There could potentially be too many modals here

People often write or say ‘could potentially’ when just ‘could’ by itself is enough. For example, some people say ‘it could potentially rain’, instead of saying ‘it could rain’. Both these both modal expressions—the modal verb ‘can’ and the modal adverb ‘potentially’—express uncertainty. If we use one of them, the other is redundant. In this…… Continue reading There could potentially be too many modals here

Contronyms

I recently came across a word that was new to me: contronym. A contronym is a word that is its own opposite. An often-given example is sanction. Sanctioning an action can mean either penalising it or permitting it. Some other examples are: WordOne meaningAnother meaningcleave clingsplitclipattachcut offdustremove dustadd a layer of dustapologystatement of regret for an…… Continue reading Contronyms

Addicted to ‘right node raising’

In this post, I look at a construction that I often saw in drafts of documents I was reviewing. Although the construction is grammatical and concise, readers find it difficult to process. I explain what this construction is and why it is difficult. I also summarise a published review of some of the vast linguistics…… Continue reading Addicted to ‘right node raising’

Don’t put one relative clause inside another

Readers and listeners can find it very difficult to process sentences that embed one clause in the middle of a 2nd clause and then embed that 2nd clause in the middle of a 3rd clause. In this post, I review an example that embeds one relative clause inside another. Sentence with no embedding Let’s start…… Continue reading Don’t put one relative clause inside another

Think what you’re dealing with

Think what you’re dealing with. The majesty and grandeur of the English language, it’s the greatest possession we have.Professor Henry Higgins, in Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw I came across this quote in the Claire Foges article I discussed in Different accent or bad diction? – Language Miscellany The quoted passage contains an interesting example…… Continue reading Think what you’re dealing with

Saying how likely something is

IFRS standards use too many different terms to describe how likely it is that an event will occur. That is a clear conclusion of KASB Research Report No. 39 / AASB Research Report No. 2 Accounting Judgements on Terms of Likelihood in IFRS: Korea and Australia, issued in 2016 by the Korea Accounting Standards Board…… Continue reading Saying how likely something is

When is a continuous race not continuous?

The Catford Hill Climb is ‘the oldest continuously run bike race in the world’. This statement appeared recently in the Saturday Quiz in The Times. The adverbs continuously and continually are often confused, as are their related adjectives (continuous and continual). This confusion is often the subject of comment in style guides.   Background The…… Continue reading When is a continuous race not continuous?

Are all pre-bookings just bookings?

Some commentators hate hearing people say that they ‘pre-booked’ something, for example, a taxi or a ticket. These commentators argue that the prefix pre- is redundant. In their view, the word book already necessarily includes the meaning that the action occurred in advance. Is the prefix pre- always redundant? I agree that the prefix is…… Continue reading Are all pre-bookings just bookings?

The Pope is allergic to adjectives

It was widely reported a couple of years ago that Pope Francis told the Vatican communications team not to use adjectives, saying: “I am allergic to those words.” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/24/pope-francis-criticises-overuse-of-adjectives Ironically, the Pope’s own words include an adjective: ‘allergic’. Such jarring clashes between advice and practice are common when people dispense gratuitous advice on writing. I…… Continue reading The Pope is allergic to adjectives