May 5, 2009  •  tom2

“study of” vs. “study on”

I am working in China helping professors and graduate students improve their journal articles. It appears ingrained in Chinese journal writing to use “study on” a subject rather than “study of.” Some individuals insist on “on” because it is widely used and accepted by some english language publications. Any comments on usage history here or other clarification? My usage history is for “of”.

April 9, 2009  •  amberb

Most-Populous vs. Most-Populated

For some reason most-populous just doesn’t sound right when used in a sentence. Most-populated makes more sense to me. Here is the sentence that it’s used in for context. “BLANK is the public health care system for the nation’s third most-populous county.” Any help on the usage of these 2 phrases would be much appreciated. Thank you in advance!

April 7, 2009  •  sara2

Wet vs. Whet

I know the difference between ‘wet’ and ‘whet’, but my question is about the idiom “to wet/whet one’s appetite.” I’ve seen it both ways, but ‘whet’, to me, seems to be the most appropriate word. Which one is it?

March 26, 2009  •  tom

Speaking with negations

What is the reason that I often hear educated people (and so much of the old research material I’m using) speak using negations. Many people also advise this style of speech/writing. I’m referring to things like “Not dissimilar from...” or “Not unfriendly...” Why? I can understand in some situations where a thing is not binary; if it is not A that does not mean it is B. However, I have heard it used for some things that just seem utterly stupid. I mean on the level of “The TV is not off...,” it can only be one other thing can’t it? Am I missing something?

March 10, 2009  •  biz

On Tomorrow

After moving from Chicago down to northeastern Georgia, I have noticed an extremely vexing trend among many of the native Southerners. The phrase “on tomorrow,” i.e. “We will have a staff meeting on tomorrow.” The first time I heard this spoken out loud I assumed it was a mistake; when I continued to hear the words spoken from several different, well-educated, people I assumed it must be dialectal. “On yesterday” has also found itself crept into everyday conversation... Has anyone ever heard (or spoken) such a phrase? Is this a Southern thing? It just sounds unnatural to me and I do not understand why it is deemed necessary to put the preposition in front of tomorrow (and sometimes yesterday). “We will have a staff meeting tomorrow” sounds just fine to me.

February 18, 2009  •  catherinecanadian

quality-control or quality control

Wondering a) if “quality-control” is a verb b) if it is, should the hyphen be used or not - two instances are found on the “About” page of this website - one with, one without: “As long as we quality-control questions, we should not have to quality control comments.”

February 3, 2009  •  legal

What’s the difference between “commission” and “committee”

I was challenged by a colleague of mine with the subject question to me the other day. I turned to several resources but failed to find a satisfactory and convincing answer and PainIntheEnglish is my last hope. Can anybody help me? Thanks a lot!

November 28, 2008  •  anonymous21

Street Address vs. Mailing Address

When completing forms that ask for my personal information, I find that many forms ask for “Street Address.” I dutifully fill in my home street address. When I do this I find that, a couple of weeks later, I get a phone call asking me if I’ve moved because a mailing addressed to me was returned marked “unable to deliver.” I explain that I don’t receive mail at my home address, and that I have a Post Office Box for that purpose. The frustrated caller then corrects the information that I provided on the form. I calmly explain that I provided the correct information that was asked for. But this wins me no points with the caller. On other occasions, I have been able to ask someone, “Do you really want my “street address,” or would you rather have my “mailing address?” On many of these occasions I have been told, “No. We have to have your physical street address.” So it appears that when a form says “street address,” sometimes they really want a “mailing address,” and at other times they really do want a “street address.” Is there a general rule of thumb to decipher what people really want?

October 21, 2008  •  elainekoh

reported speech

John said, “My birthday fell on last Friday.” If the above is reported, which verb should I use? John said that his birthday fell/had fallen on the previous Friday.

September 30, 2008  •  sushant


“The liquidity is high, as evident/evidenced from the Reserve Bank of India’s reverse repo auctions.” Which one of these two words would be more appropriate here? How do we decide that ?

September 1, 2008  •  jakemontero

con cum with

I’ve seen some writeups around the internet where they use the word “con-cum” or “con cum with”. I know “cum” means with in Latin like “suma cum laude” or transformation like “bus cum green house (bus converted to green house). Can anyone tell me how to use “cum” correctly, or should I avoid it as much as possible?

August 28, 2008  •  michelle

“the below” vs “the following”

When writing, “the below changes will take place tomorrow” followed by a bulleted list of changes, would it be more correct to use the phrase “the following...”? Or, is this a matter of personal style? In the above context, what is the phrase “the below”, an adjective?

August 27, 2008  •  dickrommelmann

You’re not going to the game, are you?

Question; are you going to the game? If I am, I say yes. Sometimes the question is framed “You’re not going to the game, are you?” If I’m not going I maintain the response is YES. as in yes, I’m not going. This has been a source of friction with a friend for some time. Comments please over this picayune dribble.

August 9, 2008  •  javid

Excess vs. Excessive

When excess is used an as adjective, are these words the same. Is there a case for using one over another?

August 3, 2008  •  frans

Instruction for filling out an answer form

I am designing an answer form for multiple choice and true-false examinations. The form has also an instruction how to fill it out. I would like to know if the English is correct and if it is clear what I mean. The students have to fill in the box of their choice for every question, that is to “blacken” the box as they say. Here is the instruction as I formulated it: INSTRUCTION TO FILL OUT THE FORM 1. Use a blue or black ballpoint for filling out the requested information at the top of the form and for encoding your student number in the designated boxes. 2. Use a pencil (preferably HB) when giving the answers. Use an eraser for corrections. Do not use correction fluid or tape. 3. Answer every question by filling in the box of your choice (fill in one box only!). At first I wrote regarding point 2 “Use a pencil (preferably HB) for filling out the answers.”, but someone told me that “when giving the answers” would be better English. Further I would like to know what the correct place of “only” is. Should one write “fill in one box only!” of “fill in only one box”? I would appreciate your comments. Thanking you in advance.

June 18, 2008  •  tom

“I haven’t known”

A friend and I were having a discussion. The question asked was: what is the meaning of “I haven’t known?” If it’s even correct to say such a thing, which I suspect it is. I have a vague notion in older English usage of “I have known various women” and the negative of that, etc. My friend was trying to ask me if it’s possible with that statement to indicate that something was not known at a point in the past, but is known in the present. The example: Person A: Did you hear that Henry’s car is broken? Person B: I haven’t known. Does such a thing make sense? Why or why not? Any help in the explanation of this would be appreciated.

May 28, 2008  •  pirx

Resource (singular) used when referring to a person

I feel a bit offended when someone uses “resource” when referring to an individual. I find this use quite popular especially in the IT world. I know that American Heritage Dictionary defines, among others, a resource as: [...] 2. resources The total means available to a company for increasing production or profit, including plant, labor, and raw material; assets. 3. Such means considered individually. Is using “a resource” when referring to a person a bad style? Am I overreacting?

April 27, 2008  •  joseph

“as long as” vs. “so long as”

Am I correct when I teach my students that “as long as” means you’re measuring time, and “so long as” means you’re using it as a conditional? Hence, “I was here as long as he was” (meaning we were there for the same length of time) and “I will love you so long as you don’t cheat on me” (used for cause and effect situations)

April 24, 2008  •  corinne

Can “meantime” and “meanwhile” be used interchangeably?

I often hear television announcers say “Meantime” when I would say “meanwhile” or “in the meantime.” This seems to be a recent usage. Any comments?

January 31, 2008  •  mightyredpen

perpetrating or perpetuating?

The Boston Globe today ran an op-ed with the headline “Perpetrating the Autism Myth.” But on the homepage, they referred to the op-ed with a link that said “TV shows perpetuate the autism myth.” What is the difference between perpetrate and perpetuate as they are used here?

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