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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 : Punctuation and Mechanics

I wrote, “I have two sons, Bill and Ben.”

An editor said that the comma should be a colon. That opinion is backed up by various style guides which say a list (and presumably “Bill and Ben” is a list) should be preceded by a colon. I still feel that a colon is unnecessary, though I probably would use a colon if I had five sons not two. Would I use a colon with three sons? I’m not sure.

Had I written, “I have two sons, Bill and Ben, both in their twenties” there would surely be no question of a colon being required. It seems odd to me that omitting the final phrase, “both in their twenties” forces the first comma to become a colon.

I would be interested in others’ views.

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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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Persian/Farsi

I understand the confusion between "Persian" and "Farsi" when talking about the language spoken in Iran and nearby areas. "Persian" is a term that's widely used internationally and reflects the language's long history and its ties to Persian culture. It's recognized across different countries where Persian has been spoken for centuries, like Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Languages Similar To Farsi/Persian
https://higherlanguage.com/languages-similar-to-farsi/

"Farsi," on the other hand, is the local name for the Persian language in Iran. While it's correct in Iran, using "Farsi" alone in English discussions might not always show the language's broader historical and geographical context. That's why in English, many prefer to use "Persian" or "Persian (Farsi)" to make it clear that they mean the language spoken in Iran and other places where Persian is used. This helps to include all the cultural aspects and history associated with Persian, beyond just one country

fill in the blanks!

  • willow
  • June 10, 2024, 7:02pm

I have a release of all claims and above the notary & witness signatures, there is this statement:
WITNESS___________ hand and seal this ______ day of _________, 2017; what is put in after WITNESS?

Punctuation can sometimes be a matter of personal preference. In your sentence, "I have two sons, Bill and Ben," the comma is commonly used before listing things. Some people prefer to use a colon instead, like this: "I have two sons: Bill and Ben."

However, using a colon might seem a bit formal for just two items. It's more commonly used for longer lists.

If you're unsure, you could rewrite the sentence to avoid the list format altogether, like this: "I have two sons named Bill and Ben."

In the end, both the comma and the colon are correct, so you can use whichever feels right to you.

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