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.

Do You Have a Question?

Submit your question

Latest Posts

In the following sentence, are both parts of the clause correct for a present unreal sentence?

“She would have wanted you to become a doctor if she were alive today”

In this sentence, shouldn’t it be this?

“She would want you to become a doctor if she...”

Read Comments

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?

Read Comments

I moved to the US from Japan when I was 16, and in the 30 years I’ve lived here, I’ve noticed the ease with which Europeans communicate with native English speakers even when they have heavy accents. In contrast, Asian immigrants seem to have a harder time being understood by the native speakers. Asians typically blame the problem on their accents and their pronunciation but Americans, particularly urban Americans, are used to hearing a variety of accents. It seems to me that there is something else at work causing the difference between Asian and European ESL speakers.

Compared to the Japanese language, some of the phonemes in English are very subtle (like the th sound). So, over the phone, when we are spelling a name, we provide contextual information, like, “M as in Mary. S as in Sam,” and so on. The subtleties are lost over the phone, and we cannot differentiate between N vs. M, S vs. F, and so on. The Japanese language does not have this problem. I believe English is a more context-dependent language because there is a constant need to fill in the information lost in the subtleties.

Even when two native speakers are talking to each other, often they can’t hear each other well (e.g., noisy bar, subway platform, poor quality phone connection, etc..) but they THINK they hear everything. They are actually filling in the missing information from the context.

The reason Europeans have an easier time even with heavy accents is that their cultures are still very similar. They are able to provide better contextual information as they speak. Because Asian cultures are so different, Asian speakers are not able to provide enough contextual information in their sentences and their body language. Even if they can speak with no accent, their sentences can come out sounding foreign, like the automatic translation provided by Google—grammatically correct but incomprehensible. This makes it hard for Americans to understand especially if the speaker has a heavy accent.

A friend of mine is a pilot for Japan Airlines. As long as he is communicating within the context of air travel (like speaking to the passengers on the plane about the delays and weather forecast), nobody has trouble understanding him. This is because the cultural context in this instance is very narrow and well-defined which allows everyone to fill in the gap easily. But he has trouble understanding and being understood outside of this context because of the wide range of contextual possibilities.

If a French person were talking to an American about how he was treated at a particular restaurant, neither would have any problem understanding the cultural context since the restaurants in France function very much like the restaurants here in the US. But the restaurants in Japan work very differently. In fact, their customs in restaurants are so different that some Japanese people take an etiquette class to be able to eat at Western restaurants. (You can see an example of this in the movie, Tampopo). When you are deficient in the cultural knowledge to this degree, accent becomes a secondary issue. Even with flawless pronunciation, you could still have trouble being understood because the listeners have no idea what you are referring to.

Many native speakers find Indian English speakers hard to understand, even those who have been speaking English all their lives. We readily recognize Indian accent like we recognize Southern and British accents. So, the problem is not lack of familiarity. I think it’s the lack of contextual information because the Indian culture too is very different. We mistakenly believe that the problem is their accent.

What do you think?

Read Comments

Does “hate with passion” sound wrong to you? Should it be “hate with a passion” instead?

One of the visitors to Pain in the English emailed us and asked if “hate with passion” is grammatically correct or not.

Here are some other similar phrases we can consider:

Sing with passion
Sing with a passion

Sing with feeling
Sing with a feeling

Say it with feeling
Say it with a feeling

When we analyze these expressions, we begin to feel that the article “a” adds some sense of specificity, like:

Sing with a passion befitting Pagliaccio!
Sing with a feeling of remorse!
Say it with a feeling of malaise!

Without the article, the word “passion” and “feeling” both remain abstract concepts.

What do you think?

Read Comments

In some recent fiction books written by American authors, I have seen the word “acclimated” as in “...she took a day to become acclimated to her new area.”

Shouldn’t this word be “acclimatised” or is this a case of American’s using one word and New Zealanders using another, both for the same purpose?

Read Comments

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.

Read Comments

I cringe when I read (a million times a week), “I am so sorry,” “I am so happy”...

It feels like there is part of the statement missing, like “I am so happy I could cry,” or “I am so sorry, I don’t  know what to say.” Is “so anything” a legitimate phrase on its own? Or am I right in thinking it needs more?

Read Comments

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. 

Read Comments

I run. I ran. I had ran. I had run.

I went. I had went. I had gone.

There appear to be localized aberrations where people insist on saying “had ran” even though they know “had run” is proper. They seem to be victims of conforming to local language.

This group of people seems to me to come from a region. I grew up in California, and I never saw this. I started seeing it in Colorado. It was a little more common in Kansas. It was very common in GA. It always showed up in people who had moved west from eastern locations like MA, KY, DE, VA, WV, NC. 

What is it that I am trying to say here? Peer pressure overrides language correctness? Is there a better way to refer to this?

Read Comments

I’m reviewing a New Zealand scientific report which uses the word ‘equivalency’. This sounds to me like an Americanisation of the word ‘equivalence’, both being nouns but with the redundancy of an additional syllable in ‘equivalency’.

As we use British English (despite word processing software trying to force American English upon us) I’m inclined to use ‘equivalence’.  What do you think?

Read Comments

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:
1.
as being what is indicated or suggested
2.
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.