subject. You may ask: What are dangling […]

As a proofreader and editor, I am constantly aware that the English language is developing and changing: today’s slang (which Virginia Woolf calls “the speech of the herd”), or condensed words, could eventually become the standard of the future. The spelling of words is certainly not fixed for eternity. Being a Melburnian, I often find myself trying to explain the […]

From mums and dads, aunts and uncles, to queens and kings, princesses and princes—there is often confusion amongst writers: when to capitalise and when not to capitalise these names? I am frequently asked questions such as: ‘Why did you change the capitalisation of ‘Dad’ in the sentence to lower case?’ The simplified answer I can give to this query is […]

When it comes to my job as an editor, as long as I’m connected to writers via telecommunications, I could be living on a star surrounded by infinity. But, it is nice to know that, living on planet Earth, I can meet Melbourne clients face-to-face. Most of my clients’ favoured method of communication is by email or phone.  However, I […]

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]