Grammar Tip: passed/past

What’s the difference between ‘passed’ and ‘past’?

PASSED is a verb (to pass). If you can pass something, then you use the word ‘passed’ if it has already happened (just to confuse you – this is past tense).

I passed my grammar test with flying colours.

Fergal passed the slow car, screaming abuse from behind the safety of his closed windows.

PAST is an adjective, noun, adverb and preposition – basically, if you can’t use the verb ‘to pass’ then you should use ‘past’.

(adj) Doris felt that her past experiments with Skittles and Guinness were going to come back to haunt her.

(n) We can learn from the past.

(adv) Bob ran past Fern and hoped she didn’t recognise him as “that guy” from last night.

(prep) If you walk past the gate you’ll find a magical fairyland full of feather boas and glitter.

As Eliza PASSED the bucket to Henry, she couldn’t help but feel that he needed to gain confidence to do things for himself but was inhibited by his PAST failures.

Partying with Punctuation

Proofreading and editing are terms that I often see used together and sometimes I’ve seen people refer to one when what they really mean is the other. I am, of course, guilty of this charge myself. I often say “editing” when I mean “proofreading”, partly because the general word “editing” is more recognisable than “proofreading”. Regardless of how we use them to suit our own lazy conversation needs, editing and proofreading are two different words because they are two different processes and not interchangeable as some might lead you to believe. Both processes are important to your writing.

Token lolcat to make this post more interesting. More to come.


This is done first, usually as soon as you’ve finished your manuscript. For some, it’s an ongoing process as they write. You know those moments when you discover the pace is just a little too slow and you need to speed it up, or when you realise a whole chapter is incoherent and needs to be rewritten? That’s editing.

Editing is the process of revising and rewriting your work to ensure it is coherent, flows smoothly, and uses language and technique appropriately.

You will find that as you edit you also correct spelling and move punctuation marks around the page, however the main goal of editing is to ensure coherence and structure. Editors will often come back to writers and say things like, “Bob could do with a bit more background information to help the audience better relate to him” and “the meaning of this sentence is unclear – rephrase it”.

It is believed that editors are violent because of the coffee shortage in Brazil.
What? There’s no coffee shortage in Brazil?


This is done last, the final hurrah before you pop the champagne and cheer. While editing focuses on form and language, proofreading makes sure that the protagonist remains blonde throughout the entire novel (unless she has a sordid affair with a box of hair dye), and that there are no stray commas wreaking havoc across the page.

Proofreading is the checking for and correction of grammatical errors, spelling and punctuation, and format.

Proofreading is the final “look-over” to check that spelling, punctuation and grammar are perfect, and that format is tidy and consistent. In a formal environment, proofreaders don’t usually communicate with authors as they’re not suggesting changes or making comments about the content of the work. They just make your manuscript look good.

Proofreading Cat also says that if you rely solely on spellcheck, you deserve every painful stroke of the red pen.

Proofreaders use funny symbols (because most proofreaders are a little funny themselves):

Proofreading and editing are some of the hardest processes in producing a piece of work. They require you to revise, rewrite, and question your love affair with commas. If you don’t have a cat who can edit and proofread for you, pay a professional. This leads me to a wonderful analogy (you know I love analogies).

Your manuscript is a party. And because your manuscript is a really, really awesome manuscript, this is a really, really awesome party.

Editing your manuscript is decorating the function hall – it’s organising the colour scheme and sorting out the menu. Don’t seat the five vegetarians at the table next to the roasted pig (and don’t offer them the apple from its mouth). There’s a lot of coordination here – you’re making sure everything comes together to work smoothly. And on top of all that, you have to remember not to let Aunty Mary near the open bar!

Proofreading your manuscript is doing a quick scan of the room before your guests arrive to make sure the champagne fountain isn’t overflowing into the chocolate fountain and the Chippendales are lined up in size height order.

Party hard, my friends.

Weekly Grammar Tip: constrain/restrain

What’s the difference between ‘constrain’ and ‘restrain’?

Constrain and restrain are two words that are very similar and often misused because their definitions share similarities that seem minor, yet are very different in practice.

CONSTRAIN refers to something that prevents you from doing something.

Helga was constrained by duty to her family.

The constraints of the law kept Fergal from killing every stupid person in the room, even though he really, really, really wanted to.

RESTRAIN refers to something that stops you from doing something.

I had to be restrained when I walked into the Hershey’s store. So. Much. Chocolate.

Fergal gave in to temptation and had to be restrained before his frustration led to him killing the stupid people beyond the room as well.

Think of constrain as being like a fence that keeps you in and inhibits you, but you can jump over it if you really want to (and then deal with the consequences). Restrain is like a rope that ties you up and stops you from jumping anything, unless you’re a character inFifty Shades of Grey.

I felt the CONSTRAINS of a modest society breaking against my bare flesh as I walked naked through the supermarket before the security guard decided to RESTRAIN me and call the police.

Weekly Grammar Tip: bias/biased

What’s the difference between ‘bias’ and ‘biased’?

A bias is a personal judgement and is often characterised by prejudice or otherwise being unreasonable or unfounded.

BIAS is a noun, referring directly to the judgement being made.

Your bias about dark chocolate is inexplicable. [Your judgement/prejudice/personal opinion about dark chocolate is inexplicable.]

I have a bias against cheap wine. [I have a judgement/prejudice/personal opinion against cheap wine.]

BIASED is a verb, referring to being bias or judgemental/prejudiced.

Are you biased when it comes to instant coffee? [Are you judgemental when it comes to instant coffee?]

Fergal is biased against red roses. [Fergal is prejudiced against red roses.]

Fern is BIASED when it comes to choosing a white wine because she has a BIAS against Chardonnay.

Weekly Grammar Tip: alright/all right

What’s the difference between ‘alright’ and ‘all right’?

The key difference is that ‘alright’ is not a real word.


Alright, all right, let me explain …

The word ‘alright’ has evolved from repeated misspelling of ‘all right’ and the merging of the two words into one. While ‘already’ and ‘all ready’ have two distinct meanings, ‘alright’ and ‘all right’ mean the same thing (essentially). The word ‘alright’ is technically not accepted in the English language – however it is rapidly becoming more widely used and this use is received without question, thanks to a few rock stars and other contemporary artists. It’s one of those ‘language evolution’ things (please note, this evolution will never make ‘than’ and ‘then’ interchangeable, so don’t even go there).

Want to know more? This post from Grammar Girl offers a more in-depth examination of the ‘alright’ and ‘all right’ debate according to different style guides and debate. My favourite online dictionary suggests that ‘alright’ is more informal and this is also the case in another article. Whether you choose to use ‘alright’ or not is up to you – let’s make sure you’re using it correctly (well, as correctly as you can use a word that isn’t supposed to be used).

Now, let’s assume that ‘alright’ is, indeed, a real word (and according to WordPress spellcheck, it is). There is a grey area as to whether or not ‘alright’ means the same as ‘all right’, or if it has adopted its own meaning. Personally, I think of the two as having slightly different meanings and I offer these here:

ALRIGHT refers to satisfaction or adequacy, or being ‘OK’.

The movie was alright.

This coffee is alright but it would be better with more sugar.

ALL RIGHT refers to being correct or … well, right.

Did you get the test answers all right?

I like to think that my grammar is all right but I always get someone to edit my essays before submitting them.

I did ALRIGHT on the test because I got the answers ALL RIGHT.

What do you think? Do you use ‘alright’ regularly? How do you differentiate between ‘alright’ and ‘all right’?