It’s easy to become confused over the proper use of the humble hyphen. The main purpose of which is to join two (or more) words together, thereby making them a single compound word with its own meaning. As in:

• an ex-President is a former President.
• a co-director works with another director.

The absence of a hyphen can also lead to misunderstanding:

I must re-cover the sofa (with new material).
I must recover the sofa (from the person I lent it to).

After his time in prison, he was a reformed character (no longer a criminal).
They re-formed the band and played in the garage (started up again).

Prefixes like co- and pre- should have a hyphen when next to a word beginning with the same vowel, as in: co-ordinate, pre-empt.

Hyphens can contribute considerably to clarity, as in:

You must read two hundred odd pages a day which gives the impression you are only to read the odd pages, hence the hyphen in: You must read two hundred-odd pages a day.

There are several word combinations which are hyphenated when they come before a noun, but not when they come after, as in these examples.

He is a well-known author.
This author is well known.

She is a part-time worker.
She works part time.

It’s all as clear as mud, I hear you say. Ah, don’t you just love the English language.

Grammatical Bad Habits

Following on from yesterday’s post; another day, another primer for you. What follows are just a handful of the most common mistakes we all do when writing.

all ready/already; all right/alright; all together/altogether
We were all ready by the afternoon.
I had already written to my accountant.
Do you feel all right now?

(Note: You should only ever use the American slang term alright in dialogue.)

We were all together for my mother’s party.
They kept three cats altogether in the house.

Get is one of the most overused verbs in the English language. Try to remember not to use have got for have or possess.

AVOID: She’s got three cats.
INSTEAD: She has three cats.

AVOID: Will you get the prize?
INSTEAD: Will you win the prize?

Try not to start a sentence with however. Its best position is second in the sentence, after whatever it qualifies i.e., I must, however, tell you… If placed further along in the sentence it loses its force and simply clouds its function.

AVOID: However, I must tell you that you are breaking the law.
AVOID: I must tell you that you are, however, breaking the law.
BETTER: I must, however, tell you that you are breaking the law.

Remember, the possessive pronouns its, hers, ours, theirs and yours never have an apostrophe. While the contraction of it is always has an apostrophe.

WRONG: The cat licked it’s paws.
RIGHT: The cat licked its paws.

WRONG: Its a problem for her to walk down the stairs.
RIGHT: It’s a problem for her to walk down the stairs.

lay, lie, laid, lain
The verbs to lay and to lie are always getting mixed up. To lay (to put down, to arrange) is a transitive verb donating an action performed by a person or thing; to lie (as in, to recline, to be situated) is intransitive, describing the action of a person or thing.

WRONG: Just lay down there. (Or) Lie her on the couch.
RIGHT: Just lie down there. (Or) Lay her on the couch.

Note also their past participles. To lay is laid; to lie is lain.

WRONG: He had lain his heart at her feet. (Or) He had laid on the sand all day.
RIGHT: He had laid his heart at her feet. (Or) He had lain on the sand all day.

Further confusion also arises out of the past tenses. To lay is laid; and to lie is lay.

WRONG: He lay(ed) his heart at her feet. (Or) He laid on the sand all day.
RIGHT: He laid his heart at her feet. (Or) He lay on the sand all day.

Additional points to remember are, to lie (to tell an untruth) is transitive and has lied as both past participle and past tense. And that to lay (to produce eggs or to wager) is intransitive and has laid as both past participle and past tense.

And lastly, don’t forget the other favourite mistake we all make: their and there. That place over there should not be confused with their car wouldn’t start.

You are encouraged to steal this, print this, and above all, refer to it every waking moment you write!

Homophones {a primer}

These are all words that sound identical but are spelt differently, and have different meanings. For example, hair and hare sound the same but their meanings are totally different. After all, you wouldn’t want to have hares growing out of your head, now would you?

Spelling is one of the biggest causes for confusion in the written language, whatever the language. So, just to bore you silly and as I have absolutely nothing better to write about today, here are just some of the most common homophones.  Continue reading

The Big Bang Symphony


Author: Lucy Jane Bledsoe
Publisher: Terrace Books, May 2010
ISBN: 978-0299235000
Genre: Lesbian Fiction


Antarctica is a vortex that draws you back, season after season. The place is so raw and pure, all seal hide and crystalline iceberg. The fishbowl communities at McMurdo Station, South Pole Station, and in the remote field camps intensify relationships, jack all emotion up to a 10. The trick is to get what you need and then get out fast.


The Big Bang Symphony, set in Antarctica, is as much about place as it is about the people that populate this desolate, wind-swept, unforgiving and frozen continent. A continent that is, in equal measure, one of the most beautiful, haunting places on the planet. One we all know to still be virgin and untouchedit is in this vast wilderness of blues, whites and shades of grey that Bledsoe throws together an unlikely bunch of characters each with their own reasons to be at the last stop on the ends of the earth.

Each of Bledsoe’s characters is wrought with fine detail, and all to human in their hopes, dreams and yes, failings. The author gives them not only purpose and direction she then skillfully undermines them, setting them at odds not only with the people they rely on for survival, but with the elements and Antarctica herself. Pulling them, and thereby, us, in all directions: emotionally, mentally and physically.

To set the scene for what’s to come, Bledsoe opens her novel in the best way possible, one that catches your attention instantly. With a bone-chilling disaster. One that leaves you wondering about how anyone would want to go to the South Pole to begin with, let alone stay there for months on end, in the harshest conditions known to man (and woman) and think they can do it all: get in, get out, survive intact, and make it away with some shred of sanity, let alone believe they will be left unchanged by the whole experience.

And so it is with The Big Bang Symphony, we, the reader, are not left unscathed as we follow the three main characters: Rosie, a thirty-something cook who is returning for her third season on the ice, Alice, a brilliant scientist with a straight-forward naivety that brings her her own set of problems, and then, Mikala, a talented musician who has not only lost her muse, but lost touch with her music and is left bereft.

The three women are made and changed by their experiences on the ice, over-coming a great deal in order to not only find themselves, but also find a sense of home, and just what that means to each of them.

The cast of secondary characters is just as intriguing, and, for the most part, fully-fleshed out. My only quibble, and it’s small (other than for a couple of physical errors in the typesetting) is the fact I would have loved to have read so much more about their thoughts and motivations. I would have liked a little more depth to these three woman. Yes, we get an insight to their histories, and brief glimpses into what it is that might be motivating them, but I never really felt it was enough to explain some of the characters choices or decision. Just my own personal niggle. And yes, I know, the point is that the Antarctic acts like a lens, the conditions so harsh that it changes you in ways you might not expect, but still. This one had a little less passion and emotion than I had hoped for, given the place.

That said, Bledsoe’s evocative proses really gives you an absolute immersion into place and setting, which I cannot fault. You are transported and feel chilled to the bone by the end.

All in all, a worthwhile read.