I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy! Tash

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The birth of a berth

With my daughter’s birthday this week, this seemed like an appropriate pair of similar but unrelated words.

birth (noun): a new start, especially relating to a baby leaving its mother’s body
My youngest child’s birth was quicker than my earlier experiences.

berth (noun): a space for a ship or large vehicle to be tied up or parked; a sleeping space in a boat; a job (usually on a ship); space in which to turn or manoeuvre a ship
The Captain skilfully brought the ship into its berth. 

There are two ways to remember which birth is which. The first is to think of the sea in relation to the ship’s berth. However, the more fun option is to think of the i in birth as a candle on the-all-important birthday cake!

Elocution is an art, locution a style

If you have ever tried acting or serious public speaking, you may well have thought about your elocution – but how about your locution?

locution: [noun] style of spoken language, a phrase or idiom
A linguist can easily tell people apart by their locution. 

elocution: [noun] how speech is delivered, the art of delivery speech
The actress changed characters predominantly by changing her elocution. 

To tell them apart remember that elocution is how you orally express your thoughts.

Wrongs meanings can eclipse the message

A clear and simple message will always bring better results than a complicated or confusing message. However, even if your message is clearly written, one misused word can cloud the message and make it hard to understand or sometimes give the opposite meaning to your intention.

Make sure you know the meanings of eclipse, ellipse and ellipsis as you can eclipse your message by mixing them up!

ellipse: [noun] an oval shape
My daughter calls an ellipse a squashed circle!

ellipsis: [noun] a set of 3 dots to signify missing words
As a sole trader, Sally keeps all the profits… and accepts all the risks. 

eclipse: [noun] loss of light or splendour, generally due to something coming between the light source and the eye. Common use is mostly about the sun or moon but it can be used for other situations
Huddled in a corner, they froze as the hunting man eclipse plunged them into darkness. 

Note that ellipsis has more dots (as in “dot your i’s”) and means using 3 dots, and an eclipse includes a c for clouding over, and you’ll be using your words wisely!

Resolve your new resolution

It’s early January and new years resolutions are still being discussed and worked on so today’s definitions are inspired by the word resolution…

resolve: [verb] decide upon (alone or as a vote), solve, analyse
After hearing all the evidence, the judge will resolve the custody question.
[as a noun, it means being steadfast, sticking to a course or showing mental resolution and strength]

resolute: [adjective] being determined, consistent, staying on track, focussed, purposeful
Hamish was resolute throughout the year and became due of his school.

resolution: [noun] something resolved or decided on, a formal decision or opinion from a meeting, solution to a question
The committee passed the resolution after only fifteen minutes.
[as a verb, it means resolving, deciding, analysing or  solving]

So you need to be resolute to resolve an issue and make a resolution. (Don’t say that too many times in a row!)

Does a suite suit you?

I was happily reading a blog post nicely laid out with tables and sub-headings when I came across a sentence “change your pricing strategy to suite your business needs.”

I’ll say no more other than to give a new pair of misused words…

business woman lying on a lounge suite with her laptop

A business woman in a suit on a lounge suite – one little letter makes a world of difference.

suit: (verb) to be acceptable to or enhance something
Will it suit you to meet at 10am on Wednesday?
Does your pricing strategy suit your business needs? 

suit: (noun) a set of clothing, generally consisting of a jacket with pants or skirt; legal action; one of four divisions in a pack of cards club, diamond, spade, heart); a romantic interest.
Most men wear a suit to a funeral.
Jason was very pleased when he won the law suit against his competitor.
Rachel’s hand of cards included every suit.
After three years, Elizabeth accepted his suit. 

suite: related things together as a set, such as a group of rooms in a hotel or a set of furniture for one room; music in one key but several parts
Jane ordered a new bedroom suite at the sales.

These are the types of errors I spot naturally and instinctively correct for clients so if you are concerned about your word usage don’t worry about showing your writing to a professional writer/editor – apart from the fact we’ve seen it before, it is better one professional sees it and fixes it than you publish it and your prospective clients see it, don’t you think?


A maternal berth?

Sounding exactly the same, birth and berth are extremely different words and misusing them would lead to confusion…

birth: a beginning, especially relating to the beginning of life when a mammal leaves its Mother’s body
Parents see their baby’s birth as a turning point in their lives.

berth: a space for resting or sleeping, particularly relating to ships and trains. It can refer to a bed/bunk on a ship or train or a mooring place for a ship in a marina
The crew untied the ship from its berth on time for the departure.
Mary climbed into the top berth as the train sped past another village.

My tip for rememebring which spelling to use: a berth is a bed.

the mystique of a mystic

mystic:someone involved in mysterious things, usually relating to the occult and other non-mainstream beliefs. Also can describe things related to these beliefs and traditions
Jane saw a mystic to contact her husband’s spirit.

mystique: a sense of mystery, power and interest about a person, place or event
Modern communications have reduced the mystique of fashion models.

If you have trouble remembering which is which, remember that mystique is about mystery and questions.

An illicit response?

elicit: develop or arouse something. 
The sad story will elicit your emotions and responses.
A problem solving team may elicit a solution faster than you alone.

illicit: illegal or otherwise forbidden (perhaps morally or against rules.)
The couple had an illicit meeting during the conference.

 Not sure how to remember which is which? Notice that illicit is illegal and ‘wrong’, so it can be considered an ill choice or action.

Clear definitions…

I looked at a website today that is trying to explain technical terms to enhance their sales – a good concept of course, but if the definitions aren’t clear I think they’d be better off without them.

This is pretty much the first thing on their site:

What is “Domain Name”?
Compared with IP address, Domain Name is a character sign which is like a doorplate number on internet, it’s used to identify and orient hiberarchy of computer on internet.

Ok, English isn’t their first language, but their site is in English so it needs to be understandable in English! Even if we change ‘hiberarchy’ to ‘heirarchy’ it still doesn’t help explain a domain name – and I actually know what a domain name is!

Moral of this story – make sure a definition is easier than the term it is meant to explain! I suggest using the simplest words possible when writing  definitions so people can concentrate on the definition rather than the words you use.


P.S. Try my article for a longer but simpler explanation of domain names.

“This is not spam”

Yet again, reading some spam gave me a topic to blog about!

This time “Sid” added a footnote to his spam message that read “This email is not spam, it was manually sent by us, our sole purpose being to introduce ourselves to you with no obligation on your part.”

Hmmm, the definition of spam is unsolicited commercial email. I most certainly did not ask for him to contact me, not even indirectly, so his email was unsolicited. It was commercial as it was about his linking business. It came into my inbox. So Sid, it was in fact spam regardless of your claim!

The definition of spam does not mention details such as how many emails you send or if you do it manually or via software. A number of people seem to think that sending an email to one person isn’t spam although the same message to sent 1,000 people is spam. They are wrong – if I did not give you permission to send me commercial emails then it is spam even if you only email me.