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



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September 4, 2011

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Latest Comments

“If I was” vs. “If I were”

  • February 27, 2014, 3:13pm

Oh no! Looking back I learn that in August I said I would hold my counsel on the subject of the subjunctive. And now I've gone and raved on about it for a while. If only I were to have ...

“If I was” vs. “If I were”

  • February 27, 2014, 3:01pm

You quote me:

If I was the Prime Minister, I would change the law." This to me suggests that I am surprised and doubtful to hear that I was sometime in the past the Prime Minister, find it hard perhaps to believe that such an thing could have been allowed, and if it is true, would want someone to change the law, maybe to prevent such a calamity in the future.
The logic doesn’t stand. You are linking the assumption of being the Prime Minister in the past to the change of law which would be made to happen in the future. Who would the speaker be talking to? It’s hard and complicated to find such a context that would fit in here.

No it isn't. It is easy and simple: I am informed (by anyone at all) that this national misfortune has occurred, and I as the speaker am declaring that it should not have been allowed (if indeed it was - the indicative mood of the verb "was" rather than "were" means it is treated by me as an open condition, which is to say that I accept it is possible that I was prime minister at one time, but I can't remember). If I wished to indicate disbelief in such a preposterous assertion I would use a closed conditional clause, denoted by the subjunctive form of the verb: "were".

If I am ... means perhaps I am (present tense, open, indicative, conditional clause)
If I was ... means perhaps I was (past tense, open, indicative, conditional clause)
If I do ... means perhaps I shall do (future, open, indicative...
If I were ... means I am not (present, closed, subjunctive ...)
If I were to have been ... means I was not (past, closed, subjunctive ...)
If I were to do ... means I shall not do(future, closed, subjunctive ...)

Piece of cake, really. Twelve year old children learning Latin get a couple of lessons to master all this and cope perfectly well, including the Latin forms of the verbs. The logic stands then that I could assert to the world at large that if indeed I was PM, which I accept as a possibility, then I would wish whoever can do so to get the law changed.
Saying "I would change the law" when I have not the power to do so means that I am declaring that I wish someone would change the law, and that I would counsel, and indeed advocate this course of action. It does not suggest that I must necessarily play a part in this legislative tinkering, merely that I recommend it.

Where was I? What are we talking about again?

“This is she” vs. “This is her”

  • February 24, 2014, 2:57pm

Oh dear, all this talk of 'bellicose' and 'unacceptable' and 'vulgar'. 'Inexcusable' and apologies all over the place. Not a clue as to what need there is for apologies in the preceding debate about the correctness of saying "This is she".
Is this something to do with this new thing they teach children about not being 'judgmental'? Can't make head nor tail of it myself. Makes no sense at all. I believe 'political correctness' comes into it somewhere, an American thing now but originating as one of Lenin's little jokes. (Bad news to study the law and end up becoming a judge, only not to be allowed to be judgmental!)
Calm down, children, and have another glass of wine, I say! Come back, Jasper, and post away, come on, do.

Computer mouses or computer mice?

  • February 10, 2014, 12:30pm

But isn't it just more humourful, more fun indeed, to call these devices mice? Is that indeed not why we do it, regardless of the stern, possibly even puritanical views of the dictionary makers?

Pled versus pleaded

  • January 7, 2014, 11:44am

Jeff, of course you are right. It goes without saying. "The baker kneads the dough - he kned it the same way yesterday", "we dread paying the charge he'll put on it, but I suppose our forebears dred the price they were asked, too"," it's my turn to weed the flowerbed because you wed it last week" all very poor, really. pled is no better.

I'd blame the Americans; we usually do. the Scots are very sloppy about this too, although we usually do much better than the English in linguistic matters, because it is not our native tongue.

“feedback” and “check in”

  • November 16, 2013, 7:13pm

So now we don't have spelling chaos?

Who will make the dictionaries, if no one is to be at the cutting edge? Are they to be descriptive (Webster's) or prescriptive? Who will prescribe if no one is to use logic?

“feedback” and “check in”

  • November 15, 2013, 5:47pm

Oh please! Must we check what others think before committing ourselves? If we fancy that we are at the cutting edge the idea, surely, is to jump in and suggest what we think is sound. Whatever prompts us to debate what the 'authorities' cite as the dernier cri, when their work does ours for us?

Now, it seems to me that the reason for check in as a verb, necessarily two words definitely with no hyphen is that otherwise you cannot have it in other tenses, most obviously the perfect tense: I check-inned is all to hell, while checked in will brook no hyphens, therefore present tense check in must be separate words.

I babysat because I was asked to babysit is fine.

If the verb component comes after, one word will do if that is what is popular, because -sit -sat raises no problems. Verb first, we need two words: I feedback, I fedback - ugh! I fed back, therefore I feed back - it still to me suggests the causes of borborigmus, and it is a term I abhor, probably for psychological reasons, but I can just about thole it if it two words, to use a Scots term.

Hairy Scot: I showed case?? Now, I cannae thole that! I am not fussed about the OED and H L Mencken Amer - life is too short to consult authorities and yet still to contribute to this argument.

“feedback” and “check in”

  • November 9, 2013, 5:45am

Sky news reports today: " the GOCE (Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer) satellite will break apart and much of it will burn-up in the atmosphere, scientists say. ". Then it says "Most of this burns up when it re-enters in the atmosphere due to aerothermal heating " quoting Professor Heiner Klinkrad from the ESA. No hyphen this time. "Re-enters in the atmosphere?" Oh dear, on so many levels. And due to?? My old English teacher taught us to use due to (for money) and "owing to" for causal effect. 'There is £20 due to me when you get round to paying me' and (here) 'burns up ... owing to aerothermal heating'. The fact that my spellcheck doesn't like aerothermal can pass for now. Astonishingly, it is happy with aero-thermal.
Sky news tends to be riddled with poorly written pieces not subjected to proof-reading. Is proof-reading supposed to be with a hyphen? OMG, as they say these days.

“feedback” and “check in”

  • November 6, 2013, 6:31pm

Thanks for all that, Warsaw Will. Jargon, jargon, all jargon to me. The telling part is that your sharp insight in deciphering all the gobbledegook still has you hesitating to declare that it makes sense even to you: your piece is full of reservations: 'I think', 'probably' and 'in my opinion' and clearly you have taken far more trouble to make sense of it than I did. No apologies from me. I really don't know what Dimbleby was on about, in that case, but I know this much: he didn't like it, whatever it was!
Meanings of words like 'commissioning' being 'pretty obvious' to the cognoscenti despite an object to follow, all very well for the said cognoscenti but a mystery to those of us in the wide world. I must be one of the few people in the land who do not work for the BBC then, and mighty glad about it I am, despite the massive salaries and redundancies they pay, if this is how they speak. Hats off to you for digging into their verbal swill in this manner and suggesting what it might all mean; for me, I really wouldn't bother. Speak the language of outreach? Nah, but I'll have another beer.

“feedback” and “check in”

  • November 6, 2013, 3:00pm

Hey, Niall, what about all those teachers at the best schools in England, by which I mean the ones who prove it by getting their pupils into the best universities in the land as a sample of the quality of their teaching. There is no dispute about it in England. Private schools and free schools are staffed by teachers who are free, and their results prove that it works very well indeed.
Not all students wish to pursue such a path, understandably, and not all are indeed suited to it, but when year after year the best exam results are scored by a succession of young people who have been taught by people who have the freedom to teach as suits them, it is a no-brainer to me what to make of that. How do they do it? They know their subject, that is important, they communicate with their students in ways which no one can teach - you have it or you don't - they are the best and need no 'training'? Their minds are free to soar.
They used to say that those who do do, those who can't do teach, and those who can't teach teach the teachers, and they had a point, really.
Obviously the teacher knows his subject, but that is not included in the 'training'. Training does nothing for a teacher, and all the really good teachers I have known agree, including the few who were subjected to 'training', which they endured but tried to be unaffected by it. Not one of the teachers at my old school had done any. I am sure it is quite different if you are teaching toddlers, or indeed people who are younger than about 9, I grant you, where methods to impart what is required may indeed need to be taught to the teachers.
I think your analogy with the gynaecologist would be apt if he were to be taught how to talk to the patients, how to treat the nurses, and how to cope with the bureaucracy in his hospital. Or if he foregoes such training he might be sharp enough to work out all that on the hoof, really, once he has studied his medicine.