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

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



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November 8, 2009

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Latest Comments

When not to use an adjective and not 'of'

  • February 20, 2021, 9:10pm

Addendum: For the "all six men" option, this would be a better description if the six men are connected somehow. "In the prison break, six men escaped. All six men are considered dangerous." This phrasing indicates what can not be assumed, all of these men are considered dangerous. It points out that in a group of inmates, they are not all necessarily dangerous.

If they escaped from the crash of a prison bus and a cement truck, the best description would be "police are on the lookout for six hardened criminals."

When not to use an adjective and not 'of'

  • February 20, 2021, 9:03pm

Sorry if they got away with it, but the editor turned your beautiful sentence into a catalog entry. Re dangerous men, there is a clear difference between the two phraseologies. If all six of the men are considered dangerous, this would be the right way to phrase a circumstance where they became viewed as such independently, especially if they are not connected to each other. "In those six provinces, police are investigating prolific burglars responsible for at least 100 burglaries each. All six of the burglars are considered dangerous." This is a better way to phrase it than "all six burglars are considered dangerous," because it gives life to the idea that a burglar is not necessarily dangerous, but in these cases all six of them were viewed that way, perhaps emphasizing a further point, such as the possibility that a prolific series of non-violent crimes could turn the criminals into violent offenders. Saying only that all six are considered dangerous loses that sense and is kind of a dry way of describing it. Maybe in a police report, but not in a public statement in say a newspaper.

Likewise I would prefer saying species of butterflies to an audience of children, while in a technical journal, if butterfly is meant as a scientific family or genus or whatever, I'd want to keep it singular. As in, 13 member of the (Family that is named for) butterfly.

Cotinuous without "to be"?

  • February 20, 2021, 8:27pm

I'd suggest we think of it as a special case where you don't really have someone describing something to you, as much as you have a sort of non-narrator providing essentially a stage direction. "The killer enters," might be a phrase in a play's stage direction. You can see this is a special, different situation from an actual person describing the situation to an observer. It would sound odd to say it that way. We'd expect something more descriptive, like, "the killer is sneaking up."

I think it is extremely helpful for subtitles to work this way. Not only is it more efficient by using fewer words to say "Jennifer speaking" instead of "Jennifer is speaking," but it gives a different sense of the text that represents dialog from that which provides that stage direction function. Sometimes subtitles try to further the distinction by using a different font, but you also have off-camera dialog to contend with. A character on-camera can say, "Jennifer is speaking." An off-camera character could also say that, but their dialog would be italicized, I think. But if Jennifer is on-camera, but her back is to the viewer and we can hear that she is speaking but can't make it out, then there is no dialog to show and I'd want to see the subtitle simply indicate she is speaking by saying "Jennifer speaking" or "Jennifer [inaudible]" or something like that.

Is "resubstantial" even a "real" word?

  • February 20, 2021, 8:07pm

I'd say it is not a word in common usage, but could be a constructed word to suit a specific purpose. I think there are times when you are describing something that has no word for it, and you can construct one by adding prefixes or suffixes. When we do that, we are introducing a new word to the reader and we tend to add a hyphen to indicate that it is a construction of the writer's device. If that word enters common parlance, the hyphen will eventually begin to drop and then drop altogether. Examples might include to-day, tele-phone. Don't quote me, I am just trying to recall some examples.

So if that is what is happening here with re-substantial, it would be a new word that builds on the prefix re- meaning to repeat or to be again, and the base word substantial meaning of substance. This combination could be applied either in the physical world or in the realm of ideas, since substantial is applied both ways. Physically, a substance could become less substantial and then become fully substantial again, or re-substantial. An idea could fall into disuse and then get picked up again, becoming re-substantial.

Just guessing here.

Vaccine doses or dosages?

  • February 20, 2021, 7:52pm

I think a dose is the amount of medicine I am given, but can also refer to me getting a single administration of a multiple-dose treatment. Dosage is the rate at which I am getting repeated administrations of that dose. Dosages would relate to the range of such rates that people of different ages, genders and body masses would be given a particular series of doses.

You are mostly correct about the definition of dosage. It could start out to mean a number of milligrams, but the complication comes in when you have a standard concentration of a given mass in a given amount of liquid. Let's think of it as a carrier fluid. For liquids administered for medical purposes, say with an over the counter cough syrup, the package would describe the recommended amount of capfuls, or fluid ounces--basically a volume description of that carrier liquid. That would be the dose, but it becomes the dosage, when they recommend that I do not exceed a certain number of such doses in a day. It is dependent on the age and presumed size of the individual, an adult getting a larger amount than a child under 12, for example, and infants none at all perhaps.

Yes people use them interchangeably, but I doubt that is the case among professionals, for whom these are terms of their jargon with very different meanings. However, if you have a case like the current vaccine where two doses comprise the dosage for an individual, it seems even easier to confuse the two terms, even if you are surrounded by professionals who presumably use the terms correctly. It is essentially a circumstance where the two shots become one dose and that dose is also the dosage--the entirety of the amount you are going to need--of that vaccine.

I am giving the Governor a pass here, since I think he is referring to a dosage as the pair of shots that an individual gets, therefore the capacity to meet the public's need is properly described in terms of the number of dosages needed for that population, while each person's dosage can also be described in the sense of a single dose, since one shot is not valuable without the other.

I would like to note that there is sometimes confusion between a similar set of nouns, sewer, sewage and sewerage. Of course a sewer is something you can enter, sewage is what flows through it, and sewerage is the collection of sewers in a system of part of a system. Yet I have encountered a false equivalency among the lay public, but never among civic engineers, where the liquid sewage is referred to as sewerage. It is easier to distinguish when you have all three terms in front of you, but if you have only one and someone describes a terrible amount of sewerage, you can easily understand the meaning intended, without being picky about the terminology. And in a certain sense you are right to do so, since at bottom the suffix -age indicates something related to the root word, so sewerage can be understood in lay English as "that which is associated with a sewer," that is, the liquid waste in it.

Thanks for a great and timely question! I'd love to hear from others if I have gotten close to the heart of the matter, especially from professionals in the medical field.

Does /s/ have meaning?

  • October 23, 2020, 5:37am

Yes you are right but I believe it is falling out of use. Of course this kind of thing takes a long time to change but in my office we no longer put that on electronic copies. For example if you use Microsoft Word right now and digitally sign a document, it doesn't even put a visible signature into the document. So what we do is put a signature line for the signing official to fill out their name and the date, as in the following:

Date: October 22, 2020

Signed: Joseph Conrad

I should point out that that is what you see in the original not a copy. There is some history here in terms of digital copies of documents. For a while our office was putting an actual image of the person's signature into the document. I think we were following practices in the industry at the time, about 10 years ago. This image of the signature would appear in the original as well as any digital copies or printed copies for that matter or even if we printed out the original now that I think of it. But things are evolving.


  • October 23, 2020, 5:28am

I have to observe that I am not party to the professional jargon of the world of advocacy. I must admit that anything I say here could be contradicted by the real world experience of someone in that field.

However we are all exposed to the types of phrases that might exist in a book or in the media regarding advocacy activities.

Also, consider the fact that an advocate is essentially an attorney for someone in some countries.

With the above in mind I suggest that you can advocate for your client by representing them to a third party. If you look at the word ad-vocate and take it apart it signifies speaking on behalf of someone. Of course you can give that person advice in the whole process of representing them to someone else such as where to stand how to dress what kind of expression they should have on their face etc.

And although this should not change the overall title of your work as advocacy, you can also advise your client about things you're aware of that they might not be aware of. You are counseling them but not at that moment representing them to someone else. But this too in the legal profession would I think be normal in a consultation. A lawyer not only represents their client in court in other words to that third party, or in a negotiation with an actual third party, but they will consult with the client about what they should do in general, that is not only during that negotiation or in that courtroom.

Not only but also : complex or compound

  • October 23, 2020, 5:14am

I can't speak to what constitutes a complex sentence. That is a level of grammar that is above my head. But I will say regarding the interrogative format and the fact that there is a version where you can restate it without that interrogative format, that to me the interrogative format indicates that this is an answer to an actual interrogative. In other words someone asked me the question did George buy the house. Obviously that format has the verb before the noun which is typical in English for an interrogative. I am then answering in a sort of exaggerating way or at least an emphasizing way, hey not only did he do that but he did something more, that nut.

I think you could be right in a loose sense that buying the house is a clause that modifies remodeling the house. It is not an instance of an adverb modifying a verb. Maybe some kind of grammarian's perspective of one clause modifying another. I don't know.

By the time

  • October 23, 2020, 5:02am

I think there is a period of some minutes where you can say the film was starting. The thing is, you are probably trying to convey that you are in the unenvious position of rushing to your seat so as not to cause others inconvenience. You're a bit late to the theater in other words. Or you might express yourself in this way because you are rushing to be seated and situated so that you don't miss the very beginning and the overall ambiance of the movie. I don't think we have to get some timer out and firmly state that you can only say was starting within 20 seconds of some almost arbitrary point at the beginning of a film. As we all know so many films of yesteryear and of contemporary film have a lot of fluff at the beginning. There is pomp and circumstance. Planes flying around towers in RKO films. And nowadays there are about 20 different production companies that have to be acknowledged.

I would reserve the use of the phrase had started only if actual scenes in the movie had begun and you might have missed some of them. Say for example you come into the theater and you see what might be an establishing shot for a scene and might be in fact the very first shot of the film, but since it's already on the screen you can't even tell if it's the start or if you might have missed something before it. That is what I would think you meant if you told me the film had started. You came into the theater and saw a scene and maybe even people speaking.

About "Respective"

  • October 23, 2020, 4:51am

I hope you're not confusing respective with the similar word respectively. When we say respectively we are talking about associating a set of traits with a set of nouns. So I can say I gave two and $10 to Sally and Jesse respectively.

I was confused by your definition. It might help if you gave an example. I tried but couldn't really come up with one myself. I was trying to imagine plural and singular nouns but that really didn't help me.


“This Wednesday” vs. “Next Wednesday” September 7, 2011