I have put together a set of very short “catchy”, easy to remember rules to help you improve your English. if you could make the effort to memorise these rules, it will make your English leap up to another level; not only for writing or typing English, but also for things like writing speeches or designing advertising tools. It’s amazing to see how businesses often spend massive amounts of money on advertising and don’t bother to check the English!

a and an – Remember “a” is used before a consonant and “an” before a verb

Use of the past tense in theses

Attention: All undergraduate and post grad. students: When you are writing your theses, dissertation or mini thesis etc please note that all content relating to a research procedure must be written in the past tense as the procedure has already occurred at the time of writing the thesis.

the only exception to this is when the submission is merely a research proposal, in which case, it will be written in the present or future tense.

The Researcher

Secondly; please note that the researcher or author of the thesis must never present himself/herself in the present tense. He/she must refer to himself/herself as “the researcher”

Sentences without verbs

A sentence without a verb is not a sentence. It is simply a phrase. As such, it should not start with a capital letter and at the end of it there should be a comma or a semi-colon etc. However, there are exceptions to this rule, in which case it can be regarded as a matter of personal choice.


Generally speaking, a word should only be capitalised when it refers to a name of something. This could be a person’s name, a title, the name of a place etc. As proofreaders we come across a lot of overuse of capitals. Capitals should not be used just to emphasise something. Capitals are for naming.

Terms of endearment

Terms of endearment like ‘darling, sweetie, sugar, love etc should only be capitalised when addressing someone by name.

Its, it’s or it is

It’s using an apostrophe should only be used when it is being used as a verb ‘to be’. e.g. It’s not true that I ate your apple”. Here the apostrophe just shows that the t is missing.

It should not be used to denote possession e.g. “the dog was chasing its tail.

i before e except after c

This is a very useful tool that is correct in most situations.

There are certain exceptions to this. The spelling of these will become ‘second nature’ to the more you read.

Read as much English as you can. This is the most effective route towards great English usage.

Practice and Practise

This a simple one.

Use practice when it is being used as a noun and practise when it is being used as a verb.

At this point in time

This is a big NO NO! Just say “at this point”, or “at this time” or “right now” etc

Never qualify a superlative

Never say “very unique” or “extremely exceptional” or “astoundingly spectacular.” It’s that simple. Just say “unique”, or “exceptional” or “spectacular”.

Use these rules, memorise them and your English will definitely improve.

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