About

My name’s Tom Freeman. I’m an assistant editor for a charity in London, which among other things publishes quite a lot of stuff. Like almost all jobs, mine is sometimes dull and sometimes frustrating – but I get to play around with words, which I enjoy. I said in my job interview years ago that I wanted “to get my hands dirty with copy”. And so I do.

This blog is where I wash my hands.

I tweet as @SnoozeInBrief.

Comments

  • articomariktizomifar  On January 30, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Somebody go and remove that ruddy apostrophe for Pepys’ sake!

  • Jeri  On July 10, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    I start my day by reading your Tweets. They always make me smile.

  • Tobias Hector  On July 29, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    Weird Al would get his ass kicked at Grammar Rumble.

  • mskitk  On December 23, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Hi Tom 🙂 Just want to get to know you. So you are nominated for the Liebster. https://enrouteinward.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/christmas-liebster-award/

  • annanolan2014  On January 8, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    What a delight it is to come across another lover of English! Your passion for the subject resonating with me, your blog is just the ticket: you have published some marvellous posts. Although I’m a Pole (resident in Britain for over three decades), I am completely potty about the English language and its grammar, on which I have been feasting for nearly 50 years. In one of your posts, you were spot on about judging words by their effect on the audience, an aspect I have been researching for ages – alongside the extent to which writers are able to say what they are actually trying to say (another important facet of communication, which involves an interplay between vocabulary and grammar). The result is a vast archive, including many examples which are unintentionally hilarious. Since I have found that humour works best, I have been using these howlers both in my books and in my blog. What an endlessly fascinating subject English is! I will be following your fabulous blog with great interest.

  • Alexandre Lemke  On January 27, 2015 at 5:05 am

    Hi. I found your blog while I was looking for an English grammar to buy.

    I’ve found your take on pedantic grammar very amusing.

    I’m Brazilian; English is my second language. I teach English and write a little bit of fiction in your language.

    I’m an undergrad on Linguistics, so I’m not strange to the prescriptivist vs. descriptivist kerfuffle. My problem is that it is difficult to know if a grammar of rules (do’s and don’ts, punctuation, etc.) is any good. Most books that I’ve found on the internet happens to be garbage (Strunk & White, etc.).

    Could you, a non-pedantic grammar worker, recommend any good material that is suitable for foreigners who don´t want to look neither illiterate nor pedantic?

    So far I’ve come down to this: Amis’ King’s English, Pocket Fowler’s, Eats, Shoots, Leaves and The Penguin Guide to Ponctuation.

    Thanks.

    • Tom Freeman  On January 27, 2015 at 10:00 am

      Hi Alexandre. I know nothing about teaching/learning English as a second language, but I can tell you a bit about those books.

      Amis’s book is just a list of his opinions on a random selection of usage issues. It’s very individual to him. He writes well, and can be witty and wise, but this book is not a reliable guide to anything.

      Eats, Shoots and Leaves is probably the biggest-selling British language book of the last 20 years. But it’s only about punctuation. Truss has some useful things to say, but even more than Amis she is very opinionated and pedantic.

      I don’t know the Penguin Guide to Punctuation (by RL Trask?), but I expect it would be a reasonable explanation of punctuation (but not other aspects of English). Books like this tend to be a bit conservative and prescriptivist, but not crazily so. It will also be a more professionally written guidebook than the other two: Trask is a linguist while Truss and Amis are just enthusiastic amateurs.

      The Pocket Fowler’s I don’t know, but the full Fowler’s is a good, reasonable guide to lots of usage issues. I guess the Pocket one is just shorter?

      If you would consider an online guide rather than a book, you could look at the Oxford Dictionaries website. As well as the dictionary, they have sections on punctuation:
      http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/words/punctuation
      And grammar:
      http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/words/grammar-a-z
      And some common usage issues:
      http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/words/usage

      I also asked on Twitter and somebody suggested English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy – a “self-study reference and practice book for intermediate learners of English”, it calls itself. I don’t know it, but you could take a look:
      http://www.amazon.co.uk/English-Grammar-Use-Answers-ROM/dp/0521537622

  • Alexandre Lemke  On January 27, 2015 at 11:59 pm

    Thank you. You saved me some money huahau

    English Grammar in Use is somewhat common around here and I already have it (well, my Mom, who were an ESL teacher herself).

    About Fowler’s. There are two editions of the complete version at Book Depository. Because the anglophone tradition seems to be “make grammar and style books versions overly complicated” hahahha I will get the one forwarded by David Crystal. It should be interesting.

    Now, a cultural difference over our approach to grammar that I find curious. You said that a punctuation guide “tends to be prescriptivist”. Around here, that would be redundant. Every guide is prescriptivist. Description and prescription (or “linguistics” and “normative grammar”) are seen as two different fields of knowledge, and is not the job of the linguistic to tell people what to do. Other than, maybe, education methods, there isn´t much dispute between those two groups of intellectuals.

    • Tom Freeman  On January 28, 2015 at 12:46 pm

      Be careful with Fowler’s. The edition with the Crystal foreword is a reprint of the 1926 original. It’s interesting to dip into, and I’m sure Crystal has written a good essay to introduce it, but it may not be much of a reliable guide to “modern” usage! The third edition of Fowler, from about 1998, was a complete rewrite and is more useful nowadays. I’d guess the pocket version is based on that.

      And what I meant by saying the Penguin book was probably a bit prescriptive (remember that I’ve not read it and I’m just guessing!) was that it might be more likely to insist on formal or old-fashioned rules that some people might think too pedantic. But I don’t know.

      • S Mitchell  On May 17, 2016 at 3:15 pm

        I’m rather fond of:
        http://usefulenglish.ru

        It’s a site written by two Russian teachers of English. It probably isn’t perfect but it tells you what you need to know about grammar and English language idiosyncrasies. For instance it hadn’t occurred to me that we Brits put the word ‘the’ before seas but not before lakes. The Atlantic, The Caspian Sea, Lake Windermere, Loch Lomond.

  • competence4responsibility  On March 5, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    “Minding other people´s language. Alot.” Don´t read anything on my blog, please, because it will probably upset you. My english fails me, but I still want to use it, I think I might need to read some of your posts a few times to catch up.

  • awritershelper  On March 12, 2015 at 9:08 am

    Thank you for having this blog. I appreciate the article on passive voice. That will help me help the students taking my class on writing their life histories.

    There is an issue I’d like your take on about a particular word. I admit to having read up on the controversy on the Internet. The word is dived, as in, “I dived into the pool.”

    As I understand it, that form of the word arrived in the U.S. from England. I am of the, “I dove into the pool,” crowd in spite of the grammatical rulings when it comes to my own writings; however, I would like to read the reasons, from someone across the water, as to why I should choose dived over dove.

    For me, to write, or read aloud “dived” grates my brain. It sounds brash and wrong. I hate it. I cannot seem to make friends with it at all. Can you help? 🙂 Even some librarians here are wondering if those in Britain say they drived their car to work instead of drove it. Personally, I think you drove but . . .

    Thanks again.

    • Tom Freeman  On March 12, 2015 at 5:47 pm

      Hi. There are no reasons, I’m afraid – In British English we just say dived. “I dove” sounds as strange to me as “I dived” sounds to you! But “drove” works on both side of the pond.

  • 365dniwobiektywielg  On June 15, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    Greetings to you directly from the Polish by Luke

  • Jessica Keverne  On December 17, 2015 at 10:39 am

    Hi Tom,
    I would be most grateful if you could write something about use of “persons” vs. “people”. Also, why can’t I find your poem anymore?
    Thanks
    Jessica from A

  • Paul Jones  On May 12, 2016 at 1:40 am

    This might or might not be important but it appears as if we’re about to witness a war of the cranks in the immediate future. On the one hand, we have the spelling reform people with their well-meaning but essentially useless schemes and on the other hand, that Foggy Dewhirst of Prescriptivism Nevile Gwynne USING CAPITAL LETTERS to DENOUNCE their EVIL attempt to DESTROY English by making it take less time to learn.

  • Katia Hadidian  On May 22, 2016 at 11:59 pm

    Do you undertake any freelance assignments? I’m always looking for good copy editors and you fit the bill!

    • Tom Freeman  On May 23, 2016 at 6:58 am

      Thanks for the thought, Katia, but I’m afraid I don’t – the day job keeps me busy enough!

  • Nicholas Soldan  On July 22, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    Hello Tom,
    you may remember we where teenage friends, downing pints of wine with Nicholas W-R and Dan Welam.
    I found you by chance and since I read “Sorry, I can’t come to your party. I’m busy that night sitting at home and feeling glad that I didn’t go to your party.”
    I thought it appropriate to invite you to my party. 27h Aug in the Scottish Borders.
    oh, and have you a current email for Dan?
    Hope your doing well.
    Best Regards,
    Nicholas.

  • M.L.Kappa  On August 20, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    Hi Tom! Fun blog – I loved your amateur grammarian poem! Pleased to meet you, Marina

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