Tag Archives: writing

Aglet or ferrule?

DictionariesThis is a cheeky one. Of course you all know the difference between these two lovely words. But I like them, and it’s my blog, and you never know who might look things up (even “mandrel or mandrill” is quite popular).

An aglet is the little tube that you find on the end of your shoelaces, usually made of plastic but sometimes of metal. Sweetly, it apparently comes from the French for “little needle”, even though it doesn’t really look like or act like a needle in itself, but is used to help you thread the lace through the holes.

A ferrule is the little plastic or rubber cap that sits on the end of a walking stick or umbrella and prevents it from getting damaged.

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.


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Curb or kerb?

DictionariesHere’s one suggested by my friend and editing colleague, Linda Bates. As a special bonus, it has a US / UK English twist. How exciting!

A kerb is a noun meaning the stone edging of a pavement or path. There are some verbs associated with kerb, notably kerb-crawling, which is driving slowly on the lookout for a prostitute.

Curb is a noun meaning a limit or control (“I’m imposing a curb on the amount of alcohol you can drink at home”) and a verb meaning to keep in control or limit (“I’m curbing the amount of alcohol you can drink at home”). A curb is also a type of bit used in a horse’s bridle.

And, excitingly, American English uses the same word (curb) for both!

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.

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Posted by on September 29, 2015 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


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Altar or alter?

DictionariesHooray, I seem to be doing these posts more regularly again now. They have lots of fans, so hope regular readers are pleased. Of course, if you’ve just found this post having searched for “altar or alter”, you’re going to be a bit confused by that statement, as you’re visiting from way in the future. This “Troublesome Pair” is but one of a whole series of them I’ve been posting for a few years now. Do pop to the links at the bottom of this post to find the whole alphabetical list of them!

Right, anyway … alter or altar?

Altar is a noun and refers to specifically the table in a Christian church, usually at the front, where the bread and wine are consecrated for communion, and more generally, to any flat-topped box or table that is used as the focus for some kind of religious ritual.

Bonus pair: What’s a shrine, then? A shrine is a place that’s regarded as being sacreed or holy because it’s associated with some kind of god / deity, or a reliquary or container containing holy relics. So you do religious things at an altar and a shrine keeps them safe.

Alter is a verb meaning to change (or change something or cause something to change) in appearance or character. In US and Australian English, it also means to castrate or spay an animal (so many bonuses today!)

“After she observed the seriousness of the actions performed at the altar, she altered her behaviour in church and stopped giggling during the services.”

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.

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Posted by on September 24, 2015 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


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How do I add a link to a blog post?

This is a re-post of an older post that was attracting lots of spam comments, reposting it to see if it helps. But it is a useful post, still, so do read, enjoy and share!

Why would I add a link to a blog post?

Adding a link means that you’re putting a hyperlink to either another website or another of your blog posts in the one that you’re writing. There are many reasons for doing this: these are some of the reasons why I do it …

And did you notice that all of those bullet points were links to examples of what I was talking about?

A note about SEO and links (back-links)

One major advantage of links is in helping your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). I’m not going to go deeply into that here, but basically, Google and the other search engines like to see your pages linked to on other people’s pages, as it shows you’re trustworthy and respected within your community enough for people to link back to you. Yes, people do try to abuse this (we’ve all had blog “comments” from spammers trying to get their URL on your list of comments and now we know why) but when used properly, reciprocal linking to content that does actually interest you and is relevant for your readers does help your fellow bloggers and will hopefully lead to them linking to you, too.

How do I add a link to my blog post?

Of course, all of the blogging platforms (WordPress, LiveJournal, Blogger and others) do it slightly differently. But the difference usually comes down to the icon that they use and how much you can do once you’ve clicked on that icon.

I’m going to use WordPress as the main example, showing all the steps to create a link, but then I’ll show you what the link button looks like in Blogger and LiveJournal and, in fact, Gmail, too. And at the end I’ll share those link images so you know what to look out for.

How do I add a link to a WordPress blog post?

The first thing you need to do is have some text on which you want to base the link. Here I’ve typed in a few words. You can see that in the case of WordPress, there’s a little greyed-out icon that’s not clickable if you haven’t highlighted any text:

Wordpress 1

As soon as I highlight the text that I want to use as the basis of my link, the two greyed-out icons appear in all their clickable glory:

Wordpress 2

Keeping the text highlighted, click on the left-hand icon that looks a bit like a staple. Or in fact, as has been pointed out in the comments on this post, a link in a chain. This will bring up a dialogue box for inserting your link:

Wordpress 3

WordPress allows you to do two things here; you can either link to a URL for a page outside your own blog (circled in red) or you can choose one of your own previous blog posts to link to (circled in blue) – very handy.

We’re going to concentrate on linking to a URL. Type in the URL you want to link to – including http:// at the beginning:

Wordpress 4

Note here that I’m read to hit Add Link and I have NOT ticked Open link in a new window/tab. This is because I used to do that and an experienced website manager I know got into a bit of a frenzy and told me that it’s not good practice and I should NOT do that. So I don’t now.

Note: if you want to open a link in a new window or tab when you’re reading a blog or web page, right-click on that link and you should get a list of options including those.

Having pressed Add Link, my text is underlined:

Wordpress 5

… and it will be a link just like the ones in the first section, above.

If you want to edit the link, highlight the underlined text and click on the same Link button – you can now change it as you wish.

If you want to delete the link, highlight the underlines text and click on the icon to the right, which is supposed to look like a link being broken (or a staple being removed).

How do I add a link to a Blogger blog post?

Thanks to my friend Linda for the screenshots for this one! (And that’s a link to the website she’s set up with background information to a book she’s just published.)

Blogger works in a similar way to WordPress, but the icon you need to use is the word Link:

Blogger 1

and the dialogue box doesn’t give you the option to choose a previous blog post to link to, but has the familiar URL entry field:

Blogger 2

How do I add a link to a LiveJournal blog post?

LiveJournal uses another common icon that you’ll find for a link – this is apparently a globe with a link of a chain attached …

Livejournal 1

and you’ll get a similar dialogue box when you click that icon.

How do I add a link to a Weebly blog post?

Thanks to Louise Harnby for the screenshot for this one. We encounter the link  / staple icon again for Weebly, this time in white on a black background:

weebly 1

How do I add a link to a Gmail email?

And just because it demonstrates one of the other icons that is commonly used, if you want to add a link to a Gmail email, for example to point a friend to this blog post, the icon is another chain link / staple, but a horizontal one similar to Weebly’s:

Gmail 1

Icons that represent adding a link

Here are those common icons again. If you find another one, do contact me and send me a screenshot and I’ll add it to this post!

If you want to add a link to any kind of text and you’re looking for the appropriate icon on a button, it is likely to be one of these or similar:

icon 2 stapleicon 3 wordicon 1 worldicon 2.5 another staple

I hope you found this useful. If so, please take a moment to like, share or comment, and spread the word! And feel free to use the Search function on the right hand sidebar to look for more posts about blogging …


Posted by on September 17, 2015 in Blogging, Writing


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Hanger or hangar?

DictionariesHooray, it’s time for another Troublesome Pair (for any new readers, this was a series I used to run that I’ve recently restarted). This is another one suggested by my Australian friend Matt Patten, as he spotted an example just the other day.

A hanger is something that you hang something from – a clothes hanger being the obvious example.

A hangar is the big shed that an aeroplane lives in.

Nothing more I can say, really!

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.


Posted by on September 15, 2015 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


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Expectancy or expectation?

DictionariesFor those who’ve been following this blog for a while, you might remember the Troublesome Pairs series I used to publish regularly. They’ve been very popular, and I certainly haven’t run out of them, but I didn’t seem to get the time to do them. But I have some more coming up, and here’s the first one! This one was suggested by my Australian friend Matt Patten, who’s asked me to write about a few Troublesome Pairs recently (and not so recently) .

I have to admit that this was one of those that I had to look up to check. But there is a difference (hooray) and it’s all about the level of certainty …

Expectancy is the anticipation or hope that something will happen – and that something is usually a pleasant something. It also refers to a future prospect, as in “life expectancy”. Expectant, the adjective, as we might imagine, means anticipating or hoping that something (pleasant) will happen – so you have expectant mothers, etc.

Expectation is the strong belief that something will happen – not necessarily positive. You can expect a storm or an inheritance (and in fact, someone’s “expectations” is an old-fashioned term for their prospects of inheritance.

“It was my expectation that the expectant mother would soon be seen travelling around with a pushchair.”

Note: nobody associated with this post is expectant!

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.


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How do I combine several Word documents into one document?

This article explains how to combine several Word documents into one document. It’s particularly useful if you’ve written a dissertation, thesis or book and need to combine all of the chapters into one file.

These instructions work for Word 2007, Word 2010 and Word 2013; I’ve used Word 2010 for the screenshots

Why would I want to combine chapters into one document?

Lots of people do their writing a chapter at a time, and have it edited a chapter at a time, too. But the time will come when you want to put it all into one book, with page numbers running throughout, rather than messing around starting the page numbers for chapter 2 at the next number on from chapter 1, etc.

What’s the incorrect way to combine my chapters?

You might be tempted to pick up the text of each chapter and copy and paste it into one document. That can lead to issues and inconsistencies. This is the correct way to do it and actually takes less time and avoids you leaving out any bits of your individual chapters.

How do I prepare to combine my documents?

It’s pretty easy to combine several documents into one, however the most important point is …

The file names must be in the order that the chapters are going to be in.

Word will combine your chapter files in alphanumerical order.

If you have called your chapter files

Chapter 1 introduction

Chapter 2 review of the literature

Chapter 3 methodology

Chapter 4 conclusion

then that’s fine, they will combine in that order.

If you have called your chapter files


Review of the literature



then Word will carefully sort them alphabetically into




Review of the literature

when it combines your documents.

The best thing to do is add a number 1, 2, 3, etc at the start of your file names BEFORE YOU START COMBINING, so you know they will come out in the correct order.

How do I combine my documents?

OK, so we’ve got, say, four documents or chapters to combine into one.

First, open a new, blank document (using the Home button, New, and choosing a blank document)

Then, click on the Insert tab and find Object in the Text area:

1 insert tab

Click on the arrow to the right of Object to get the drop-down menu, and click on Text from File:

2 insert text from file

Now navigate to your files and select the ones you want to combine.

3 find your files

Hold down the Control Key and click on all the ones you want to combine (or click on the top one, hold down Shift and click on the bottom one if you want all of them). Once you have them all highlighted, click Insert.

4 select files

Note: it doesn’t matter what order you are displaying them in or what order you click them in, it will choose them and insert them in alphabetical or numerical order, as I mentioned above.

Now you will have one big document including all of your chapters!

5 combined

And … if you had footnotes in the documents, and had set page numbers to show, they will automatically update in the combined document to be numbered consecutively (if you want start your footnote numbering at 1 for each chapter, you’ll need to look at my posts on footnotes and endnotes).

Don’t forget to save your document!


This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents.

If you have enjoyed this post and found it useful, please click on the “share” buttons below or tell your friends and colleagues about it! Thank you!

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2007, Word 2010 and Word 2013, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

Find all the short cuts here


Posted by on September 3, 2015 in Errors, New skills, Word, Writing


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