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

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24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with a 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 a 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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I am working on a documentary film and have hit upon a conundrum that we hope one of the fabulous Pain in the English grammarians can solve. We are using the full capital case (”all caps”) to identify our experts, in a text box that pops up below them during their appearances on screen; for example: JOHN SMITH, HISTORIAN. One of our experts has a name that includes a superscript letter (e.g.: JANE MCDONALD) and another has the abbreviation Jr. after his name (e.g.: WILLIAM DOE, JR.). 

Question: Should those superscripted and abbreviated letters stay in all caps, too? Or should they be treated differently, either lower case or small caps? (e.g.: JANE McDONALD / WILLIAM DOE, Jr.) I’ve searched the Chicago Manual of Style and the Government Printing Office’s online manual, and have found no guidance in either.

Thank you for your help!

Susan

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I have an issue with the use of the past perfect tense with “until” (and sometimes “before”). Can you please tell me which of these sentences is correct and why?

She hadn’t realized that she was addicted to nicotine until she smoked ten cigarettes a day. (i.e.: Before she smoked that many cigarettes, she didn’t have that knowledge about herself - not realizing/knowing was earlier.) 

or

She didn’t realize that she was addicted to nicotine until she had smoked ten cigarettes a day. (i.e.: First she smoked that many cigarettes, and then she realized.)

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I cringe whenever I hear the way Brits say: ‘the company ‘are’ or ‘the school board ‘are’ voted in by the parents. What is really frightening to me is that Americans are starting to use the same construction. My research tells me that Brits treat collective nouns as plural, while in the USA we consider them singular. ‘School Board’ is singular. ‘School Boards’ is plural.

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I was taught that one should never use double negatives. But I was also taught that if you do, it can have the opposite meaning.

Example: The box does not contain nothing.

means: The box contains something.

So I heard the President’s speech. Note that he was not the first person to say it because I have also heard several newsmen use a similar expression. When I heard it, it sounded wrong.  But I could NOT put my finger on why it sounded wrong. Then suddenly it occurred to me, a double negative!

So here is what I heard...

“Putin badly miscalculated.” or

“He badly miscalculated.”

Since bad is the negative of good and the prefix “mis” makes calculated negative, isn’t this a double negative? I know what they mean. Shouldn’t this sentence be written like so?

“He severely miscalculated.”

Since severe is neither negative nor positive. It just indicates the degree of something.

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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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I was reading an old novel, British English written around 1850. I came across the phrase “I saw signs of elephant in the forest”. This intrigued me as the word "elephant" implies anything from a single to multiple animals. The word "signs" seems to have taken on the role of plurality for the noun. I was asked a similar question by my partner who is editing a book in which the phrase “I saw fairy dancing in the woods,” not meaning a single fairy but many fairies dancing. Can anyone expand my knowledge on the use of a singular noun being used as a non-collective plural noun?

 

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I am a bit confused about whether or not I should use “the” before “most” in the following sentence. I have searched on the internet but I have before more confused about the issue so please help me in this regard. I will add this sentence to my formal writing.

The sentence:

"What fascinates me the most about the textile industry is that it drives the economy of many third world countries”

or

"What fascinates me most about the textile industry is that it drives the economy of many third world countries”

Which one is correct and why?

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Hi everybody! Few days ago my mate attended to a job competition for a job in the technical office of Rome. Among the many legal questions there were also some English questions. The one I am asking your help for is:

“Let ……. come in.”

the possible answers proposed are:

- his

- him

- he

I am sure that all of you are thinking that the only right option to chose is “him”, that’s it.

Initially it was confirmed “his” with correct answer and after few days was corrected with “him”.

The english questions/phrases put in these competitions are generally extracted form bigger pieces, books.. and my partner didn’t answer because he says that in a certain contests it can be also right “Let his come in”, for example:

Michele is waiting for the vet to visit his cat. When the vet wants to visit Michele’s cat can say to his secretary:

<< Let his come in >> instead of << Let his cat come in>>.

What do you think? Is it possible consider both the options “his” and “him” correct?
Have you read some examples in books or articles in which you have found the phrase “Let his come in” ?


It can help my partner to obtain the job because he got a score of 20.8 and he had to get 21 to obtain the job! So it is very important the help of all of you.

Thanks !!!!!!!!!

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Sells or Sold? 

Does ‘sells’ in the sentence,”I find a pet store that sells ferrets.” stay as ‘sells’ or change to ‘sold’ if you are changing the sentence to Simple Past Tense? 

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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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Latest Comments

Tenses are like time markers in English. They help us understand when things happen—whether it's in the past, present, or future. For example, "I eat" tells us about something happening now, while "I ate" tells us it already happened. Some people find tenses tricky to learn, especially if English isn't their first language. But without tenses, it would be hard to talk about different times clearly. It's kind of like using different colors to paint a picture—each one adds detail and helps us see the whole picture better. So, while tenses can be tough to master, they're super helpful for making sure everyone understands each other when we talk or write in English.

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Both sentences are grammatically correct, but they convey slightly different meanings due to the use of different tenses.

1. "She hadn’t realized that she was addicted to nicotine until she smoked ten cigarettes a day."
This sentence says she didn't know she was addicted until after she smoked ten cigarettes. The not knowing happened first.

2. "She didn’t realize that she was addicted to nicotine until she had smoked ten cigarettes a day."
This sentence says she didn't know she was addicted until after she had already smoked ten cigarettes. The smoking happened first.

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