Whipped delights

May 23, 1997

As the Government unveils its plans to improve basic literacy in schools, Edinburgh University has launched a pincer movement through its Centre of Canadian Studies. Ged Martin, the centre's director, has compiled a booklet, Good English for Canadian Studies, which aims to help students avoid some of the most common errors and misunderstandings in spellings and usage.

This includes some intriguing background information, eg: "In 17th-century English, there was a word 'liason'. It was a cookery term, which described the thickening of sauces by egg yolks. After 1800, the word acquired another meaning, that of an illicit sexual relationship. Since sex was naughty and un-British, the French equivalent (liaison) was adopted."

It also includes warnings on style, such as: "Exclamation marks are best avoided in essays. These convey an air of inane wonderment rather than an intelligent viewpoint."

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