Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with passion. Learn More

Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with passion. Learn More

Discussion Forum

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.

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Latest Posts : Opinion / Criticism

I moved to the US from Japan when I was 16, and in the 30 years I’ve lived here, I’ve noticed the ease with which Europeans communicate with native English speakers even when they have heavy accents. In contrast, Asian immigrants seem to have a harder time being understood by the native speakers. Asians typically blame the problem on their accents and their pronunciation but Americans, particularly urban Americans, are used to hearing a variety of accents. It seems to me that there is something else at work causing the difference between Asian and European ESL speakers.

Compared to the Japanese language, some of the phonemes in English are very subtle (like the th sound). So, over the phone, when we are spelling a name, we provide contextual information, like, “M as in Mary. S as in Sam,” and so on. The subtleties are lost over the phone, and we cannot differentiate between N vs. M, S vs. F, and so on. The Japanese language does not have this problem. I believe English is a more context-dependent language because there is a constant need to fill in the information lost in the subtleties.

Even when two native speakers are talking to each other, often they can’t hear each other well (e.g., noisy bar, subway platform, poor quality phone connection, etc..) but they THINK they hear everything. They are actually filling in the missing information from the context.

The reason Europeans have an easier time even with heavy accents is that their cultures are still very similar. They are able to provide better contextual information as they speak. Because Asian cultures are so different, Asian speakers are not able to provide enough contextual information in their sentences and their body language. Even if they can speak with no accent, their sentences can come out sounding foreign, like the automatic translation provided by Google—grammatically correct but incomprehensible. This makes it hard for Americans to understand especially if the speaker has a heavy accent.

A friend of mine is a pilot for Japan Airlines. As long as he is communicating within the context of air travel (like speaking to the passengers on the plane about the delays and weather forecast), nobody has trouble understanding him. This is because the cultural context in this instance is very narrow and well-defined which allows everyone to fill in the gap easily. But he has trouble understanding and being understood outside of this context because of the wide range of contextual possibilities.

If a French person were talking to an American about how he was treated at a particular restaurant, neither would have any problem understanding the cultural context since the restaurants in France function very much like the restaurants here in the US. But the restaurants in Japan work very differently. In fact, their customs in restaurants are so different that some Japanese people take an etiquette class to be able to eat at Western restaurants. (You can see an example of this in the movie, Tampopo). When you are deficient in the cultural knowledge to this degree, accent becomes a secondary issue. Even with flawless pronunciation, you could still have trouble being understood because the listeners have no idea what you are referring to.

Many native speakers find Indian English speakers hard to understand, even those who have been speaking English all their lives. We readily recognize Indian accent like we recognize Southern and British accents. So, the problem is not lack of familiarity. I think it’s the lack of contextual information because the Indian culture too is very different. We mistakenly believe that the problem is their accent.

What do you think?

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I consider “data” as collective, like “sugar.” You can have a lot of sugar or a lot of data. Then “the sugar IS on the table,” or “the data IS correct.”

I do not like “the data ARE.” Never did. I worked as a technical writer and my philosophy was as I have stated. (Even though data can have one bit called datum, whereas sugar must have one grain.)

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I was quite comfortable with the concept of direct and indirect speech that had been drummed into my head by a succession of teachers at the schools I attended in the 50s and 60s.

However the term “indirect speech”, like so many other facets of the English language, has now apparently undergone a change.

At least that is what one noted linguist would have us believe.

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As in: the pie charts give information about the water used for residential, industrial and agricultural purposes ...

To me, “give” here sounds crude, as if the writer could not come up with the right verb; whereas “provide” sounds more appropriate, albeit just a bit high official. 

So in an English exam I would have to mark the writer down? Am I correct in my thinking?

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Why do people feel it necessary to add “of” to some phrases?

For example:

How big of a problem.
How long of a wait.
How bad of a decision.

Seems rather a waste of time.

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I want to play a Star Wars video review as listening practice for an EFL student. However, it contains a strange construction that I can’t figure out how to explain: “Now, the question most likely on your mind, be you Jedi or be you Sith, is...”

I know that it would be easy enough to say, “It means ‘whether you are Jedi or Sith,’” but I wonder if there’s a better explanation.

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I’ve noticed that “haitch” is becoming more common than “aitch” when it comes to pronouncing “H”. Why is this, and what is the thinking on which pronunciation is preferable (or even correct)? My mind goes back to my 4th year high school Latin teacher who was very fond of rendering what he obviously considered witty quotes about “Arrius and his haspirates“.

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I have often noticed that in Scotland quite a few people tend to confuse words like:

  • amount / number: e.g. Amount of people
  • much / many: e.g. Too much eggs
  • less / fewer: e.g. Less eggs

There are possibly others in this category.

Has anyone noticed this in other areas?

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“Defeat to” seems to have gained preference over “defeat by” with media in the UK.

eg:- After Chelsea’s recent defeat to Liverpool Jose said...

Seems like they are confusing “defeat” and “loss”; or is this another evolution that we must suffer?

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Is this statement an opinion?

“Everyone wanted to go on the new ride.”

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Latest Comments

Idea Vs. Ideal

My husband says ideal all the time. And I always ask tell him what do you deal? And then I ask him if he means idea. And that ideal does not mean the same thing as idea.

Actress instead of Actor

Actor is Male, Actress is Female. If you take the Male and turn it into a gender-neutral term, while keeping the Female-Specific term, what term are you going to use to replace the Male-Specific term? You are only confusing the issue when the words get used, making communication between people more difficult.

“hate with passion”

Omit a

Where are the commas?

I am a younger member of the administrative team and my writing is often corrected by an older gentleman who puts that extra comma after the second word in a list of three. Just wanted to make sure I was correct about what I was taught in college and what speech actually sounds like.

Which is correct:
She bought apples, oranges and pears.
OR
she bought apples, oranges, and pears.
I was taught in college that the first one is correct and matches speech patterns.

Can't believe I'm not alone in noticing this. Bravo to those who feel obliged to comment. As much as I love her, Michelle Obama was the first person I heard it from. And here I thought it was my perfect ear detecting an otherwise unnoticed flaw.

On Tomorrow

  • G-Dog
  • August 15, 2019, 12:55am

I found this forum as a result watching Bible Study from my local church on TV with my wife, I finally asked her if she ever noticed “church folk” while speaking in church use the phrase ‘On Today’ or ‘On Tomorrow’ but the same people don’t phrase it that way anyplace else?
It’s been a curiosity to me for some time but I’d never inquired aloud about it. I’m no closer to an answer but I’m relieved I’m not the only one to wonder.

Resume, resumé, or résumé?

Thanks for the enlightenment.
This is better than working on my resume any day :)
---------------------------------------------
SUMMARY (thank you for everyone's posts!):

[for context: i'm a native american english speaker]

1. In this post i learned the French pronounce as
rayzumay

2. i always heard it as
rezumay

So thank you, now the
re'sume' spelling makes sense.

And somehow like so many loan words, the pronunciation changed in its english usage.

3. CONTEXT MATTERS:
Like mentioned wind and wind cause no confusion IN CONTEXT (blowing wind or to wind a clock).
Same goes if we resume using resume for practical English usage.

4. Don't forget perhaps the most wisdom already mentioned:
Use resume without any accents in English for electronic postings (for less translation errors).
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Hi there,

I've a question about where one should place an abbreviation that is inside brackets. I have students handwriting their text response essays and I have told them that when they reference the text title they are to enclose the title with single quotation marks. One of the titles is a little long so I have said they can abbreviate the title after they firstly introduce the whole name, and the abbreviation in brackets. One student asked if the abbreviation enclosed by brackets needs to sit inside the single quotation marks and I'm not sure.

Examples:

a) The film 'Made in Dagenham' (MID) portrays the fight for equal pay in 1960s England.
b) The film 'Made in Dagenham (MID)' portrays the fight for equal pay in 1960s England.

Do you know which of the above sentences are correct?

Ta
James

Resume, resumé, or résumé?

If you are going to borrow a word from another language, you should spell it that way it is spelled in that language, not put your own interpretation on it because you pronounce it incorrectly or can't be bothered to even try to pronounce it correctly or because you have no respect for the other language.

You therefore either spell it the way it's spelled in French or you drop both accents entirely because English words have no accents. if you make it an English word, then you can't logically have an accent after the second "e". If you do, it is a non-word: neither French nor English, nor any other language.

Resume, resumé, or résumé?

here's the thing... obviously English has borrowed this "accented" word from another language... but in modern times, "resumé" does the job correctly of informing a reader that the two e's are pronounced differently, and that the final "e" is definitely NOT silient (it's not "rayzumay", is it? it's "rezumay") so only the middle spelling portrays the modern day English pronunciation accurately