Ask Doctor Dot Fullstop


Hello, and welcome to my new introductory page for this section, the aim being to answer those kind of grammar questions people want to ask but often never know where to find the answers, even on the internet.


My full name is Dorothy Pastense Fullstop, but the author of this book and website thought it would be funny to use my short-form name instead. For his own personal amusement, I suppose. But as I am the resident cartoon word scientist here, the job of asking those tricky questions has been passed on to me.

So if you've got a question about English not covered by the Typical Errors in English book or even this website, then send them here and I will try to make every attempt to answer them, but in the same, simple, non-academic and easy to understand way., okay, I'll answer them. But don't think I'm going to be doing this every day.

WEBSITE EDITOR'S NOTE: So if you have any interesting questions of English to pass on to the good doctor, then send them to:


NOTE: Some of the questions that originally appeared on this page have now been moved to 'What's the difference'.


What is the correct way of presenting the 24-hour clock in writing? I’ve seen 1300, 13.00, and 13:00. Also, should I leave a space between the time and am/pm, that is, should it be 12.00pm or 12.00 pm?


Why do many people think it's wrong to split infinitives? (Now moved to 'features')


I thought I knew all the tenses, but somebody told me about the 'historic present'. It's not in your book, so what is it?


How do you do reported speech in conditionals, and what do we call a citizen from Earth?


What's wrong with 'have got'?


When should - or shouldn't - we use contractions in writing?


I am confused. Someone told me that to say 'If I was you' is wrong and should be 'If I were you'. But isn't that grammatically incorrect? After all, I was... or were... taught that 'be' in the past tense was I was, you were, he was, she was, it was, they were, we were...


Why do you use 'they' as a neutral or, to be more precise, genderless, pronoun in the book? It is 'he', and always has been. The use of 'they' is a recent thing.

You state in the book that saying 'Look at Manchester United! It has scored a goal!' would be a rather odd thing to say. But I have seen many examples from the internet that say differently - involving your beloved Leicester City.

Are there really over one million words in the English alphabet (according to your book?)

Why, in your cartoons with speech balloons, are the speech balloons written in upper case lettering but the letter 'i' is in lower case - for example, the word 'brilliant' becomes 'BRiLLiANT'?

Please answer this question once and for all. Is the letter 'Y' a vowel or a consonant?

So why do some people get upset about the passive voice?

Are 'that' and 'which' interchangable?

What is Typical English?

You say in the TEE book that we don't drop the 'h' when we say a hotel, but I've heard many broadcasters - and read in many official online newspapers and magazines - examples of 'an hotel'. So are you wrong?

Do you write or type emails?

What's the difference between 'I'm tried to make cakes' and 'I've been trying to make cakes'?