The need for good English language skills (and a good vocabulary, in particular) applies to many walks of life. One of these is when you enter a 25-words-or-less competition.  A 25-words-or-less competition is where competition organisers ask you a question, which you must answer in 25 words or less (to be grammatically correct, it should be 25 words or fewer). The best answer, or answers, wins a prize. Over several years, I've entered a lot of 25-words-or-less competitions. I enter these competitions because I enjoy them. They're fun, I get to practise my creative writing skills, and, as a bonus, I might win something. During my time entering (and, more than average, winning) these 25-words-or-less competitions, I've noticed a few trends and I've gathered a few tips. Here, then, are my 5 simple tips to winning 25-words-or-less (or 25 wol) competitions.

Published in Writing
Saturday, 05 December 2015 10:28

Finnglish: English vocabulary errors abroad

Usually, we steer away from posting English vocabulary bloopers from abroad — it's funnier when English trips up native English-language speakers. And people learning English as a second language might take offence to the perception we're poking fun at them. After all, how well would we fare learning a new language? However, the following list of Finnglish — mangled English from Finland — was sent to us in good faith and in good spirit. In the following examples, we're not laughing so much at the perpetuator of the English vocabulary mistake, as we are at the English language itself. English is a weird language that can easily get us confused. Enjoy these vocabulary bloopers in the spirit in which they're given, in good humour.

Published in Writing
Sunday, 29 November 2015 09:41

Facebook Grammar and Spelling Fails

Online debates can escalate quickly, especially on Facebook. In the rush to make our point, we search for a phrase that's on the tip of our tongue, and hurriedly type the punchy aphorism so our opponents might  quickly succumb to our erudition and wit. Only sometimes, we rush too fast; what seemed initially like the moment we would soar, turns out to be the moment we came down with a thud. When our opponent points out we've made an embarrassing blunder, our credibility (if we ever really had any) is shot. Here is a list of such moments; when in reaching for the knockout punch, the keyboard warrior reached too far...

Published in Writing
Sunday, 29 November 2015 01:06

How Doctor Who Improved My Vocabulary

To improve your vocabulary, a crucial technique is "elaboration" — for example, learning and using a new word in its context. Watching good television shows can provide the necessary context you need for learning new words. In this article, we take a look at five words the popular television show Doctor Who has helped children across the globe (and universe?) to learn and understand.

In my earlier article in 2012, I wrote about how the meaning of "marriage" is ever-changing. I foreshadowed one definition of "marriage" as an inherently flexible legal term of art that develops over time; and governments that make laws with respect to “marriage” can prescribe the unions to be regarded as “marriages”. Since then, the High Court of Australia in Cth v ACT [2013] HCA 55 has unaminously declared for all Australia the constitutional meaning of "marriage". It turns out that the meaning of "marriage" I foreshadowed in 2012 is the meaning the High Court has adopted. In the process, the High Court has traced the history of "marriage", has separated the Christian context of "marriage" from the secular context of "marriage", and has clarified the inequality that exists when the status of "marriage" is accorded to some people but not to others.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015 02:28

Improve Your Vocabulary With The Funny Dictionary

Just a few days ago, I released an online version of my book The Funny Dictionary. The full text of The Funny Dictionary is now available to everyone, for free. As I have written in the preface to The Funny Dictionary, the main purpose of the book is to entertain; but The Funny Dictionary also has an ulterior use: to improve your vocabulary. Find out how to use The Funny Dictionary to improve your vocabulary, by reading on...

Monday, 09 September 2013 13:04

Old Words for Sex

We human beings, throughout history, seem to have gone out of our way to find different words for "sex". Why we use euphemisms at all is an interesting topic in itself; and why we use so many euphemisms for sexual intercourse is particularly interesting. Why do *you* think we use, and have used, such a variety of words for sex? Some of the words we use for sex sanitise and remove the sexual act into the abstract (such as "amorous congress" and "carnal knowing") while other euphemisms for sex are crude and straight to the point (as it were). Here is a list of just some of the olden day words people have used for sexual intercourse.

Thursday, 31 January 2013 03:20

Simple Tips For Improving Vocabulary

By developing your vocabulary, you will be able to communicate and learn more effectively. The beauty of the English language is the many ways to express something with subtle differences in meaning. With practice, vocabulary will allow you to express yourself.

A guest article by Zac Wearden, freelance proofreader at

The meaning of the word "marriage" is changing or has already changed. What other words have changed their meaning over time?

Before we begin improving your vocabulary and increasing your vocabulary, we need to clarify some basic questions. What is a vocabulary? What is a good vocabulary? What is the difference between improving your vocabulary and increasing your vocabulary? Find out here

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