Writing Tip Wednesday: The Right Word.

I recently started receiving the Australian Writers’ Centre newsletter. In each issue of the newsletter there is usually two tips on the right way to use words. I have found these very helpful and thought I would share them with you. I think this is something I may incorporate into my Writing Tip Wednesday on a regular basis, every 3-4 weeks maybe. If you find the following helpful be sure to comment to let me know, and if you like you can sign up to receive the newsletter here.

Here is what the Australian Writers’ Centre had to say about the following words:

All round or all around?

“This is something that confuses a lot of English speakers – what’s
the difference between all-round and all around? Well, in British English, the answer’s simple.
All-round (note the hyphen) is a phrasal adjective meaning “able to do many things” or “having general use; not too specialised”. For example:

They’re looking for a player with all-round skills.

Because “all-round” in this sentence is modifying the noun “skills”, you must use a hyphen. If, however, you were to use “all round” after the noun it’s modifying, you don’t need the hyphen. For example:

He is a good guy all round.

All around has a very different meaning. It means “being all over a given area”. For example:

She walked all around the shopping centre searching for shoes.

You may have noticed that American publications will use all-around instead of all-round. That’s because all-around is the preferred option in American English. But stick with all-round if you’re writing for Australian or British publications.”

***

Variance, variation and variety

“Variance is a noun meaning “that or fact of varying; divergence or discrepancy”. It’s quite formal and often used when two or more things being described are different. For example:

There were subtle variances in the flavour of each ice cream.

Variant is an adjective and means “being an altered or different form of something” or “exhibiting diversity; varying”. You would use variant to describe something that is slightly different from other things. For example:

Flavor is a variant spelling of flavour.

Variation is also a noun and means “the act or process of varying” or “change in condition”. Variation is the word you use for something that is slightly different from the usual. For example:

The books are all variations on one theme.

And then there’s variety, which means “the state or character of being various or varied”. For example:

We offer a variety of writing courses.”

***
Had

“It’s such an innocuous word, just three letters – ‘had’. But you may be surprised to discover that many people don’t use it correctly. The error is usually made when people are talking about events that have happened at different times in the past.

Here’s how the Australian edition of English Grammar for Dummies describes it:

“For two events in the past, write the earlier event with had and the more recent event in simple past tense (without had). Verbs written with had are in the past perfect tense (indicating an action was completed, or “perfected”, at some point in the past before something else happened).”

For example:

Rambo had already eaten his food when he discovered Rocky’s dinner.

In this example the order of events is made clear by the use of had for the first event – because Rambo eating his food is in past perfect tense, it has taken place before he discovered Rocky’s dinner (Both Rambo and Rocky are pictured above).

The mistake many writers make is to use had for everything. But, as explained in English Grammar for Dummies, you should only use had in this way if “you’re consciously putting events in order”.

***
Began or begun?

“Begun is the past participle of begin. A participle is a verb form, but it needs another verb – such as has, have or had – to make it complete and form a verb tense.

You would use this form if you wanted to describe an action that began in the past but continues in the present or an action that happened in an indefinite time in the past (both present perfect tense). For example:

Already supermarkets have begun stocking Easter eggs.
Outside, it has begun to rain.

When you say “the year began”, you’re simply talking about an action that happened at a specific time in the past. Began is the simple past tense of begin and doesn’t need any help from another verb, so you don’t need had or had. For example:

It began to rain.
She began her course in January.”

If you are thinking about doing some writing courses, the Australian Writers’ Centre has many great ones on offer, including online courses. Check out more info here.

Happy Writing 🙂

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