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Erik Prytz Reitan

Stewart's corner

Link words can improve readability

A simple check of the readability of something you have written in English is counting how many sentences start with «The». «The paper presents... . The challenge was... The work involved ... . »

One way to liven up such «machine-gun English» is using link words or transitions that should act like signposts for your reader. However, do not throw the baby out with the bathwater. A text where every sentence starts with link words is just as difficult to follow as a road where the signposting has gone mad. Here are some examples of link words and transitions:

When comparing things, useful link words include: by contrast, conversely, however, in contrast, in spite of, instead, likewise, nevertheless, otherwise, on the contrary, on the one hand, on the other hand, rather, similarly

When generalizing, use: as a rule, as usual, for the most part, generally, in general, ordinarily, usually

When describing a sequence, useful link words for a linear progression are: First,... Second,... Third,... Next,... Then,... Finally,... Note that most English style guides recommend: First,... Second, ... Third, ... not: Firstly,... Secondly, ... Thirdly, ... . Also, remember that once you use: First, ... your reader will expect Second,... Third, ... and Next

You can also signpost sequences by link words that point backwards, like: Having completed stage one, the next stage/step is... After stage one,... Previously ... Earlier ...

Link words to describe simultaneous actions, include: During this stage ... While ... At the same time ... Simultaneously... Meanwhile...

Finally, there are link words to end a sequence. Make sure these are reserved for the very end: Finally,... In the last stage,... The process finishes with... The last step is... In conclusion...

Tricky words

back, backside, reverse

Back n. means the other side of a sheet of paper, a book or a space: «The course registration form is on the back this folder». «Her photo is on the back of the book». «There are seats available in the back».

Backside (Norw. baken) only means buttocks or behind in British English and many Norwegian authors of programmes, brochures and such like consistently amuse Brits with this one (see Enlightening English). In AE, backside can also mean the rear of an object, like «the backside of a mountain».

Reverse n. either means a setback: «The team had never suffered such a reverse» (Norw. motgang), or the other side of an object: «the reverse side of the sculpture». Note that a coin has its secondary design on the reverse side (Norw. bakside).

per annum, per capita, per diem

Per annum (Norw. pr. år) is abbreviated p.a.: «Her income is NOK 250 000 p.a.». Recommended alternatives are: a year, annually, but avoid per year.

Per capita (Norw., pr. hode) can be abbreviated p.c., but there may be confusion with PC. The alternative a head is sometimes possible, but per head is substandard.

Per diem (Norw. kostgodtgjørelse) means the daily allowance when travelling to cover hotel expenses and subsistence costs. This is often termed the travel allowance or sometimes in slang «the diem». The official translation of the Norw. statens reiseregulativ is Government Travel Allowance Scale.

proposal, proposition

They can both mean making a suggestion, but there are contextual differences.

Proposal (Norw. forslag) means putting forward a plan for consideration, particularly in a formal context: «The opposition presented a proposal to raise sales taxes». An offer of marriage is also a proposal.

Proposition (Norw. forslag) means a suggestion or scheme to be considered, particularly in business and investment: «That TV station could be a good long-term proposition». In the USA, proposition may also mean a bill: «Environmental and tax assessments of Proposition 21».

Proposition v. (Norw. få (uanstendige) tilbud) means to make an offer. But as this is frequently only used in connection with an unsubtle invitation to a sexual relationship, treat this verb with care. Compare: «Ole propositioned Mary-Jane» with the more honourable «Ole proposed to Mary-Jane».

Enlightening English

At Lunde Arboretum, Balestrand there is a notice by Norway's oldest Sweet Chestnut tree: «The young leaves have a hairy backside».
Tourists who visit Andøya should bring their handkerchiefs, as according to a tourist brochure, one of the activities is the «Andøya wailing centre».