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This is a forum to discuss the gray areas of the English language for which you would not find answers easily in dictionaries or other reference books. You can browse through the latest questions and comments below. If you have a question of your own, please submit it here.

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Some people think that there is a difference in meaning between “in that regard” and “in that respect”, some believe that a lot of phrases using “regard” or “regards” are in fact making inappropriate use of the word, and of course some think there is nothing wrong with such usage.

Does anyone else think that the phrase “In that regard” is overused and misused?

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Is there any defense of capitalizing after a semicolon? This reads well to me:

We do not sell tricycles; We sell velocipedes. 

Learn the difference.

Not capitalizing the first word of the second clause diminishes the perceived parallelism:

We do not sell tricycles; we sell velocipedes.

The store around the corner sells bicycles.

With a period between them, the first two clauses read like the premises of a syllogism:

We do not sell tricycles. We sell velocipedes.

Do we sell unicycles?

I will continue, of course, to pen as I please, but, in this instance, wonder if I can confidently publish as I please.

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Is separating two coordinating-conjunction-linked sentences, the former having a comma(s), with a semicolon instead of a comma logically justified?

In’s Semicolons category, Rule 5. reads:

Use the semicolon between two sentences joined by a coordinating conjunction when one or more commas appear in the first sentence.

Examples: When I finish here, I will be glad to help you; and that is a promise I will keep.

If she can, she will attempt that feat; and if her husband is able, he will be there to see her.

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The AP Stylebook today announced that electronic mail is now spelled without a hyphen: email. Finally. I personally haven’t used “e-mail” in about a decade. We have a thread here on this topic of how to properly spell email.

At the time, I commented that it may take another 10 years for this to settle, but it took less than a year!

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How does one know exactly when a word is supposed to end with -“ise” vs -“ize” in Oxford spelling?

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Onamography is a writing technique that involves creatively incorporating proper nouns (company names, celebrities, etc.) in regular English sentences.

A few examples to clarify the concept:

Onnicle 1: The man at the bar acknowledged that he found the job amateurish. Onnicle 2: The SMS said..Bob ill. The rag ate sick shellfish!

The first sentence has ‘Barack Obama’ embedded in it and the second one has Bill Gates. The concept can be extended to include multiple names in a paragraph.

I’ve been trying to find out if there is already a technical name in English to describe it. Onamography is a coined word (Greek origin: onuma --> name, graphe --> writing) as I couldn’t find anything else that comes close to describing the concept.

Any inputs?

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Have you noticed that, at trendy cafes, more than half of the laptop computers you see are the new MacBooks? (Well, at least in New York City.) I don’t mean any MacBook; I’m talking about the latest MacBook (”the brick”). In fact, I believe seeing the older versions of MacBooks is rarer than seeing PC laptops.

If these people are deciding to work at cafes for practical reasons, then the laptop demographic should be much more diverse, with a lot more PCs and older versions of MacBook, but this is not what I see. The demographic is heavily skewed towards the latest models of MacBook. So, I would have to conclude that the reason why these MacBook owners come out to cafes is because they want to show off their brand new MacBooks.

It would makes sense, therefore, to coin a term for showing off your MacBook at a cafe. I’ve struggled with this for a while, and this morning, I decided that it should be “Mac off”.

“Hey, honey. I’m gonna go Mac off at the Starbucks for a few hours, OK?”

“At a cafe in Williamsburg, I saw about a dozen people sitting in a row Mac’ing off.”

“I bought the new MacBook Pro last week, but I haven’t Mac’ed off yet.”

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If you have a kid and a stroller, I’m sure you’ve experienced this many times. You hang a lot of stuff from the handle of the stroller, and when the kid jumps out of it, the whole thing topples over.

One of my friends wants a word for this (a verb). I tried to think of one, but I couldn’t come up with a good one. (”Stropple”, for instance, isn’t so good because the sound of it lacks the impact of the actual event.) Can anyone think of one?

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Is there a word to describe a Twitter user who follows everyone in an attempt to get them to follow him? Now, I’m getting a regular stream of them. When you look at their profiles, they have hundreds of followers. It’s just not possible or practical to read that many tweets every day. Obviously they are not reading anything; they just want you to read their tweets. It’s a marketing ploy.

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Latest Comments

Overhead yesterday in a coffee shop:
Customer: Excuse me; I was wondering if I could trouble you for a side salad.
Waitress: Side salad?

Slight mismatch of styles!

How should a waiter or bartender address a customer?
"Do you want .........................?"
"Would you like.....................?"

When you say, "Can I get..?" in the UK, it's generally considered a f**king rude Americanism. Happy Thanksgiving, though.

She and her father look alike
Her and her father look alike

age vs. aged

Which is correct? aged 45 years or over OR aged 45 years or more


Your apology is noted.


Although the addition of "got" may not follow the strictest syntax rules I believe it's use can be justified here because it serves as an intensifier that emphasizes the need to act is greater than the use of "have" alone connotes.
Also, when the contraction "I've" is used then the addition of "got" improves the word structure sonically by preserving the normal rhythm of a sentence because the contraction works as a single word that serves as the noun, or rather, pronoun of the sentence and leaves a need for another verb.

@WW Sorry, I assumed 'cacography' was just a made-up word - it's all Greek to me ;}

@jayles - OK, let's deal with cacography first. Yes, literally, in Greek, it means what you say, and that seems to be the standard dictionary definition, but it also seems to have taken on a new meaning, at least in linguistics:

"Cacography is deliberate comic misspelling, a type of humour similar to malapropism ... A common usage of cacography is to caricature illiterate speakers." Wikipedia.

Languages are creative like that, giving new meanings to adopted words, and so HS was perfectly correct.

You ask HS why he is resorting to Greek. But I could also ask why these (for me, at least) weird Anglish-inspired words have been noticeably creeping back into your own comments recently ("spider-dread" - come on, get real!). For me they have even less to do with natural English than Greek loan words, and I very much doubt that "normal people" have much time for them either.

English is a glorious mix - and I relish it. I have no objection to keeping things simple, but personally I hate this idea of language purism as much as I hate pedantry. Leave the language alone, it's just fine as it is!

I wouldn't have mentioned this if you hadn't brought the subject up :). And as for Stephen Fry, he has made one of the best commentaries on English I've ever seen:

mixing semicolon and em dash

Not an answer, but a comment on the use of dashes in British English. As far as I know BrE doesn't talk much about em-dashes, for example you won't often see -- (substituting for an em-dash) from British contributors to forums etc. We simply use a dash, in writing the same length as a en-dash, (but on a computer just using a single hyphen), and we put spaces either side - like that, for example. And they don't seem to be used nearly as much as in American English.

From one website on British grammar:

'The double dash encloses supplementary information in the same way as round brackets –
"Alaska – purchased from Russia in 1867 and granted statehood in 1959 – comprises some 586,000 square miles and 624,000 people."
But brackets are preferred in formal scripts.'

This is from the Chicago Manual of Style Online:

"note that it is also the common British practice to use an en dash with a word space on either side where American publishers would use an em dash closed up to the surrounding words"

But I've noticed that the Economist has recently started using M-dashes without gaps. In the online version they are obviously M-dashes, and there's no real problem, but in the print edition they don't seem to be as wide. This is really confusing my students (and me, to be honest), who think they are hyphens, reading the two separate words as one hyphenated word. It turns out that Polish, like British English always uses gaps. I'm beginning to wonder about other European languages. WW will have to investigate!