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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June 17, 2010

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Retired, did some college English teaching and other things. Lived many years in a state often used as a comparison in discussing a rather large but not gigantic entity, e.g.: The oil spill now covers an area the size of Rhode Island. Now live in the green state of Vermont.

Latest Comments


  • September 24, 2013, 3:16pm

For JJMBallantyne and jayles the unwise: First, after reviewing the categories available at this site, I see now that Pet Peeves would have been the proper place for my initial post. I'm so used to looking at items in Grammar I just ended up there by habit. But I want to add that none of the reasons I've seen for accepting "over-simplistic" as part of good writing are persuasive to me. It seemed tautological to me before and still does. Might not qualify as bad grammar, but bad writing? Yes.


  • September 22, 2013, 5:37pm

Aha, Will, as an American I have indeed been influenced to believe that "importantly" (and its kin) is not proper to start a sentence with (also influenced not to end a sentence with a preposition, but I long ago outgrew that proscription). Like you I also googled the issue, and found a good brief discussion at Wikipedia:

I also see that Grammar Girl (American) reviews the controversy and ends, "So, let’s go with “more (or most) important” as a lead-in—and use it judiciously. It's shorter and less contested.... If what you have to say next is an important thing to convey and receive, drop the –ly: For example, 'Most important, put a lid on the pot before the popcorn kernels start to pop.'”

I realize now even with my prejudice I have probably seen or even used the adverb because the adjective would not make sense. Example: "With his new knowledge Jim, importantly, began being more open-minded on the topic."

Oh, in rereading my prior post I meant to say that switching to "was" made a LESS satisfying, not more, statement. Cheers.


  • September 22, 2013, 12:44pm

Hello Will (yes, it's Jim): My nighttime mind must have been groggy, as I wouldn't ordinarily mistake a simple use of the past tense of "be" as passive voice. And unlike what I believe is now an old-school American standard, I've never deemed avoidance of the passive as essential for good writing. I should have said that the switch from the active verb "suggested" to simply using "was" made for a more satisfying statement of the situation.

As long as we've gone off-topic here, I'd like to raise the issue of when one should use "important" or "importantly" in an introductory phrase. In your post of the 16th you begin a sentence, "But more importantly...." (Noted at the time but I resisted raising the issue.) It's my understanding that when the phrase modifies not simply an active verb but a whole clause, what's called for is "But more important...."

I don't think this is nitpicking, as the difference is between using an adverb or an adjective. Many times I see "importantly" used even when the main verb following is a form of "be," as in "More importantly, this issue is one with a long history." I think we're so used to seeing and hearing "importantly" that we don't even think about it any more. Now I don't care which is used informally, but when I see it in published writing, like news stories and op-eds, it grates. (And lest I be misinterpreted, I consider these posts informal exchanges ;-).


  • September 21, 2013, 9:25pm

Will, you mean your example begs the question of whether a predicative adjective needs an intensifier? ;-) To me no intensifier is needed, technically--but the second version is definitely weakened by the switch from active to passive voice. How about "Her reply to Arnold's entreaty was cold." Seems fine to me, even with the passive.


  • September 21, 2013, 1:57pm

WWill, your sentence sounds as natural and idiomatic to me as would "His explanation was too simple."

I really think that your example might sound bare to some is because we have become accustomed to seeing/hearing "over-" or "too simplistic." Seems to me that somehow over the past few decades "simplistic" has been conflated with "simple," so now where "too simple" would have sufficed we see "too simplistic."


  • September 20, 2013, 11:29pm

Thanks for joining the discussion, JJMB and Grammarnut, but I really have no problem with the use of "over" as a modifier. Look at the online Oxford Dictionary definition of "over-simplistic" I cite above: "treating complex issues and problems as if they were much simpler than they really are; simplistic." If a highly respected reference source like that ends up saying "over-simplistic" can be defined as "simplistic," what does that say about the "over-" version?

There is a distinct difference between emphasizing something and over-emphasizing, for example. Or working and over-working. Is there a distinct difference between simplistic and over-simplistic? No, both indicate that something is too simple an approach or explanation or solution, etc. The "over" is redundant (like saying something is "over over-simple").


  • September 16, 2013, 10:09pm

As always, Warsaw Will, quite helpful and well-documented comments. I would never in a conversation, oral or written (oops, that reminds me of "oral/verbal"), get exercised about or mention someone's misuse (according to strict standards) of language. Where I do expect better is from those who earn their living or their reputation from published nonfictional writing. As even Stephen Fry points out, context is important. Newspaper op-eds merit more scrutiny than emails.

Thanks also for introducing me to Google Ngram, with which I can see spending some time.

Just two final points on "over-simplistic": 1) The online Oxford Dictionary defines it thus: "treating complex issues and problems as if they were much simpler than they really are; simplistic." No usage note, but I think that definition says it all ;-). 2) It turns out there is not a complete lack of online discussion: Google's page 2 includes this one!



  • September 15, 2013, 11:39pm

I hadn't come across the Fry video before, Warsaw Will, so thanks for posting that. I agree with him and with you that taking a kind of snob approach to a changing language is not admirable. There are lots of new words and new uses for old words that I have not fretted about at all, such as "self-serve" and even "proactive," but sometimes I believe that people who care about our language should speak up about or at least rue developments that just seem to debase the language. After all, isn't that one of the reasons Pain the the English exists?

I believe Fry mentioned the way many use "disinterested" now as an example of something silly to worry about. My point would be that as that word comes to mean "not interested" rather than "impartial," we lose something of value. And there's a period when some use it with the original meaning and others with the new one, which can be confusing. And what happens to "uninterested"--it gets retired?

Then there's "imply" and "infer," which I think Fry also mentions. I think it's useful to have these two words mean different things; isn't it a symptom of lazy thinking to have the latter mean the former?

Sometimes I just rue the passing of a nice phrase that has lost its customary meaning, such as "begs the question." If it's going to mean simply "raises the question" from now on, which seems to be the case, I think English is poorer for it. Sure, the language will survive and move on as it always has; I just can't resist feeling a pang of regret.


  • September 14, 2013, 12:16am

I appreciate your research, Warsaw Will, but "over-simplistic" has sounded silly to me since I first ran across it years ago, and it still does. I can accept "quite simplistic" or "really simplistic," but what is the difference between an approach being "simplistic" or "too simplistic"? With just the right pinch of refinement the too simplistic approach could upgrade to simplistic?

But I am happy to hear that 88% of the time you Brits seem to find "simplistic" all by its lonesome to work just fine in real-life language ;-).

I'm almost afraid to raise another usage irksome to me, "preplan/preplanned/preplanning." Is that silliness as much used there as here in the States?

I’ve vs I’ve got

  • June 25, 2013, 5:30pm

Excellent comment by Warsaw Will. As an English-speaking American, though, I think I see a contrast with one example WW uses. I agree "I've to go" sounds odd, but to me so does "I've to be there at eight." I don't think any regular American would ever say the latter (though one might hear it from, say, an elegant dowager speaking to her chauffeur).


“and” or “but” followed by a comma June 29, 2012
“Over-simplistic” September 12, 2013
“Based out of”: Why? November 19, 2013
agree the terms March 29, 2017