Anger vs Exasperation

A young girl who was studying for an English test at school came to her father and asked, “Dad, what is the difference between anger and exasperation?”

The father replied, “It is mostly a matter of degree. Let me show you what I mean.”

With that the father went to the telephone and dialed a number at random. To the man who answered the phone, he said, “Hello, is Martin there?”

The man answered, “There is no one living here named Martin. Why don’t you learn to look up numbers before you dial?” [Read more…]

What NOT to write on staff performance reviews…

These individual quotes were reportedly taken from actual employee performance evaluations in a large US Corporation. They were passed on to me some while back by fellow professional writer and good friend, Jonathan Priest. The original sources are unknown…

“Since my last report, this employee has reached rock bottom – and has started to dig.”

“His men would follow him anywhere – but only out of morbid curiosity.”

“I would not allow this employee to breed.” [Read more…]

How to be insulting in English without using 4-letter words

Gone are the days when you could make someone shrivel up and crawl down a drain with an educated, upmarket insult. And I think that’s very sad. Surely it’s more fun – and more effective – to use clever insults rather than all those clumpy words representing body parts and bodily functions, sexual inadequacy, and other boring clichés?

My cousin Alyson in Canada sent these to me recently to remind us just how cutting a good, clean insult can be. Enjoy… and how about coming up with some new ones? Send yours in as comments – and I’ll try to think some up, too…

The exchange between Winston Churchill & Lady Astor:

She said, “If you were my husband I’d give you poison.”  He said, “If you were my wife, I’d drink it.” [Read more…]

How to write a really bad novel

Lovers of “illiterary” fiction no doubt will have heard of the Bulwer-Lytton competition, in which entrants have to write the most awful first line of a novel that they can possibly manage. This is in tribute to the late Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose rather dark and stormy novel, Paul Clifford, (as I’m sure you remember) began like this:

small__3459918218“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents–except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

 –Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)

I understand that the competition is still going strong, so do check out the Bulwer-Lytton website to catch up on the latest pearls of awfulness in various types of fiction. [Read more…]

Job seeker’s nightmare: what NOT to write in your CV/résumé

“Résumania” is a term coined by Mr. Robert Half, founder of RHI Consulting’s parent company, to describe the goofs that often appear on job candidates’ CVs/résumés, job applications and covering letters. Here are some examples (original authors unknown):

Job seeker's nightmare: what NOT to write in your CV/résumé“I perform my job with effortless efficiency, effectiveness, efficacy, and expertise.”  (And an eye on the “e” section of the dictionary, evidently.)

“Insufficient writing skills, thought processes have slowed down some. If I am not one of the best, I will look for another opportunity.”  (No problem …)

“Seek challenges that test my mind and body, since the two are usually inseparable.”  (Glad to hear it.)

“My compensation should be at least equal to my age.”  (And bonuses tied to his shoe size?)

“I am very detail-oreinted.”  (With the possible exception of spelling)

“I can play well with others.”  (We’ll be sure to tell your mommy.)

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“Married, eight children. Prefer frequent travel.”  (A new twist on work-family balance.)

Job seeker's nightmare: what NOT to write in your CV/résumé“Objection: To utilize my skills in sales.”  (Have you considered law school?)

“My salary requirement is $34 per year.”  (They say money isn’t everything.)

“Served as assistant sore manager.”  (Ouch.)

“Previous experience: Self-employed – a fiasco.”  (Definitely to the point.)

“I vow to fulfill the goals of the company as long as I live.”  (And they say loyalty is hard to come by.)

“Reason for leaving last job: Pushed aside so the vice-president’s girlfriend could steal my job.”  (We’re glad you’re not bitter.)

Now, let’s make sure what you write does  get you a job!

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

photo credit: TooFarNorth via photopin cc

Grammar Police: 20 New Year’s Resolutions…

Here is sneak preview of my New Year’s resolutions for 2017. Do you agree with them? Or am I being too strict a Grammar Police officer?

Grammar Police New Year's resolutions on How To Write Better
1. I will not split another infinitive no matter how hard it is to really do it.

2. I will not use ridiculous, contrived words like “conversate” or “expiration” (what’s wrong with “converse” and “expiry” FFS?) [Read more…]

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