Write … to the Point

– writing tips and tricks

Archive for the category “Grammar”

Games to improve your vocabulary and spelling

Improve spelling and vocabulary with games

How many words are in your vocabulary? Do you know how to use them in the right context? How good is your spelling? Do you know your ‘there, their and they’re’?

If you’d like to improve either your vocab or spelling (or even both), a fun way is through word games — both the ‘old-fashioned’ variety board games, and the electronic versions.

 

Board/card games

One of the most iconic word games in the world is Scrabble. In this game, first released in 1938 , players use letter tiles to form words on a grid. Each letter is assigned a certain number of points, and the aim of the game is to score as many points as possible.

A relative of Scrabble, Upwords allows you to stack letters on top of existing words to create new ones.

Another great game is Scattergories. This is a creative thinking game where players list as many words as they can within a certain category, beginning with a particular letter, within a time limit.

If you want to continue to use your creative thinking skills and develop your vocabulary even further, play a game of Taboo. The aim is for a player to give clues in order to have their partner guess a particular word, without using the word itself, or other words typically associated with that word in question.

For those of you who love learning new meanings of words, then Balderdash can be great fun. The aim of the game is to win as many points as possible by listing definitions of obscure words. If you know the correct definition, you are awarded points, and if other players choose your definition as being the correct one (even if it’s incorrect), you also are awarded points.

For a fast-paced, quick-thinking game of words, why not try Bananagrams? It’s similar to Scrabble in that there are lettered tiles. However, everyone makes words at the same time with the objective to create a word grid (like a crossword) before anyone else can.

Another quick-moving game is Boggle. Players compete to find as many words as possible in a 4 x 4 grid, with a three-minute time limit.

 

Online games

There is a myriad of online word games, some of them versions of the games listed above. But perhaps one of the most popular is Words With Friends. Modelled on the game of Scrabble, you compete against online players to create words on a grid.

If you’re looking for a game you can play on your own, there are a couple of options. In the game of WordBrain, you move your way through increasingly difficult word puzzles.

Another game to play by your self is Bonza. This word puzzle game requires players to assemble a variety of crossword-style letter tiles, so they make a full word grid.

If you’re looking for a fast-paced game, try Scramble. The aim is to find as many words as you can on the grid of mixed up letters before the timer runs out.

Finally, 7 Little Words is a series of word puzzles you need to solve, with each puzzle containing a list of 7 words you need to find. You are provided a clue for every word you need to find.

And if you like using a pen and paper, don’t forget crosswords.

By no means is the above list an exhaustive one. But if you’re new to the world of word games, why not give them a try. Not only will you have fun, but you’ll be improving your spelling and vocabulary at the same time!

If you have any favourite word games you play, comment below. I’d love to try something new.

Cheers
Nerissa

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Why you should be reading to your kids

Why you should read to your kids

This week (20-20 August 2016) is Book Week.

Each year, across Australia, The Children’s Book Council of Australia brings children and books together celebrating Children’s Book Week. During this time schools, libraries, booksellers, authors, illustrators and children celebrate Australian Children’s Literature.

Although don’t feel that you only have to read Australian stories. Book Week is a great opportunity to read anything, particularly with your child.

Literacy rates are lower than you think

You may think that here in Australia, we don’t have a problem with illiteracy (the inability to read or write). However, it may surprise you to know that around 46 per cent of Australian adults don’t have the literacy skills needed to cope with everyday life.

That’s almost half of us!

Furthermore, 51 per cent of Australian adults — that’s more than half! — don’t realise that reading and sharing stories with children from birth gives them the best start in life.

Sadly, Aussie kids spend around twice the amount of time watching TV as they do reading.

 

Benefits of reading

Reading has so many benefits. As a book-lover and a writer, I could go on for hours about how great reading is. But let’s just stick to a few. Did you know that:

  • Reading helps children build a solid language and literacy foundation before they go to school
  • Children who are read to have better cognitive skills later in life. And they aren’t just limited to spelling and language skills. Numeracy skills are also impacted in a positive way.
  • Reading sparks imagination, creativity and an enquiring mind
  • Reading relieves boredom
  • Reading provides opportunities for you to bond with your child
  • Children who read, tend to become readers for life.

 

Memories can be made with books

The other great thing about books is they can help build special memories of your children.

My son (who is almost 14) has always been surrounded by books. I read to him the first day he came home from hospital as a baby. I read to him in the morning and in the afternoon. It became a routine which he loved. Snuggled up on the couch, touching pages, repeating words — it was a very special time together.

In the early days of motherhood, when most things would bamboozle me, and I was feeling like a terrible failure, I would take solace in the bookshop. My son would sit or lie in his pram and soak up the atmosphere. We both became calmer versions of ourselves in a place where there were other worlds to discover, new people to meet, new adventures to be had.

By the time we’d bought a book (or a few books), and had a coffee, the world would be a happy place again.

I did the same when my daughter was born. Although the trip to the bookshop wasn’t always as calm, as I had a 2 ½ year old boy who kept excitedly bringing me book after book, asking if we could buy it.

As my kids grew older, I would ask them to choose several stories to read. They would both excitedly run into their rooms, search through their books and pull out five or six stories. Some of them would feature every day. “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” was a particular favourite. But sometimes we would be treated to something different, like the story about “The Little Yellow Digger”, or “Lettice: The Flower Girl”.

Classics like “Guess How Much I Love You”, “Possum Magic” and a variety of “Hairy Maclary” were read over and over. As were books on dinosaurs, dogs, rabbits and birds.

 

Books bring you closer together

Both my children outgrew their picture books a while ago, and I no longer have the pleasure of seeing them run down the hallway and emerge triumphantly with a pile of books almost as big as themselves. But I do have the pleasure of seeing them enjoy more grown up stories. And I do have the pleasure of introducing them to stories that I love — stories I grew up with and loved like “The Faraway Tree” books, “Little House on the Prairie” and “Anne of Green Gables; and more recent stories like “Harry Potter” and “The Hunger Games”.

Regardless of how old they get, and the likelihood that they will forget just how much reading we did in those early days, I will never forget. I’ll never forget how a cappuccino (or bottle in my son’s case) and a new book made the world a better place. And I will never forget the warm snuggles and soft pyjamas as we would settle in for several stories each night.

So this week — just because it’s Book Week — read to your kids. If they are too old to be read to (are they ever??), then talk to them about the books they are reading. Talk to them about what you’re reading.

You know you’ll be helping them improve their literacy and learning. And you may just enjoy it too.

Cheers
Nerissa

If you struggle writing a good sentence and would like me to help you out, just flick me an email. I promise I’ll answer it – as soon as I’m finished reading!

A simple explanation of hyphens and dashes

A simple explanation of hyphens and dashes

Hyphens and dashes often look the same, but while they might masquerade as interchangeable symbols, they actually serve totally different purposes.

If knowing the difference between hyphens and dashes was hard enough, did you know there are two types of dashes?

Confused? Then read on.

 

Hyphens

Hyphens are most commonly used to connect two or more words or numbers into a single entity.

They can be used to join compound words…

eye-opener

up-to-date

 or to join numbers…

forty-four.

 They can also be used with prefixes when a word may be ambiguous

re-sign (as opposed to resign).

Sometimes word processing programs will automatically hyphenate a long or compound word, if it can’t fit onto the page, however this setting can usually be turned off. You will most commonly see long words hyphenated in printed material (i.e. books and magazines) where space for print is limited and the published needs to utilise every available inch of white space.

 

Dashes

Dashes are different and shouldn’t be used interchangeably with the humble hyphen. There are two types of dashes:

The ‘en’-dash (n-dash)

The ‘em’-dash (m-dash).

 

En-dash

The en-dash is twice the length of a hyphen and was originally the width of the capital letter ‘N’.  (It can be made in Word by holding down CTRL and the subtract key).

The en-dash is a nice little fellow, who likes to unite things together on the page. It is most commonly used to indicate spans of numbers, times and distances. For example:

Pages 57–83

9am–11am

Melbourne–Sydney.

 

The en-dash can also link prefixes to words.

non–English speaking background

post–workout.

 

Em-dash

The em-dash looks similar to the en-dash, except it is three times the length of a hyphen. Originally, it was the width of a capital “M.” (It can be made in Word by holding down CTRL-ALT and the subtract key).

The em-dash performs a totally different function to its brother, en-dash. Where the en-dash unites, the em-dash separates, and is used to separate parts of a sentence, particularly if there is a sudden change in direction of thought, or when emphasis is required. For example:

I drove all the way into the city — you know how much I hate that — only to find out my appointment was for next week!

Em-dashes are often used instead of parentheses (brackets). However, in more formal writing, it is preferable to use parentheses over the em-dash.

Because em-dashes are used for emphasising a particular idea or phrase, you should take care not to overuse them in your writing.

As to whether there should be a space between the words and an em-dash, it’s pretty much up to you. Some style guides say to omit a space and others say to put one in. Just make sure you follow the advice outlined in the style guide you use, and are consistent with how you use it.

 

QUICK TIP:

If you find it difficult to remember the difference between an en-dash and em-dash the following tip may help.

The en-dash being the shorter one, brings things together, while the longer em-dash tends to lengthen the distance between, or separate the elements.

 

If you want help sorting out hyphens from dashes, or want someone to do all the writing for you, please contact us. We’d love to help. 

 

Cheers

Nerissa

 

 

How to spell the trickiest words

Words you need to spell correctlyThe Homophones

Very few of us are perfect spellers. Many of us are not even good spellers. However, we should all know how to spell commonly used words.

Bad spelling and poor grammar can distract from even the most interesting piece of writing. In fact, if the person reading your bad spelling can actually spell, chances are they become more irritated with each badly spelled word.

When unsure of how to spell a word, many resort to sounding it out. But what happens when there are a number of words to use, but they sound the same?

Words that sound the same yet have completely different meanings are homophones. They often litter blogs, online comments and even newspapers and magazines. You cannot rely upon spellcheck to pick them up for you because they are correctly spelled — you have just happened to use the wrong one!

So, to help you out, we have made a list of the most commonly misused homophones, along with some little tricks that may help you to remember which word to use.

  1. Your and You’re

These two words are probably the most misused, but cause many a reader to grit their teeth in annoyance.

Your means something belonging to you — as in your car or your pen

You’re is actually the shortened form (contraction) of ‘you are’ — as in you’re amazing or you’re smart.

Tip:

In the case of ‘you’re’, the apostrophe simply takes the place of the ‘a’ in the word ‘are’.

  1. Their, there and they’re

These words also cause havoc among writers, more so than the above two words — because in this case, there are three words that sound the same!

Their means something that belongs to someone else — as in their car or their pen

There is a location — as in over there or there it is

They’re is similar to you’re. It is the contraction for ‘they are’ — as in they’re amazing or they’re smart

Tip:

‘Their’ contains a clue. It contains the word ‘heir’, which means a future owner. So use ‘their’ when talking about something belonging to someone else.

With regard to ‘there’, it contains another word meaning location: ‘here’. So use that when referring to a place.

‘They’re is similar to ‘you’re’. The apostrophe simply replaces the ‘a’ in the word ‘are’.

  1. Its and it’s

Two little words can cause big problems when it comes to writing.

Its means it belongs to something or someone — as in the dog ate its food

It’s is short for ‘it is’ (similar to ‘you are’ and ‘they are’ in the above examples) — as in it’s too late to feed the dog.

Tip:

In the case of ‘it’s’, the apostrophe takes place of the ‘i’ in ‘is’.

With ‘its’ the ‘s’ is close to the ‘it’ means someone is keeping their belongings close.

  1. To, too and two

These may not be as confusing as the words we have already mentioned, but they still get mixed up.

To means ‘in the direction of’ — as in we are going to the shops.

Too means ‘also’ or ‘as well’ — as in we are going to the shops too.

Two is a number — as in the two of us are going to the shops.

Tip:

In the case of ‘too’, there is an extra ‘o’ which is like an extra person tagging along.

‘Two’ begins with ‘tw’, just like the words ‘twins’, and there are two of those!

  1. Loose and lose

Many people confuse these two words, despite them having different meanings.

Loose means ‘not tight’ — as in his pants were loose.

Lose means to ‘cease to have something’ — as in he was about to lose his pants.

Tip:

When the word contains two ‘o’s, the word is ‘loose’. When you lose an ‘o’, the word becomes ‘lose’.

  1. Sight, site and cite

Not as common as the above words, but these can still cause problems.

Sight refers to your vision, or the act of seeing — as in she was a sight to behold.

Site refers to a location — as in the building site was a mess.

Cite means to quote or refer to — as in always cite your references when you write.

Tip:

‘Sight’ is spelled like ‘light’ and you can’t see without a light.

‘Site’ often describes where building work is taking place. The ‘te’ at the end of the word reminds you that there is probably a tradesman’s entrance to the site.

‘Cite’ is spelled with a ‘c’ so this reminds you to make sure the points you are making should be correct (cite your references).

  1. Affect and effect

These two words can trip up even the best of spellers.

Affect is a verb and means to produce a change or influence something — as in how will the new rules affect you?

Effect is a noun that can be used as a verb. It means a change that has occurred — as in the new rules had little effect on me.

Tip:

‘Affect’ is usually used to describe something that is going to happen, while ‘effect’ means that the change has occurred. ‘Affect’ starts with an ‘a’ which comes before ‘e’ in the alphabet. The ‘affect’ happens before the ‘effect’.

By no means is this an exhaustive list of homophones. In fact, you can probably think of dozens more words with different meanings and spellings that sound the same.

However, if you can remember how to use the above words correctly in your writing, you are sure to be a step ahead of everyone else.

Until next time.

Nerissa

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