Are your English skills keeping up with your modern lifestyle?

Today is National Grammar Day – well it is in the US – and that’s my excuse to write to you about contemporary English. We all try to keep our skills up to date, and our English should be no exception. Short of time? Cut straight to our contemporary English quiz and check whether your English is modern enough.

Our gol

Don’t panic! That’s not a typo: it’s how goal was spelled in Middle English when Chaucer was writing (Chaucer introduced about 2,000 words to English that we use today). As an editor of business documents, my goal is to ensure your message comes across clearly, is well-written, flows smoothly and is easy to read. (You may already know that I am a plain English trainer for the Tasmanian Government’s 26TEN numeracy and literacy campaign.) It’s good, too, if your English sounds fresh, for which it needs to be contemporary. Language changes quickly – too quickly we may argue, though in trouthe I don’t hear anyone demanding to return to Chaucer’s spelling; we largely have no choice but to keep up with the changes.

Newe English

OK, so you get the Middle English typo joke. But my point of course is, if your spelling is not up to date, it will likely trip up your readers.

Traditionally, people complain about the meaning of words changing; be careful with ‘hook up’ for instance – while you may be doing that by phone, the young are getting close and even getting their clothes off to do it. But the most common English change that my clients need help with is the form of words altering: in quick time, two words may hook up with a hyphen, then get fully hitched as one. The adjective ‘statewide’ is a good example: many Hit Send clients write that as ‘state wide’, some slip in a cheeky hyphen to compromise with ‘state-wide’, but the Macquarie is firmly backing statewide: one word, lower case ‘s’. By the way, even your dictionary needs to be up to date, and nothing beats the online version in my view.

So, to celebrate another country’s national grammar day, I’ve written a short quiz to test whether your Australian-English is contemporary. Take the quiz here.