September 29, 2012

Weekly Finds: September 29, 2012

A Man With Magnifying Glass by digitalart
Image courtesy of digitalart /

Every week, we’ll be sharing a list of posts, stories, news, or opinions that we've run across the Internet during the past week or two. We won't be discussing them in detail here, but we do encourage you to check them out as they could contain valuable ideas and insights for your IELTS exam.

If you're ready, here we go...

Remove This Word From Your Vocabulary

The author shares this valuable lesson: "The moment you convince yourself that something is impossible, you have already failed."

Conjunctions get no respect

Why are more people removing the glue that hold sentences together? Always keep in mind that transition words and phrases are essential to your success in the IELTS writing and speaking exam.

Subject verb agreement

Here are good reminders for us in avoiding subject-verb agreement errors.

“Instantly” vs. “instantaneously”

Is there a difference between “instantly” and “instantaneously”?


The author shares hilarious pictures to show the importance of correct punctuation and grammar.

15 Grammar Goofs to Avoid

The author believes that we "don’t have to be an English major to get a handle on grammar basics. More important, grammar doesn’t need to be overwhelming."

A Guide to Contractions vs. Possessives

A common error in writing is the confusion between contractions and possessive forms. Very often, writers will mix up “your” with “you’re”, “its” with “it’s”, and “whose” with “who’s”. Since these words pairs have identical pronunciations, it can be easy for English speakers to make mistakes when writing.

Six Reasons Why Grammar Matters, Even in the Digital Age

Many people will tell you that younger generations just don’t know how to communicate. They’ll say texting abbreviations and Twitter hashtags are so common, that grammar and spelling has lost its importance. The author argues otherwise.

Writing Mistakes You Didn't Know You Make

The author suggests some things to look for as we proofread our writing tasks.

Show Me Your Errors: Songs and Movies

Grammar Girl looks at the grammatical errors in songs, movies, and music lyrics. Which are the worst offenders?

3 Simple Ways To Help You Stay Motivated To Reach Your Goals

The author shares tips that can help you stay motivated and on track.

Verb Tenses: Present Perfect Simple vs. Present Perfect Progressive

This post takes a look at two closely related verb tenses in English: present perfect simple and present perfect progressive.

Internet Habits Then & Now: 2002 vs. 2012 [Infographic]

Check out this cool infographic. This could be helpful when you're practicing for your IELTS Academic Writing Task 1.

Phone call in a foreign language : Six Don'ts

Do you feel so nervous when you make a phone call in a foreign language that you make mistakes? This article lists six common ones you should avoid.

7 Common School Expressions in English

Learn 7 very common terms and expressions about school and studying.

September 22, 2012

Weekly Finds: September 22, 2012

A Man With Magnifying Glass by digitalart
Image courtesy of digitalart /

Every week, we’ll be sharing a list of posts, stories, news, or opinions that we've run across the Internet during the past week or two. We won't be discussing them in detail here, but we do encourage you to check them out as they could contain valuable ideas and insights for your IELTS exam.

If you're ready, here we go...

The Gender-Neutral Pronoun: Still an Epic(ene) Fail

Dennis Baron of the Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus reports on the 150-year failed history of the gender-neutral pronoun in English.

corpus delicti

It is the concrete evidence that shows that a crime has been committed, for example, the body of the victim in the case of a murder.

'Legacy' launched as a verb

THE word legacy is now a verb, the government body tasked with re-actioning the English language has announced.

20 More Amazing Facts About Your Brain

The author shares the things which make the human brain amazing.

The Vocabulary Of Yes and Overcoming The Glamour Of No.

The author shares suggestions on how to avoid creating blocks to our creative thought and process.

12 Choices Your Future Self Will Thank You For

When life pushes you over, stand up and push back even harder. Where there is a fork in the road and choices to make, make the ones your future self will thank you for.

Common Errors in English: Difficult or Difficulty?

Learn the difference between the English words difficult and difficulty to avoid this common error in English.

Avoid These Pesky Writing Mistakes

The author takes a look at some of those pesky writing mistakes many people make.

34 redundant, repetitive, and superfluous phrases

Eliminate tautologies from your copy; your readers will thank you.

Why UK singers sound American

Why do British pop stars seem to sing with American accents?

Are you using the right word?

The author talks about misused words, or those you’ve confused with ones that have entirely different meanings.

Delete These Four Words to Improve Your Writing Right Now

The author shares four words we should delete right now to improve our own writing.


Here's a wealth of information about pronouns.

How to Teach the Present Simple

Here are some lessons about verbs. Teaching the present simple tense is one of the first, and most important tasks when teaching beginners.

Past Simple & Present Perfect

More lessons about verbs. The author teaches us an easy way to tell the difference between the past simple and present perfect.

3 Clear-Cut Steps to Quiet Your Inner Critic

The author shares 3 tips for us to escape the effects of our own destructive words.

Irregular Verb Wheel Game

Check out this cool game from the Macmillan Dictionary. It could help you improve on your Lexical Resource in IELTS Writing.

The Writing Class You Never Had

Let’s say you’ve never had a writing class in your life, but you really want to write. Let’s say you don’t know the first thing about grammar or the English language. How would you solve this?

The Top 10 Workplace Wank Words That Make Us Want To Travel

The author shares these Wank Words produced in meetings by people wanting to make themselves sound more important than they really are.

16 Old-Timey Slang Terms to Describe Being Drunk

The author shares his recently discovered words for “drunk.”

What Would You Attempt To Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail?

Interesting read. The author shares that it's not failure that's the problem, but our fear of failure that prevents us from attempting great things.

Flooding Vocabulary Throughout the Day

The author shares techniques that we can use to flood ourselves with vocabulary throughout the day so that we could improve our comprehension and literacy skills.

Grammar sticklers may have OCD

It used to be we thought that people who went around correcting other people’s grammar were just plain annoying. Now there’s evidence they are actually ill, suffering from a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder/oppositional defiant disorder (OCD/ODD). Researchers are calling it Grammatical Pedantry Syndrome, or GPS.

Wednesday Words: Empretzeled Politicians, Hybrid Gangs and More

Time NewsFeed's weekly highlight of our vocabulary includes useful, new, hilarious and surprising words (as well as some that are just fun to say).

Breathing and Resonance for Good Voice Production

The author shares techniques for improving one's ability to communicate is a significant step towards improving an individual's sense of self esteem and self confidence. Very useful for your IELTS Speaking exam.

September 15, 2012

Weekly Finds: September 15, 2012

A Man With Magnifying Glass by digitalart
Image courtesy of digitalart /

Every week, we’ll be sharing a list of posts, stories, news, or opinions that we've run across the Internet during the past week or two. We won't be discussing them in detail here, but we do encourage you to check them out as they could contain valuable ideas and insights for your IELTS exam.

If you're ready, here we go...

The Role, Importance, and Power of Words in the Age of Ebooks.

A thoughtful look at the development of Text Talk in academic publications, What is the effect of Social Media and texting on how we write?

Get thee to a carwashery

Making new nouns with the suffix -ery...

Speaking multiple languages can influence children’s emotional development

In this post, the author presents the benefits of code-switching.

Vocal Techniques for Business: How to Speak at Your Best

For successful business speaking, you need dynamic vocal techniques. Here are 4 key vocal skills to help you speak with power.

Speaking Secrets of the Masters. One Word Makes a Difference!

The speaking secrets of the masters reveal one key factor for success. It all comes down to one word!

To happen

Catherine Chapman of BBC Learning English answers the following question from Fatih: "When I am listening to English speakers I often hear the expression 'What happened?' instead of 'What did happen?' Could you explain me the difference?"

The History of the Exclamation Point

Everyone likes to complain that we're using too many exclamation points these days. Here's where the punctuation came from.

Comparative and superlative adjectives

Let's review our lessons on adjectives. Remember that comparing and contrasting is important in your IELTS writing and speaking exam.

15 Grammar Mistakes to Avoid (Infographic)

Brian Clark from Copyblogger has created a fun infographic to help us understand the difference between 15 of the most common grammatical mistakes so that we can make sure that we avoid them. Enjoy!

10 Long Science Words

Would you like to know 10 long science words? Do you enjoy learning new words? Whatever the reason, this article will provide you with these words and information about them.

Zwicky’s Zombie Rules of Grammar

A “zombie rule,” according to Arnold Zwicky, is a proscription that has died in practice but continues to lumber about in odd corners of usage advice.”

New words added to the Oxford English Dictionary

The Oxford Dictionary is adding a slew of new words to the English language, many of which have been used in everyday language for a while.

A Dictionary of Despicable Words

The author compiled a list of most-disliked words culled from her blog comments, emails, tweets, and opinions.

Contrastive reduplication: a thing, or a THING-thing?

Know something about contrastive focus reduplication or just contrastive reduplication (CR), also called lexical cloning, the double construction, and word word.

A question of Yoda’s grammatical consistency, it is

What is Yoda’s syntax in foreign dubs/subtitles in Star Wars?

Remember More Without Trying Too Hard

Memory is a tricky beast. You might sit and study for hours on end, but for some reason it never seems to stick with you. However, as Time points out, implicit learning relies on three factors that are easy to control.

Avoiding Apostro-tastrophe: The Possessive Apostrophe

In this article, the author writes about the possessive case.

Transitional adverbs

Transitional adverbs are words or phrases that writers use to move from one sentence to the next. They show the relationships between your sentences and paragraphs.

Confusing words

In this article, the author shares a short list of the errors she commonly notices in manuscripts, along with some tips on correct word usage.

Less or fewer?

Do you ever waver when it comes to choosing between less and fewer?

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

Are you waiting for life events to turn out the way you want so that you can feel more positive about your life? Do you find yourself having pre-conditions to your sense of well-being, thinking that certain things must happen for you to be happier? Do you think there is no way that your life stresses can make you anything other than “stressed out” and that other people just don’t understand? If your answer is "yes" to any of these questions, read more about this article.

How Something You’ve Never Heard Of Is Changing Your World

What do Blu-ray disks, military radars and LED light bulbs have in common? To learn more about it, read the article. This could help you in Academic Writing Task 1 where you could be asked to describe a process or object.

F-bomb makes it into mainstream dictionary

The entry "f-bomb," is one of the 15 new additions in the 11th edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.

5 Types of Modifying Mistakes

A modifier is an optional word or phrase that changes the nature of the information in a sentence without altering the sentence’s grammatical structure by its inclusion or omission.

Punctuational perplexities

Are you punctilious about punctuation, or do you regard it as a hassle or a minefield?

September 8, 2012

Weekly Finds: September 8, 2012

A Man With Magnifying Glass by digitalart
Image courtesy of digitalart /

Every week, we’ll be sharing a list of posts, stories, news, or opinions that we've run across the Internet during the past week or two. We won't be discussing them in detail here, but we do encourage you to check them out as they could contain valuable ideas and insights for your IELTS exam.

If you're ready, here we go...

Vaganza: a mini-extravaganza?

Extravaganza: when a single vaganza just isn’t enough.

When You Feel Ignored

Read the ways for curing this.

Oke is OK

Read the author's discussion of the word OK and its variations.

Cake Mistakes and Kooky Cookies

Clear examples on why correct spelling is important.


Take a look at some phrasal verbs using the verb "To Go."

Spelling Random Lexical Flotsam

The author argues that spelling is important. But knowing how to spell lots of unusual words is not.

Learning New Tasks Is Good For You - But Difficult

The brain is like a muscle; it can get into a routine. But mixing up the workout a little is healthy in both cases. In the brain, however, it isn't without difficulties.

Things students say that break my heart

Many people have fixed ideas about the language learning process and judge themselves harshly when it comes to their language experiences and expectations.

R Grammar Gaffes Ruining The Language? Maybe Not

Experts who study the contemporary tongue argue that we may be writing more vibrantly than ever.

“Pet” or “Petted”? “Grit” or “Gritted”?

Grammar Girl talks about some regular verbs that have been going in the surprising direction of becoming irregular.

Grin and Bear It: Smiling Facilitates Stress Recovery

At some point, we have all probably heard or thought something like this when facing a tough situation. But is there any truth to this piece of advice? Feeling good usually makes us smile, but does it work the other way around? Can smiling actually make us feel better?

Texting and language skills

The author shares his thoughts on the studies done to measure the effects of texting on grammar skills.

Guidelines for punctuation in writing

In order to be able to punctuate correctly, it does help to have an understanding of sentences, clauses and phrases.

On “off of”

Is the use of the phrase "off of" linguistically or grammatically wrong?

Crippled, handicapped, disabled?

When did it become insulting to call someone crippled rather than handicapped or disabled?

Mind Over Matter: Learn to Change Your Perspective

They succeed because instead of focusing on all the negatives they focus on the positive. They do not think of tumbling off or falling back, they think of winning, glory and happiness, and that is what gets them on to the medal podium.

Anyone for Quidditch?

Looking for an alternative to the games that shall not be named?

Common mistakes with verbs and adjectives

Note these verb and adjective lessons.

20 Synonyms for “Type”

Which type of word is suitable for referring to a type of person, place, or thing? Type will do, but plenty of alternatives, some with distinct and vivid connotations, are available.

Pronunciation – 50 English Words with ‘ch’ Pronounced /k/ (video)

Let's learn from this pronunciation lesson.

Dear World: Let's Focus on Being Positive

The author writes: "Even with all this positive change I have been noticing a trend in social media where we seem to be growing more negative, and sometime downright vicious. I think it is time that we as a community work to change that! I know we can lead the way."

Wednesday Words: Weird Slurs, Olympics Slang and More

Let's discover other words related to the recently-held London Olympics.

The triathlon and triathlon vocabulary

This post offers a discussion of the triathlon sporting competition while also presenting vocabulary related to running, cycling and swimming.

Expressions with have, make and do

Check out this list of expressions with the words have, take, break, make and do. These are often called collocations.

Slang Words about Money

Learn 12 American English slang words about money.

September 6, 2012

A 4-Point System for Your IELTS Writing Exam

In your IELTS writing test, you will be presented with tasks. Some of them would require you to either write a letter, or describe graphs, tables, charts, processes or objects. Others would instruct you to either defend your opinion, discuss a given set of opinions, weigh a topic's pros and cons, or provide solutions to problems.

Most often than not, we've observed that a number of IELTS candidates proceed to write without carefully reading the question. There are several more who would start to write without brainstorming for ideas. Then almost all would just end their work without checking for errors. Because of this, their writing tasks would usually contain unrelated topics, erratic presentation of ideas, grammar errors, and repeated words. Simply put, the tasks would likely merit a low band score.

In this post, we will suggest a simple system that you could implement for your IELTS writing test. And since many of our students have had success using this tip, it's high time we shared this with you as well.

So how do you methodically tackle the writing test?

We encourage you to do the following:

1) Understand the question.

What you do here is to just mark and note the important keywords in the instruction and question. For instance, let's take the following question:
Alternative forms of transport should be encouraged and international laws introduced to control car ownership and use. To what extent do you agree or disagree.

If you were to understand the question, you will have to
  • mark "transport," but also note "alternative forms" and "encouraged"
  • mark "laws," but also note "international" and "introduced"
  • mark "to control," but also note "car," "ownership," and "use"
  • mark "agree or disagree," but also note "extent"

2) Organize your ideas.

Now that you've had topic taken into context, you could now organize the ideas for your task. We recommend that you draft an outline so that your ideas would neatly fit into their respective places in the writing task. For example, if we were to suggest a simple outline for the earlier question, it would be:
  • Introduction
  • Justification of your view
  • Additional justification of your view
  • Refutation of the opposite view
  • Conclusion

3) Write with care

Basically, you'll just have to not only scribble fast, but write legibly as well. Make use of paragraphs so that you could highlight the organization of the ideas in your writing task. Always keep in mind that your examiners would be checking lots of papers. Helping your examiners easily read your work really wouldn't hurt.

4) Proofread

Allot enough time for checking your work. Some of the errors worth looking at are the following:
Many times such mistakes creep up into your work. Your effort in looking for these errors would surely help you in your writing tasks.


What could you expect if you follow this simple system?

If you have correctly understood the question, then your chances of complying with the criteria of task achievement/task response would be high, since you would've answered the question properly and sufficiently.

If you have organized your ideas, then there is a good possibility that you have complied with the criteria of coherence and cohesion, especially when your ideas have been logically presented.

If you have done some proofreading, then you would have addressed the criteria of grammatical range and accuracy and lexical resource. You would have spotted the repeated words and grammar errors and made the necessary corrections.

Follow this system and you’ll be on your way to improving your IELTS writing performance.

September 1, 2012

Weekly Finds: September 1, 2012

A Man With Magnifying Glass by digitalart
Image courtesy of digitalart /

Every week, we’ll be sharing a list of posts, stories, news, or opinions that we've run across the Internet during the past week or two. We won't be discussing them in detail here, but we do encourage you to check them out as they could contain valuable ideas and insights for your IELTS exam.

If you're ready, here we go...

OUPblog » Blog Archive » Puzzling heritage: The verb ‘fart’

Fart (“not in delicate use”) looks like a product of our time, but it has existed since time immemorial.

The Internet Isn’t Changing The English Language As Quickly As You Might Imagine

Research conducted at the University of Slovenia suggests that word frequency for the most common phrases in English was much more variable 500 years ago than in the present day.

Oxford English says goodbye to 16,000 hyphens

About 16,000 words have succumbed to pressures of the Internet age and lost their hyphens in a new edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Bumble-bee is now bumblebee, ice-cream is ice cream and pot-belly is pot belly.

Basis points

Is there any basis for using the word basis as a shortcut for based upon?

What the ampersand is an Oxford comma?

Your guide to the history and nuance of four common, and not so common, punctuation marks.

Ingenious vs. Ingenuous

What’s the difference between these 2 words, and are they even related?

“Take one capsule of this two or three times a day; it'll help ease the pain.”

Learn how to properly use the English phrases here.

3 Misplaced Modifiers

Here are examples on how to avoid misplaced modifiers in your sentences.

8 Tips To Prevent Writer’s Block – Exercise Your Writing Muscles To Become A Powerhouse Writer

The author shares tips that may help you start writing or keep writing if you struggle to finish.

Duz Txting Hurt Yr Kidz Gramr? Absolutely, a New Study Says

Middle school students who frequently use "tech-speak"—omitting letters to shorten words and using homophone symbols, such as @ for "at" or 2nite for "tonight"—performed worse on a test of basic grammar, according to a new study in New Media & Society.

8 Things You Shouldn’t Accept in Life

Starting to get depressed on your IELTS scores? The author shares good insights on how to overcome our trials and obstacles.

The Body Language of Power: How to Gain Status and Confidence

Do you know how to use body language effectively? To gain status and confidence, learn these simple yet powerful techniques that could be used for your IELTS speaking exam.

In Which We Consider Banned Food Writing Words

The author shares her thoughts on lists containing overused words and phrases in the foodie genre.

5 Stupid Grammar Myths (and Why You Should Follow Them at Work)

Ending a sentence with a preposition isn't actually wrong—it's just that everyone thinks it is. Grammar Girl weighs in on this and other common rules.

35 Modern Words Recently Added to the Dictionary

From Bromance to Twitterati, here are some more recent additions.

What happens when a language dies?

Check out the author's discussion on language death.

Columnist Annie Murphy Paul: Why Chatspeak Might Influence English Learning

Language change is largely a bottom-up affair — and the moment is ripe for a mass movement to simplify English spelling.

Feeling the pressure or feeling the excitement?

How do you label your public speaking nervousness? Do you say, "I hate public speaking?" How about saying to yourself, "I'm excited to have the opportunity to share my message with this audience?"

Holmes & Watson Amid the Apostrophes

Read an article about forensic linguists.

How We Talk About "Other" Men and Women

A married man's lover is his mistress. What's the name for a woman's illicit lover? Searching for an answer to that question points to the many gender-related asymmetries in English.

A funky thing happened (on my way to understanding)

Every language has words that its own speakers, or speakers of other languages, deem untranslatable.


Text messaging may offer tweens a quick way to send notes to friends and family, but it could lead to declining language and grammar skills, according to researchers.

What Does Letter Writing Teach Us

When was the last time you sent or received a letter? Letters are your legacy. Something to remain after you’re gone. Isn’t that one of the reasons every writer writes and every artist creates?

What is the role of emotion in public speaking?

The author suggests that you should find the right emotions and make them a part of your presentations.


The author suggests that we should try to do something you are bad at too whether that is singing, speaking or drawing. "Just do it!", she says.