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Facts about the book
Title: How Much Can a Koala Bear? A Guide to Commonly Confused Words.
Details: 208 pages, 150 x 230 mm, trade paperback
Author: Pamela Thorne
Publication Date: 1 March, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-9806801-0-2
Publisher: Viva Books, Ste 62,125 Oxford Street, Bondi Junction NSW 2022 Australia
Available: Selected bookstores, including Kinokuniya Books; and online at


  • Why I wrote the book: Like it or not, some people get quite worked up if you use misuse words such as stationery, or use less instead of fewer, or flaunt instead of flout. We can’t remember all the oddities and quirks of the English language, so I created a ready reference for these common word confusions.
  • How the English language is changing: English is an unruly, changeable, and idiosyncratic language. Sometimes it simply defies logic. George Bernard Shaw once suggested we might as well spell the word fish as ghoti: ‘gh’ as in tough’ ‘o’ as in women; and ‘ti’ as in motion.
  • Using the right word: English is full of sound-alike words that confuse even well-read people. Yet, it’s important to use the right word in the right place because we are judged on our use of language. Is the music continual or continuous? Do the negotiators defuse a situation or diffuse it? Do I refute an argument, rebut it, or deny it? It's not always easy to remember the distinctions between these words. Using a dictionary involves a lot of flicking pages back and forth. That’s where a ready reference like How Much Can a Koala Bear? comes in handy.
  • Literacy levels among employees: A recent study showed that poor literacy among workers has become a serious productivity and safety issue. Almost half of all working Australians have less than the minimum literacy needed to meet the everyday demands of work. They can’t read safety instructions, operating procedures, or training manuals.
  • Shift to knowledge-based workforce: For most people writing is a necessary evil. It’s something they have to do, but they don’t see it as their real job - only an adjunct. But that’s not true. As we’ve shifted to a knowledge-based workforce, it’s more important than ever to be able to use words correctly, and to communicate clearly.


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