Home  custom arrow  Editage Blog

Written English

Omission of articles: Missing articles are the most easily recognizable mistakes in English texts written by Japanese speakers. Most of the mistakes pertain to the use of definite articles. There are two main problems that make it difficult for Japanese speakers to master the use of definite articles: the Japanese language lacks an article system; therefore, the speakers lack a point of reference and the rules for using the definite article are not concretely defined. In fact, the use of definite articles seems to be one of those skills that native speakers acquire almost unconsciously.

Nonnative: We interviewed 25 children with dyslexia for our study. Children were divided into two groups on the basis of weight and height.

Native: We interviewed 25 children with dyslexia for our study. The children were divided into two groups on the basis of weight and height.

Over use of transition words: On the one hand, you have mistakes of omission and on the other hand, you have mistakes of overuse. Words and phrases like consequently, on the one hand, and on the other hand help writers communicate the flow of thought. These words highlight the connection between two consecutive sentences or paragraphs. English texts written by Japanese speakers tend to have too many of these words. Native English writers also use these words, but sparingly.

Incorrect: We should establish an online system for registering new users. On the other hand, we should make the system simple and user-friendly.

Correct: We should establish an online system for registering new users. We should make the system simple and user-friendly.

Another problem with the use of transition words is that they are used incorrectly, as in the above example. A phrase such as on the other hand is used to indicate contrast or opposition. However, establishing a system and making it user-friendly are not opposing ideas. So the use of the phrase is incorrect.

Spoken English

Words with l, r, and s: While speaking, the Japanese sometimes confuse the pronunciation of words that contain the letters "l" and "r." For instance, some may pronounce the word "work" as "walk." Another common speech mistake pertains to words that begin with si. Instead of pronouncing it as "see," Japanese speakers tend to pronounce it as "shi."  

Incorrect: I have an older shister.

Correct: I have an older sister.

 

[Native Eigo-juku is the Cactus newsletter providing essential English tidbits to interested non-native English speakers.]

MAY23

What’s in a font? A word in any font would mean the same

Filed on: May 23, 2008 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

Can you distinguish between a lowercase ‘l' and a capital ‘I' in the font you use? In most contexts, the difference will not matter-but what if context does not offer a clue, as in URLs and e-mail addresses and alphanumeric codes?

The page you are reading is in Verdana although the blog's title uses a different font, namely Georgia. A major difference between the two is that Georgia has serifs and Verdana does not. What are serifs? Serifs are those little strokes that begin or end the lines that make up each letter. Check the W, for example: the two arms have little cross-strokes at the top, same as those at the foot of the A. It is these serifs that help in telling a lowercase ‘l' from a capital ‘I' in some fonts.

As a researcher, you are unlikely to be called upon to identify fonts. However, it is useful to know a bit about fonts because it will help you work better. For instance, if you regularly read documents in the form of screen displays instead of printouts, I suggest that you look for an alternative to Times New Roman because it was designed for a printed newspaper, namely The Times, London. Try Georgia instead, and see the difference. Try out a few other fonts and see what suits you best. Many swear by Bookman Antiqua. Overall, Times New Roman is lighter than Georgia and also more condensed, which makes its letters appear a little cramped-not only because the letters themselves are narrower but also because they are squeezed tighter than those of Georgia or Univers.

If you are writing a report or a project proposal and plan to circulate or submit the document as a photocopy, again fonts like Georgia and Bookman will give you denser printouts that photocopy well. A photocopy of a photocopy also reads better in some fonts than in others.

For Windows Vista, Microsoft developed a pack of very readable fonts-good old TNR (Times New Roman) is no longer the default in MS Word, for instance.

And if your work requires a wide range of mathematical symbols or names that require diacritical marks, you will be better served by Open Type fonts.

If you use Microsoft Windows, follow the route Start > Settings > Control Panel > Fonts and look for fonts shown with a slanted O: use those fonts and you will have much larger repertoire to choose from.

 

[This is a part of a series of posts, entitled Publish and Prosper, which talk about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit their papers to journals published in English. The series will touch upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]

Written English

Sentences without subjects: Any sentence in English has a subject, verb, and object. They are the essential components for drafting a complete sentence. A sentence that lacks even one of these parts is considered to be an incomplete sentence or a fragment. However, a typical mistake that is seen in the writing of Spanish learners is the absence of the subject. See the example below.

Incorrect: I called him in the morning. Said that was not feeling well.

Correct: I called him in the morning. He said that he was not feeling well.  

When writing in Spanish, it is not necessary to repeat the subject at the beginning of a sentence. The verb in the sentence indicates the person and the number of the subject. However, the verbs in English are not so informative. The tendency to omit the subject in English is the result of thinking in the native language. Writers assume that they don't need to repeat the subject, as it is clear from the previous sentence.

Word order: Many speakers of Spanish also tend to mix up the order of the words in English. Most sentences in English follow the subject-verb-object order. However, this is not the case in Spanish. Therefore, you may come across an example like the one below. 

Incorrect: A blouse red Stella was wearing.

Correct: Stella was wearing a red blouse.  

Spoken English

Words that begin with s: In Spanish, there are no words that begin with an "s" sound. Instead they begin with an "es" sound. In fact, the word for Spanish is Español. Speakers of Spanish tend to mispronounce words that begin with "s." For instance, they may pronounce "state" as "estate." This also leads to a problem with choosing articles.

Incorrect: My friend has an strange accent. (Strange is pronounced as estrange.)

Correct: My friend has a strange accent.

 

[Native Eigo-juku is the Cactus newsletter providing essential English tidbits to interested non-native English speakers.]

MAY16

Getting the References Right, Part 1: Formatting Names of Authors

Filed on: May 16, 2008 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

Inversion

Most journals arrange cited references alphabetically by author but different journals print the names differently. Have the names been inverted (surnames or family names first, then the initials, as in Watson J D and not J D Watson)? If so, have the names of all authors of a paper been inverted or is it only the first author that has been so treated (Watson J D and Crick F C or Watson J D and F C Crick)?

Case

Are the names in all capitals, in capitals and small capitals, or in capitals and lowercase (WATSON J D, WATSON J D, or Watson J D)?

Punctuation

Note the placement of commas: is there a comma between the surname and the initials or does the comma separate one author from the next (Watson, J D; Crick, F C; Franklin, R  or Watson J D, Crick F C, Franklin R)? If a comma separates the name from the initials, does a semicolon separate one author from the next? Are initials separated by spaces or dots or both (Watson J D or Watson J.D. or Watson J. D.)? Are the names separated only with commas or is the last name preceded with ‘and'? Note also whether the ampersand (&) has been used to save space (Watson J D, Crick F C, Franklin R or Watson J D, Crick F C, and Franklin R or Watson J D & Crick F C, and so on).

Indent and spacing

Some journals use a hanging indent (the second and subsequent lines of each reference are indented), some do not use indents at all, and some may insert extra space between consecutive references. Ignore these devices. Focus on the characters (letters and punctuation marks) and their sequence but leave the design alone-leave this kind of formatting to the journal. Just as you do not use a double-column format for your manuscript just because the journal follows a double-column layout, leave these points of layout and design to the journal.

And this is just for starters: after all, a reference has many items other than the names of authors (title of the paper, title of the journal, volume number and page numbers, year of publication, and so on). But those will be topics for future blogs.

 

[This is a part of a series of posts, entitled Publish and Prosper, which talk about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit their papers to journals published in English. The series will touch upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]

Common Mistakes by Indian Speakers of English

We'll look at mistakes in both spoken and written English. Let's first start with written English.

Written English Mistakes

Overuse of the -ing form: Mistakes of this kind occur in writing and speech. There is a tendency to overuse the -ing form of the verb. For instance, in response to questions such as "Where do you work," speakers who are not fluent in English will write "I am working with an international law firm." Although the response is grammatically perfect, it may sound a tad unnatural to the native ear. A more appropriate answer would be "I work with an international law firm." Here's another example:

Incorrect: I am not knowing the password to the system; how can I access it?

Correct: I don't know the password to the system; how can I access it?

Overuse of the -ing form of the verb becomes a very grave issue in cases like the above. This is because some verbs like know, have, and hear are not commonly used in the -ing form. And such sentences, like the one in incorrect example, are grammatically incorrect.

Spoken English Mistakes

Incorrect use of reflexive pronouns: Many Indians tend use reflexive pronouns, especially myself, incorrectly. Myself can be used in a sentence only if the pronoun I has been used earlier, e.g., I built this house myself. However, a common mistake that people make is using myself without the I.

Incorrect: Myself, Rahul Verma; this is my colleague, Sheena.

Correct: I am Rahul Verma; this is my colleague, Sheena.

Using myself in place of I is mistakenly thought of as formal, though it is grammatically incorrect.

Misplaced stresses: There are no classic pronunciation mistakes that Indians make. However, sometimes, the influences of regional languages do creep into spoken English. For instance, people who speak Malayalam, a language spoken in southern India, tend to place additional emphasis on the vowels in words like sorry and water. Some pronounce it as sow-ree and waater. Further, Indians who speak Bengali tend to use a bh sound for words that begin with v, e.g., "bhery good" instead of "very good."

 

[Native Eigo-juku is the Cactus newsletter providing essential English tidbits to interested non-native English speakers.]

MAY13

Grant Application Editing

Filed on: May 13, 2008 | Written by | Add new comment

In order to obtain funding for your research, the language and presentation of your grant application are extremely important. In fact, language, which is vital for conveying ideas and flow of thought in grant applications, could possibly be one of the crucial factors that determines whether or not your application will be considered.

Editage's Grant Application Editing Service

Editage's Grant Application Editing service is a natural extension of our existing English editing service. This service provides grant application editing support to researchers and students who wish to apply to various agencies for funding or grants. Through this service, Editage offers high-quality English editing for all components of a typical grant application. Our team of experienced editors will ensure that your grant application is well-written, easily readable, and conforms to a native English style; this will improve your chances of securing a grant.

This service is a premium service, which involves a two-round editing process. This is because a grant application typically requires dynamic editing such as modification and/or reorganization of the content. Occasionally, referees who are not familiar with the subject area may be involved in the grant application process. Therefore, while the application form still needs to contain the background of the research project, it should also be written concisely in order to be convincing. Hence, it is important that you check the changes made in the 1st round so that you can make modifications, if necessary, before the 2nd round.

How does it work?

First round:

  • You submit your grant application to us for editing.
  • Our expert editors edit your application to enhance its language. The application is edited using the "Track Changes" feature of MS Word.
  • The edited application is delivered to you in the "Final Showing Markup" view.

Second round:

  • You review the changes made by our editors and make relevant changes to your application.
  • You then send the revised application for a second round of edit.
  • The revised application is edited by our editors and delivered to you as the final product.

In addition, we offer the same post-editing support as in the case of our existing English editing service. Our editors will answer any queries that you might have about the edited application until you are satisfied with the results. Further, since our editors have substantial experience in editing a variety of documents ranging from research papers to letters, you can be assured that your application will be delivered as a polished and presentable end-product.

What you will receive from this service

  • Language editing of your grant application so that it conforms to native English style, thereby improving your chances of securing a grant.
  • Suggestions and tips that will help you enhance your English writing skills.

A successful grant involves much more than simply filling out an application form or caring about your cause. It also involves persuasion and effective presentation. It is well to assume that your reader is a busy, impatient, skeptical person who has no reason to give your proposal special consideration and who is faced with many more requests than he can grant, or even read thoroughly. For a powerful and convincing proposal, it is essential that your application captures the reader's interest not only in terms of the content but also in terms of the language. Editage's Grant Application Editing service will help you in this regard.

 

[This is a part of a series of posts, entitled What Editage does and How, showing you a glimpse of what and how we do things at Editage, and Cactus in general, and how you can make the most of it.]

MAY 9

The elements of the SI (Système International d’Unités)

Filed on: May 9, 2008 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | 2 comments

How much water does a lake hold? The capacity of any lake will, of course, depend on its dimensions: its length, breadth, and depth. In a table that compared a number of lakes, the capacity of each lake was given cubic metres, and the symbol used was Mm³, a notation that puzzled my students. However, this blog is for young researchers, and although they are less likely to stumble over such notations, it is just as well that we refresh our memories with a brief recap.

The notation Mm³ was logical enough: mega (106), that is million, cubic metres. The uppercase (capital) form is mandatory for all multipliers from mega onwards (and hence GW for gigawatts, Tg for teragrams - a common notation used to with carbon in discussions of climate change - and so on). The smaller multipliers, namely deca, hecto, and kilo, and all the dividers, from deci to atto, can only take the lowercase form: cm, mm, µm, and nm to denote progressively smaller lengths, for instance (as centimetres, millimetres, micrometres, and nanometres). Note also that SI favours metre and not meter.It is also important to remember that the prefixes (multiplier or dividers) combine with symbols to give the complete units and that the symbols appear only in the singular form: you may write kilograms and centimetres but never kgs and cms, nor can you write gms for grams.Lastly, symbols named after people, as in W, the SI unit for power (after James Watt) or Pa, the SI unit for pressure (named after Blaise Pascal), use the capital form but the units, when spelt out in full, go lowercase, as in watts, pascals, and newtons.

 

[This is a part of a series of posts, entitled Publish and Prosper, which talk about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit their papers to journals published in English. The series will touch upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]

MAY 8

Francis Bacon - The Father of Modern Science

Filed on: May 8, 2008 | Written by | Add new comment

"If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties." - Sir Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning

I was 16 years old when I first read about Francis Bacon, "the most powerful mind in modern times"  in Will Durant's "The Story of Philosophy." He was the first philosopher mentioned after the chapter on Aristotle - a gap of thousand years. What struck me most at that time was the clarity of thought and the striking use of the English Language. In his own way, Bacon was the first scientific philosopher and a literary giant.

Bacon was born in England, in a noble family in the year 1561 - in the Elizabethan era, one of the greatest eras of one of the most powerful of modern nations. He joined Trinity College, Cambridge at age 12 and later described his tutors as "Men of sharp wits, shut up in their cells of a few authors, chiefly Aristotle, their Dictator." Bacon was a philosopher, statesman, and essayist. He wrote in both Latin and English. He is also known as a proponent of the scientific revolution. Bacon was knighted in 1603. He has been credited as the creator of the English essay and is also called "the Father of Modern Science. He is also often credited, arguably, to have created the works of William Shakespeare.

Bacon also delineated the principles of the inductive method, which constituted a breakthrough in the approach to science, even though philosophers and scientists of the day-and seemingly even today-repudiated both his theories and methodology, alike. Bacon, along with Galileo are known in literary circles as "the great anti-Aristotelians who created the 'modern scientific' view of Nature."

His Works

Bacon's finest literary product is the Essays, which reveal one of the best and most sophisticated usage of the English language, which is as supreme in prose as Shakespeare's is in verse. Each of these essays elucidates in a couple of pages the distilled subtlety of a genius on almost every major issue of life. And "Bacon's greatest performance," says his bitterest Critic, Macaulay, "is the first book of the Novum Organum." Never did a man put more life into logic, making induction an epic adventure and a conquest. If one must study Logic, let him begin with this book. In the Novum Organum (the new instrumentality for the acquisition of knowledge), Francis Bacon classified the intellectual fallacies of his time under four headings, which he called idols. He distinguished them as idols of the Tribe, idols of the Cave, idols of the Marketplace, and idols of the Theater. An idol is an image, in this case held in the mind, which receives veneration but is without substance in itself. Bacon did not regard idols as symbols, but rather as fixations.

Bacon's first work was The Advancement of Learning (1605). His second came along in 1620-Novum Organum; it was part of his larger philosophical work known as Instauratio Magna, of which he only completed two parts: Novum Organum and De Augmentis Scientarum which were published in 1623, were extensions of his work in 1605. Apothegms came out in 1624. His aphoristic Essays were continually worked on between 1597 and 1625. Bacon's utopian fable about the island of "Bensalem," the New Atlantis, was published in 1627 and appended to Sylva Sylvarum. And his final work, The World, was publishd three years after his death. 

References

  • Durant Will, The Story of Philosophy, Simon & Schuster, 1926
  • Julian Martin, Francis Bacon: The State and the Reform of Natural Philosophy, 1992
  • Crowther, J.G. Francis Bacon, the First Statesman of Science (Cresset, 1960)
  • Wikipedia

[This is a part of a series of posts, titled Open Space, where we talk about things that generally interest us, and hopefully you as well.]

MAY 7

Native Eigo-juku (Mistakes made by Arabic Speakers)

Filed on: May 7, 2008 | Written by | Add new comment

We'll look at mistakes in both spoken and written English. Let's first start with written English.

Written English Mistakes

Placement of adjectives: One of the major problems in written English for Arabic speakers is the placement of adjectives. In English, typically, the adjective is placed before the noun. However, in Arabic, an adjective that describes the noun comes after the noun. Below is an example of a typical error that occurs because of this confusion.

Incorrect: My car the red color one is parked outside.

Correct: My red car is parked outside.

In the incorrect example, note how the adjective the red color one follows the noun, whereas in English, red comes before the noun.

Missing auxiliary verbs: Mistakes in writing are usually the result of trying to translate from one language to the other-word for word. Thus, if a language lacks an equivalent for a word from another language, it usually leads to mistakes of omission. For instance, the to-be verb forms are absent in Arabic. And when a sentence is written without to-be verbs in English, it becomes difficult to tell the time of the action.

Incorrect: The children crossing the road.

Correct: The children are/were crossing the road.

Spoken English Mistakes

P vs. B: Just as Japanese speakers confuse the letters l and r in English, speakers of Arabic find it difficult to distinguish between the letters p and b. So an Arabic speaker may end up saying "bostbox" instead of "postbox." Note that such mistakes sometimes find their way into writing in the form of wrong spellings.

 

[Native Eigo-juku is the Cactus newsletter providing essential English tidbits to interested non-native English speakers.]

MAY 6

Budget, Normal, and Express Editing Service

Filed on: May 6, 2008 | Written by | Add new comment

Is there any difference in quality between the Budget, Normal, and Express services?

These three service options available to our clients differ only in terms of the speed of delivery and the fees. There is no difference in the editing quality between them.

All documents edited by us come with the Editage Quality Guarantee. We go to great lengths to ensure that every document we edit is of the highest quality. If the quality of your edited document fails to meet the standards of quality, we take quick and effective action on it.

 

[This is a part of a series of posts, entitled What Editage does and How, showing you a glimpse of what and how we do things at Editage, and Cactus in general, and how you can make the most of it.]