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

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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 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

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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For example, “Every morning, I wake up at 6:00 am and then I make a cup of coffee.”

As a writing teacher for international students, I see this kind of sentence all the time. I know it is technically correct to use a comma before a coordinating conjunction, but I have found that so many Americans omit this comma that it has become extremely commonplace even among native English speakers. Is it socially acceptable in writing to omit the comma? How serious is it to mandate that my international include this comma?

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Latest Comments

When used in that way, it is being used wrongly, and has somehow become common in the US.
Just as when they say "I could care less" but mean the opposite. It's not that the phrase is strange, it's the diction of the speaker that is strange. In countries that are not the US, people say "I couldn’t care less" and mean it to be understood the way it was spoken.

About "Respective"

  • dec
  • March 29, 2020, 12:13pm

the 'respective' is redundant in 'its respective area'.

i would add a comma after 'area'; but i am not sure about 'serves' or 'serve'. hmm, i guess 'serves' to match the tense of 'handles' (but could be 'handle' and 'serve').

“she” vs “her”

  • Little
  • March 21, 2020, 2:53pm

Which is correct? If I were a child I’d want her as a mother or If I were a child I’d want her for a mother?

“she” vs “her”

  • Little
  • March 21, 2020, 2:51pm

Which is correct, I wanted to send her and her dad on vacation or I wanted to send she and her dad on vacation

Also, too (an affectation I've adopted for the specific purpose of keeping the Sarah Palin fiasco fresh in people's minds: The mapping linked in the post immediately previous to mine doesn't show any regionalism to my marginally practiced eye. The ratios appear evenly distributed across population centers in the continental US, with the correct form still dominating for the present. (Thank whatever powers there are for small favors.)

Recent conversations on the subject dominated by Pacific Northwesterners and myself (New England born and raised and a hardcore "by accident" purist) revealed an interesting wrinkle: there are actually adults who use both, preferring to apply "on accident" to themselves and "by accident" to others. Further probing was rewarded only with the vaguest sense of a difference, but imputing intent does seem to be in play, i.e., one knows one's own intent and says "on accident" contrary to "on purpose," but with others one can only make the assumption that it was "by accident" based on reaction rather than intent. (Personally, I don't buy it, but my prescriptive criticism isn't going to make much headway with adults set in their linguistic ways.)

I like to simplify a sentence in order to figure it out. Let's do away with grandmother. If I am talking to my 5 year old daughter, I might say "I want you to become a doctor." However, if my daughter is 50 years old and a struggling attorney, I might say "I would have wanted you to become a doctor if it had been my decision."

Substantial vs. substantive

To me, substantive relates to quality, where substantial relates to size.

"The two parties engaged substantively" - ie, well
"The two parties engaged substantially" - ie, a lot

I read recently the way to do it is if you live at 123 Main St ,smalltown,VA 45643 and you are forced like I am to have a po box than your address is.
John Doe, 123 Main St # 543, Smalltown, VA 45643.