Monthly Archives: June 2013

Due To Bad Weather, The Train Is Due To Be Late

This post is really the cornerstone of my Grammar Rules. It’s where my frustration at inaccuracies really begins. And it’s all Miss Wassell’s fault. Miss Wassell was one of my high school teachers. She’s to be thanked for much of what I know about grammar and English, and for much of my love of the language and its literature. My mistakes are all my own (as is my distaste for Pride and Prejudice and for Colin Firth therein).

Actually, if memory serves (and it usually doesn’t) I think the importance of this particular rule Miss Wassell’s Grandma’s fault, but Miss Wassell passed it to me. I’m going to pass it to you and, in doing so, recruit you to the legions shaking their fists at train station tannoys the world over.


Due to DOES NOT, NEVER HAS, and NEVER SHOULD mean Because of.

Got it? That’s it. That’s the rule. Stop reading.

Still here? OK, I’ll elaborate. Due to usually means “supposed to”. For example, “the train is due to arrive at 11.10″, “Owen is due to give me back the tenner he borrowed.”

So, you should NEVER say “Due to unforeseen circumstances”. Use either Because of, or Owing to.

Added Confusion

See that phrase “owing to”? Not many people use it these days, but it’s sly, because “Owing to” can mean “Due to”.

“What?” I hear you say.

See Owen up there, with his (my) tenner? Well, that tenner is owing to me, it is also due to me. So he is due to give me back the tenner, which is due to me because of my lending it to him earlier. We’re using two different meaning of the same phrase in one sentence, and that’s just confusing.

Thoroughly confused now?

Keep It Simple

Don’t worry about the confusion. Whenever you’re tempted to use due to, mentally replace it with because of in the sentence. If it works STOP using due to. Go ahead and actually replace it with because of. If the mental replacement doesn’t work, you’re probably using due to correctly. Thank you, you are lowering my blood pressure, and that of Miss Wassell’s Grandma.


Filed under Grammar Rules Simplified

A World Of… continued

Apparently, the boys haven’t quite finished their argument…

“Anyway, it’s not an elegra… whatever you said,” Matty continued. “If you put the words together, you get el…gi…ti…zeli … elgitizeli!”

I was inclined to agree, but Luke is clever. And a perfectionist. If he’d picked a name for the creature he’d drawn, he’d have his reasons.

“No it wouldn’t, stupid.”

“Don’t call your brother stupid,” I said automatically, feeling stupid too.

“Those are all the head ends of the words,” Luke continued. “It’s got the middle of a tiger, so it needs the middle of the word. El…ra…ge…br…on.” He spelled it out slowly.

“Explain it to me like you’re talking to a four year old,” the guy in Philadelphia says. If he’d met my youngest, he’d have said “Explain it to me like you’re a six year old”.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Friday Fiction – A World Of…

Short on time this week, so I’ll just say thanks to Rochelle and EL Appleby for hosting and providing the picture respectively. As regular readers will know, feedback is always welcome, and as long-term followers may notice, these boys have been around before.

ADDENDUM: If you have time, there’s a bit more of this story here


A World Of…

“It’s an elragebron.”

“It’s a world of ridiculous is what it is.”

I can hear the boys arguing again. Luke’s been drawing so it’s probably about that. Matty likes to tease him when he gets home from school, and I’m worried he’s being bullied, and taking it out on his brother. My husband says it’s just what boys do.

Matty’s new phrase makes me laugh: ‘A world of’ whatever. I mustn’t, though. I must be the serious parent and discipline him for being mean. Then I catch sight of the picture. And it is … it’s a world of ridiculous.


Language note: I didn’t see the tail at first, so it was going to be an elragra. Of course, inspiration not illustration and all that, but I think the new name works too. For those who can’t work it out:

ELephant giRAffe tiGEr zeBRa liON


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

For Feedback Part 2

For Feedback Part 2

It’s Christmas (or Thanksgiving if you prefer).The family’s come round. You’ve cooked a turkey and all the trimmings. It’s all come together beautifully and everyone’s sitting round the table tucking in.


Auntie Mabel pipes up. “Shame about these potatoes. I always think roasts should be soft on the outside.” You smile sweetly.

“I don’t know,” Uncle Peter replies, “They aren’t well done enough for me. And the bird is greasy. Could someone pass the gravy?”

“Well I think it’s all perfect.” That’s your brother, ever the peacemaker, although you notice he’s avoiding the potatoes too. “Thanks for doing the cooking, sis.”

There’s a general nod of agreement and then someone changes the subject.

Later, over the washing up, your little sister brings up the subject of the dinner again. “I don’t know if you’ve ever tried it,” she says, “But I read somewhere if you put two halves of a lemon inside the bird, it cuts through the grease – makes the meat a bit easier to digest.”

The last comment of the day comes from your husband, as he’s climbing into bed. “Triumphant dinner, darling. The gravy was particularly delicious. We should look for another recipe for roast potatoes though, they were the only weak point in what was otherwise a masterpiece.”


When I posted about feedback last week, I said I was in favour of any feedback. Some of you disagreed, and I can see why. The Mabels and Peters of this world are tactless and ungrateful. Some might say they should have followed the maxim “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” and in the context of a family dinner, that’s probably true. But on the other hand, feedback is useful. If you can get past way it’s given, they have a valuable contribution to make, which might improve next year’s dinner – the potatoes were disappointing and the meat was OK, but greasy.

The brother’s feedback is nice, because it makes you feel appreciated, and more likely to persevere (host again next year), but it’s not actually very honest. Or very useful if you’re trying to improve.

Your sister is tactful and useful – she makes a concrete suggestion in a way which invites you to take feedback as it should always be taken and given: as feedback on the product not the producer.

And the husband, of course, is the best of all. He sticks to specifics (gravy, potatoes), gives a feedback sandwich (good, bad, good) and he makes it completely non-personal (we not you).

But if you can train yourself to receive feedback constructively, all feedback has its value, even at its most tactless.


Filed under Writing