mind your language

When You're En Route To Somewhere, Forget The On

The French expression en route (meaning “on your way to”) is so widely used in English that it’s acceptable to not place it in italics every time you use it. What isn’t acceptable is replacing the en with on.


How Spelling Mistakes Will Ruin Your Amusing GIFs

There’s an animated GIF doing the rounds which sums up the plot of every episode of TV medical drama House. It’s pointed and cruel and funny — but the effect was ruined for me by a spelling mistake in one of the captions.


What's The Difference Between A Reticle And A Reticule?

I’ll admit it: before I began researching this topic, I had never used the word reticle in a sentence. So how did it end up as a target for Mind Your Language?


Give Us A Break And Put The Brakes On

I thought put the brakes on was an obvious automotive idiom and that everyone would be able to spell it correctly. Then I opened my eyes and realised that some people are writing put the breaks on instead. Oh dear.


Were You Going To Use Where Correctly?

Mixing were and where can lead you down some interesting temporal and positional paths, but unless you’re a Time Lord, you should learn how to use them correctly. We’re going to find out how.


These Uncharted Waters Have Not Been Chartered

Uncharted waters is a common phrase used to describe unfamiliar territory. Don’t make the mistake of writing unchartered waters instead.


Your Stationery Can Be Stationary (But Not The Other Way Around)

The distinction between stationery (pens, pencils, binder clips and other office gear) and stationary (not moving) is the first spelling mnemonic I can recall learning. However you remember it, it’s important to get it right.


Avoid Breaches In Your Breeches

Breeches is a somewhat old-fashioned word for trousers, and one you probably don’t need to deploy often unless you’re heavily into riding gear or have scored a job writing Asterix comics. One context where you definitely shouldn’t use it? When you actually mean breach.


No, Australians Don't Spell Jail With A 'G' Any More

Language changes over time, and current usage needs to reflect that to be accurate. There was a time when “gaol” was the accepted spelling in Australia. But that time was 1954, not 2014. Jail is the correct spelling these days.


What's The Difference Between 'Inquire' And 'Enquire'?

Inquire and enquire differ by only a single letter, and they both mean, roughly, “ask”. How should you choose which one to use?