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OCT22

Substantive editing and copyediting compared

Filed on: October 22, 2012 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

If we consider the editor and the matter being edited as sharing a relationship, substantive editing implies that the two are close friends whereas copyediting or technical editing implies a formal relationship between office colleagues or between a customer and a service provider. The difference is all about the extent of involvement: substantive editing helps shape the manuscript so that it is a better product for its intended use; copyediting merely makes sure that the manuscript is free of errors and easier to process, whether for typesetting, coding, or even printing.

Substantive editing, which is concerned with the substance of the matter being edited, requires helicopter vision: the editor should have a broad overview of the matter to be edited and be able to see how different parts of it fit together, whereas a copyeditor can plunge into the manuscript straightaway and begin working on it sentence by sentence. Substantive editing also requires familiarity with the subject matter of the document being edited, its purpose, and its intended audience. Copyediting, on the other hand, is concerned with the exact words in which that subject matter is couched, including spelling, grammar, punctuation, style, and usage.

Van Buren and Buehler [1] elaborate nine levels of edit, with substantive editing representing the highest level, and the University of Chicago Press [2] describes substantive editing as dealing with ‘the organization and presentation of content.’ Einsohn [3, p. 11] explains the difference in a concise paragraph: ‘Although copyeditors are expected to make simple revisions to smooth awkward passages, copyeditors do not have license to rewrite text line by line. Making such wholesale revisions to the text is called substantive editing or content editing [emphasis in the original].’

A more concrete way to understand the difference between substantive editing and copyediting is to imagine the two types of editors at work: the one engaged in substantive editing may well begin the process reclining in an armchair, equipped with no more than a pencil and perhaps a pad of sticky notes, whereas the one engaged in copyediting will be a picture of concentration, reading the text most probably off a computer’s monitor, and ready to make many small changes to the text, a style guide and a dictionary ready to hand.

An even more concrete way to distinguish substantive editing from technical editing is to examine the edited manuscript: a copyedited manuscript will be dotted with many small changes and minor queries to the author but will seldom show text shifted even within a paragraph, let alone across paragraphs; substantive editing, on the other hand, will be visible by directions to move blocks of text across sections or even across chapters, large-scale deletions and additions, and queries to the author about the logic and organization of the text.

Schultz [4, p. 63] provides a simple diagram, referred to as the writing/editing funnel, in which organization and paragraphs represent the top of the funnel and words, punctuation, grammar, etc. represent the narrow end—substantive editing is concerned with the top part whereas copyediting focuses on the narrow end.

Although this essay treats technical editing as a synonym for copyediting, technical editing is sometimes used to refer to those aspects of copyediting that require greater familiarity with subject matter; indeed, Schultz [4, pp. 8–9] explains that copyeditors ‘correct grammar and style of the text, whereas technical editors review the scientific meaning of sentences, abbreviations, symbols, and terminology, as well as the suitability of the abstract and technical aspects of the layout (e.g., equations, tables, figures).’ Another common interpretation of the term ‘technical editing’ is editing that requires familiarity with technical aspects not of the subject matter of the manuscript but of the process of typesetting and publishing and requires technical editors to mark different levels of headings, check whether links if any are current, ascertain whether illustrations if any are in the right format and suitable for reproduction, and so on.

In practice, editing is a continuum with proofreading at one end and developmental editing at the other; the line between copyediting and substantive editing is thin and blurry, and changes with the circumstances associated with any single editing assignment.

[1] Van Buren R and Buehler M F. 1980. The Levels of Edit, 2nd edn. Pasadena, California: Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 34 pp. <www.technical-expressions.com/learn2edit/levels-of-edit/levels_of_edit.pdf >

[2] University of Chicago Press. 2010. The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edn. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1026 pp.

[3] Einsohn A. 2006. The Copyeditor’s Handbook: a guide to book publishing and corporate communications. 2nd edn. Berkeley: University of California Press. 560 pp.

[4] Schultz D. 2009. Eloquent Science: a practical guide to becoming a better writer, speaker, and atmospheric scientist. Boson, Massachusetts: American Meteorological Society. 412 pp.

 

["Publish and prosper" is a series of posts about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit papers to journals published in English. The series touches 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.]

APR15

Phrases that appear in pairs

Filed on: April 15, 2011 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

Some phrases are always used in pairs; it is grammatically wrong to leave out any one member of the pair. As with different kinds of brackets used in equations -- like ( ) or [ ] -- an opening or a right-hand member is always paired with its closing or left-hand member.

The moment you use from in a sentence to introduce a range, you must pair it with a to, as in "The average daily temperature ranged from 12 °C to 35 °C." If you use between, you must pair it with and, as in "The temperature at noon varied between 14 °C in winter and 45 °C in summer." These pairs should not be intermixed. To write, for example, that "the value varied between 10 to 100" is a grammatical error. When using the en dash to represent a range, neither from/to nor between/and should be used, for example, "The annual rainfall was 10-15 mm." Constructions like "the value ranged from 10-100" or "the value fell between 10-100" are incorrect.  

The combination not only/but also is used when you want to emphasize one in a pair of properties, actions, features, etc., as in "Variety A not only yields more grain but also produces grain of superior quality." Typically, a comma is not placed before "but also."

Strictly speaking, either/or and neither/nor are also used only with two -- and no more than two -- alternatives, as in "The recording can be either digital or analog" and "Neither heat nor pressure can affect the result." Constructions like "The study can be either cross-sectional, longitudinal, or clinical" should be avoided.

 

["Publish and prosper" is a series of posts about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit papers to journals published in English.The series touches 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.]

MAR30

"Better writing": a helpful website from the Oxford dictionaries

Filed on: March 30, 2011 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

Each week, this series of blog posts chooses a topic in the hope that readers of the blog would find the topic useful. Sometimes, instead of dealing with a particular topic related to writing and publishing, the post describes a useful source - usually a book but sometimes a website - that deals with many similar topics. Better Writing [1] is one such website, which offers simple, brief, and clear guidance on a range of topics grouped as follows: grammar, spelling, punctuation, practical writing, improve your English, and abbreviations.

The section on grammar deals with such topics as less/fewer and that/which and offers useful tips. What is more, the section also explains dozens of grammatical terms in simple language. "Improve your English" offers advice on avoiding common errors and covers such topics as may/might, shall/will, and can/may. Guidance on abbreviations tells you whether to write abbreviations with capital letters, whether to use full stops, and when to use apostrophes.

The advice is given simply, clearly, and concisely, which makes the website a pleasure to browse--and has all the authority of Oxford dictionaries behind it.

[1] www.oxforddictionaries.com/page/betterwriting/better-writing

 

["Publish and prosper" is a series of posts about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit papers to journals published in English. The series touches 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.]

NOV 9

Infinitive (to) or gerund (-ing) form: which is better?

Filed on: November 9, 2010 | Written by Editage | 2 comments

Which is better in the following sentences-infinitive or gerund? A detailed explanation will be much appreciated.

1-a: The beaker will be filled up to the mark with the mixture to prepare ABC solution. 1-b: The beaker will be filled up to the mark with the mixture for preparing ABC solution.

2-a: The area below the lower chest was palpated a few times with the thumb and forefinger to observe the muscle tone. 2-b: The area below the lower chest was palpated a few times with the thumb and forefinger for observing the muscle tone.

3-a: To determine the concentration, the acceptable range is set at 50.0%. 3-b: For determining the concentration, the acceptable range is set at 50.0%.

Actually, there is no thumb rule for the use of infinitives and gerunds in these constructions. Their use is primarily governed by the meaning of the sentence: if both infinitive and gerund forms convey the intended meaning, then either can be used. Now, let's analyze each of the examples you have provided to determine which form is more appropriate.

1-a. The beaker will be filled up to the mark with the mixture to prepare ABC solution. 1-b.The beaker will be filled up to the mark with the mixture for preparing ABC solution.

In these sentences, both gerund and infinitive forms convey the same meaning, i.e., the beaker is filled for the purpose of preparing the solution. Since there is no ambiguity in either sentence, both forms of the verb can be used.

Now, let's look at the second set of sentences.

2-a. The area between the lower chest was palpated a few times with the thumb and forefinger to observe the muscle tone. 2-b. The area between the lower chest was palpated a few times with the thumb and forefinger for observing the muscle tone.

These sentences have the same structure as the first set of sentences. Therefore, the gerund and infinitive forms have the same impact on their meaning. Both forms convey the intended meaning, and therefore, either can be used.

Let's move on to the third set of sentences.

3-a. To determine the concentration, the acceptable range is set at 50.0% 3-b. For determinng the concentration, the acceptable range is set at 50.0%.

The same rationale for using gerunds and infinitives can be applied here. However, in this set, the problem is not the choice between gerunds or infinitives, rather it is the way in which both have been used. Infinitive or gerund phrases, such as "To determine the concentration" or "For determining the concentration," are said to dangle if the sentences containing these phrases do not include the person or thing that performs the action implied. Dangling phrases are a common problem in sentences framed in the passive voice. Such sentences can be corrected by specifying the person or agent performing the action. For example, in this case, the sentences can be revised as follows:

3-a. To determine the concentration, we set the acceptable range at 50.0% 3-b. For determining the concentration, we set the acceptable range at 50.0%.

As you must have noticed by now, both sentences convey the intended meaning. Therefore, either can be used.

JUL22

English articles part 1: “the”

Filed on: July 22, 2010 | Written by | 2 comments

Did you know that “the” is the most used word in the English language? If you’re a non-native speaker of English, you will know that this tiny word causes some of the biggest headaches when you’re writing an academic paper. You will probably also know that “the” is known as the definite article.

What do we mean by “definiteness”? I think that is one of the hardest things for a non-native speaker to comprehend. “Definiteness” refers to shared knowledge. For example, if I say, “I went to a lecture. The lecture was about grammar,” then we know that “a lecture” and “the lecture” are the same thing. The first time I mention it I use “a,” because you do not know which lecture I am talking about; it could be any lecture. In the second sentence, though, the article has become definite, because we both know which lecture is being referred to. In another example, I could say, “I went to a concert on Saturday. The orchestra played beautifully.” Although we only mention the word “orchestra” once, we associate it with the concert I attended, and I assume you will understand which orchestra I am referring to, so I use the definite article again.

There are many other cases where I assume that we share the same knowledge. For example, there are some things, places or people that are unique: the earth; the equator; the Ganges; the Queen of England. In other cases, I may have used a superlative or an ordinal number: the best; the second. Many organizations also take “the”: the World Health Organisation; the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. (Notice here that when we refer to an organization by its acronym, then we don’t add “the”: NATO, UNESCO.) Often, the word “of” causes us to use a definite article: the use of this procedure; the completion of the survey; none of the people in the study. Decades, centuries and currencies also take “the”: the 1990s; the twentieth century; the dollar; the rupee.

One major problem is that what is definite in one culture or context may not be definite in another. If I say, “X is the prime minister,” you would need to know which country I’m talking about. The examples above, however, give some idea, and it really is worth working on your articles and checking example sentences online to see if you’ve got it right. Try feeding your sentence into a search engine, and see if similar patterns come up in texts by native speakers.

If you find articles difficult, don’t despair. Remember that your content is the most important thing. If you can get most of the articles right, though, you are well on your way to writing excellent English.

[Julia Miller works at the University of Adelaide and is a contributor to the Grammar Gang blog. The blog is the new electronic home for Purdue University's OWL (Online Writing Lab) Help Nest, a forum for discussing difficult questions about grammar, style, and usage.]

 

JUL13

Poor English can limit the impact of research

Filed on: July 13, 2010 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

As mentioned in an earlier post in this blog, poor English can delay the publication of research. Even after a research paper is published, if it is written in poor English, the impact of the paper is reduced because the paper is less likely to be cited because fewer people – especially among those publishing in mainstream English-language journals – are likely to read it.

If English is not your first language, you may resent this unfair advantage held by those to whom English does not present a serious obstacle. Incidentally, do not assume that all native speakers of English can write faultless English: you only have to visit Paul Brian’s website, which confines itself to errors frequently seen in the writing of native speakers of English <http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/>. After all, how confident are you that whatever you write in your first language will be error-free?

The question is, are you willing to work on your English? To be able to write well in any one language, even when that language in question is your first language, is a skill. And like all skills, it can be mastered with practice combined with adequate instruction. To be able to write in your second language is a skill that needs constant development until you master it. On the other hand, you may conclude that you are better off spending your time on research than on learning English—after all, you can always engage a copyeditor to work on your paper.

["Publish and prosper" is a series of posts about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit papers to journals published in English. The series touches 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.]

JUN25

Poor English can delay the publication of research

Filed on: June 25, 2010 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

A recent article in New Scientist, a British weekly science magazine, mentions that poor English “is another factor that puts some scientists at a disadvantage. Rudolf Jaenisch at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the leading US-based researcher working on iPS cells, argues that some papers from Asia are so badly written that they are difficult to assess . . ." [New Scientist, 9 June 2010 www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627643.700]. The article, titled “Paper trail: Inside the stem cell wars,” explores why research papers from laboratories in the USA are published faster than those from other laboratories in the field of stem cell research.

Poor English includes not only outright errors of spelling, grammar, and punctuation but also faulty construction of sentences, unidiomatic expressions, and odd usage that is obtrusive enough to deflect a reviewer’s attention from the substance of the paper to its style. The fact that the manuscript under review is written by someone to whom English is not the first language is irrelevant to judging the scientific worth of the paper, but it may delay both the review and the subsequent editing of that manuscript. In the worst-case scenario, poor English makes it impossible for a reviewer to assess the paper.

It is for this reason that this blog deals with issues that are trivial individually but of some significance collectively. A few errors related to language are minor blemishes in a research paper, and reviewers might not even notice them, but too many errors are bound to reflect adversely on the research paper.

["Publish and prosper" is a series of posts about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit papers to journals published in English. The series touches 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.]

 

Please educate me about singular-plural matters. Let me show a few examples; I will be grateful if you show me which way is correct.   Example 1-A: The rate for the 3- and 6-g/L solutions was 101% and 100%, respectively. Example 1-B: The rates for the 3- and 6-g/L solutions were 101% and 100%, respectively. Example 2-A: Four dogs, to which a transmitter was implanted, received a single dose. Example 2-B: Four dogs, to which transmitters were implanted, received a single dose. I prefer Examples A, because I suppose that with Examples A I can imply that the number of rate or transmitter is one for each solution or dog. However, it seems kind of odd that the singular verb "was" is followed by two rates in Example 1-A.

The correct options would be Examples 1-B and 2-B. Let me explain.

Singular forms of words are used to refer to one person or thing (e.g., Figure 1 shows the chest CT scan), while plural forms are used to refer to more than one person or thing (e.g., Figures 1 and 2 show the chest CT scans).

In the first set of examples (1-A and 1-B), you are referring to two solutions and their corresponding rates. Therefore, the plural form "rates" should be used. "Respectively" merely explains the relationship between the elements: the rate for the 3-g/L solution was 101% and the rate for the 6-g/L solution was 100%.

Now let's visit the second set of examples. Example 2-A implies that one transmitter was implanted in the four dogs collectively, which is illogical. From Example 2-B, however, one can easily gather that a transmitter was implanted in each of the dogs. Therefore, Example 2-B would be the grammatically and semantically correct option.

This rule only applies to countable words, that is, words that can be pluralized, for example, "rates" and "transmitters." In the case of an uncountable noun, like "water," the singular form of the word-and therefore, a singular verb-would be used. Take the following instance:

The efficiency of A and B was 80% and 90%, respectively.

In the above example, "efficiency" is an uncountable noun. It would be grammatically incorrect to say "efficiencies." Therefore, the singular form "efficiency" and a singular verb "was" are used.

Each part of a typical research paper predominantly uses one tense: for the materials and methods section – the section that describes what you did and how you did that – that tense is the past tense, most often the simple past tense.

In the introductory section, the present tense is more common because in that section you state your reasons for undertaking the piece of research described in the paper. The section also describes what is currently known about the topic, which makes the present tense the most natural tense to use.

In the materials and methods section, the past is more natural because you are describing work that is already complete at the time of writing. Thus, it is simply a description of your actions. Typically, you begin with the choice of the materials: for example, in agricultural research, it is common to describe the crop and the specific variety or hybrid that you chose, as well as the kind and amount of fertilizers used, pesticides applied (if any), and so on, as in “The rice variety IR 8 was chosen for the experiment” or “For the analysis, ripe fruits of the following six apple varieties were chosen.” As you can see, the simple past is the natural choice. Sometimes, you may need to use the past perfect tense, as in “the seeds had been exposed to ultraviolet radiation for 4 hours before sowing,” to describe some earlier stages of the experimental procedure. 

Since the materials and methods section is an account of your actions and not your intentions, the future tense is out of place. On the other hand, it is common in the discussion section, toward the end, to indicate the future course of action suggested by the results of current research – and the future tense is the most natural choice then.

["Publish and prosper" is a series of posts about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit papers to journals published in English. The series touches 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.]

MAY30

The En Dash

Filed on: May 30, 2008 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

If there is a single mark that sets apart professional technical writing from amateur efforts, it is the en dash. Properly, the en dash belongs to the toolbox of the typesetter and the printer: because the en dash is almost like the hyphen, only a little longer, it is seldom seen in handwritten or typewritten matter. Some authors and typists, however, type two hyphens in a row to indicate the en dash. But what is it used for?

The most common use of the en dash is to indicate a range: when set between two numbers, it simply replaces the preposition 'to', as in 'numbers 10-99' for 'numbers 10 to 99'. If you scan the lists of references cited, you will notice that the dash between page numbers is slightly longer (and thinner) than the hyphen. That dash is the en dash, and its use between page numbers is universal in professional publishing. Similarly, the en dash is used between pairs of place names in names of roads, trains, flights, and journeys, as in 'Mumbai-Bangalore expressway', 'London-Edinburgh Express', 'New York - Washington shuttle', and so on.

Also universal, but not as straightforward, is the en dash that separates two nouns of equal importance that occur together, as in the 'environment-development debate' and 'cost-benefit analysis'. In these pairs, either member can come first without any change in the meaning.

Lastly, there are pairs of en dashes used to indicate asides or parenthetical expressions when the idea is to highlight those expressions. Such pairs occur in the middle of a sentence with - usually in British English - each partner or member of the pair flanked by a space.

Keep the following tips in mind when using the en dash.

# The single en dash that separates two numbers 'rubs shoulders' with the numbers as it were: there is no space either before or after the en dash (10-99 and not 10 - 99).

# The same convention, namely the 'spaceless' en dash, holds good for the en dash that separates two place names or other nouns. However, when either or both the nouns run to more than one word, and therefore contain a space, I believe the en dash should also be spaced out ('the North-South divide' but 'New York - San Francisco flight')

# The en dash is used with a single number (usually a year) to indicate that the second number is as yet uncertain, as in life spans of those who are alive at the time of writing: 'Charles Darwin 1809-1882' and 'Albert Einstein 1879-1955' but 'James Watson 1928-' and 'Stephen Hawking 1942-'.

# The keyboard shortcut for the en dash in Windows is Alt+0150: to type it, press and hold down the Alt key and type 0150 from the numerical keypad, and release the Alt key. For this shortcut to work, the Num Lock should be on. Alternatively, in Open type fonts, use the code 2013: type 2013 from the numerical keypad, press and hold down the Alt key, type x (lowercase x), and release the Alt key. (Again, make sure that the Num Lock is on.)

An earlier blog in the series was about the colon (:).

 

[This is part of the "Grammar" series of posts, which covers everything and anything related to English language grammar.]

MAR21

Preposition

Filed on: March 21, 2008 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

All text is words: what matters is their choice and arrangement. If you choose the right words and arrange them properly, your writing will be easier to understand. Thus both vocabulary and grammar are important. Scientific writing uses many words that are unfamiliar to the general public but scientists have no difficulty understanding such words. Simple errors in writing are more common with ordinary words, and today I plan to list some very common errors that are beyond debate: you may even run ‘find' in a word-processing programme and check whether your text is free of them. However, do not try to fix them with ‘find and replace': only the other day, a colleague told me how, in replacing ‘cm' with ‘centimetre', they managed to change ‘Macmillan' to ‘Macentimetreillan'.

In English, barring a few exceptions such as he/him and she/her, the form of a word does not change no matter what its function in a sentence. In ‘Man eats dog', ‘man' is the subject of the sentence; in ‘Dog eats man', man is the object yet the word remains the same. The job of conveying the intended meaning therefore falls on the sequence of words and on prepositions, tiny words like ‘by', ‘from', ‘up', and so on that show how two or more words relate to one another.

Whereas native speakers of English rarely get the prepositions wrong, foreign users often mix them up. Dictionaries of ‘phrasal verbs' are particularly useful in learning the right way to use prepositions because they show how the meaning of a verb changes with the preposition attached to it: to look at, to look into, to look up to, to look down upon, and so on.

Here are a few errors you can easily avoid.

# Up to or upto? Up and to are two separate words: do not join them to make ‘upto'-there is not such word in English.

# Comprise or consist? Comprise is never followed by a preposition but Consist is usually followed by ‘of': a PC (personal computer) consists of a keyboard, a monitor, and a CPU (central processing unit) or a PC comprises a keyboard, a monitor, and a CPU.

# Dispose of or dispose off? Dispose is never followed by ‘off' but always by ‘of'.

# At or in? In describing where something happens, ‘at' is used with a specific location (a house, a building, a shop, etc.) whereas ‘in' is used with the larger geographic unit (a city, a country, a region, etc.): in experiments conducted at Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge...

Answer to the question posed in "Publish or Perish? No, Publish and Prosper" To keep such items as the initials of a person and his or her family name (surname), the date and the month, or the value (number) and its unit, as in 65 kg, use ‘non-breaking space' instead of the space you inserted with the space bar.

The code for non-breaking space is Alt+0160: keep the Alt key pressed and type 0160 from the numerical pad to insert a non-breaking space.

 

[This is part of the "Grammar" series of posts, which covers everything and anything related to English language grammar.]

FEB18

10 Punctuation Rules Every Author Should Know

Filed on: February 18, 2008 | Written by | Add new comment

What are the common punctuation rules?

Punctuation is everything in written language other than the actual letters or numbers.

But this definition is overly simplistic and offers no insight into the real purpose of punctuation: What are the types? What are their uses? And, most importantly, how can it help me write better?

Punctuation in English

Without proper punctuation, most written English will be unintelligible. But the "rules" that define its use are not very consistent, and to make matters worse, they vary depending geographical preference and even individual preference. This can lead to much confusion, and worse, bad writing.

The Editage solution

With their many years of editing and correcting bad punctuation, the diligent editors at Editage have sifted through all these variations and stylistic preferences to finally come up with the 10 Punctuation Rules Every Author Should Know. These comprise the 10 most important and commonly accepted rules that define good punctuation-the 10 Commandments of English punctuation-all available in one concise e-book.

To find out more, visit our e-books page at:

http://editage.jp/knowledge/ebooks.html

 

[The above post is a part of a series of posts, titled eBooks, and will contain information about English help books that are available for sale through our website. Some of these books have been written and compiled by our editors.]

NOV29

Prepositions: Amidst Vs. In

Filed on: November 29, 2007 | Written by | 1 comment

An often overlooked but easily avoidable error...

The word "amidst" (preposition) implies being in the middle of something or being surrounded by other things. For example, "the wedding ring shone amidst the debris." Typically, amidst is used when referring to a location or an area that is vast or expansive or when the noun following "amidst" is emotionally significant. For example, "Gia's house was located amidst the white mountains of New Hampshire" or "Alina does the best she can amidst her troubles."

Example

Incorrect: Ismail's house is located amidst the so-called Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Correct: Ismail's house is located in the so-called Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem.

To elucidate, in the above example, the use of the word "amidst" is incorrect because the noun "Jewish Quarter" does not possess an emotional significance, such as turmoil or joy, nor is it vast or expansive. Hence, the use of the word "in" is more appropriate here.

 

[This is part of the "Grammar" series of posts, which covers everything and anything related to English language grammar.]

NOV28

Adjective-Adverb Placement II

Filed on: November 28, 2007 | Written by | 2 comments

This is the second part of my somewhat valuable insight-laden rant on adjectives and adverbs.

Typically, the word "enough" means "sufficient or adequate" and can be used as a quantifier or as an adverb. A quantifier is a word(s) used to describe the quantity of a noun, and it is usually placed before a noun. An adverb is a word that describes an adjective, a verb, or another adverb. Depending on the context of the sentence, it can be placed before or after an adjective, verb, or adverb.

When "enough" is being used as a quantifier, it should be placed before the noun, for example, "The President did not get enough votes to get re-elected." In this sentence, the word "enough" quantifies the noun "votes."

However, when the word "enough" is being used as an adverb, it is always placed after the adjective, verb, or adverb, for example, "Tabitha did not run fast enough to win the race." In this sentence, the word "enough" describes the adverb "fast."

Example

Incorrect: If the value is enough close to 1, it should be considered.

Correct: If the value is close enough to 1, it should be considered.

In the example above, "enough" describes the adjective "close," and thus functions as an adverb. Therefore, it is placed after the adjective.

You can go through the first part by clicking here.

 

[This is part of the "Grammar" series of posts, which covers everything and anything related to English language grammar.]

NOV26

Obtain Vs. Attain

Filed on: November 26, 2007 | Written by | 3 comments

This is perhaps one of the most common errors we at Cactus come across. People often confuse the two terms and use them in the inappropriate context. Hope the explanation given below clears the air a bit.

The verbs "obtain" and "attain" both mean "to gain or achieve something." However, the verb "obtain" is typically used to denote possession. For example, "Bill tried relentlessly to obtain tickets to the symphony." On the other hand, the verb "attain" is generally used in the context of achieving a state or condition (e.g., After practicing yoga for ten years, Sarah attained a state of calmness and happiness).

Therefore, while "obtain" is used in the context of gaining a physical object, "attain" is used when an abstract quality is achieved.

Example

Incorrect: She has obtained control over her temper.

Correct: She has attained control over her temper.

In the above example, "control over temper" is a condition that is gained and thus corresponds with the word "attain."

 

[Word/Phrase Choice is a series of posts dedicated to the appropriate and gentlemannerly usage of some of the more peculiar words and phrases in the English language.]

NOV23

Cultured Vs. Cultural

Filed on: November 23, 2007 | Written by | Add new comment

Another tid-bit... note that these may seem trivial but are frequent enough to merit a post... tit-bit nevertheless...

Both "cultured" and "cultural" are adjectives derived from the word culture; however, they are used in different contexts. "Cultured" is used to describe an individual who has received a good education and is well informed about art, music, and literature. For example, "Mr. Darcy was a refined and cultured man, who could recite Shakespeare and quote Eliot." However, the word "cultural" is used when referring to something that is related to music, art, theatre, literature, etc. For example, "The cultural activities of this school are admirable" or "During the Renaissance, the cultural scenario of England witnessed several changes." Thus, when referring to the arts and literary aspects of a community or its context at a social level, the word cultural and not cultured is appropriate.

Example

Incorrect: Before launching our food products in a new market, we consider the economic, social, and cultured factors.

Correct: Before launching our food products in a new market, we consider the economic, social, and cultural factors.

The above sentence indicates that certain factors specific to a particular society are considered before launching new products. Therefore, the word "cultural" should be used instead of "cultured."

 

[Word/Phrase Choice is a series of posts dedicated to the appropriate and gentlemannerly usage of some of the more peculiar words and phrases in the English language.]

NOV21

Old vs Original

Filed on: November 21, 2007 | Written by | Add new comment

Perhaps one of the most avoidable and uncommon errors I've come across... but I found it rather interesting and thought I'll share...

The word "old" means of an earlier period, belonging to the past, or no longer in general use. For example, "an old song" or "old clothes." On the other hand, the word "original" means the first of its kind or from which a copy or revision is made. For example, "the original statement" or "the original work of art."

Example

Incorrect: The Discussion section was not well-written in our old manuscript. We have rewritten this section in the revised version.

Correct: The Discussion section was not well-written in our original manuscript. We have rewritten this section in the revised version.

In the above example, reference is being made to the version of a manuscript before changes were made to it. Therefore, the word "original" should be used instead of "old."

 

[Word/Phrase Choice is a series of posts dedicated to the appropriate and gentlemannerly usage of some of the more peculiar words and phrases in the English language.]

NOV20

Capital vs. Wealth

Filed on: November 20, 2007 | Written by | Add new comment

Another grave-and-noticed-and-seemingly-trivial error...

Although the words "capital" and "wealth" appear to have similar meanings, they are actually different. The word "capital" (noun) implies a large amount of money used for producing more wealth or for starting a new business, for example, "She invested £ 20,000 capital into the business, but is unlikely to see any return for the next few years." However, the word "wealth" (noun) refers to a large amount of money or valuable possessions that someone has and uses for personal consumption, for example, "He has inherited a lot of wealth and hence has a lavish lifestyle."

Example

Incorrect: She expends her capital on designer outfits and fancy cars.

Correct: She expends her wealth on designer outfits and fancy cars.

 

[Word/Phrase Choice is a series of posts dedicated to the appropriate and gentlemannerly usage of some of the more peculiar words and phrases in the English language.]

NOV19

Overview vs. Review

Filed on: November 19, 2007 | Written by | Add new comment

This may seem trivial, but this error often goes unnoticed and is indeed grave.

The word "overview" is used as a noun and means a general understanding or description. For example, "The central section of the book is a historical overview of drug use." Although some words can be used as both verbs and nouns depending on the context (for example, "The gardener waters (verb) the plants" and "Water (noun) is essential for life", the word "overview" can only be used as a noun.

In the following example, the word overview is used as a verb, which is incorrect. Therefore, either the sentence should be reworded to ensure that "overview" functions as a noun or "overview" should be replaced by a suitable verb, such as "review" or "examine."

Example

Incorrect: This paper overviews the studies on phytoestrogens.

Correct: This paper reviews the studies on phytoestrogens.

 

[Word/Phrase Choice is a series of posts dedicated to the appropriate and gentlemannerly usage of some of the more peculiar words and phrases in the English language.]

NOV16

Fire vs. Arson

Filed on: November 16, 2007 | Written by | Add new comment

Tid-bits...

Although both words refer to the process of burning, "fire" and "arson" have different connotations. The noun "fire" refers to the flames, light, and smoke that are created when something burns, for example, "Since she could feel the heat and see the smoke from a block away, she knew that there was a fire." On the other hand, the word "arson" denotes the action of deliberately setting something on fire and is usually used to describe a crime or malicious act, for example, "He was convicted of theft and arson."

Example

Incorrect: The workers became the targets of violence, fire, and attack.

Correct: The workers became the targets of violence, arson, and attack.

The above sentence implies that workers were intentionally burned or set on fire. Thus, the word "arson" is appropriate.

 

[Word/Phrase Choice is a series of posts dedicated to the appropriate and gentlemannerly usage of some of the more peculiar words and phrases in the English language.]

NOV15

Pluralizing a Collective Noun (Staff vs. Staffs)

Filed on: November 15, 2007 | Written by | Add new comment

Another art of pluralizing tip:

Some singular nouns refer to two or more things as a group. These nouns are known as collective nouns. For example, the collective noun "pair" is singular and refers to only two things (e.g., a pair of shoes). Similarly, in the phrase "a pride of lions," the singular noun "pride" refers to a group of lions.

However, when a collective noun is pluralized, the noun implies a reference to two or more groups of things. For example, "pairs of shoes" refers to two sets of shoes, and "flocks of birds" refers to several groups of birds.

In the example below, since the noun "staff" refers to a single group of people working in the Department of Technology, and not to several groups of people in different departments, the noun "staff" should be singular.

Example

Incorrect: I would like to thank the staffs of the Department of Technology for their help.

Correct: I would like to thank the staff of the Department of Technology for their help.

 

[This is part of the "Grammar" series of posts, which covers everything and anything related to English language grammar.]

NOV14

Wait vs. Anticipate

Filed on: November 14, 2007 | Written by | Add new comment

Tid-bits...

The verb "wait" refers to the act of remaining inactive in expectation of something and is usually to imply a state of motionlessness or inactivity, for example, "Although the play was scheduled to begin at 8:00, the audience was still waiting at 8:30." On the other hand, "anticipate" denotes the act of expecting or looking forward to something as certain and does not imply a state of motionlessness, for instance, "We anticipate that the weather will be sunny tomorrow."

Example

Incorrect: A positive outcome of this project is waited in the near future.

Correct: A positive outcome of this project is anticipated in the near future.

In the above example, the outcome of the project is expected in the near future. Therefore, "anticipated" should be used instead of "waited."

 

[Word/Phrase Choice is a series of posts dedicated to the appropriate and gentlemannerly usage of some of the more peculiar words and phrases in the English language.]

NOV13

Symptom vs. Side Effect

Filed on: November 13, 2007 | Written by | Add new comment

This is an error that should be avoided at all costs.

The word "symptom" implies any adverse phenomenon or deviation from the normal in structure, function, or sensation, experienced by the patient that is indicative of disease. For example, "The patient's symptoms included a headache and sore throat." On the other hand, the term "side effect" refers to the outcome of a drug or therapy that is an addition to or an extension of the desired therapeutic effect. It is usually undesirable. For example, "Homeopathy has few side effects." Hence, when referring to the adverse effect caused by a drug or therapy, it is inappropriate to use the word "symptom." Instead, the term "side effect" should be used.

Example

Incorrect: The doctor mentioned that weight gain is a common symptom of the prescribed medicine.

Correct: The doctor mentioned that weight gain is a common side effect of the prescribed medicine.

 

[Word/Phrase Choice is a series of posts dedicated to the appropriate and gentlemannerly usage of some of the more peculiar words and phrases in the English language.]

NOV13

Plurals

Filed on: November 13, 2007 | Written by | Add new comment

Among the more confusing things in the English language is the art of (or the lack of it when it comes to) pluralizing.

In the English language, most nouns are pluralized by adding the letter "s" to the singular form; for example, hill is pluralized by adding the letter s as "hills." Similarly, "train," "animal," "rose," etc., are pluralized as "trains," "animals," "roses," etc. However, there are several exceptions to this rule, which are based on the ending letters of the specific words.

For example, words ending with a "y" and preceded by a consonant are pluralized by dropping the y and adding "ies." Some examples of this are the words "anomaly," "cherry," and "lady," which are pluralized as "anomalies," "cherries," and "ladies."

Example

Incorrect: The use of robots for entertainment by familys has been increasing over the previous years.

Correct: The use of robots for entertainment by families has been increasing over the previous years.

Similarly, in the case of family, it ends with a "y" and preceded by a consonant "l." Hence, it is pluralized by dropping the "y" and adding "ies" as "families."

Please note that this rule also has some exceptions; for example, "standbys."

Perennial rule of the English language: Exceptions are always present.

 

[This is part of the "Grammar" series of posts, which covers everything and anything related to English language grammar.]

NOV12

Exhibit vs. Illustrate

Filed on: November 12, 2007 | Written by | Add new comment

Often, non-native English speakers make errors they are seldom aware of. These errors being trivial, do go unnoticed. Here's one of them: exhibit vs. illustrate.

The word "exhibit" is used to clearly imply a feature or an ability possessed by something. For example, consider the following sentence: It was observed that the substance exhibits characteristics of hazardous waste. Here, the word exhibits implies that the substance strongly resembles hazardous waste or in other words, the substance possesses some or many features of hazardous waste.

The word "illustrate," on the other hand, implies the clarification of something through the use of examples such as, images or diagrams. Consider this sentence: The professor illustrated his notes with diagrams. In this case, the word illustrated implies that the professor explained certain facts with the aid of diagrams. Therefore, the word exhibit is used to express a feature already present in something, while the word illustrate is used for presenting supplementary information to understand a feature in a better way.

The following example clearly shows the distinction between the two words:

Example Incorrect: Additionally, the Ni/MgO prepared from aqueous Ni(NO3)2 solution with pH = 7 had a higher Ni reducibility and illustrated a high H2 formation activity in comparison to 1wt%Rh/MgO. Correct: Additionally, the Ni/MgO prepared from aqueous Ni(NO3)2 solution with pH = 7 had a higher Ni reducibility and exhibited a high H2 formation activity in comparison to 1wt%Rh/MgO.

 

[Word/Phrase Choice is a series of posts dedicated to the appropriate and gentlemannerly usage of some of the more peculiar words and phrases in the English language.]

NOV 9

Good Conditions vs. In Good condition

Filed on: November 9, 2007 | Written by | Add new comment

This is another of those peculiar ones...

One of the implications of the word "conditions" is circumstances; it refers to the nature of the surroundings/environment. For example, "The conditions in his workplace make it impossible to concentrate" and "The ship set sail in good weather conditions." Hence, the phrase "in good conditions" means in good circumstances. The phrase "in good condition," however, means in a good state or of a good quality. For example, "I have worn these boots for a year, but they are still in good condition." Therefore, these two phrases have different implications and should not be used interchangeably.

Example

Incorrect: Although the building is old, it is in good conditions.

Correct: Although the building is old, it is in good condition.

The sentence in the above example implies that the building is in a good state. Therefore, the phrase "in good condition" and not "in good conditions" should be used.

 

[Word/Phrase Choice is a series of posts dedicated to the appropriate and gentlemannerly usage of some of the more peculiar words and phrases in the English language.]

NOV 8

From the result(s)

Filed on: November 8, 2007 | Written by | Add new comment

Sometimes, we get documents that have some very peculiar errors, the kind of errors we often assume never existed. But since we do come across them, we are inclined to assume that few of these get noticed. One such error pertained to the usage of the phrase "from the result(s)" vis-à-vis "as a result." The meaning of the phrase "as a result" is "because of." It is used when implying that one event is the cause of another. For example, "The children played in the rain, as a result of which, they all caught a cold." This sentence implies that because the children played in the rain, they caught a cold.

On the other hand, the phrase "from the results" refers to inferences drawn from certain results. For example, "From the results of the experiment, we concluded bats are nocturnal creatures." This sentence implies that the results of their experiment indicated that bats are nocturnal.

Since the phrases "as a result" and "from the result" have different implications, they cannot be used interchangeably.

Example

Incorrect: As a result, we conclude that high protein intake during breakfast has a significant effect on the academic performance of children.

Correct: From the results, we conclude that high protein intake during breakfast has a significant effect on the academic performance of children.

The above example does not describe a cause-effect relationship. It implies that from the results of the experiment, the abovementioned observations were made. Hence, it is more appropriate to use the phrase "from the results" instead of the phrase "as a result."

 

[Word/Phrase Choice is a series of posts dedicated to the appropriate and gentlemannerly usage of some of the more peculiar words and phrases in the English language.]

NOV 8

Use of “these” (immediate relevance)

Filed on: November 8, 2007 | Written by | Add new comment

We often notice that the papers we get here at Editage, often (sic; J) lack proper usage of pronouns. Pronouns are words like he, she, they, etc. that can act as a substitute for a noun. An even more frequent error is the usage of the pronoun "these."

The pronoun "these" is generally used when referring to elements that have been discussed recently and are immediately relevant in the given context. The word "same" implies identical, equivalent, or equal depending on the usage, for example, "their test answers were identical;" "the houses were equivalent in their market value;" "both partners had equal shares in the business." Same is also used to allude to information that has been presented earlier and in such cases implies "aforesaid." However, when "these" is used, it is redundant to use "same."

Example

Incorrect: Jane's students won several prizes during the event. These same students had won the trophy last year.

Correct: Jane's students won several prizes during the event. These students had won the trophy last year.

In the above example, the phrase "these students" would refer to the students that have been mentioned in the first sentence. This information could also be conveyed by the phrase "the same students." However, the combined use of these and same is redundant and should be avoided.

Hope the above explanation helps; that's it from me for now, take care, bye.

 

[This is part of the "Grammar" series of posts, which covers everything and anything related to English language grammar.]

NOV 6

Adjective-Adverb Placement

Filed on: November 6, 2007 | Written by | 2 comments

More often than not, we find that non-native English apprentices often (sic) tend to confuse adjectives and adverbs. I have tried to explain the difference as best as possible; go through it and let me know if you have any doubts.

An adjective is a word that describes or modifies nouns (e.g., clever, careful, strong). An adverb is a word that modifies verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. (e.g., kindly, remarkably, significantly). Adverbs are often formed by adding the suffix "ly" to an adjective. The use of an adjective or adverb form of a word depends on the meaning that one wants to convey. Adjectives and their adverb forms should not be used interchangeably.

Adverbs qualifying a verb are usually placed before or after the verb. Such adverbs describe how an action (denoted by the verb) is performed. For example, in the sentence "The school rules were harshly criticized by the people," the adverb "harshly" describes the verb "criticize." Therefore, the sentence conveys how the people criticized the school rules.

Adjectives describe the noun that they are placed before. For example, in the sentence "The harsh school rules were criticized by the people," the adjective "harsh" is placed before the noun "school rules." Therefore, the sentence implies that the school rules were harsh and hence were criticized by the people.

The two abovementioned sentences have completely different meanings. Therefore, the use of the adverb or adjective forms of a word depends on the meaning one wants to convey.

These examples show that, if one wants to describe a noun (school rules), an adjective (harsh) should be placed before the noun, and if one wants to qualify a verb (criticize), an adverb (harshly) should be placed close to the verb.

Example

Incorrect: Ballooning was moderately to severely observed.

Correct: Moderate to severe ballooning was observed.

In the above example, the sentence was intended to convey what kind of ballooning (noun) was observed, not how the ballooning was observed. Therefore, the adjective forms "moderate" and "severe" should be used to describe the noun "ballooning."

 

[This is part of the "Grammar" series of posts, which covers everything and anything related to English language grammar.]

NOV 2

Homophones

Filed on: November 2, 2007 | Written by | Add new comment

The English language contains several homophones (words that are pronounced like another word but have different meanings). For example, the words ‘principle’ (a law or rule) and ‘principal’ (most important or main) are similar in pronunciation but very different in meaning.

Further, several words are spelt differently in British English and American English. The words ‘annexe’ and ‘annex’ are peculiar—they are homophones and also carry different meanings in British English and American English.

In American English, ‘annex’ is both a verb meaning to attach and a noun meaning something that is attached. It can be used both in the political sense (to take control of a region) or in the general sense (a document or item attached to something). In British English, however, ‘annex’ can only be used as a verb in the political sense of taking possession of an area. When referring to an additional section of a document (like an appendix), only the word ‘annexe’ can be used.

Example

Incorrect: See annex I, table 1.

Correct: See annexe I, table 1.