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

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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 : Style

Some authorities (such as IBM and Wikipedia) say that “big data” should not be capitalised, while others say it should be capitalised as “Big Data”.

Logically, it would be capitalised only if it were a proper noun, that is, if it identified a unique individual. For example, “the Internet” refers to the global internet, of which there is only one, so it is capitalised. Big data does not really seem to be like that. In any technical usage, it refers to the use of very large databases, and should therefore be a common noun.

In the popular imagination, however, all instances of big data coalesce into a monstrous global conspiratorial network of databases, called Big Data. It is akin to Deep State.

So, it seems to me that “big data” should be used in any sober context, and “Big Data” reserved for conspiracy theories untethered from objective reality.

But ... in a proofreading context I would have to correct “a Big Data-driven project” to “a big data-driven project”, which is ambiguous as it could mean either “a big project that is driven by data” or “a project that is driven by big data”. 

Any suggestions?

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I need to give a range of percentages. Do I say “somewhere between 40 and 50%?” or “somewhere between 40% and 50%”? Does the percentage sign get assigned to the first value, even though it’s not verbally articulated?

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Is it alright to omit the word “I” in some cases. If I have already been writing about myself and I slip in a sentence that says for example, “Will be in town next week.” Is this acceptable or should I write “I” at the beginning of each sentence?

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The New York Yankees

The Utah Jazz

The Orlando Magic

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A) Must we have fish for dinner again?

B) Shall we have to have fish for dinner again?

C) Will we have to have fish for dinner again?

D) Do we have to have fish for dinner again?

Accepting that (D) is by far the commonest utterance and would express annoyance or lament. roughly the same as “I wish we weren’t having fish again”, my concern is with the other options, particularly (B) which looks “grammatical” but just sounds odd to me. (A) is less common today but seems to go back a long way whereas “have to” is relatively modern, so which sound “normal” to you?

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How do you handle a quote within a quote within a quote in an MLA citation?

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“She said she...” or “She said that she...”

All my life I have received great feedback about my grammar, but these past few years I find myself over thinking it—all the time. It actually causes me to create mistakes where there previously weren’t any. Bizarre? 

One such thing that I have thought too much about is the necessity of “that” in phrases like the above. When would you say it’s necessary? Always? Never? Sometimes? Explain! Thanks!

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Are adverbs something to be avoided like the plague or an inevitable mutation of the English language that we just have to deal with? I’ve heard it said that they’re the mark of a writer who lacks the vocabulary to use powerful words (for example, “He walked slowly” does not carry the weight of “He plodded” or “He trudged”) and the skill to vary their sentence structure. I’ve seen them used in published in professional work, from George R. R. Martin to J.K. Rowling, so it’s not something authors shy away from and, for the most part, the public accepts it without question.

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What is a correct... “A gift of John Doe” or “A gift from John Doe” when referring to a large charitable donation? I like the sound of “of” but not sure which one is right.

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What would be the preferred form of each of these:- 

a) “in hopes of” or “in the hope of” 

b) “a change in plans” or “a change of plan”

c) “apprise” or “inform” 

d) “envision” or “envisage”

I favour the second of each of the above, but no doubt there will be different opinions.

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Latest Comments

It doesn't matter what the explanation is, it's WRONG.
ABC radio news has a reader named Brian Clark that does this incessantly. Just this week he read a story about something that was 'shtrongly shtruck down' and I wanted to punch him in the face.
Seriously - a professional news reader ON THE AIR doing this. Much hate.

Realize or realise?

I just looked into this topic. I thought I missed something since it's been many many moons that I've attended college. More and more often I would see words like realize organize omitting 'z' for a 's' I HATE IT, it's even happening on my TV when I use closed captioning. But I guess it's something I'm going to have to get used to it. Internet and social media are global. I think it must be confusing for youth in America, words that are not listed in our dictionary, being spelled that way?

If I were to write,....."He would be twenty today." Would that mean that today would have been his twentieth birthday or would that mean that, were he still alive, he would be twenty years old at this time?
Thank you.

Whom are you?

When I was younger, I used to say things like:
"It's me!"
"Whom are you?"
"It's her!"
"Whom is it?"

Simply because that's the way people talk in everyday life, and I wasn't particularly knowledgeable about grammar.

When I got into my twenties, I learned that—according to the rules of grammar—"to be" takes no object. Yet I still didn't change the way I spoke, because it seemed horribly pretentious and detached from real life.

However, now that I'm older, I feel differently about this. I'm starting to appreciate correct speech and correct grammar more, because I find it more dignified, more polite, and I just like the sound of it more.

Therefore I have found myself saying things like:
"It is I!"
"Who are you?"
"Is is her!"
"Who is it?"

As for the popular opinion that "whom" is archaic: I don't agree and, frankly, I don't care. I find "whom" completely natural to use in everyday speech. On the other hand, to me, sentences like: "My friends, all of who I love." just sound like terrible English, and totally jarring.

Proper usage of “as such”

I hate to bust your bubble, but your grammar is absolutely horrible. The fact that you say that you are a lawyer does not help the matter one iota. Let me be the bearer of bad tidings for a brief moment.
1) "This is a modern and incorrect utilization, although regrettably and progressively basic." First, there is no need for the comma in before your transition word "although" since the second part of your sentence is a subordinate clause. Second, the terms "regrettably progressively" are two adverbs that require a comma in between them.
2) Semicolons, and other punctuation, NEVER occurs in American English after the quotation mark unless you are writing English in the UK (i.e., "in itself"; should read "in itself;"). Again, paragraph two has the same mistake ("as such";).
3) The use of the word "reciprocal" is incorrect every time that you use it. I think you mean synonyms.
4) In paragraph three, you need commas ("By method, for instance,) because the clause contains information that is unnecessary.
5) In paragraph three the word "right" should read "correct" since right is a direction.
6) In paragraph three, again, there is no need for a comma before the conjunction "and" since the second part of the sentence is another subordinate clause.
7) In paragraph three, the word "just" is not the appropriate adverb since the word "just," in your context, does not denote time, manner, place, or degree.
8) Paragraph four is simply incorrect and should read: "I am a lawyer, and, as such, I am formally qualified to express opinions about legal matters." The mistake lies in the fact that the phrase "as such" is unnecessary. Refer to number four.
9) Paragraph 5 is incorrect for the same reasons as numbers eight and four.

Now that our grammar lesson is complete, allow me to address the usage of the phrase "as such." As such has multiple meanings, all of which can be used to avoid ambiguity but must be used in the correct context along with the correct meaning.
1) You may use as such with a negative to indicate that a word or expression is not a very accurate description of the actual situation.
2) You may use as such after a noun to indicate that you are considering that thing on its own, separately from other things or factors.
3) Here is the literal definition of the phrase:
as being what is indicated or suggested
in itself
4) The only other time the phrase "as such" can be used is at the beginning of a sentence to denote subsequent or consequent behavior of a person, place, or thing. That being said, this usage is still incorrect; however, we tend to look past this rule for the sake of legal language as well as other technical writing, such as medical.

Arto7, if you must deliberately-err in situations whereby your 'erroneous-act[s]' might've dire conequentials, then strive to err on the side of safety and reason.

In re "résumé" that could affect your employment application, just think:

a- IF you use "resume" to describe your curriculum vitae, your chosen word conveys 2-different meanings that strictly-business-specific communications might unlikely tolerate. Double-entendre words, phrases and sentences would lead to obvious misunderstanding.

b- However, the usage of the word "résumé" is specific to one and only meaning - that even in the hands of puristic-anglophile can be immediaetely-understood even if the said-anglophile might smirk at the word. You might be denied the job you've applied for on the prejudicial-basis of being perceived as a francophile - which if so. . .can give you legal grounds for appeal[s].

Well, I think part of the issue is cultural context, but a couple of the other issues additionally boil down to pronounciation as well along with the fact that many English speakers originate from European countries where they’re familiar with the accents of people from more Germanic and Latin-based linguistic backgrounds. With English being a Germanic language in origin with a large vocabulary of Latin-based loanwords, it makes sense that people from these similar types of cultural/linguistic backgrounds would have an easier time communicating while using the same language.

Furthermore, I’ve heard of a similar phenomenon occurring between readers of Japanese Kanji and Chinese Genji where a certain level of meaning can be shared/understood from similar characters used between both cultural groups. Perhaps it’s just me, but I think it is possible that a similar type of phenomenon is occurring in that instance as well.

B.A. recipient in English here.

Well, like you said in your post, it really depends on the context. For big data-driven project, I would say that is a big project that is data-driven. However, I would refer to a big-data driven project as a project driven by big data. You’re right though; the context really does matter, and the phrasing is also quite ambiguous.

Resume, resumé, or résumé?

  • arto7
  • February 6, 2019, 8:38pm

Interesting page. Clarified acute vs grave. However, I am thrown by the idea of not using the accent. With the acute accent mark I know it is the "hire me" document. Without it I first read resume, as in continue. Sure, context clarifies but my brain still sees resume.

I first started noticing the "shtr" mispronunciation in the early Eighties. Since then, more and more people have adopted this silly peccadillo to the point where it's almost become the preferred pronunciation.

When I point it out to people, almost all say they don't hear it, and many seem to think I'm just imagining the whole thing.

Not five minutes ago on a TV commercial, the (professional) spokesperson pronounced "history" as "hishtry," which even breaks the "str" rule.

As a person who takes pride in correctly pronouncing words, it "frushtrates" me to hear people butcher the language.

What can be done? As Lizzie Borden's father said, don't axe me. All I can do is continue to point it out and hope others will do the same.