ed or -t?

The following always end in -ed:

learned, dreamed, spelled, smelled

The following always ends in -t 


The following end in -ed for the simple past, and past participle

burned, spoiled, spilled

but in -t when used as an adjective  

burnt, spoilt, spilt

fewer or less?

For things you can count off one by one, use fewer; for quantities you can only measure, not count, use less.

There were fewer cars on the roads in the 50s.

Fewer people attended the gig than were expected.

I drink less water than you.

John ate fewer apples than Jane.

forbidden words

The following is a list of the web editor's pet peeves. It is intended to make writers think more about simple use of English, and for editors to cut jargon where possible.

Don't use the following words or constructions, except in direct quotes.

Access (as a verb)

And/or (Logic gates do not belong in prose)

Anomalous – results are not anomalous, they are “unexpected”



Colloquium – say "seminar" 


Too many hyphens make text look cluttered, so avoid them where you can. See ndash;

After an adverb?

Do not use hyphens to link an adverb to an adjective:

genetically modified food, doubly special relativity

The only common exceptions to this are when “well” and “ill” are used as part of a compound adjective preceding the noun, when a hyphen is needed to avoid ambiguity:

well-behaved patients; ill-considered attack

Compound adjectives

Use a hyphen in phrases such as


Shortened form of it is or it has.

It's a particle accelerator. It's got lots of complicated parts.

last or past?

Use "past" rather than "last" in constructions such as "In the past few weeks...". If they were the last few weeks, that would imply that the end of the world is nigh, and you should probably be at home with your family rather than writing for a CERN website :)

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