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 a 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 a passion. Learn More

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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.

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Latest Posts : Pet Peeves

I cringe whenever I hear the way Brits say: ‘the company ‘are’ or ‘the school board ‘are’ voted in by the parents. What is really frightening to me is that Americans are starting to use the same construction. My research tells me that Brits treat collective nouns as plural, while in the USA we consider them singular. ‘School Board’ is singular. ‘School Boards’ is plural.

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We are all aware of the "different from/to/than" debate, and I have no wish to resurrect that discussion. However, I have lately noticed that there are a few other instances of what might be termed “erroneous use of prepositions.” It almost seems that there is a drive to make “to” the de facto default preposition. Consider the following:

  1. “separate to” vs “separate from”
  2. “deal to” vs “deal with”
  3. “think to” vs “think of”

I have also heard “bored of” rather than “bored with.” There are probably many more examples. One has to wonder what has happened to the teaching of English Grammar in the modern era.

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Is anyone annoyed by “double words,” such as:  Were you happy happy?  Was it fixed fixed?  Do you know how to type type?  Now, here’s a doozy:  “He’s in his office office.”  What in the heck does that mean?  I’d appreciate your feedback.

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Just how screwed has our language become?

Why do we hear phrases like:

“If he gets in contact with you”

when there are simpler and more meaningful phrases like:

“If he gets in touch with you”


“If he contacts you”.

Why do people have this predilection with “get” or “got”?

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Not content with using “roading” as a noun meaning “the provision and building of roads” the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has now introduced another example of why suits should not be allowed to write signs.

A stretch of motorway on the north side of Auckland is being widened and there is a forest of signs proclaiming “3 laning project in progress”!

GRRRR GNASH GNASH!!                              :)

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I came upon this on their website: “The Senior Management Team at Fettes College have day to day responsibilities for the running of The College. They meet regularly throughout the year and feedback to staff and Governors as appropriate.”

Leaving aside the rather Germanic employment of capital letters on some, but strangely then not all, of the nouns in this statement, and the wholly gratuitous ‘as appropriate’ tacked on to fill up some space, I find most irksome the use here of ‘feedback’ as a verb. I would use two words: ‘feed back’ (a compound verb), or I would insert a verb and say ‘provide feedback’ (noun + verb). In fact I would much prefer to avoid this ugly expression altogether and use a term such as ‘report back to’ or ‘report to’. Am I alone in finding this whole thing rather disappointing for a major British school?

It’s like the sign at Gatwick airport which directs passengers to do something along the lines of ‘check-in here’ where what is meant is ‘check in here’ because ‘check in’, being what you do, is a compound verb, and ‘check-in’, being the name of the place where you do it, is a noun. 

It is very elementary grammar, as taught to me at about the age of eight, noun! verb! and I find it almost incredible that a renowned Scottish public school can be so sloppy, and that a major airport in England, an English-speaking country, does not proof-read what is to be painted in huge letters on its walls. 

On the other hand, one’s reaction to seeing in Phnom Penh, in Cambodia, the “PRINCESSS HOTEL” in huge pink neon lights ranged in a column above the door, has to be mirth, and wondering what the extra S cost the management. It is not as though they could not afford an apostrophe, as in the foyer are life-size photographs of a number of these estimable ladies, so the ‘princesss’ are plural. So it was an ‘e’ which proved beyond budget, then, or a proof-reader. But that of course is forgivable, as it is not in an anglophone country.

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I’m not usually a peever, but I do make an exception for business buzzwords. A recent survey in Britain found that many office workers felt ‘management-speak’  to be ‘a pointless irritation’. Up to now my least favourite has been ‘going forward’, an expression Lucy Kellaway at the Financial Times campaigned against when it first appeared, but to no avail: everyone uses it now, from Obama to Beckham. But the one that I’m increasingly noticing is ‘reach out’. 

Apart from its physical meanings, my dictionary gives this meaning for ‘reach out’:

reach out to somebody - to show somebody that you are interested in them and/or want to help them - “The church needs to find new ways of reaching out to young people.”

Which is fine. But increasingly it seems to be being used simply to mean ‘contact’, especially on tech sites, for no good reason that I can see other than trendiness. Some examples:

‘If you would like any other suggestions or need help with transitioning your current Google Reader RSS feeds, please reach out to a Library’

‘Wired has also reached out to Google for additional comment.’

‘If you want to follow up, feel free to reach out to me by phone.’

I know I’m just an old fuddy-duddy, and these expressions are harmless, but they do niggle a bit. Any comments? Or anyone for Buzzword Bingo?

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It’s one I had not encountered before moving to NZ. Now I hear it and read it almost daily. Yet a Google seach shows 843,000 hits for NZ out of a total of 267,000,000 so it is obviously not restricted to the antipodes.

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My beef is with titled vs entitled. It seems that it is now acceptable to use entitled in the place of titled. For example: Jane won the contest so she was entitled to the winnings. This is correct. Jane wrote a book and it was entitled ‘How to win at the lottery’ In my opinion, the book was not entitled to anything. The misuse of the word is very widespread and supposedly the meaning has now been officially changed.

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Biggest pet peeve: anything that “changed history.” You cannot change what has already happened. It is over and done with. Even if you go back in time and make changes, you have not changed history, because now it never happened the original way. The original events never happened, became “the past,” and were therefore never history! The only history at that point is the one that did take place as a result of changes being made. There is only one history, regardless of sci-fi movies’ time travel themes, etc., and that is why every form of the phrase “to change history” drives me crazy!

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Latest Comments

I agree a double negative is a positive. Acceptable exception being when being said clearly as slang or for emphasis.

You make a point I've never considered. Strictly speaking, you're correct: to "badly miscalculate" is to do so "poorly", and therefore, "not to miscalculate at all", or "not to miscalculate so severely". However, the word "badly" is used so often from a young age, I think, no one would ever criticize you for using it in place of "severely", which, as you say, is one of degree.

I agree the colon precedes a list, but a list composed of at least three items. In your example, the colon would seem to be too strong. However, I don't have a citation or formal support for my position.

In legal documents, to be extra clear, I often use a colon, and plus, I would add numbering, like this: "I have two (2) sons: (i) Bill; and (ii) Ben."

I am unaware of the "different from/to/than" debate.

In your three examples, the second is by far the one I've most commonly heard.

"Separate to" I can see, but "deal to"?

And I can see "think to" followed by a verb, whereas "think of" is often followed by a noun. Still, I more commonly use "think of".

What about regional differences - "quarter of" vs. "quarter to" (15 minutes before the hour)? I'm used to using "to" in this instance.

Bas Aarts, in his "Oxford Modern English Grammar" advocates an approach that is adaptive and that evolves, rather than a stricter or prescriptive approach. I suppose the key is to understand and to be understood.

I remember being taught some grammar by the nuns in Catholic school, but the bulk of my grammar knowledge came from my father, not from school. And the kids in my class(es) were never any good in grammar anyway, so that's a sad way to say that we didn't have far down to fall.

I agree with you and you make a good point at the end, as in the British way, you cannot distinguish whether the plural usage indicates one school board composed of multiple members or multiple boards.

I would argue for a hybrid: “She didn’t realize … until she smoked 10 cigarettes a day.” The smoking of 10 cigarettes a day is a milestone or a marker in this smoker’s process/evolution. The realization happens suddenly. Once the smoker hit this milestone/marker of smoking 10 cigarettes a day, the realization hit her. The word “until” already signals the sequence of the events, and therefore, it is not necessary to use “had”.

In addition, to me "had" serves two functions: 1. as the past perfect, and/or 2. implying the act (verb) is a lengthy(ier) process.

I accept the use of "My Walmart" to mean the Walmart closest to my home, and I also think it's prudish to object to that usage.

However, I would also point out that "My Walmart" can have at least four possible meanings:
1. that Walmart closest to my home;
2. that Walmart closest to my work (I often leave from work to go elsewhere);
3. that Walmart that I visit regularly, regardless of its proximity to my home/work; or,
4. that Walmart that I prefer, regardless of its proximity to my home/work.
(I often visit an out-of-state Walmart as I enjoy it and I visit it when I am visiting my out-of-state friends.)

I accept the use of "My Walmart" to mean the Walmart closest to me because: (i) I myself use it that way; and (ii) I often hear others use it in that way. And, I do believe it is prudish to object to this usage.

I would add one more distinction: "My Walmart" can have at least three meanings that I can think of:
(a) the Walmart closest to my home;
(b) the Walmart closest to my work - as I myself often go from work to other places; or
(c) the Walmart I visit regularly, regardless of its proximity to my home/work, as I often visit friends out-of-state and I enjoy going to the Walmart near them.

What is said in this article is true, particularly Chinese even those born in the US, they do not sound clearly in their English pronunciations even if they speak fluently. They sounded like pronouncing English words haphazardly as if they are in a hurry. I think it has something to do with the influence of their Chinese native tongue. Most of them even if born in the US have Chinese parents who still speak Chinese at home and they probably communicate using Chinese at home.

Students do have to fill out a lot of forms and many university documents are very important. Also, the difficulty may be that when filling out various forms, sometimes the student must fill in some fields himself and you need to correctly paraphrase the information so that it is unique. If you fill out documents online I managed with the help of you can paraphrase any information to fill out all the important forms. If you need to fill in the data right during the exams, this is of course more difficult and you had to memorize large amounts of data.

“Liquid water”?

Watching Brian Cox repeatedly use “Liquid Water” in BBC’s Universe brought me here.
Is this not a tautology?