When do you need hyphens when writing in Australia?

Why do we hyphenate some words and not others? Is it the death of the hyphen? Not quite yet.

In 2019, some AP Stylebook updates caused an uproar in the editing world – and it’s always funny when writers riot (check out Twitter if you don’t believe me).

The uproar was because the AP editors reduced the number of words they recommend have a hyphen and said the English language changes over time.

After all, we don’t put a hyphen on “e-mail” anymore, do we?

So here’s a few guidelines you can follow – and I stress that they are guidelines, not rules…

HYPHENATED and NON-HYPHENATED is ironic, a meme from Star Wars featured on ME.ME
Image source: Me.Me.

1. Use hyphens for compound words

Where two words make one idea (compound words), and that one idea is an adjective (a describing word), keep your hyphen.

e.g. Many well-known celebrities live in Australia, and their award-winning movies and TV shows provide world-leading entertainment. Hopefully, they don’t earn tax-free income, because everyone needs to pay tax. That’s what my sister-in-law says, anyway, and she works full-time as an in-house music teacher.

2. No hyphens on prefixes

Prefixes like the “dis” in “disadvantage” don’t usually get a hyphen, because they’re not a full word on their own.

3. No hyphens on words in languages other than English

If it’s not English, don’t add a hyphen unless that language has hyphens in their alphabet.

For example, the phrase pro rata is Latin, not English, so even when you’re using it as an adjective, you don’t hyphenate it.

e.g. Good companies should offer pro rata fees, so that if you’re not with the company for the whole year, you don’t pay the full annual fee.

Similarly, taekwon do is Korean, so you shouldn’t really put a hyphen in it, like “taekwon-do”.

4. No hyphens on adverbs

If the words end in “LY” you don’t need the hyphen because the first word in the compound phrase is being used as an adverb.

Phew, we’re getting nerdy now, aren’t we?

e.g. An easily remembered rule does not need a hyphen between easily and remembered.

5. Use hyphens on word clusters or unclear phrases

If the words are a noun or adjective cluster (lots of nouns or adjectives in a row), or not a normal phrase, or the meaning might not be perfectly clear otherwise, keep the hyphen.

e.g. I hyphenate many open-minded philosophies (adjective cluster), but not when it comes to climate change realities (noun cluster, but a normal phrase). Because everyone knows about climate change by now.

(C) TJ Withers-Ryan, 2022. Please credit me when you repost/share, thanks!

Passed vs Past: What’s the difference and how do you remember?

Sooo my love life is located firmly in the past at the moment, so happy Valentine’s day, and let’s move right on to the grammar tips!

How do you know when to use passed and past?

In English we have a lot of “homophones”, words that sound the same but have different meanings or spellings – and this is one of them.

The short explanation is that passed is a verb (a doing word) and past can be a preposition (a place/time word), an adjective (describing word), or even sometimes a noun (a thing/person/place).

Now for the longer explanation…

Passed = past tense of the verb “pass”

e.g. “Yesterday passed so quickly – I don’t know where the day went!”

e.g. “Have you passed the execs that report yet?”

e.g. “I hope we passed our quarterly audit.”

Past = preposition, adjective, or noun


e.g. “It’s past 1 April now, so our rules about default insurance have changed.”

e.g. “I drove past the office but didn’t go in.”


e.g. “Do you have any past reports that I could use as a template?”


e.g. “The past was a simpler time. In the past, we had different rules for who gets default insurance.”

The Past Is Your Secret Weapon - Memebase - Funny Memes
Image source: Cheezburger.com

How do you remember when to use passed vs past?

Did something actively happen to do the passing? If so, you need the verb passed.

Did nobody do anything? Then you probably need the preposition or adjective past.

Try it out for yourself if you want to – which word/s should go in this example?

This question has been passed/past over in the passed/past, so I wasn’t sure whether I should use a passed/past example or not.

Hopefully you passed/past my little quiz.

(C) TJ Withers-Ryan, 2022. Please credit me when you report/share, thanks!

Affect vs Effect

When do you write affect vs effect?

In general, you should use affect where a verb would go, and effect where a noun would go. First I’ll explain how to remember that, and then give you the long, nerdy explanation of how the rules work…

How do you remember when to use affect vs effect?

Here’s my own trick for remembering the difference – two steps:

  1. A is for action, so you should generally use affect where you need a doing word.
  2. Try checking it with the phrase “cause and effect”. “Cause” ends in an e, so you need the e for “effect”, so you need to use the noun.

e.g. The (cause and) effect of the new rules on the super industry has yet to be seen. = Right

e.g. The (cause and) affect of the new rules on the super industry has yet to be seen. = Wrong

Affect is a verb, a doing word – most of the time

It usually means “to change”.

e.g. The government’s new rules in 2020 affected (changed) when you could withdraw your super.

e.g. Our government’s decision was probably affected (influenced, changed, touched) by the number of people experiencing financial difficulty at the time.


Affect can occasionally be a noun meaning “appearance” or the verb “to pretend or put on an appearance of”.

e.g. The team had a flat affect throughout the long meeting.

e.g. In uni, I affected a Kiwi accent to get attention.

Effect is a noun, an object or subject of a sentence – most of the time

e.g. The new rules were put into effect in a great hurry. Super funds definitely felt the effect of these changes.


Effect can sometimes show up as the verb “to bring about”.

e.g. The government wanted to effect change in the economy.

The cutest affect vs effect meme

Now, you all know how much I do NOT recommend Grammarly.com – because it is an American site/app and so many of the “rules” they talk about are wrong for Australian grammar…

But I just loved this meme they made so much I had to share!

Image source: Grammarly.com

(C) TJ Withers-Ryan, 2022. Please credit me when you repost or share, thanks!

How do you spell COVID-19 or coronavirus?

I detest this word at the moment, and have for 2 years so far, but today’s grammar tip is important – the correct spelling of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Do you write it coronavirus, covid, or COVID-19?

The correct spelling is coronavirus (no capital letters) or COVID-19 (all capital letters).

Everyone on social media just writes covid – heck, even I do! – but it’s not actually correct.

Now here’s why…

There should be no capital letters for the word coronavirus, because it’s just a common noun used to group several new (“novel”) viruses under one term.

It’s similar to how we use the common nouns “influenza” or “flu” is used to describe several different strains.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 is a proper noun (a name) for a specific virus strain, and it uses maximum capitals because it is an acronym. The same way that SARS was both an acronym and a proper noun (a name).

Want to get even more nerdy?

The species Coronaviridae is the proper noun, and under this species, there are a bunch of coronaviruses that are all single-stranded RNA viruses that have things in common:

  • A “lipid envelope studded with club-shaped projections” – quoting the scientific explanation because I don’t understand it and will not attempt to try! … and
  • The ability to infect birds and mammals.

Want to get EVEN MORE NERDY?

The word coronavirus means “crown virus” or “crown poison” in Latin, after the way that lipid envelope studded with clubs looks a bit like a crown or a garland.

Scientists love our oldest languages, don’t they?

Tom and Jerry meme where Tom the Cat is labelled omicron, and Tom pokes the Jerry mouse with a sword, but Jerry just says I don't care anymore.
Image source: KnowYourMeme.com

So what does omicron mean?

In Latin/Greek, omicron just means “little o”. Same way delta is just the name for the “d” in the Greek alphabet.

To quote the experts directly for this one:

“The Greek alphabet has two letters corresponding to our letter ‘o’: omikron (also spelt omicron in English) whose name means ‘little o’ and omega, whose name means ‘big o’. In Greek today they are pronounced the same, but in the ancient language there was a difference between them, probably like that between the sound in the English words ‘hot’ and ’no’,” Roderick Beaton, Emeritus Koraes Professor of Modern Greek & Byzantine History, Language and Literature at King’s College London, said.

Source: Reuters, December 2021.

(C) TJ Withers-Ryan, 2022. Please credit me when you repost, thanks!

How do you know when it’s e.g. vs i.e.?

Is it e.g. or i.e.? What’s the difference?

They are quite similar, but not interchangeable.

i.e. stands for “id est” in Latin, which means “that is”.

You can remember this by saying it looks a bit like “in essence” in English, although this is not actually what the abbreviation stands for.

You use i.e. to clarify the first half of your sentence.

e.g. stands for “exempli gratia” in Latin, which means “for example”.

You can remember this by saying it looks like “example given” in English, although again, this is not actually what the abbreviation stands for.

You use it to provide an example for a statement you make in your sentence.

Bonus note: You don’t need any extra punctuation after them – no extra comma, full stop, or dash (not “e.g.,”).

Meme Creator - Funny Which language Latin Meme Generator at MemeCreator.org!
Image source: MemeCreator.org

Example sentences: How to use i.e. and e.g. right

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has had many impacts on the life of the average office worker in Australia, e.g. working from home, seeing family and friends less, and changing childcare arrangements.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) is a “novel” virus, i.e. it has not previously emerged in a significant way or been studied.

Do not do this – how to use i.e. and e.g. wrong:

I hate being stuck at home due to things like pandemics, i.e. the coronavirus.

>>> You are stating an example of “things like” so it should be “e.g.”

But being stuck at home gives me time to work on mindfulness and self-care, e.g. my mental health.

>>> In essence, the first half of your sentence was talking about your mental health, so this is a clarification not an example, and should be “i.e.”.

(C) TJ Withers-Ryan, 2022. Please credit me when you repost, thanks!

If vs Whether (Grammar Tips)

How do you know when to use “if” or “whether”?

They are often interchangeable, but the meaning of the sentence changes slightly depending on which word you use. 

“If” is for when something is conditional. 

e.g. “Call me if you’re free after the Teams meeting.” >>> You only need to call me if the condition happens that you are free after the meeting – otherwise, you don’t need to call.

“Whether” is for when something has only two options, A or B, and the sentence needs to make sense if you add the “or not”. 

e.g. “I don’t know whether (or not) I will work late tonight.” >>> There are only two options – late or on time.

Another e.g. “Well, let me know whether (or not) you’re going to be free after the meeting.” >>> Again, there’s only two options – either you’re free afterwards, or you’re not free afterwards.

The remarkable story behind Rudyard Kipling's 'If' - and the swashbuckling  renegade who inspired it | Daily Mail Online
Image – Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”. Source: Daily Mail UK.

(C) TJ Withers-Ryan, 2022. Credit me when you share, thanks! 🙂

The joys of May the 4th

May the 4th be with you. Image source: Something from Chelsea, Michigan

Image source: Something Chelsea, Michigan

I like May in Australia because it’s autumn so the weather is cool but not freezing yet; three of my favourite people have their birthdays this month; and IT’S STAR WARS MONTH.

But I feel like this post should be more than just “May the 4th be with you”. Because depending on where you live, you may not be reading this on May the 4th anyway.

So as the resident Grammar Lover, it is my happy duty to add some educational information to today’s post.

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Why you should listen to your editor

Grumpy Cat Image source: AP Images

Grumpy Cat
Image source: AP Images

“In the end, what makes a book valuable is not the paper it’s printed on, but the thousands of hours of work by dozens of people who are dedicated to creating the best possible reading experience for you.”
― John Green

At the publishing house where I used to work, we had one author who simply would not listen to the advice of his editors.

Ultimately, the final say in how a book is edited is up to the author. It’s their copyright; it’s their book. But the publishing house always has the option of terminating the contract if the author refuses to make required changes.

Our editors recommended very strongly that this author edit out his “purple prose”. This guy was in love with adjectives. It was a common problem in all of his previous books, too.

When this author’s book was finally published, it got reviewed in the Courier-Mail (one of Australia’s larger newspapers). Guess what. The reviewer picked up on the purple prose, too. They nailed the book, and it didn’t sell well – big surprise.

We talked to the author about it but he was convinced that it was a coincidence that everyone had picked up on the same issue and made such a big deal about it.

This is why listening to your editor is so important.

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When the deed is done: How to run an effective writer’s critique group

“Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”
      — Larry L. King, WD

Once the writing is done, you should definitely pop a champagne and celebrate.

But guess what happens next?

You can either have a sucky first draft of your novel forever, or you can get stuck into editing it.

Unfortunately, almost everyone is absolutely terrible at seeing the story issues or the misspellings in their own writing, so you need a writers’ critique group (a “crit group”).

So how do you find a good group? What should you be looking for when you need someone to really dig into your work (a critiquer or “critter”)?

What should you focus on when it’s your turn to crit someone else’s work?

And what should you be aiming for when you are the one running the crit group?

I ran the Dugong Writer’s Critique Group for two years as Facilitator and served as Secretary for two years before that while it was run by our founder, Grace Dugan, author of The Silver Road (ebook available from Penguin or on Kindle from Amazon). The group ran from 2007 through 2010 and we learned many valuable lessons from the experience.

Read on for tips not just from my group, but also from BWF presenters Vision Writers Group and memoir author Claire Dunne.

Today’s post will be charmingly illustrated by the creative folk worldwide who put captions on photos of cats.

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Semantic satiation: Don’t kill your reader

Recently I was editing a novel where the author had used the “text method” of writing. I don’t mean that they included texts in their story. I mean that they wrote “dont” instead of “don’t”.

So I’ve just spent an hour straight hitting “Ctrl+F” (Find and Replace) to fix the variations of “dont” that have appeared throughout the story. I’ve literally looked at the same one word over and over, to the point where the correct word, “don’t”, doesn’t even seem like a real word anymore.




Donut…? (Mmmmm, donuts… *immediately breaks diet*)

I was telling a well-educated friend of mine about it and he told me that this is called semantic satiation. (Not to be confused with Semantic Saturation, the progressive rock metal band.)

Semantic satiation is the proper term for when you’ve been looking at a word for so long that it loses its meaning to you and just looks weird. It happens because the neurons that are responsible for that word are temporarily worn out from overuse. But what can I do about it?

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