Month: May 2015

“Let’s cut and paste kids!” The traps of bad grammar

We all think we’d know bad english if we saw it, right? Well, it’s not as easy as you’d think. The quality of english depends on two things; style and mechanics.  In other words, there’s a genuine difference between bad English and bad grammar. But first, we need to know what a sentence is and does. HW Glower roughly says that a sentence might be:

  • A group of words completing a thought 💭
  • A cluster of words with an intelligible purpose 💡
  • A line of words with a subject, predicate, object and tense 👍🏻
  • A combination of words arranged to make sense 🔑

Grammar isn’t just about knowing the difference between an adverb and verb, or even how to use a semicolon. It’s about the effect that certain words create and  their implied meanings. 

English 🔡

Could we technically have bad English with correct grammar? Or even good English with bad grammar. Okay, first we need to identify three things: what it is that’s wrong, why it’s wrong and could it be better? Here we have three examples which will be deconstructed and explained: 

Example A: 

“Tearing down the motorway at 80mph, the fog suddenly enveloped the car, forcing me to pull over”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen fog travelling at 80mph! Because this sentence is a sentence fragment, it creates ambiguity as to what is travelling at 80mph. It’s clearly not possible for fog to travel, so we are forced to assume that it is the car that is travelling at such a speed. If the sentence had “As I was tearing down” beforehand, the sentence would make perfect sense” 

Example B: 

“The black diamond is one of the most unique in the world” 

Whoever has the nerve to write this clearly doesn’t know the meaning of unique. “Unique” means “one of a kind”, so to say it is one of the most unique is a slap in the face. But still, it’s not necessarily an obvious error. Some may even say that it’s a matter of style over grammar. 

Example C: 

“After receiving criticism, Apple defended themselves” 

This is a tricky example, especially thanks to gender-neutrality. Unless talking about a specific person, the preferred term is it. This is because “they” is normally plural, and it is used for a genderless, inanimate object. Therefore “the person may defend themself” is correct because it singular. Unfortunately, themself over themselves is not widely accepted, in spite of the logic. This should say, “Apple defended itself”, since Apple is treated as a singular unit. This means that no one specific person in the company is being mentioned, implying that Apple’s defense was made as a collective decision. 

All of the above examples require serious thought. Because there are no spelling mistakes or wrong words (“your” confused with “you’re”), these mistakes are initially quite hard to spot. In fact, sometimes it’s not even a mistake, but rather a lack of clarity or bad phrasing. In other words, style and tone also play their parts.

Deliberately bad English:

Not all poor English is unintentional, and only the Queen’s English in Britain is regarded as “proper”. Slang, such as Cockney, is usually either colloquial or a shortened form  of English. For others, it’s just an evolution of the English language (I am in no way suggesting that you start speaking like a gangster or over-using text speak). 

“Wot r u up 2?” 

Ah, text speak. The way of shortening words so that they sound cool. Thankfully, most people have grown out of text speak, and have left it behind in the noughties. 

“Yo better scat” 

This particular example is gangster speak, which is more common in the U.S. Rap, hip hop and street dancing may have made this type of talking more common in other countries, however. The British equivalent is Chav speak, mainly in the North of England (Manchester, Sunderland, Newcastle, etc), East London and Essex. 


Autocorrect: the pros and cons 

Autocorrect: the notorious tool that we blame for our blunders. Because of the letters being so close to each other on the keyboard, coupled with the phone being too slow to type several letters, we often get wurds lik ths. Autocorrect is very good at spelling words; for instance, it can pick out correct spelling and punctuation for the text. However, it lacks the ability to put the word into the context of its sentence. This would explain why so many autocorrect fails exist on the Internet. Be wary of spellcheckers too; they cannot apply the rules of grammar to a specific sentence. Nor can they tell whether it is best to use the active or passive voice. 

Example A: 

“I coudnt go to the class today due to illness”
Apart from a sloppy spelling mistake, this sentence makes sense. Couldn’t is missing an apostrophe, which is the main error in this sentence. Some grammar nerds might take it further by saying that this sentence appears as an incomplete thought,  because this sentence doesn’t make much sense in its own. 

Example B: 

“You is requested to be in the gallery at noon” 

The mistake here is a simple confusion between “is” and “are”. We can see that this imperative sentence is instructing the “you” to be in a specific time and place. However, the sentence gives clear instructions and conveys useful information. 

Example C: 

“It effected Sally by giving her stomach ache.” 

There are two things wrong with this sentence. First, this is a sentence fragment, so we don’t know what “this” is. And second, “effected” is supposed to be “affected”. 

10 Things you should know about grammar ✒️: 

  1. Commas and full stops were originally supposed to reflect natural pauses in speech.  (However, technology has changed how we use commas). 
  2. In poetry and song lyrics, harmony sometimes overrides grammar. That is, when Shakespeare wrote “to be or not to be, that is the question”, he was thinking of how the lines would flow and the harmony between the rhyme scheme and the syllables. 
  3. Sometimes, word order affects meaning. So whilst, “you see very few sign posts wandering around Wales” is confusing, the sentence “Wandering around Wales, you see very few sign posts” 
  4. Don’t go overboard with adjectives; it’s the grammatical equivalent to adding too many accessories on a bag or having a room with clashing colours. They’re a strong spice, so use them sparingly.
  5. Don’t switch between using letters and numbers. It should look like  this: 1874, four apples. 
  6. Passive verbs work better in past tense: “John was sacked by the company”, because it’s already happened. I wouldn’t  advise making inanimate objects active either. 
  7. Beware autocorrect! Always use a dictionary if you’re not sure how to spell a word. 
  8. Sentence fragments are sentences that place a sentence out of context, thus rendering it incomplete. 
  9. Square brackets are for editorial comments, round brackets are for thoughts and * is for a side-note or P.S. 
  10. A wide vocabulary is always a good thing! It demonstrates diction, creativity and precision. 

A few notes on style

Don’t use jargon out of its correct context. That is, please don’t explain microbiology if your intended audience knows nothing about it. 

Tautology means unnecessary words in a sentence, due to saying the same thing twice. It’s not the same as repetition. 

Remember when I said vocabulary was important? Well , this is a good time! Try not to add “ness” to a word. This trap seems particularly common with adjectives. For instance, “amazingness” is just dreadful to look at. 

Being vague, caused by long winded sentences, is committing the sin of circumlocution. Circumlocution is related  to witter, which is using obscure words. waffle, which is wandering off topic for a long period of time.  

Tone can easily indicate emotions or mood in a sentence better than the exclamation mark. If you’re writing to your boss to complain, you don’t want to sound apologetic. The choice of verbs, adjectives, adverbs and imperative phrases are usually used to convey the underlying message in writing. 

Person is important in writing. Most writing uses third person, unless you are directly addressing someone. Second person is usually deemed too vague and personal. However, if you send an email or letter about a meeting on Tuesday at 5pm, second person would be appropriate. Second is also fine for questionnaires. 

Originality is essential, but creativity isn’t. Poetic, eloquent language is usually unnecessary, and similies can be used if they are simple. Flowery language works well for titles, posters, flyers, invite and menus. But stick to plain English for reports, notes, emails and instructions. 

Use bold or italics to stress something. Not exclamation marks! OR CAPITALS. Bold is used to emphasize a key word or phrase in a paragraph or sentence. Italics are used to stress the sound of a word (I didn’t say you broke the window). 


Queer theory part two: Questions of Sexuality 

Okay, as we discussed in Part One, we have different gender and sexual identities. Now we are going to make a case for each one. 

DISCLAIMER: It’s just a theory, so please don’t try and tell me I am “wrong”. I don’t care what the creators have to say, I have an opinion too.  Any blogger here can say whether they agree or not, but nobody is right or wrong. You have problem? Don’t read my blog. 

Gay men: Edward the II 

Edward II is meant to based upon the real king, and Marlowe writes about the the relationship the King and Gaveston. Marlowe was rumoured to be gay himself, and the two men are meant to be gay. 

Lesbian ladies: Carmilla in Carmilla:

Carmilla is a red blooded lesbian, who wants Laura, the protagonist . Carmilla is seen as both a sexual and gothic predator for Laura, who is scared by her unstable mood and intense feelings. Her lustful nature is probably Victorian attitudes to vampires – particularly female ones – and unmarried women. 

Bisexuality: Sailor Neptune from Sailor Moon and Loki

Sailor Neptune has a closeted relationship with Sailor Jupiter; only in the original Japanese animation are they a couple. The other western versions have decided to make the cousins, for some reason. What, is the idea of two ladies together repulsive to you? Sailor Jupiter is a typically butch girl, who occasionally dresses as a Tuxedo mask. 

Loki is a difficult case, because he does in fact kiss a man whilst in the body of a woman. Does this make him genderqueer, bisexual or  flexisexual? Loki doesn’t seem to have any binary categories, so a case for any of these labels could be made. Ah the God of Tricks, how appropriate that we should question you! Since Loki’s gender is male, him flirting  with men  could  make him bi. But because he only does soon on one occasion, which suggests that he could be hetereoflexible. 

Pansexuality: Jack Harkness

I’m going to say that Jack is Pansexual, not bisexual. This is because he flirts with robots, aliens and genderless beings. If he were bi, he  wouldn’t flirt with beings without a gender. He has often been characterised as bi by wikis. However, just because Jack does not have relationships with trans or intersection people doesn’t mean this isn’t plausible.  Unfortunately, his sexuality plays a massive part of his personality since he is considered a “flirt” and hypersexual. He retains a masculine appearance, combined with a camp personality. 

Fluid sexuality: Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Many people might be inclined to label Willow as a lesbian. However, because of her relationship with Oz, I’m going to argue that she is fluid. Whilst Willow doesn’t have another relationship with a man, she transitions from being straight to gay. She doesn’t remain fluid, but she has been before. Fluid means you have not always identified with one sexuality, not always that you will continue to go through phases. Many people would disagree with me on this, but it’s pretty tough to make a solid case either way. 

Gender Bending: Mulan in Mulan 

Now, gender bending does not necessarily mean cross dressing. It simply means defying conventional gender norms. Mulan doesn’t want to get married or live like a housewife. She seeks adventure, so poses as a man to join the army. Now Mulan, is a Gender Bender because of her non conforming gender role, but also a crossdresser for wearing men’s clothing. 


Cross dressing, gender bending and transvestism are related. Teansvestites attempt  to adopt the lifestyle of the opposite sex, cross dressers wear the clothing of the opposite sex. Pleakly from Lilo and Stitch is probably a transvestite, because he adopts more feminine behaviour and uses his female disguise as, well, a disguise (a more well-known  example might be Emily from Little Britain). 

Drag Queen:

Because of their stage persona, drag queens tend to be celebrities, such as Divine. Drag Queens are different to Transvestites in that Drag Queens are always stage performers, like singers or pantomime dames. whereas transvestites are attempting to pass off as normal people. 

Butch Girls: Lara Croft and Tank Girl? 

I refer to butch as a gender category. Not the  sexuality, and “butch lesbian” is meant as an informal term. So get off your fucking high horses and deal with this shit. The girls who are indeed very masculine are Tank Girl and Lara Croft.  “Tank Girl is a swearing, fighting, drunk girl with short hair. Often wearing army or skimpy clothes, she has a very masculine aura. Lara Croft, meanwhile, is straight and based on tank girl. She has a more  feminine appearance and is ladylike. However, she goes off on Indiana Jojes style adventures, uses weapons and knows martial arts, and is very intelligent. 

Homoeroticism: Iago and Othello

Now, homoeroticism doesn’t necessarily mean erotic behaviour between men. It simply means that men who have bromances/ close friendships or an all male section are fetished particularly through their actions or bodies. Tyler Dyrden and the narrator are one example; not only do they live in a hous together and meet up for a meal as a kind of “date”, their muscular bodies are viewed as erotic. Iago and Othello form a close friendship whilst Iago tries to deceive Othello that his wife is cheating on him. A particularly homoerotic moment is where Othello and Iago form a blood brothership – like a platonic marriage. 

Sherlock Holmes as asexual: 

The man who struggled to form attachments of any kind, Holmes has been labelled many things from sociopathic to autistic. However, i’m going to suggest that Holmes is a asexual, since he doesn’t have much interest in men or women. He could still have romantic attraction, but that’s something different here. In fact, he views romantic love as irrational and undesirable: he’s simply too logical. It could be that Holmes is a combination of sociopathic, asexual and autistic, but his lack of interest in anything but crime seems to add to his overall cold, emotionless demeanour. Holmes is quite an extreme example of a character who could be  asexual, and a better example might by SpongeBob, who is more lovable. SpongeBob has never been in love, but he certainly knows how to love (at least better than squidward). 

Belle from Beauty and the Beast as demisexual: 

Belle is our classic demisexual. She stands in complete contrast to Gaston, the handsome but arrogant and vain hunter, and the triplets who fawn over his manliness. Instead, Belle thinks nothing of looks and gradually falls for the Beast after getting to know him. It is only once she knows him that she finds herself glowing with love, grieving over him being supposedly dead and enchanted by dancing with him. 

Transgender:  The Passion of New Eve and Joss Moody in Trumpet

There are two characters in The Passion of New Eve that could be labelled transgender: Eve and Tristessa. Eve is transformed from a man into a woman as punishment for his misogyny. Tristessa is a movie star, who poses as a woman. Some might say that Eve is actually transsexual , whereas Tristessa is transgender. Another argument could be that Tristessa cross dresses, and that Eve’s forced gender reassignment makes her a man trapped in a woman’s body. 

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