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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Latest Posts

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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We are all aware of the "different from/to/than" debate, and I have no wish to resurrect that discussion. However, I have lately noticed that there are a few other instances of what might be termed “erroneous use of prepositions.” It almost seems that there is a drive to make “to” the de facto default preposition. Consider the following:

  1. “separate to” vs “separate from”
  2. “deal to” vs “deal with”
  3. “think to” vs “think of”

I have also heard “bored of” rather than “bored with.” There are probably many more examples. One has to wonder what has happened to the teaching of English Grammar in the modern era.

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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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Latest Comments

Five by Five

It’s a military meaning. Communications rating from 1-5. 5 being great.

English being my fourth language, you are all confusing me. I spent my precious time reading all your comments, but all I got was nothing but confusion.

Is it sunday or sunduh?

My mother, who grew up in St. Louis as did my grandparents, used to say sunduh. I never really questioned her about it.

“she” vs “her”

  • whodat
  • January 21, 2023, 3:38pm

If "elizabethingram" is still in her probation period of employment, this company needs to FIRE her IMMEDIATELY!!!!!! ANYONE and I mean ANYONE who doesn't know correct English ONLY makes the company for which he/she works look beyond inferior!!! Does ANY company wish to be perceived as inferior??????????????

Old post, I know, but I just came across here somehow and wanted to share an old 1962 paper I came across recently about the origin of "O.K."

There was a Boston fad of, what Allen Read calls, "humourous misspellings" and abbreviations. O.K was likely formed from a humourous misspelling of "Oll Korrect"

"The author who popularized misspelling as a humorous device in America was George W. Arnold (I783-I838), who wrote letters under the pen name "Joe Strickland" from 1825 to 1830. The following passage is characteristic:

Konstanty Nople, Jennywerry, 1828

Deer & lovin unkle Ben,

I spoze you thort kaze I was so darn fur of that I wasnt goen tu rite yu agin. but iph you think I kan evver forgit yew, ur Ant Nabby yew are tarnally mistaken, kaze I should remember yew iph I waz tother side ov awl1e kreashun. not by a darn site-un iph I evver git Bak agin i'll be hang'd if yew evver ketch me in this kutthrote kuntry agin. taint half so good as oald Varmount-I kum plaigy neer starvin tu deth afore I got here, we hadn't northen under hevven tu ete haff the time only Dry Kod fish un taters-finally and tarnally arter an evverlastin long pasage we got heer. i'de bin see sik awl the time, un had pritty neer spewd my gizard up, til by the lord harry I wa'rnt much bigger round than Dekon Bigalows pichfork handel-when I got hear tha axt me if I was evver in Turky before, no ses I. but i've had a darn menny turkys in me-i'de aleys heerd a plaigy deel about, Turky in Urop, in the gogfry when I went tu skool tu Ikabud Krane, whare I larnt tu Spell-un by the jumpin jingo my mouth wartered az soon as I landed.""

The entire paper is definitely a fun read and I highly recommend checking it out!

Read, Allen W. (19 July 1941). "The Evidence on O.K.". Saturday Review of Literature.

The best solution may be to avoid the awkward use of my/mine:

"Greg and I so appreciate you taking our child to school today."

Mentee?

"Mentee" smacks more than a little of "the Kingfish" on radio's "Amos 'n' Andy." "Now, you see, Andy, I is the mentor and you is the mentee!" Maybe that's one reason I hate it!

Mentee?

"Mentee" smacks more than a little of "the Kingfish" from radio's "Amos 'n' Andy." "Now, you see, Andy, I is the mentor, and you is the mentee!" Maybe that's one reason I hate it.

Pronunciation: aunt

Grew saying “ont” (from Manhattan). It’s weird to say “ant” and I don’t know that I could ever bring myself to say it consistently even though I live in the mountain west region now. Sometimes I say “ant” so I don’t get funny or confused looks, but it feels odd whenever I say it.

“I says”

I've wondered about it too. I hear my mom & her mother say it often. Both born in city of Detroit, polish Irish English ancestry neither blue nor white collar folk.
I've pointed out to my mom and asked her why and she said she didn't even realize she did it. She is incredibly articulate, pretty well educated and an Avid Reader so it's really interesting that she does it