English Tutor: Class of 2014

English Tutor: Class of 2014

By Khuthadzo Malinda, South Africa:

The year is coming to an end. I spend a lot of time listening to the radio and the last few days before the year ends, many radio stations are doing a review of what was big in social media. These are the things that they consider to have made a big hoo-hah for nothing and were a waste of time or overrated for 2014. Humans find it so hard to keep themselves entertained. I have a few grammar things that you should not carry into 2015. Absolutely NO NO! Enough, let it be done with 2014!

  1. Ir-regardless – I don't even know which incorrect spelling to choose from. Ok this is very serious! It is extremely important that you stop using this word. It does not exist.

          Trust the simplicity of the word regardless – when you regard something, which means when you add the                suffix –less, there is no need for a prefix. The disregard for it is implied. This word comes in these forms –                  regard, regards, disregard and regardless.

  1. They say – if you are an adult, adult enough to be prosecuted for anything, you should stop starting any sentence with “They say”. It is not only very dangerous, but you can quickly come across as a liar, gossip or ignorant. If you are going to dare say anything of the sort, then be prepared to stand behind your statements.
  1. Disrespect of silent letters – English is not very difficult. It can get confusing at times when you are sure you are saying something in the correct manner and then you find that you are so wrong. Pay more attention to words and what you are saying when you are saying them. English has a lot of words that are specific to the curl and fold and 'shahs' or your tongue. Words like realm, comb or combing and a very long list of words are English words that have a silent letter. No one will shoot you for sounding it, but knowing is always better than not. 
  1. Starting sentences with conjunctions – if you are uncertain about what a conjunction is, then this will even be better. FANBOYS

F – for

A – and

N – nor

B – but

O – or

Y – yet

S – so

These are words that CONNECT words, sentences, phrases and clauses. English has been evolving over the years, and there is nothing that has encouraged the evolution of English more than social media. There are so many broken rules that it is getting harder to keep track of the words we use when we tweet, chat, status update etc. Be careful of starting sentences with conjunctions. It is so easy to miss; so to avoid it altogether – learn it as a new habit.

  1. Give your sentences a break – When you are writing something, especially for work or school and if you are not going to have someone who is going to proof read your work for you, then you should write and read out loud to yourself the paragraph that you have just written and check not only for spelling mistakes, but that you can listen to yourself read what you have just written ensuring that you did not make any mistakes.

The paragraph above is too long. I know this because I think and speak so fast I have to remind myself to pause in between my sentences or I can/will lose the person I am talking to. Remember that simple sentences are always best. Keep them short and at one thought.

  1. Can and May – These two are not synonyms of each other. You are not allowed to swap them around with each other and have one replace the other just because you can.

E.g. May I please have the document you forwarded to Khuthi yesterday?

Can I please have the document you forwarded to Khuthi yesterday?

These are not the same thing and this is one of the biggest issues in the corporate world (and I would dare to assume in politics and human interaction is miscommunication) – make sure that what you are saying is exactly what you are saying. Can – ability; and May – permission or a word you use to ask. People don't read your intention, they read your words.

  1. Pronounciation is not a word. Pronunciation is a word and it comes from the word pronounce which has two meanings. Please note the spelling.
  • To declare or announce [I now pronounce you husband and wife]
  • To say a word in its proper or particular way [learn to pronounce realm with the 'a' silent].
  1. Until, till and 'tilwhen all things fail, especially for written language, keep to the root words. The British and the Americans do not speak or use many words the same way which makes it hard to keep track of whose etymology.
  • We danced until the sun came up.
  • We danced till we were dizzy.
  • We ate gonja 'til our stomachs cramped.

All these are acceptable, depending on who is listening and responding. My tip: stay away from either till or 'til. Use until; it is still just short enough to not be painful to type out in full. FYI: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language says the form is “etymologically incorrect” and the Oxford dictionary is on the fence. It is acceptable and unacceptable depending on the person you are speaking to or the lecturer marking your paper. It is a serious grey area, I say stick to until.

  1. Full stops and punctuations – use them, they are still in style. Train yourself to use them when you are texting with friends, it's a great platform to keep them sharpened. When you have to submit a report for work, school or something really serious and important – and you find that you have forgotten how or where to put a colon or semi-colon or dash or a full stop and comma, then you have a problem.
  2. If you are quoting someone's statement, the punctuation comes before you close the quotation mark.
  • “She told him she loved how he loved her.”
  • “She told him she loved how he loved her”.


Keep Learning,

English Tutor

Founder and Editor in Chief of the Readers Cafe Africa

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