Hi All! There are some correct and incorrect practices that writers in English use, that are clear-cut. We come across these all the time in our proofreading and editing work.

a or an

This is straightforward. You must use ‘a’ before a word that starts with a consonant, and ‘an’ before a word that starts with a vowel (a,e,i,or u) All other letters except these four are consonants.

Example 1: Orlando Pirates are a fantastic team. (the word ‘fantastic’ starts with a consonant – ‘f’ so you use ‘a’

Example 2: I have to wear an extra large t shirt. (‘extra’ starts with a vowel so you use ‘an’

Practise a few of these by yourself. You will soon know whether to use ‘a’ or ‘an’ – automatically.

Colons and Semi-Colons

These are very useful as they can be used to introduce a list, or they can allow the reader to pause and take a breath while reading.

The Colon is usually used to introduce a list of items or phrases.

Example 1: Our band members are using the following instruments:

  • a trombone
  • a set of drums
  • a rhythm guitar

The semi-colon can be used to signify a pause in the reading that allows the reader to rest or take a breath before reading the next word, or it can be placed after a sub-heading. This important because without such pauses, the reading can become boring or tiring to read.

Example 2: this road is dangerous in wet weather; especially if you are riding a motorbike. (here the semi-colon comes between ‘weather’ and ‘especially’, because a pause is needed that is longer than the pause after a comma but not long enough for a full stop).

Here is a biggie!

Comprises and comprises of

Never!! use “comprises of”

It is a mistake that is made all the time and is completely wrong!!

last one for today:

This is a common mistake that is easy to rectify.

where and were

Writers often confuse these two.

‘where’ refers to a physical location; e.g. “where is the fish shop?

were is the past tense plural form of ‘are’

e.g. the team members are in the stadium now – present tense plural.

the team members were in the stadium yesterday – past tense plural.

Okay! “phew” that was quite a session! – enough for now.

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