Over the last 10 years or so, I have seen more and more sentences starting with the phrase Similar to. These sentences often say something like: Similar to A, B does X. Here is a slightly abbreviated version of a recent example I saw in The Times [of London]. Similar to much of myalgic encephalomyelitis…… Continue reading ‘Similar to’ in starting a sentence
At the beginning of March, the British press was full of stories about a new academic study. According to those stories, the study shows that teaching children in school doesn’t make them write better. It turns out that the study didn’t exactly show that. I discuss below: what the press releases saidthe study and the…… Continue reading Teaching English grammar in school doesn’t improve children’s writing. Really?
I’ve spent much of the last 28 years writing or editing documents for a readership that includes many readers who didn’t learn English from birth. In this post, I give some tips on writing more clearly to help readers with English as a second language. General advice on writing plain English is not enough to…… Continue reading Writing English to help second-language readers
I have just started reading German and English Academic Usage and Academic Translation (2021), by Dirk Siepmann. This starts with an exercise of translating a short passage of German academic text. It is only one paragraph, though quite a long one: Seit Mitte der 1980er Jahre hat Michel Espagne sukzessive das Themenfeld des interkulturellen Transfers…… Continue reading German and English Academic Usage and academic translation
In English and many other languages, many verbs may be in either an active form or a passive form. Most descriptions of the passive treat the active as a more basic form, with the passive derived from it. The easiest way—perhaps the only way—to describe active or passive is by the relationship between them: the…… Continue reading What is the passive?
The International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) sometimes writes requirements in the form ‘if A is the case, an entity shall do B’. But in other places it writes such requirements in the form ‘if, and only if, A is the case, an entity shall do B’. Are those two forms intended to have different meanings?…… Continue reading If, and only if…
Language is the least important casualty of our current political crisis, but it is a casualty nonetheless. In December, London’s Metropolitan Police foolishly suggested that their policy is not to routinely investigate ‘retrospective’ breaches of the law. I’m not qualified to discuss the legal, constitutional and ethical rights and wrongs of this notion. But linguistically…… Continue reading What are retrospective breaches?
A recent advert by the UK government and the NHS (National Health Service) is a classic case of garden path sentences. When I first read it, I thought it was saying Side effects won’t stop you catching COVID-19. But then I realised there was an extra word (might) at the end. I went back to…… Continue reading Punctuation might help
Here’s another case where brackets are clearer than commas. A sentence I saw recently said: We studied 693,111 tweets, by 13,102 users, that were geo-encoded in Croatia. That wording makes it unclear what geo-encoded modifies. Does it modify tweets or does it modify users? The intended meaning is 693,111 tweets that were geo-encoded… Using brackets…… Continue reading In defence of brackets (2)
Heard on the radio this morning. A British politician has just resigned from the shadow cabinet over a disagreement with his party leader. An interview asked another member of the party why the person had resigned. The interviewee responded that “He will not say anything to keep his job”. That comment was interesting, if only…… Continue reading He will not say anything to keep his job