How to build trust with words

Saying that words are building blocks is stating a commonplace. But it’s true. Words are the building blocks of language. Written and spoken, they can connect and elevate people. Words can also build trust. Here’s how. Cognitive scientist Steven Pinker writes in The Sense of Style: […] style earns trust. If readers can see that […]

Taste in rule’s clothing

The British Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has told hospital doctors to write to patients in plain English and avoid the use of Latin, acronyms and technical terms. There’s nothing wrong with asking doctors to be clear, but the Academy’s guidance also says doctors should avoid the passive voice. Now, that’s wrong. Here’s why. Rules […]

Why do we have so many accents?

This post about language and identity was written by linguist Natalie Braber, Associate Professor in the School of Arts & Humanities of Nottingham Trent University. Versions of this article have also been published by The Conservation and The Scotsman.   Where we come from matters. Our origins form an important part of a distinctive personality, […]

Guiding lights

Style manuals – who needs them? Well, I do. I want to write better and I’ve found that some style guides help me improve my writing. One of the most helpful guides is Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style. I also rely regularly on Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, edited by Jeremy Butterfield. An […]

Short and simple

In my copywriting workshops I urge people to write in a style that’s short and simple. For example, by using small and clear words rather than long and complex ones. Why write “commence” when you can use “start” or simply “go”? I also invite workshop participants to challenge me if they think I’ve got it […]

What’s the right sentence length?

A friend once asked me how many words to use per sentence. An awkward question. Usually, he was a man of many words, so I told him: “Better keep it short.” But he had been commissioned to write an article and insisted on an exact answer: “How many words per sentence? On average?” I suggested 18 – the […]

Active or passive?

If you were typing this sentence, you’d probably get told off by your word processor. The reason is that the makers of applications such as Microsoft Word don’t like the passive voice. And Word shows its dislike by underlining the sentence with a green squiggly line. It wants you to use the active voice: your […]

How history is brought to life

In my research project on  German immigrants in Nottingham during the First World War I’m working with the Trent Academy Group, which consists of Rushcliffe School, The Farnborough Academy and Arnold Hill Academy. Students and teachers from these schools collaborate in defining research questions and conduct aspects of the research activity and dissemination of the research findings. Furthermore, […]

Hidden history brought to life

My current research project is on German immigrants in Nottingham during the First World War. It’s a collaborative undertaking for academics, teachers and students. Overview This project breaks new ground, because it examines a subject that has been somewhat overlooked. The examination focuses on: German migrant numbers and ethnic coherence; their participation in the wider society; prisoners […]

What’s not to like

The girl in the queue was excited. You couldn’t help but overhear what she said to her friend: “I went like … But he wouldn’t come.” I like the word like. And I like the way people use it. For example, you can use it as a verb to say you enjoy a cup of […]