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 : Punctuation and Mechanics

Which of the follow is correct? 

  • CAYA stands for “come as you are.” 
  • “CAYA” stands for “come as you are.”               

I am not referring to the Nirvana song, so I assume that capitalization is not necessary when spelling out what the initialism stands for.

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If a city and state (and full date) start a sentence in possessive form, would you consider the punctuation correct in the following three examples?

  • Frankfort, Kentucky’s crime rate has increased.
  • Paris, France’s breathtaking sights left us in a state of raptures.
  • September 11, 2001’s tragic events will forever be indelibly etched in the minds of everyone.

Please, no recasts. 

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When including a complete sentence in parentheses, what are the rules? For example, someone just sent me this in an email:

“I always change some of the readings from semester to semester (for example, I am trying out the book on migration for the first time this semester and am not sure if I will keep it in the Fall).”

But I could just as easily see it written this way:

“I always change some of the readings from semester to semester. (For example, I am trying out the book on migration for the first time this semester and am not sure if I will keep it in the Fall.)”

Are both acceptable? Is one preferred? 

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When making a list of the very same name of something, is it proper english to use one quotation mark in place of the same name or word after writing it a couple of times down the list? I can’t seem to find anything on it.

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Which ending punctuation sequence is correct for a question dialogue sentence containing a quotation within it?

a. ”Does the menu say, ‘no substitutions?’” asked Jo.

or

b. ”Does the menu say, ‘no substitutions’?” asked Jo.

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My friend is sending an invitation, and she is using the date of:

January, 16th 2016

Is this technically correct, or at a minimum not considered barbaric? Where should the comma be?

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In a sentence, there is the name of a company followed by an abbreviation, the initials of the company, in parentheses. The company name is a possessive in this sentence. Where does the apostrophe go? I want to know how this would work, as I am having trouble finding anything but advice to restructure the sentence, and I would like an answer that gives me what to do with the sentence as it stands.

Example: This policy sets a standard for determining access to Introspective Illusions (II) resources.

Would it be Introspective Illusions’ (II’s) or  Introspective Illusions’ (II) or some other construction?

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Should a rhetorical question end with a question mark?

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I have a question about “;” and “—” as used in sentence structure. I prefer using — i.e. “He did not expect to meet anyone—the house had been empty for years—and was surprised to hear whistling from the upper floor.”

Now, as I wrote a line in my story, as sentence ran away from me and I ended up using a ; at the end, as well as the — and I got the feeling that maybe it had to be one or the other all the way through and not a mix. Anyway, the sentence (racial slur warning)

Rod had not let her buy the beer herself at first—not until father had gone down there and cleared up some misconceptions from that sneaky pool-digger—and hadn’t that been a fun day to be alive; now he just gave her sympathetic looks whenever she came to get beer for her father.

So, in such a sentence, is it right to use both the “—” and the “;”? I can always rebuild it, but it felt right to me somehow, even though I got uncertain about if it would sting in the eyes of others.

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Could I use both a colon and semicolon in a sentence?

A college will provide help for students who are struggling in homework; the resources are: study skills that help students to be on top of coursework, counselors will give advices dealing with the workload, and the option to drop a class early.

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Reading through this conversation 9 years in the future is absolutely hilarious! Sadly, the English language cares little for the opinions of a handful of pedants and continues to evolve with utter disregard of those who try to stop it. 'Their', 'they' and 'them' are now in common usage when referring to a singular person of unknown gender, while the default 'his', 'he', 'him' has pretty much died a death. Poor D.A.W.

“Let his/him come in.”

In grammar, a sentence is the basic grammatical unit. It contains a group of words and expresses a complete thought. A sentence consists of a subject and a predicate. For example in the sentence "Bill writes good poems" Bill is the subject of the sentence and writes good poems is the predicate.

I hesitate to offer an opinion on this because I'm a white native English speaker, but my wife is from Japan and I've been studying Japanese for long time so I feel I have at least a little perspective outside the one I was born with.

First, if were true that Asian accents are definitively harder to understand than European accents all else being equal, I'd just have to put it down to racism, though not necessarily the malicious kind, more the ignorant kind.

But I'm not willing to accept that as true, at least not as a rule. For one thing, while Japanese and Korean have a lot of linguistic similarities, Mandarin Chinese is extremely different in syntax, phonemes, and pretty much everything else besides Chinese characters, which don't matter in speech. And then there are many other Asian languages which have their own unique points, so it's unfair to lump them all together as though Asian accents all sounded the same.

The one thing I would say is that in general, European school systems equip their youth to speak English at a much higher standard than do Japanese schools. The result is that many Europeans who travel to North America are better able to form grammatical sentences than Japanese people, even if their accents are far from native. Part of that may be due to the fact that Japanese and English are much farther apart than are, say, French and English. Scandinavians often sound nearly native in English, and it's no wonder because their languages are so closely related to English, as I learned from studying Norwegian. But part of it may be because the Japanese school system just isn't very good at teaching English. (I say this from observation. I have no opinion of the school systems in other Asian countries.)

Anyway, this is a very difficult problem to quantify, if it exists at all. The original poster, Dyske, didn't even say whether he himself had a hard time being understood or if he was just talking about other Asian people. Since there are many people of Asian descent where I live who were born here and sound like any other native English speakers, and have no difficulties being understood, I'm not sure if this is a real phenomenon (all else being equal) or not.

As to Indian subcontinent accents being hard to understand. I'm sure it's not contextual information. There are many accents within the English language that are hard for North Americans to understand without exposure, and the South Asian accent is just one of them. Others include Scottish, Caribbean, and New Zealand accents. Even British movies needed subtitles or dubbing in the early days of talkies because North American ears had not yet been familiarized with that way of speaking English.

Vaccine doses or dosages?

And that careless usage is why he had to resign. Among other things.

I will go home.

I can't answer this question, but it may be left over from old English. I note that in Norwegian (a cousin from the Old English side), there are two forms of "home": hjem and hjemme. The former is used when movement is involved: "Jeg drar hjem." [I'm going home.] The latter is used when someone is stationary: "Jeg er hjemme." [I'm (at) home.] Similar constructions are used for the Norwegian words for "up" and "down".

Perhaps "home" is so basic to us, that our language treats it as a direction (like "up" and "down") rather than as a place.

Sells or sold?

"Sold only if they used to sell them but they do not sell them anymore." Well, if you were telling about something that happened today, that's true.

But if you were telling a story from the past, you'd say, "I found a store that sold ferrets." And that doesn't mean that they no longer do so.

“Let his/him come in.”

The word "his" is used in two senses, parallel to "my/your" and also to "mine/yours".

Let's not use "cat" in this example since cats are rarely capable of doing what we want them to. Let's use "child" instead.

That is my/his child.
That child is mine/his.

Let my child come in.
Let mine come in.

Let his child come in.
Let his come in.

Grammatically, I think it's fine in the right context.

It is you who are/is ...

Dyske, you say it should be "is" because it matches "the answer". OK, but what if the number changes, mid-sentence: "It is they who are the problem." Doesn't that sound more natural than "It is they who is the problem"? "They" is plural; "the problem" is singular. Plural wins in this case.

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