Feedback Master: Self-Editing

Table of Contents

General comments *

Overall praise *

  • Just wanted to let you know that your English in this post is 100% correct. Great job!
    • Your English in this message is 100% perfect! Great job!!!
    • Again, your English is perfect in this message —Very well done! ☺
    • One other thing. I should tell you that your English is 100% correct in this message. Great job!
    • I almost forgot to let you know that your English is 100% correct in this post. Great writing!
  • Please see my highlighting/comments in teal above. (Note that many of your errors in this category deal with VERY advanced English grammar/mechanics rules. . . .so I don’t think it’s fair for me to take points off for them J)
  • I very much enjoyed reading your advanced phrasing and grammar that’s perfect for peer-to-peer communication like this, particularly: Wow!
  • Your English in this message is amazingly good overall! Because it’s soooooooooo good, I want to make a couple of sort of “picky comments” to let you know what you’d need to do to make it perfect ☺

Overall critique *

  • X, this is definitely your weakest point, but I can see you checked this, so I’ll give you half credit.
  • X, I suspect you must have completed this assignment very quickly and not very carefully. Please email me your corrected definitions ASAP, because I really don’t want to give you the grade this deserves!
  • Please see my highlighting/comments in gray above.

Specific critique *

  • I’m not going to comment on this problem again in your data commentary, but please know that this issue continues throughout the rest of your paper, so please check for it!

Miscellaneous errors impacting the clear communication of one’s intended meaning *

Overall comments *

Overall praise *

  • Mostly, except try to get in the habit of checking your writing for complex sentences that require the use of alternative words meaning “and” versus the word “and” itself in order to be clear
  • X, you are braver about using sophisticated phrasing/grammar than many of your classmates are ☺. That’s a very good characteristic, as it will help you develop advanced-level scholarly/professional English far more than it would if you just used “safe” and super-familiar phrasing and grammar! ☺ Using such sophisticated language is also rather risky, however, because it can be so easy to accidentally misuse! Therefore, it’s very important that students like you who are brave at attempting to use sophisticated phrasing/grammar also learn to become very skilled at checking their proposed advanced grammar/phrasing in COCA to make sure it really is standard English and really is expressing their intended meaning — Make sense?)

Overall critique *

  • Please see my highlighting/comments in pink above.
  • Sometimes, but other times your misunderstanding of certain English signaling words, etc., slows down readers and makes them have to work hard to figure out what you’re trying to say
  • X, remember that in research writing, it’s almost impossible to be too explicit/too clear. . . .however, being too vague is a very common problem (and one of the key reasons it’s always a good idea to have someone else read your paper before you submit it. . . .because it’s very hard to catch your own “overly-vague” writing because when reviewing your paper, you’ll tend to understand what you mean, instead of what you’ve actually said. Much of the time, only a second pair of eyes can help solve this problem)
  • X, you make a lot of VERY strong statements.  Academic writers tend to avoid making such strong statements (that other scholars can easily argue against or even disprove!) by “hedging” their claims. What hedging vocabulary can you add to this claim so that you don’t cause your readers to immediately question it because it’s soooooooooooo strong? (See our Science Research Writing textbook, pp. 109-111, the introduction to hedging from Newcastle University’s Writing Development Centre, the excellent explanation and quiz on hedging found on the The Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s Centre for Independent Language Learning website and also the basically reliably ordered lists of hedging vocabulary at UsingEnglish.com)
  • X, in everyday English, we do sometimes talk about proving and disproving things. However, research writers tend to avoid such using such strong language because, in fact, research tools such as statistics cannot prove anything to be generally true. They can only suggest that particular results are likely unlikely to be replicable/generalizable. Make sense? (See our Science Research Writing textbook, pp. 109-111, the introduction to hedging from Newcastle University’s Writing Development Centre, the excellent explanation and quiz on hedging found on the The Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s Centre for Independent Language Learning website and also the basically reliably ordered lists of hedging vocabulary at UsingEnglish.com for valuable information on how to “hedge” your claims in academic writing.)
  • X, I’m very sure that as a graduate student, you are capable of thinking logically. However, it seems like you were not careful when writing your data commentary to check that you were actually expressing your ideas logically L This is a very big problem and will definitely hurt you academically (outside of English 101D) if it continues!!!
    • X, I’m very sure based on our in-class interactions that you are quite capable of thinking carefully and logically. However, as indicated by my highlighting/comments in pink above, it appears you are sometimes NOT very careful about checking that you have expressed your intended meaning clearly L. It would therefore help you if you develop the habit of rereading your research writing, intentionally looking for possible ways that people reading what you say could misunderstand what you mean — and then revising your writing to make your intended meaning unmistakable. Writing clearly the first time is very important in research writing, because most readers won’t bother to contact you to ask for clarification. . . .and if they see lack of clarity as a pattern in your writing, they’re may try to avoid reading your papers whenever they can get away with it. (Of course, you also don’t want to develop the reputation in your field of being an unclear, hard-to-follow writer!) I understand (from my own basically-always-slow-and-painful writing and rewriting experience, including in my development of our English 101D course materials) that the writing/rewriting process takes forever, and it can be hard to find the time to do it when you’re also busy with a full-time job — but it really is important if you’re wanting your research writing to get published. Make sense?
  • X, please check my comments associated with the words/phrases I’ve highlighted in pink. (By the way, I should let you know that the kinds of errors you made in this category are those that native English speakers also frequently make because of knowing so well what they mean that they don’t notice that’s not clearly what they’ve said! — This is why it’s a good idea for all research writers to have an outside reader check their papers before submitting them to a journal. Make sense?)

Specific comments *

Specific praise *

Specific critique *

  • X, this isn’t wrong, but I’m also not 100% sure it actually expresses what you intended to say. Does it? Can you check?
  • All studies? Are you sure that you’re familiar with all studies that have been done on this topic?
  • Do you mean that “maximum mesh size” itself or “the same changes. . .in maximum mesh size” affect the final result? Grammatically, both interpretations are possible. (Remember that in research writing, it’s almost impossible to be too explicit/too clear. . . .however, being too vague is a very common problem (and one of the key reasons it’s always a good idea to have someone else read your paper before you submit it. . . .because it’s very hard to catch your own “overly-vague” writing because when reviewing your paper, you’ll tend to understand what you mean, instead of what you’ve actually said. Much of the time, only a second pair of eyes can help solve this problem)
  • This phrase does not make sense in English, as it’s missing a couple of key words. Can you figure out what they are?
  • X, I’m having trouble figuring out what this phrase means and how it adds to what you’re saying in the main part of this sentence. . . .could you clarify it somehow? (Or maybe delete it, if in fact, it’s not adding to what the main part of the sentence says?)
  • . . . .Anyway, you obviously don’t want your readers struggling to figure out what this phrase is, in fact, describing. Can you figure out a way of revising this sentence that makes your intended meaning clearer?
  • Would all readers of this paper know exactly which “dual properties” you’re referring to here? If not, how can you make this clear?
  • FYI: Because 12 am/pm is confusing for even native English speakers, we often avoid using either by instead specifying “12 noon” or “12 midnight.” You should be able to see this if you check COCA, comparing the use of am/pm for the 12 o’clock hour vs. that for the other hours. . . .

What’s the point of stating the obvious? *

  • Is this a surprise since the topic of the table addresses time use on an average weekday? Isn’t it impossible that the total time spent for all the activity items for both period be different? I’m afraid having trouble understanding the value of explicitly mentioning this point.

Need to express your ideas logically *

Define your terms *
  • What does this abbreviation mean?
  • Will all readers of this article know what the abbreviation “PA” means?
Order your ideas in a logical sequence *
  • The first and second halves of this compound sentence do not seem to be at all related to one another. Therefore, I’m very confused why you are combining them into a single sentence.
  • You haven’t used the term “surface topography in either the sentence before or the sentence after this, so locating  this definition here interrupts the flow of this paragraph. It makes the reader stop and think, “Why is he saying this? Did I miss something?” Therefore, can you figure out another place you can put this definition that will more naturally fit the logical ordering of your explanation?
  • X, if you check the phrase “From the table,” in COCA, I think you’ll see that you need to add another additional phrase to your sentence in order to logically connect your “From this table,” phrase to the rest of your sentence
Avoid contradicting yourself *
  • The focus of the English word “currently” is “right now” — according to COCA, can the word “currently” be connected to the past via “since” in phrases such as “Facebook is one example of social networking website which currently has over a million subscribers since its inception in 2003″?
(Only) things that are being compared should be expressed in the comparative/superlative *
  • Longer than what? (“-er” words imply a comparison, but you haven’t indicated here what you’re comparing the social impact of education to. The social impact of NGOs? The social impact of lobbying?)
  • There is no faster method than. . . .I’m not seeing what you’re comparing here. . . . (If you’re meaning what I think you’re meaning after rereading this sentence, a more academic way of expressing your meaning would be to say something like “and no faster method of accurately predicting the surface roughness of the cast component currently exists”)
  • “being lesser than” or “being less than”? ☺ (Or actually, “being less than that of”☺)
  • Are you comparing this generation to the previous, older generations? If yes, what form of “young” should you be using? (Try the following search in COCA to find out: “[young] generation”)

Need to express your ideas clearly (which often means, particularly in research writing, explicitly) *

  • (Research writing tends to be more explicit than face-to-face communication where we can resolve any confusion by interacting with the speaker about it. In fact, research writers need to look for possible ways that people reading what they say could misunderstand what they mean — and then revise their writing to make their intended meaning unmistakable! (Writing clearly the first time is very important in research writing, because most readers won’t bother to contact you to ask for clarification. . . .and if they see lack of clarity as a pattern in your writing, they’re may try to avoid reading your papers whenever they can get away with it — and of course, you also don’t want to develop the reputation in your field of being an unclear, hard-to-follow writer! I do understand from my own basically-always-slow-and-painful writing and rewriting experience, though, that the writing/rewriting process takes forever :(. However, it really is important if you’re wanting your research writing to get published. Make sense?)
  • (Again, research writing tends to be more explicit than face-to-face communication where we can resolve any confusion by interacting with the speaker about it.)
Your intended meaning is unclear *
  • Grammatically, this sentence is a little unclear about whether these committees are aimed at helping hackers or helping governments fight hackers. (While logically, of course, readers will probably guess correctly your intended meaning, phrasing like this that grammatically can be interpreted in multiple ways will likely slow down readers’ understanding and interrupt their focus on what you’re trying to say — which, of course, is something you want to avoid, since it’s unlikely readers will accept your idea if they have trouble understanding it! Make sense?)
  • Grammatically, it’s not completely clear whether your “this” = “what was concluded” or whether “this” = “a concrete mix.” Can you restructure this sentence to make your intended meaning clearer? 🙂
    • It would be clearer to readers if you specified “power system infrastructures” or “these very important infrastructures.” (Initially, when I read this, I wondered “Which specific infrastructure is she referring to here?”. . . .because I hadn’t immediately connected your “the” here to your earlier “power systems” — make sense?
  • Which methods? Their current methods/ways or the methods/ways you’re proposing be used instead? (Readers are likely to assume you’re using “methods” here as a synonym of “ways” from earlier in the sentence, to avoid redundancy. . . .but then they’ll end up confused because that’s not, in fact, what you mean by “methods.” You therefore need to add an adjective making clear which methods you’re talking about. Make sense?)
  • I’m not sure why you’re including this sentence in your introduction, since you give no details at all about how your study collaborates with other areas of medical science and chemical engineering. Such an undeveloped sentence is more appropriate for an abstract than for an introduction — make sense?
  • Do you mean “even if we don’t consider the water utilization of the environmental sector? (Once I had read further in your paper, I realized this is definitely NOT what you had meant, but this IS what my initial understanding of your “without considering” phrase was. You’ll see why if you check in COCA. . . .)
Are you sure you want to use the same word with two different meanings in a single sentence? *
  • X, are you sure you want to use the word “study” with two different meanings in just a single sentence?
You’re using a multi-meaning preposition whose meaning isn’t clear from the context *
  • X, I think you intend this “for” to have the meaning of “to produce” or “to ensure,” but because the English preposition “for” has several meanings possible in sentences structured like yours, I had to reread your sentence several times in order to figure out exactly which of the possible meanings you were most likely intending. Obviously, it’s best if your readers’ first understanding of your intended meaning is the correct one, so using a more informative, precise verb here, such as those I suggested above, would be better. (Remember in research writing, it’s almost impossible to be too explicit/too clear. . . .however, being too vague is a very common problem (and one of the key reasons it’s always a good idea to have someone else read your paper before you submit it. . . .because it’s very hard to catch your own “overly-vague” writing because when reviewing your paper, you’ll tend to understand what you mean, instead of what you’ve actually said. Much of the time, only a second pair of eyes can help solve this problem)
  • “along with” would be clearer than just “with” here because of how “with” can be read with multiple meanings in this sentence structure. . .so what I initially read was “opened to crop biotechnology with (=containing) public policies” — which, of course, didn’t make any sense at all, so I had to reread the sentence looking for another possible meaning of “with” appropriate to this sentence structure
  • Does this “as” mean “for example” or does it mean “as a kind of”? (Because the word “as” is often confusable in this way, it’s much better to use more clearer phrasing such as “such as”)
  • Does “by” = “next to” or does “by” = “by means of” in this sentence? Because “by” can have several meanings in English, can you figure out a way of rephrasing your idea so that the first things that comes to a reader’s mind isn’t its “next to” meaning?

Avoid using the same preposition multiple times in a noun phrase because it’s then often hard to figure out its respective meaning(s) from context (because sometimes you can’t know the meaning of its first usage without knowing the meaning of its second usage — and vice versa!)

  • X, repeating the same preposition more than once in a single noun phrase makes it hard for readers to figure out its respective meaning(s) from context (because sometimes they can’t know the meaning of its first usage without knowing the meaning of its second usage — and vice versa!) Therefore, it’s best to avoid using the same preposition multiple times in a noun phrase. Make sense? (If you search “prediction [i*]” and “analysis [i*]” in COCA, you should find one or more additional options for expressing your meaning that will be clearer because you won’t be using two “of” phrases in a row.)
  • A long series of prepositional phrases like this can easily confuse readers — especially when the series includes the same preposition more than once (e.g., “the procedure of the construction of the overlay”) and/or when the preposition(s) have multiple potential meanings. Thus, while the phrasing “research in” is perfectly standard, in this particular case it’s best instead to use what COCA indicates is the other common “research [i*]” phrasing.
  • A long series of prepositional phrases like this are often difficult for readers to interpret — especially when the series includes the same preposition more than once (e.g., “the procedure of the construction of the overlay”) and/or when the preposition(s) have multiple potential meanings. One good way to avoid creating a long, difficult-to-interpret series of prepositional phrases is instead to move one or more of the nouns from your prepositional phrase(s) before your main noun, where it/they can function basically adjectivally, e.g., “the overlay construction procedure.” (This technique is used very frequently in research writing because the ideas research writers want to communicate are often too complex to be described clearly using prepositional phrases only or primarily.)
  • As I mentioned earlier, a long series of prepositional phrases like “a rate of growth of” often slow readers’ understanding, especially when the series includes the same preposition more than once. While COCA makes it clear that your phrasing “a rate of growth of”” is commonly used in English, what other preposition is commonly used instead of your final “of” (that is much easier for readers to interpret)?

Repeat prepositions where necessary in order to make clear which noun phrases are being made parallel

  • X, to make it clear that you’re not talking about “predicting the effect of 1) restoration processes and 2) mechanical properties, it would be best if you repeated “on.” That is, if you write “predicting the effects of restoration processes on final microstructures as well as on mechanical properties,” readers will immediately understand your meaning to be “predicting the effects of restoration processes on 1) final microstructures and 2) mechanical properties. Make sense?

Repeat prepositions where necessary in order to make clear that a noun phrase modifier is functioning as a modifier, not as an independent noun phrase

  • Because “global population” can be a complete noun phrase by itself, I had to read this sentence a couple of times to realize that your intended meaning was actually to use “global population” as one of two descriptors for the word “growth,”i.e., 1) global population growth and 2) economic growth. (At first, I thought your meaning was 1) global population and 2) economic growth — but as I read further in your sentence, this didn’t make sense, so I had to reread the sentence again a couple of times to figure out what you really meant. Can you figure out a way of revising this sentence that makes your intended meaning clearer?

Unclear pronoun reference

  • What type of relationship? Although logically I can figure out what you mean, grammatically it’s not clear what your “this” refers to. Make sense?
  • What is this “it” referring back to? I’m confused!
    • Mostly, except in terms of your “it” that has no clear referent. . . .
  • What vast difference? Have you mentioned a difference before that you’re referring back to with “this”?
    • What is “that” referring to here? I don’t see any previous noun it could logically be referring back to, so I’m confused!
    • Who? The boss(es)? The employee(s)? Grammatically, there is no recent previous plural noun that “they” can be referring back to. . . .
  • X, what does “it” refer back to? Barriers? Financial risk analysis and barriers? Just financial risk analysis? How can you make what “it” refers to clearer to readers?
    • It = your EE532 lab time? (Logically, I don’t think that’s what you mean, but grammatically, “lab time” is the closest singular noun that “it” could be referring back to. . . .)
    • What does “it” refer to here? To “this work”? To “the future” To “a comprehensive regulatory policy”? (Research writing often uses fewer “vague” pronouns than face-to-face communication where we can resolve any confusion by interacting with the speaker about it. Thus, research writers tend to express your intended meaning more explicitly, e.g., by saying something like “and this policy‘s impact. . . .”)
  • Who does “we” refer to here? Your research team? (Your phrasing would be perfectly normal in an oral presentation where “we” is an informal way of demonstrating that you see your audience as equally capable of analyzing the trends in your data as you. . . .however, this usage is unusual — and therefore likely to be confusing — in most disciplines’ research writing as I think you’ll see if you search the academic subsection of COCA for “we have”)
  • Who/what is “them”? Grammatically, there is no recent previous plural noun that “them” can be referring back to. . . .
    • What is “them” referring to here? Grammatically, there is no previous noun that “them” can be referring back to (though logically, of course, it’s not too hard to figure out what you’re trying to say! J)
    • X, who is “they” here? (Although logically — because I’ve watched this video — I can figure out what you mean by “they,” for a reader who has not watched the video, this “they” would likely be confusing. . .  because there’s no recent plural/compound noun your “they” can be referring to — Make sense?)
  • Teachers are too shy? (“Teachers” is your most recent plural noun, so although logically, I know you’re not referring to them, grammatically it looks like you ARE referring to “teachers”. . . .)
    • Are you talking about role models who haven’t gone to multiple universities or role models who haven’t attended any university at all? Grammatically, the first interpretation is the most likely, but logically the second seems most likely. This discrepancy will almost certainly slow down readers’ understanding. (X, remember that in research writing, it’s almost impossible to be too explicit/too clear. . . .however, being too vague is a very common problem (and one of the key reasons it’s always a good idea to have someone else read your paper before you submit it. . . .because it’s very hard to catch your own “overly-vague” writing because when reviewing your paper, you’ll tend to understand what you mean, instead of what you’ve actually said. Much of the time, only a second pair of eyes can help solve this problem)
  • If Professor X highly appreciates the opportunity he gave you? Logically, this doesn’t make sense — but the most recent pronoun you’ve used that grammatically can be the subject of “highly appreciate is “you,” referring to Professor X???
  • About employees’ decisions? (“Employees” is your most recent plural noun so grammatically that’s what it looks like “their” is referring to. . . .) Readers of your summary who have not watched the video are particularly likely to misinterpret your sentence in this way.
  • X, remember that in research writing, it’s almost impossible to be too explicit/too clear. Failing to communicate your meaning clearly the first time is very serious because as you know, academic readers will likely be very unhappy if they have to contact you to ask for clarification and unless your paper is very closely linked to their topic, it’s very likely that they won’t go to the effort of contacting you for clarification at all. To ensure clarity, therefore, research writing tends to have a much higher ratio of repeated nouns vs. “vague” pronouns (e.g., “they” and “their”) than face-to-face communication, where we can easily resolve any confusion by interacting with the speaker about it.
Discourse deictic referential “this” vs. “that” *
  • X, you’re referring here to the incident which you’ve just been talking about in this email. Therefore, which deictic — “this” or “that” — best fits this sentence?
Your intended meaning can be figured out, but it’s not immediately understandable *
  • It would help your readers if you explicitly repeat “in” here (“in taking”) rather than expecting them to understand the second “in” implicitly based on “in determining” because this sentence pattern is relatively rare, so they won’t be experienced at understanding ellipsis in this context
  • X, when I first read this sentence I thought your meaning was “The reason for word study is becoming literate” (i.e. to become literate), which made sense to me. However, then I saw that I hadn’t yet reached the end of your sentence! I had to read your sentence a few more times to figure out what you were actually saying the reason for word study is. What word can you add to this sentence to make your intended meeting unmistakably clear?
Need to use more precise language *
  • Is “sustainable and durable activity” technical terminology in your field? If not, I’m wondering whether you can use a more informative, precise word than “activity here.
  • Is “is” the best verb to communicate your intended meaning here? Are you merely stating a fact or are you trying to express that although research has been done and reported, there continues to be/remains no theory of dry cable galloping?
Use conjunctions to show the logical relationship between your ideas *
  • Ordinarily, it’s okay to try to avoid the Oxford comma, but here it looks like you’re talking about eating education, drinking education and accepting education — which I doubt is what you really mean J. How can you use a connecting word such as “as well as” to clarify your meaning here?
  • “Each unit of a car is called an Electronic Control Unit (ECU) which has. . . .“OR “Each unit of a car is called an Electronic Control Unit and has. . . .”? (Is your “which has. . .” phrase included in what each unit is called?)
Use conjunctions to clarify the relationship between two elements *
  • How does this paragraph relate to the previous one?
  • What’s the logical relationship between this sentence and the previous one? What conjunction can you add here to make that logical relationship clear?
    • I’m a little confused how this sentence relates to the previous one. . . .Does it need a signaling word added to help readers better understand their relationship?
  • X, this introduction includes very few transition words, etc., to help your readers follow the logic of what you’re saying. That is, most of your sentences seem only to be stating facts. In many cases, it’s not clear how the various facts you mention relate to one another and/or why you’re stating the facts you state. This is a big problem (and will only become more of a problem as you begin writing longer papers!), so you definitely need to prioritize working on this!
  • What is the logical relationship between these two clauses? (e.g., cause, result, contrast/difference, unexpectedness or addition) See SRW, pp. 7-11, for ideas of signalling/transition/connecting words you can add to this sentence to help your readers more easily follow the overall logic of your data commentary. . . .
  • What’s the logical relationship between this sentence and the previous paragraph? (Cause, result, contrast/difference, unexpectedness or addition?) See SRW, pp. 7-11, for ideas of signalling words you can add to this sentence to help your readers more easily follow the overall logic of your data commentary. . . .
  • Including a word in this sentence such as “instead” that accentuates the sentence’s contrast with the previous sentence will make your meaning clearer and also make your “limited number of nodes” and “large number of nodes” sound less repetitive (and therefore less “boring”) — make sense?
  • What signalling word could you add here to let readers know this sentence is providing a final summary of your one-paragraph summary?
  • What word needs to be added here to connect your list of two items? (1 – the development of technology; 2 – telecommunications development in developing countries)
Use a conjunction expressing your intended meaning to clarify the relationship between two elements *
  • Is your intended meaning “Moreover” or “However”? I’m afraid I’m having a little trouble following the logic of this sentence. . . .
  • X, do you really mean “meanwhile” (= at the same time) here?
  • Because “then” can mean both “next” as well as “as a result” in English, it can be risky to use at the beginning of a sentence where the logic of what you’re saying is not yet clear. Because academic/professional writing prizes clarity extremely highly, it would therefore be better for you to use a clearer connecting word here, e.g. “As a result.” Make sense?
  • Is this “as for” sentence introducing a slightly different subject than what your previous sentence discussed? (Or do the two sentences talk about the same subject?)
Use a relative pronoun expressing your intended meaning to clarify the relationship between two elements *
Avoid unclear uses of “and” *
  • Using “and” here is a little confusing — can you figure out why? How can you make your intended meaning unmistakable?
  • X, in this sentence you’re trying to compare the following two situations, right?1) when the maximum mesh size remains the same and the minimum mesh size is increased and 2) It’s confusing, though, when you use “and” both within your description of each of the two situations as well as in order to connect your two situation descriptions. Therefore, in sentences like this when you really do need to use “and” within your description of situations/ideas, it’s best to avoid also using “and” as a connector between your descriptions of situations/ideas. Make sense? Instead, it’s best to connect your descriptions of situations/ideas using alternative ways of expressing “and,” e.g., “as well as”; “in addition to”; and “along with.”
    • “mechanical” is an adjective — Is your meaning therefore “mechanical [science] and material science? If yes, this sentence needs both “and” and an “and”-substitute such as “as well as,” “along with,” etc.
    • Currently, the grammar your sentence is expressing the first meaning. If that’s not what you intend, this sentence needs both “and” and an “and”-substitute such as “as well as,” “along with,” etc. (because it’s confusing when you use “and” both within a single description as well as to connect two different situation descriptions.
  • Try to get in the habit of checking your writing for complex sentences that require the use of alternative words meaning “and” versus the word “and” itself in order to be clear
Avoid including an unnecessary conjunction *
  • According to COCA, does a beginning “since” clause need to be separated from the main part of a sentence via the connecting word “so”?
Restructure your sentence or use italics to clarify the specific point of contrast *
  • As you’ll see in COCA, the phrasing “on the other hand” is used when the writer wants to introduce a contradicting perspective. However, I had to read this sentence multiple times to figure out at exactly what point it “contradicts” the previous sentence. How could you help your readers more easily identify the point of contrast via italics: http://grammar.yourdictionary.com/punctuation/when/when-to-italicize.html. (Another option, preferred by many academic writing style manuals. is restructuring your sentence so its grammar better highlights the point of contrast. Then you won’t need to include italics, which can make you sound more “emotional” vs. “academic” as a writer)
Avoid beginning sentences with a coordinating conjunction in formal writing *

Need to express your ideas concisely *

Say what you mean directly — Don’t “beat around the bush” *
  • X, if you check COCA, you’ll see that more direct phrasing, e.g. “more efficient methods are necessary,” is preferred in English— make sense?
Avoid being redundant *
  • Doesn’t this half of your sentence say exactly the same thing as the first part of your sentence, but in different words? I’m a little confused why you’re (apparently) expressing the same idea in two ways.
  • I’m a little confused. Is this phrase redundant? I think your sentence would mean the same thing if it were omitted
  • Are these words necessary for communicating this sentence’s intended idea? I’m confused what you’re referring to with the word “development” here. Which development are you talking about?
  • Do you really intend to use the exact same wording here as you did in the previous sentence? That’s boring. . . .how can you combine this sentence and the previous one, so that you only need to use this phrasing once?
    • “In this study, we will study. . . “ — Can you avoid using the same word twice (meaning slightly different things each time) so close to each other?
  • You used the phrasing “result. . .show[s]” in the immediately preceding sentence. Do you really want to use basically exactly the same phrasing here?
  • Is repeating your subject “we” necessary here? Why not make your compound sentence a compound verb instead, so you can avoid this redundancy?
    • Is it necessary to repeat “used” here or is doing so redundant?
  • How can you avoid the redundancy of repeating your noun “butadiene” here? (Clue: Use a pronoun J)
    • Is it necessary to repeat “phase” here or is your pronoun “another” enough?
  • Are you sure you want to use the relatively uncommon word “lack” twice in a single sentence?
  • Doesn’t the English word “salary” always refer to money received for working? Therefore, according to COCA, do you need to explicitly include the descriptive word “working” here?
  • Doesn’t “coming” mean “future”? Why are you using two words to express the same idea? I’m confused? (In poetry and other more traditional forms of literature, such repetition of synonyms is, of course, common for artistic purposes. However, in research writing, it’s usually avoided because readers don’t know whether you’re doing it to 1) emphasize something or 2) distinguish two closely related ideas (regarding which they’re failing to figure out your intended distinction!). Make sense?

Paragraphing *

Paragraphing praise *

  • Yes, your paragraphing is excellent J

Paragraphing critique *

Your paragraphs are too long *
  • X, your introduction is too long for just one paragraph. Using SRW, pp. 12-15, can you identify one or more places where your introduction moves from one idea to another (and therefore where a paragraph break could help your readers avoid getting “lost” in your introduction)?
Your paragraphs are too short *
  • X, your paragraphs are very short—only one sentence each. Can you see any sentences that are closely related enough to be appropriately combined into a single paragraph?
  • X, one-sentence paragraphs are highly unusual in research writing. Can your sentence “X” be logically combined with either the paragraph before it or the paragraph after it?
    • X, your paragraphing is acceptable in terms of breaking up your content logically, but I should let you know that in English, authors usually try to combine any paragraphs containing fewer than 3 sentences with either the paragraph before or the paragraph after, whichever is most natural, in order to avoid “machine-gunning” readers with a series of super-short paragraphs
    • X, mostly your email is perfectly polite and appropriate, but because each of your paragraphs is only one sentence long, it would be easy for Y to (perhaps subconsciously!) feel when reading it a little “machine-gunned” with one new topic after another (since English grammar indicates that new paragraphs = new topics). Although length-of-paragraph norms for emails are less strict than for other kinds of English writing, generally the expected paragraph length for other kinds of writing is at least 3 sentences. To accomplish this, English speakers tend to try to combine potentials paragraphs containing fewer than 3 sentences with either the paragraph before or the paragraph after, whichever is most natural — Make sense?
  • I know our Science Research Writing textbook didn’t mention this in its section on paragraphing, but in research writing, most paragraphs are no shorter than 3 sentences. Therefore, can you figure out whether any of your short paragraphs can be combined while still not moving too far from the “topic” or idea mentioned in the combined paragraph’s first sentence?
Very short introductions can effectively be written as a single paragraph *
  • Your introduction is very short, so it’s okay that it consists of only one paragraph

Need a new paragraph *
  • Should this sentence start a new paragraph? Maybe I’m misunderstanding its meaning, but I think so. . . .
Check your paragraph formatting *
  • Yes, but visually it’s hard to tell where your paragraph boundaries are because you’re not indenting your paragraphs. . . .
  • Yes, but visually it’s hard to tell where your paragraph boundaries are because you’re not indenting your paragraphs and your line spacing looks almost the same as your paragraph spacing

Parallel phrasing errors *

  • Although the phrase “everything is going good” is frequently used by native English speakers, it is actually incorrect grammar to use an adjective (such as “good”) to modify a verb (such as “going”). You will instead want to use the grammatically correct “everything is going well” in academic emails of any kind (i.e. because in standard English only adverbs such as “well” can modify verbs). If this doesn’t make sense to you, please ask me about it! I’ll be happy to provide further explanation.
  • Check in COCA – Is it standard English to talk about a “gradient of Internet users”?
  • For one of your COCA Discovery assignments, you may want to check the difference between “fun” and “funny” and also “ever” vs. “always” in English. Both pairs of words ARE very similar, but in fact, their meanings are not quite the same, so you can’t use them interchangeably. (You can also Google “fun vs. funny ESL” or “ever vs. always ESL”. . . . That might be a faster and easier way to find their difference ☺
    • X, your use of the English word “funny” confused me several time.s (Are you mixing up the English words “fun” [= enjoyable] and “funny” [=hahaha, i.e. something that makes you laugh]? Remember, “funny” is just one of several possible subcategories of “fun.” That is, not everything that is “fun” makes you laugh [= is “funny”]. You’ll see this if you check the words “fun” vs. “funny” in COCA or if you Google “fun vs. funny ESL”
  • If you check in COCA, I think you’ll see that the phrases “concludes our work” and “provides a brief/an overall summary of our work” don’t mean quite the same thing.
Incorrect conjunction for expressing one’s intended meaning *
  • Do you mean “Other than this” or “In addition to this”?
    • Do you mean “thereafter” or “therefore”? These two words are not synonyms. . . . If you do mean “thereafter,” why is this later step important?
    • Do you mean “or” or “and” here? J (Do you mean that your research allows one or the other, but not both? J)
  • “On the contrary” is used when you want to say regarding the previous sentence “That’s wrong!” Is that what you want to say here?
  • This “also” implies there are two things that cause “proper regulation” to be required, but I’m only seeing one in this paragraph (the fact that crucial matters are still pending. . . .) . Did you mean to include another cause but forgot? If not, then this “also” should be omitted — make sense?
  • Yes, except I think you still need to figure out by reviewing COCA examples exactly what “whereas” means (i.e., what the boundaries of its meaning are) and in what contexts it can be used

Sentence fragment errors *

  • Check in COCA — X, can a phrase beginning with the subordinating conjunction “since” stand alone as its own sentence?
  • Check in COCA — can a phrase beginning with “namely” stand alone as its own sentence?
  • Are both of these sentences complete sentences?

Comments on COCA-correctable and other phrasing errors *

Overall comments *

Overall praise *

  • Great job, X! You have very few COCA-correctable errors and no real error patterns J
  • Basically, all your COCA mistakes are repetitions of only two mistakes total. I don’t think it’s fair to take points off for that!
  • Your only COCA-correctable error is in your subject line, as mentioned above. Because I don’t think it’s fair for me to take points off in two places for just one error, though, I’ll give you full credit here.
  • Although I have pointed out a few phrases in your data commentary that are definitely not the most common way of expressing your intended meanings, I would not be surprised if you discover in COCA that occasionally native English speakers also use the phrasing you used. . . .therefore, I think it would not be fair for me to take points off in this category, either
  • Mostly (X, I think the only reason I needed to highlight/comment in yellow as much as I did above is because you are braver about using sophisticated phrasing/grammar than many of your classmates are J. That’s a very good characteristic, as it will help you develop advanced-level scholarly/professional English far more than it would if you just used “safe” and super-familiar phrasing and grammar! J (However, using such sophisticated language is also of course rather risky because it can be so easy to accidentally misuse such sophisticated phrasing/grammar! Therefore, it’s very important that students like you who are brave at attempting to use sophisticated phrasing/grammar also learn to become very skilled at checking their proposed advanced grammar/phrasing in COCA to make sure it really is standard English — Make sense?)
  • Much of the time J — For the relatively few instances of problem phrasing that you’ll still want to work on, please see my highlighting/comments in yellow above.

Possible, but not preferred phrasing *

  • X, FYI: This is possible phrasing in English, but not the preferred phrasing. . . .search in COCA “cultur* differences” to see what I mean. . . .

Overall critique *

  • X, always verify that COCA’s most frequent phrasing actually expresses your intended meaning — sometimes multiple phrasings are possible but mean different things! Remember COCA’s most frequent phrasing remains nonstandard English if that phrasing doesn’t express the meaning you intend!
  • Please see my highlighting in yellow and comments highlighted in yellow above
  • X, how much time did you spend checking your data commentary before you turned it in? I find several of your COCA-correctable errors surprising. . . .
  • Please check in COCA your phrasing errors highlighted in yellow above (and add a note to your “English 101D Writing Journal” about each pattern you notice in the types of COCA-correctable errors you’ve made, so that you can specifically check for this/these kinds of errors in the future — Make sense?)
  • X, please try to correct the errors I’ve highlighted above in yellow using COCA as well as any relevant web pages I’ve linked for you (and add a note to your “English 101D Writing Journal” about each pattern you notice in the types of COCA-correctable errors you’ve made, so that you can specifically check for this/these kinds of errors in the future — Make sense?)
  • X, you tend to make a lot of COCA-correctable errors. Please let me know if you can’t figure out how to search COCA for the (I think!) COCA-correctable errors I’ve highlighted (I want to help you become as proficient as possible in using COCA, since you obviously won’t always have someone available whom you can ask your English grammar/phrasing questions!) Also, please let me know if you don’t know how you can best review what you discover in COCA about these and other errors (so that the correct/standard way of expressing your ideas in English becomes automatic for you). . . depending on how motivated you are to improve your English, I have some ideas I can share if you’re interested ☺
  • X, it will help you a lot if you try to pay attention to when authors you read or your native English-speaking friends say / it may help you if you pay attention to how your colleagues or articles you read express things differently than you would (though I think some of your COCA-correctable errors are due to carelessness, not to genuine unfamiliarity with English phrasing norms!). You may even want to keep a list of these differences or make online flashcards (using software such as Anki) to review differences you note (especially if you discover in COCA or by asking your friends, that the phrasing you tend to use is nonstandard/dispreferred). In this way, you can grow step-by-step your ability to avoid COCA-correctable errors — make sense?

Specific comments *

Single words *

Single word praise *
Single word critique *
Nonstandard word choice for expressing intended idea *
  • Check in COCA — Does “respected by” express your intended meaning? (Remember always to verify that COCA’s most frequent phrasing actually expresses your intended meaning, Remember COCA’s most frequent phrasing remains nonstandard English if that phrasing doesn’t express the meaning you intend!)
  • X, check in COCA — Can the English word “culture” by itself refer to a single cultural characteristic (such as the culture being a high-power-distance or low-power-distance culture)? (Based on your sentence, I suspect the “boundaries” for the meaning of the word “culture” in English are a little bit different than the boundaries for the meaning of its translation equivalent in Bengali. If so, you may want to remember that the definition of “culture” in English is — I think! — narrower than in Bengali.)
    • Check in COCA/Google — Based on what you discovered about the boundaries of meaning for the English word “culture” above, is it possible to say that most Western countries “follow low-power-distance culture” or “are low-power-distance cultures“? What about “follow low-power-distance cultural norms“?
  • There’s another form of the word “guide” that is far more commonly used to express your idea. Can you figure out via COCA what this preferred phrasing is?
  • Check in COCA – Can English speakers use the word “item” to refer to activities they do?
  • X, compare the search “nowadays ‘ [n*]” vs. “present-day [n*]? in COCA to decide whether you need to readjust this phrasing or not (FYI: Is “nowadays” an adjective or an adverb? Does that explain why it’s basically never used in COCA before nouns like “weather” or “environment”?)
    • Do English speakers use “nowadays” as an adjective/possessive? ☺
  • In research writing, authors usual avoid describing things as “significant” unless they are statistically significant, in order to avoid confusing readers about their meaning — make sense?
  • X, check in COCA — can the term “statistics” be used to refer to a particular data table/data display?
  • One of the difficult aspects of translating words from one language to another is that the “boundaries” of a word’s meaning in one language often don’t quite match the “boundaries” of meaning for its translation(s) in the other language. Common areas of difference include:
    • Can a word be used only to describe animate (living) things, inanimate (nonliving) things or both?
    • Can a word be used to refer to concrete things, abstract things or both?
Nonstandard word choice for intended register *
  • X, using “so” to mean “very” is very informal and conversational — Can you think of an alternative way of expressing your idea that’s more formal/academic?
  • Is “anyways” more or less standard English than its synonym “anyway”? Therefore, which would be better to use in an email with someone of higher status than you?
Word choice marked by unintended valence *
  • X, check in COCA — why in English would it be better to use the phrasing “second category” here rather than “second class”? (Think about which phrasing is sounds negative vs. neutral. . . .and which best matches your intended meaning.)
  • Is “consequences” generally a positive or negative term in English? (Does this match your intended meaning?) Are you speaking generally of “important consequences” (that may or may not be calculable in terms of statistics) or specifically of statistical significance? In research writing, authors usual avoid describing things as “significant” unless they are statistically significant, in order to avoid confusing readers about their meaning — make sense?
(Dialectally?) nonexistent/inappropriate word choice *
  • I think you would find it helpful to compare in COCA the words “undergraduation” and “graduation” to phrases such as “undergraduate education” and “undergraduate study”/”graduate education” and “graduate study” ☺
  • X, compare the phrasing “is called as a” versus “is called a” via the “See frequency by country” option in the NOW corpus’ “Chart display” that is available at http://corpus.byu.edu/now/ — Which phrasing is preferred in English for expressing your intended idea?
  • X, the use of “such like” is dialectal and not generally accepted as correct in academic/professional English. Compare in COCA its usage relative to “such as”
  • Read this article on the difference in American vs. Indian English for the words “doubt” vs. “question.” While in Indian English, these two words are synonyms, in American (and I think also British) English, they’re very definitely not — and using “doubt” when you mean “question” (according to American thinking, anyway) will almost certainly confuse American English listeners not used to talking with Indians! If you check the example sentences in COCA for “doubt” and “question,” you should see evidence for what the author of the article above describes as the difference (in American — and I think also British — English) between these two words. (Also, check in COCA your “English 101D Writing Journal” word “misagreement” and “boilerplate remark_”)
  • Hmmm. . . .is this a Spanish word?
Semantically confusing words *
  • all” vs. “any” — To me “cracks and other discontinuities” or “cracks as well as other discontinuities” sounds more natural. . . .because I don’t think you’re suggesting that in all cases, the total number of possible discontinuities per casting is a maximum of one (1), which is what the “any other” suggests to me (though its combination with “and” make me uncertain — and ultimately totally confused). But maybe my lack of understanding is due to this being technical language within your field and outside of mine?
  • “appropriate” vs. “proper” — X, compare the results of the exact COCA search term “proper|appropriate [product]” (You may also want to compare the results of the exact Google search terms “proper products” vs. “appropriate products”). What is the preferred way of expressing your intended idea in English?
  • “like” vs. “such as” — Compare the exact COCA searches “knowledge like” and “knowledge such as”? Which phrasing best matches your intended meaning?
  • “problem” vs. “question” (for Chinese speakers) — I know that the English words “problem” and “question” translate to the same Chinese word “问题” (in simplified characters!). However, these two English words focus on slightly different aspects of “問題” (in traditional characters!). Thus, sometimes in English you need to use the word “problem” (“question” would be incorrect”), sometimes you need to use the word “question” (“problem” would be incorrect), and sometimes you can use either. Can you do a search online (maybe in COCA) to figure out which aspects of the meaning of the words “problem” vs. “question” are different in English and which aspects of meaning they share?
  • raise” vs. “rise” — X, can you “rise questions” in English? (You’re accidentally mixing up “rise” here with another English word of similar meaning and spelling).
  • same” vs. “similar” — X, the word “similar” means “almost the same.” It cannot be used to compare two things that are exactly the same.
  • so” vs. “too” — X, I think this is a mistake you make a lot. In English, “too” means that you’ve gone past the time when I’ll accept the paper (which hopefully you knew wasn’t true). “So” just means “very” and doesn’t imply that you’ve gone past the time limit of when I’ll accept the paper. If you’d gone past the limit of when you thought I’d accept the paper, it wouldn’t make any sense for you to send it to me because you’d know I’d just ignore it anyway. This JamesESL English Lessons (engVid) video does a fantastic job of explaining the difference between “so” and “too” and it’s a difference I’ve noticed a lot of Koreans have trouble with, so I think it would be very helpful to you if you watched it (particularly at around 7:30-8:10)
  • “tends” vs. “trends” — Check in COCA — Do you mean “trends” or “tends”?
  • what” vs. “which” — Do you mean “what our current situation is” (i.e., you’re offering to give a general description) or “which our current situation is” (you’re offering to let him know which one of a limited set of options of which he’s already aware is the option matching your situation)
    • “which” or “what”?
Semantic boundary issues *
  • “bigger/smaller” vs “longer/shorter” — Do English speakers generally describe lists as bigger vs. smaller? Or does English prefer some other comparative word?
  • According to the video (and COCA), can individuals have cultures? Aren’t cultures developed within groups from the same country, from the same ethnic/religious group, from the same company, etc.?
  • X, according to COCA, is talking to oneself usually mental or out loud? Which did you actually do? (Even if you did talk to yourself out loud — which I think all of us do sometimes — it can be considered in U.S. professional contexts anyway, as you may be able to see via COCA, a sign of mental imbalance. Therefore, you probably don’t want to directly say this. Make sense?)
Missing words *
  • You’ve accidentally missed a word here J
  • Wrong or missing word (depending on which way you want to fix this phrasing problem)

Set phrases *

Set phrase praise *
  • Your use of the set phrase in English, “What a coincidence!” is perfect ☺
Set phrase critique *
  • X, compare in COCA the results of the following COCA search “the way how|that.” What is the preferred way of expressing your intended idea in English?
  • X, according to the COCA search term “problems * [make],” how do English speakers prefer to express your intended idea?
  • You’ve made a slight error in this set phrase. Can you figure out what it is via COCA?
  • X, please check this phrasing in Google. Can you figure out how to adjust your phrasing a little to better match standard English phrasing for expressing your intended idea?
  • Is “X” standard technical phrasing in your field? I’m not familiar with this expression and don’t know what it means, but maybe that’s because I’m not familiar with your field?
    • Please check this phrasing with your professor or a colleague in your field. Maybe it’s correct technical language in your field, but your “for cracks” phrasing sounds strange to me as a non-expert in your field. . . . I would be more apt to say something like “identify the formation of nucleation sites that could lead to cracks”
  • Compare in COCA the usage of “attacks as” vs. “attacks such as” — which one do you mean here?
    • Compare in COCA the meaning of “because that” vs. “because of the fact that” — which one do you mean here?
  • Check in COCA — Is the phrase “to the best of my knowledge” used when speakers/writers are discussing something they believe to be a fact or when discussing something they think are the logical implications of a fact(s)?
    • X, I think you meant “as far as I know,” not “up to where I know” — you may want to check it in COCA ☺
  • X,you’re missing a word in this otherwise perfectly used and highly sophisticated phrase
  • Do “Iowa state” and “the state of Iowa” refer to the same thing?
  • Compare the phrase “in America” to “in the U.S.” in Google. Which term appears to be preferred in academic/professional contexts? Although in terms of meaning, they are synonyms, is the usage of these two phrases the same?
  • Compare in COCA your “today’s one” phrasing vs. “the one for today” ☺ — Can this help you figure out the correct phrasing for your other error I highlighted in yellow?
  • X, compare in Google your phrasing highlighted in yellow above to the alternative phrasing “by the above mentioned date,” enclosing both of these exact phrase searches in quotation marks — Which is the preferred English phrasing for expressing your idea?
  • What’s the difference in meaning between “is for [v*]” and “is spent on [v*]”? Which one do you mean here?
  • How is this paragraph expressing a contrast between what you said earlier? Therefore,  which conjunctive adverb should you be using here: “at first” or “first”?
  • How many times have you met Dr. Kruse? If only once, “last time” doesn’t make sense, because as you’ll see if you check COCA, the phrasing “last time” suggests that before that there was a “first time” (and perhaps some additional times in between).
  • This set phrase is almost perfect but not quite. Can you figure out what’s wrong via the COCA search term “In technical [term]” J
  • Check this phrasing in COCA via the collocates search “tend to be like — way — 0 — 9”
Word order *
  • Compare in COCA the word order “suits better” vs. “better suits”
  • Do you mean “possible future agriculture scenarios” (not “scenarios agriculture”)? J
  • How do English speakers usually order these two activities? “Eating and drinking” or “Drinking and eating”?
  • I think you’re accidentally using Chinese vs. English phrase order here J
Word form *
  • X, do you mean “more patterning approaches” or “more patterned approaches”? (Check in COCA/Google)
  • X, check in COCA the exact search term “work independent*” to figure out the preferred phrasing in English for expressing your intended idea J)
  • Check in COCA — Can the word “relative” be a verb?
Nonstandard phrasing for intended register *
  • X, as you’ll see if you search the phrase “a lot” via COCA’s chart search option, it’s very spoken (i.e., informal) — Can you think of an alternative way of expressing your idea that’s more formal/academic?
    • X, as you’ll see if you check the exact search term “[get]” via COCA’s chart search option, the verb “get” is very spoken (i.e., informal) — Can you think of an alternative way of expressing your idea that’s more formal/academic?
  • “Thanks a lot”—X, “Thanks a lot” is a fairly informal way of saying “Thanks” in English, so it doesn’t match the formality of your email as a whole.
  • “impact my grades big time”—The word big time” is quite informal, so it’s probably not appropriate to use in an email to a professor (particularly in an apology email).

Article errors in set phrases

  • What word is this phrase missing according to COCA?
  • missing “the”
    • In English, there’s one word that basically always precedes “United States” (or “U.S.” or “U.S.A” or “United Kingdom” or “U.K” or “United Arab Emirates”. . . .and other countries and organizations that begin with the word “united.”) that you missed in your self-introduction above. . . .can you figure out via COCA what that word is? (FYI: Basically the only time this word doesn’t precede these places and organizations beginning with “united” are when the place/organization is being used as an adjective instead of a noun.)
    • You may also want to check your phrase “on the top of that” in COCA. It’s almost perfect, but not quite. . .
    • Most of Computer science assignments (Check in COCA to see what — if anything — comes between “most of” vs. “most” [without “of”] and the collocate noun that follows)
  • unnecessary “the”
    • British vs. (North?) American phrasing
      • Just a note in case you plan on getting a job in the U.S. after you graduate: Check in COCA – Are Americans more likely to say “in future” or “in the future”? (See also: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/future)
  • missing “a”
    • FYI: You accidentally missed a word that basically always comes immediately before the phrase “long time” in English — if you check in COCA, you’ll easily figure out what this missing word is ☺
  • unnecessary “a”
    • About one popular scientific topic or many?

Variable phrases (e.g., grammar patterns) *

Variable phrase praise *
  • Perfect use of the phrase “amused by” — Great job!
  • Perfect use of the standard “do really apologize for [verb + -ing],” “try my best to [verb],” and “By the way” phrases! Outstanding!
  • I have to tell you I’m very impressed by your mastery of English collocations. . . .this time by your “It is comforting to read that. . . .”  — Great job!”
Variable phrase critique *
  • X, please check the grammatical structure of your VERY advanced phrasing “the [comparative adjective] the [noun], the [comparative adjective] the [noun]” in COCA via the search term “, the [jjr*] the” — what are you missing?
  • X, you’ll see if you check COCA that while your current phrasing is okay, it’s not in fact the preferred phrasing for expressing your intended idea.
  • You might find it easier to figure out a more standard way of expressing your intended idea if you do this search in Google rather than COCA
  • X, this sentence is missing a necessary word in English. Try this COCA search to figure out what it is:
    • [nn*] ask me *
  • Just a couple of minor COCA comments — In English, can you say “I have been [place]”? Also, can you say “I am not understand [something]”? (These are both relatively common expressions, so you definitely want your habit of how you say them to use correct grammar!)
  • I know it’s something one would never guess, but according to Google, are English speakers more likely to talk about “behavior establishment” or the “establishment of * behavior”?
  • What word do English speakers generally add to this phrase to emphasize that they really mean it? Check in COCA the search term “will never happen *”
  • Please Google this phrase. What missing word should precede it?
  • Please check COCA to figure out alternative ways of expressing your intended meaning for the phrasing errors highlighted in yellow above (but because your phrases that I highlighted are relatively long, FYI: COCA may only offer 1-2 examples of each standard way of expressing these ideas. Therefore, do a final check of your guesses based on COCA by enclosing each guess in quotation marks and then searching that quotation-marked phrase via Google J)
Involving prepositions (less serious according to the error gravity research) *
  • X, all of your COCA-correctable errors in this email are due to incorrect preposition usage. To develop new habits of using standard English phrasing to express these ideas, you may want to develop “flashcards” for these and any other English vocabulary/phrases you discover you tend to use incorrectly using a flashcard program like Anki that schedules your reviews based on its model of your brain’s “forgetting curve”
  • X, if you check in COCA, you’ll see your phrase “by these findings” is never used in this position in a sentence (or with the meaning you intend?) — therefore, this phrase is a little hard for readers to interpret. Can you figure out a more standard way of expressing your idea via COCA, e.g., via the search terms “these findings [v*]”
  • “Solar” is an adjective. According to COCA, can “solar” (or any other adjective) be used by itself to complete a “from” phrase?

V-Prep

  • Please compare “surprised with” to other possibilities in COCA to see if you can identify a more standard way of expressing your idea.
  • You may want to check your phrase “unique with” in COCA and see if you can figure out a more standard way of using the word “unique” to express your idea ☺.
  • You might want to compare in COCA your phrase “suggested me” to “suggested to me” and “suggested that I.”
  • You’re missing a preposition between “Based” and “your [noun]” — Can you figure out via COCA what it is?
    • You may want to check in COCA your phrase “Based what I have heard” to see if you can figure out how you can express your meaning using more standard English ☺
  • Compare the meaning of phrases resulting from the COCA searches [v*] to apply” and  “[v*] in applying”? Which phrasing best matches your intended meaning?

V n with n

  • replacing [something] by [something else]?

Nouns followed by a preposition

  • “preferences on”? (Unless this is technical phrasing specific to your field, it’s nonstandard to use the preposition “on” here. . . .can you figure out which preposition is preferred?)
  • Is “of” the standard English preposition to use in this phrase? (Google the exact search term “users * developing countries” to find out)
  • Also, can you figure out via COCA what word (specifically, what preposition) should come between “a lot” and noun phrases like “English training”? ☺
  • Check whether a category of people can follow the phrase “we all.” (Can you think of an alternate way of expressing your meaning, e.g. “all of _____”?) ☺
Not involving prepositions *

V n

  • Check in COCA “WORD: [v*] the possibility” COLLOCATES: “[v*] -2-0.” What is the preferred structure/verb form for expressing your idea?
  • Compare in COCA the following two collocates searches:
    • extend — time — 0 — 4
    • extend — deadline — 0 — 4Which best expresses your intended meaning?

V to-inf

  • X what verb form usually follows the phrase “contributes to”? — [contribute] to [v*]

Link verbs

  • X, according to COCA, is “getting [past tense verb]” standard academic English phrasing?

adv V

  • Compare in COCA your current phrasing to an adverb + verb phrase such as “successfully balance”

ADJ n

  • Are solutions in English usually “more accurate” or “better”?
  • You may want to check in COCA your phrase “well job” to see if you can figure out how you can express your meaning using more standard English ☺
  • Most of Computer science assignments (Check in COCA to see what — if anything — comes between “most of” vs. “most” [without “of”] and the collocate noun that follows)

n N

  • Check in Google. Is the preferred phrasing “wind farms construction” or “wind farm construction”? (Note: When nouns are used as adjectives, they’re nearly always in singular rather plural form.)
  • X, this phrase is not quite grammatically complete. Check in Google what it’s missing via the following exact search term (including quotation marks): “in low power distance *”
  • I can see why you’re saying “the human exposure” here, but if you checked in COCA, you’d see that writers generally think of this as a general topic (not as a specific topic in comparison to, for example, animal exposure)
    • X, I think I understand what you were thinking when you used “the vowel recognition” here, but check in COCA and/or Google: Are uncountable nouns such as “recognition” generally preceded by “the”? (I’m very sorry English articles can be SO confusing!!! ☹)
  • X, maybe you’d be interested to know that native English speakers often create “dense” noun phrases. . . .so where you wrote below “Please find the attached modified assignment submission on Data commentary,” at least Americans are more likely to write either “Please find the attached modified data commentary assignment submission” or “Please find my modified data commentary assignment submission attached.” (I think if you check in COCA, you’ll not find the phrasing “submission for [assignment name]” )
    • X, if you check in COCA, you’ll see that native English speakers often prefer “dense” noun-noun phrases (e.g., “traveling time” or “travel time”) vs. noun + prepositional phrase combinations (e.g., “time on traveling”)
    • interests in research (This is possible, but is it a preferred form for expressing your idea? ☺)
    • X, I find the phrasing “span of traffic count” a little hard to understand/interpret. To me, the phrasing “the best 3-day traffic span” is easier. However, I’m not sure if native English speakers who are also experts in your field would agree with me!. . . .It might be good for you to ask someone in your department which phrasing they think sounds more natural/easier to understand, since phrasing norms including technical language can be hard to find in COCA (and sometimes even Google!).

Word order in”long” noun phrases

“Long noun phrase” praise

  • Perfect “long noun phrase” word order for English J — Great job!

“Long noun phrase” critique

adv ADJ

  • Check in COCA. . . .do you feel “so luck” or “so lucky”? ☺

Idioms *

Idiom praise *
  • Perfect use of the English idiom “the silver lining” ☺
Idiom critique *
Phrasal verbs *
  • Compare in COCA “set to find” vs. “WORD: to find” COLLOCATES: “set -3-0,” remembering to check the example sentences. Are you sure you’re saying what you mean here?
  • Do you mean “used to listen” or “used to listening”? (You can see if you check COCA that they don’t actually mean the same thing. . . .) What about “used to write” and “used to writing”?

Comments on verb-related errors *

Verb tense errors (serious according to the error gravity research) *

Overall praise *

  • No verb tense errors at all
  • X, your apparent mastery of English verb tenses is excellent J
  • No errors here, except for the one dealing with the very advanced English verb tense rule about past unreal events J
  • Your data commentary includes only one verb mistake — Wow! Can you figure out how to fix it based on SRW, pp. 4-7?
  • Excellent writing, X! (Your summaries include only one verb error that’s very understandable, as it relates to the relatively complex modal verb norms of English J)
  • X, even though your data commentary has only one verb tense error, it’s one that’s very likely to negatively impact readers’ understanding — see http://blogs.transparent.com/english/cancould-vs-to-be-able-to/ for more information about the “past tense,” “present tense” and “future tense” of the English word “can” (Most English modal verbs don’t have tenses, but “can” is an exception.)

Overall critique *

  • Please do try to pay attention to your English verb tenses, as mistakes with them can cause you accidentally to say things you don’t really mean!
  • X, did you check your introduction’s verb tenses in light of Science Research Writing, pp. 4-7, as assigned this past Monday
  • X, based on this data commentary, I think English verb tense errors are the most important grammar error for which you’ll need to check for in the future.
  • You were sometimes inconsistent in how you talked about the 2010-2014 data, making it unclear whether or not you count that data representative of now or not

Specific praise *

Specific critique *

  • X, based on my previous two comments regarding how you can’t use the present perfect when you’re referencing what happened in your (past) second survey, can you figure out what verb tense you should be using here? J
  • X, please check in RWT which English verb tense is usually used to express this step in Move 3
  • X, your previous sentence used the simple past tense, suggesting that you’re describing several past facts about students’ time use (and that these past facts have no relevance to now). In the current sentence, though, you’re using the simple present tense, suggesting you’re describing a general truth about students’ weekday time use/ Which meaning do you intend to express? (And therefore which verb tense should you be using for both of these sentences?)
  • X, your previous paragraph used the simple past tense to talk about the 2007-2011 data (indicating that you believe the 2007-2011 data have no relevance to now). Here, however, you’re using the present perfect verb tense, indicating you do believe the 2007-2011 data  have relevance to now. I’m confused! Which meaning do you intend to express? (And therefore which verb tense should you be using for both of these sentences, according to Science Research Writing, pp. 4-7?) — Inconsistent use of English verb tenses is actually a problem throughout your data commentary, thus many of my instances of green highlighting. In fact, though, you can correct them in several different ways, not just by changing the verbs I’ve highlighted in green.

Verb needs to be in one of the simple tenses *

Simple past *
Need the past simple tense to indicate a past situation that’s not impacting the present (see Science Research Writing, pp. 4-7) *
  • This is a past situation that, according to the rest of your sentence, is (unfortunately!) not continuing to/impacting the present. Therefore, what verb tense should you be using here?
  • Logically, either “need” or “needed” could be used in this sentence, but their meanings are totally different — and I’m not sure which matches YOUR meaning! If you mean that these X strategies need to be defined for this paper only, your verb tense is correct. However, if you mean that prior to your study, your field needed new X strategies to be defined, and now your study has filled this gap in your field, so that they no longer need to be defined, you need to use a different verb tense. Can you figure out which one based on Science Research Writing, pp. 4-7? ☺
Need the past simple tense to indicate a past situation that happened at a specified time in the past (see Science Research Writing, pp. 4-7) *
The past simple vs. past perfect tense is preferred when simply listing multiple past events *
  • “It has been only 10 days since I arrived in the States. Before that, I had been in the States for 9 months as an exchange student 6 years ago.” (X, your familiarity with English verb tenses is impressive!!! You clearly already know that English speakers frequently use the past perfect when talking about the first of two past events . However, because of your major, I want to let you know that although your using “had been” as you have is technically possible, since the focus/purpose of your sentence is not really the timing of your 9 months of exchange student experience in the U.S. in comparison to when you arrived in the U.S. 10 days ago, but instead simply to answer my questionHow long have you lived in the U.S.?,” native English speakers would tend to say, “Before that, I was in the States/U.S. for 9 months. . . .” See the outstanding answer to the question “When exactly is the past perfect needed?” provided at http://ell.stackexchange.com/questions/6372/when-is-the-past-perfect-exactly-needed for further explanation.)
Simple present *
Need the present simple tense “to state accepted facts and truths” (see Science Research Writing, pp. 4-7) *
  • X, what does present perfect tense express according to SRW, pp. 4-7? What does present tense express? Which is best for your intended meaning here?
  • Logically, either “need” or “needed” could be used in this sentence, but their meanings are totally different — and I’m not sure which matches YOUR meaning! If you mean that these X strategies need to be defined for this paper only, your verb tense is correct. However, if you mean that prior to your study, your field needed new X strategies to be defined, and now your study has filled this gap in your field, so that they no longer need to be defined, you need to use a different verb tense. Can you figure out which one based on Science Research Writing, pp. 4-7? ☺
  • Aren’t the authors wanting to describe students’ general patterns of weekday time use here?
  • Do you mean that in the past these differences indicated what the rest of your sentence describes, but that they no longer indicate that? (That’s what your use of the simple past tense suggests. . . .See Science Research Writing, pp. 4-7, to figure out what verb tense you need to express what you really mean here! J)
  • X, what does past tense express according to SRW, pp. 4-7? What does present tense express? Why might many of your verbs currently in past tense be better expressed in present tense?
  • You’re making this promise now, right?
  • Okay, but my guess is that the base form “face” is far more frequent in research articles in your field than “-ing” verbs. (Probably most “-ing” verbs in your field are actually being used as nouns, not as the main verb of the sentence.) (See Science Research Writing, pp. 4-7, for more information)
Simple future *
  • According to COCA, is “would” or “will” more likely to be used with the phrase “can predict how. . .”? Why do you think that is?
  • If you expect something, you expect it to happen in the future, right?
  • Also, how can you reschedule your meeting now, before Wai has even received your email? What verb tense should you therefore be using when talking about rescheduling?
  • “have” or “will have”? (My guess is “has” regarding some agricultural products, but “will have” for the specific corn product you’re studying. Which are you talking about here? How can you make that clear?)

Verb needs to be in one of the perfect tenses *

Past perfect *
Need the past perfect verb tense to talk about the first of two past actions *
  • The past perfect verb tense in English is used for the first action in a sequence of two past actions. In this sentence, however, both of your past actions (the growth in the U.S. population and the growth in Internet usage) have occurred at the same time/simultaneously. Therefore, they need to be expressed using the same verb tense – make sense?
Present perfect *
Need the present perfect tense to indicate that something happened the past and is still happening now *
  • Is this still commonly believed? If yes, then this should be “has been widely believed.” (Can you figure out why based on Science Research Writing, pp. 4-7)
  • As described in SRW, pp. 4-7, I still think there are some of your verbs that are technically grammatically correct that could more powerfully build your argument if they were expressed in the present perfect tense. . . .
  • What verb tense does English use for actions that began in the past and are still continuing now?
  • You were fascinated with Dr. X’s research in the past, but you aren’t now?
  • Are technology and engineering still developing rapidly or have they stopped developing rapidly? If this is a process that is still continuing, what verb tense do you need here?
  • “These days” include some past days as well as today, right? What verb tense should you therefore be using here?
  • If you want to focus readers’ attention on the fact that a past action has continued to the present, it’s best to write something such as “has reduced substantially since 2000” because the word “since” indicates a period of time from the past until now).
  • Presently. . . .I am working for the past three years (You can’t presently do anything for the past 3 years — Check what the electronic version of Science Research Writing [SRW] available at Parks Library says about present perfect verb tenses. . . .I think you’ll find that’s exactly what you need to express the meaning you intend) ☺
  • X, by using the time word “nowadays,” you make it clear that you’re counting the 2010-2014 data as representative of data now, not as the last of two past data sets. That’s totally okay, but you’re not consistent. Most of the time you use past tense, even when you’re talking about how things have changed between the 2003-2007 data and “now.” However, what verb tense does English require you to use to describe some change than began in the past and is continuing till now or began in the past and is impacting now? (See SRW, pp. 4-7)
    • X, your previous sentence’s use of the present perfect makes it clear that you’re counting the 2010-2014 data as representative of data now, not as the last of two past data sets. That’s totally okay, but you’re not consistent. Sometimes you use simple present tense and sometimes simple past tense to talk about how things have changed between the 2003-2007 data and “now.” However, what verb tense does English require you to use to describe some change than began in the past and is continuing till now or began in the past and is impacting now? (See SRW, pp. 4-7)
    • In this sentence, you first suggest the 2010-2014 data is not impacting/relevant to now by using the simple past tense, but then you use the present perfect tense, suggesting that in fact you do count that data relevant to now. Which do you mean? Whatever you decide, you need to be consistent in communicating this intended meaning by use of the appropriate verb tense in this sentence (and throughout the rest of your paper!)
Need the present perfect tense to indicate a past situation is impacting the present (see Science Research Writing, pp. 4-7) *
  • X, what does present tense express according to SRW, pp. 4-7? What does present perfect tense express? Which tense therefore best matches your intended meaning?
  • Are their past findings impacting present researchers? Therefore, what verb tense should you be using here according to Science Research Writing, pp. 4-7?
  • Is this past situation (that occurred from 2003-2007) impacting or continuing in the present? Therefore, what verb tense should you be using here according to Science Research Writing, pp. 4-7?
    • What verb tense does English require for a past situation (e.g., learning how to use the computer as a child) that is affecting the present (e.g., modern young adults having no difficulty using computers and the Internet)?
  • X, your data commentary so far has made it clear that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (and you!) believe changes in students’ use of time is relevant/important now. Therefore, what verb tense should you be using here? (See Science Research Writing, pp. 4-7)
  • If you believe the possible situation you describe in this paragraph is relevant to why the 2010-2014 students spent more time working than the 2003-2007 students (which you obviously do or you wouldn’t have bothered to mention it!), which English verb tense should you be using here? See Science Research Writing, pp. 4-7? (Use COCA to figure out how you can construct this verb tense while still including your very-appropriately-used modal verb “might”!)
  • X, aren’t you emailing Dr. Y right now? Are you really contacting the IT department right now also ( = simultaneously)? If not, what verb tense can you use to show that you believe your (I assume!) past action of contacting the IT department is relevant to solving this video problem?

Verb needs to be in one of the progressive tenses *

Need the present progressive/continuous tense *
  • These challenges have already been faced? Then why are you continuing to research them?
  • Do you think this is a process that is likely to continue? Could that be more clearly expressed by using the present continuous/progressive tense “are spending”?

Verb needs to be in one of the perfect progressive tenses *

Present perfect progressive *
Need the present perfect progressive/continuous tense to indicate a situation that began in the past and is impacting the present *

(see Science Research Writing, pp. 4-7 and http://esl.fis.edu/grammar/rules/presperf.htm)

  • Because your goal is not to focus on X now being in the U.S., but rather to indicate that you think her having been in the U.S. only 5 months is relevant to (in an amazing way) her current English ability, you need to use the present perfect progressive / present perfect continuous, i.e. “with you having been in the U.S. for only 5 months,” not merely the present progressive / present continuous (I can’t remember if I recommended that you buy my favorite research writing textbook, i.e. Science Research Writing, or not — but if so, you can find an explanation of this on pages 4-7 . .  .another helpful explanation of this use of the present perfect is available at http://esl.fis.edu/grammar/rules/presperf.htm).
  • Do you think this situation is likely to continue? Could that be more clearly expressed by using the present continuous/progressive tense “are spending”? (Or, alternatively, because this situation began in the past and is still continuing now, could you use the present perfect continuous/progressive tense?)
Need the present perfect progressive/continuous tense to indicate a process that began in the past and is still continuing now *
  • This is a process that began in the past and is still continuing, right? Therefore, what verb tense should you be using here?
  • Do you think this situation is likely to continue? Could that be more clearly expressed by using the present continuous/progressive tense “are spending”? (Or, alternatively, because this situation began in the past and is still continuing now, could you use the present perfect continuous/progressive tense?)

Verb voice errors *

Overall praise *

  • Your use of passive voice is perfect except for the one passive voice word order problem indicated above.

Overall critique *

  • X, I’m so sorry we ran out of time this semester to study how English research writing frequently uses passive voice verbs in cases where it doesn’t matter WHO does the action. Please carefully read the linked resources, since this is a major weak area for you.

Specific praise *

Specific critique *

  • X, this phrase is almost perfect but not quite. Can you figure out what’s wrong with its verb via COCA?
  • According to COCA, what’s the difference in meaning between “I was just confused” and “I just confused”? How are they different in the grammatical category of word that must follow them? Which, therefore, best expresses your intended meaning?
  • You want to serve society by being employed or by employing others?
  • Where is “there” referring to in this sentence? (Or do you mean “. . .various ECUs, the CAN (Controller Area Network) bus which has many ECUs connected to it has been introduced” – passive voice is the #1 way research writers avoid specifying who it is who did an action [usually because it doesn’t matter WHO did it – the point is that it was DONE]) (Is this the best website for explaining this?)
  • Based on your intended meaning, should this verb be in active or passive voice?
    • Should you be using “should considered” or the passive voice “should be considered” here?
  • Who joined these people to the Internet? Did they choose to join themselves or did someone else force them to join? Therefore, should this verb be in active or passive voice?
  • Did 1) the United States or 2) some other entity make the many regulatory reforms this sentence discusses?  Therefore, should this verb be in active or passive voice?
  • X, if the survey did not do itself, but instead the U.S. Bureau of Labor did the survey (as indicated via your “by” phrase!), your verb should be in passive voice. Directions for converting the present verb tense into passive voice (as well as a practice exercise can be found here. You can also figure out standard English phrasing for you expressing your intended idea by comparing in COCA your “has done by” phrasing to “has * done by.” (Also, if you just wanted to state that the U.S. Bureau of Labor did this survey without expressing that their having done so somehow impacts now, what verb tense should you use? Based on the rest of your data commentary, which meaning do you think is best to express here?)
  • Is the pronoun “you” commonly used in research articles in your field? What about expressing this idea in passive voice instead? – “a new maize cultivar can be obtained
  • Did you compare the data or did sleeping hours compare the data? Also, whose sleeping hours are you talking about? (It would be good if you reminded your target readers of the specific population being investigated in your study.)
  • Although logically I can understand why you’re using passive voice here, according to COCA, how do English speakers usually express your intended idea? Does this mean English speakers tend to think about this idea a little differently than you’re thinking about it here? (Try the COCA collocates search “long time to – [finish] – 0 – 4”)
  • Check your passive voice word order here

Verb modality errors *

Epistemic modals *

(Used to indicate probability)

  • Do you mean “can” or “could” here? (Are you making a general statement about what is possible? Or are you talking about something that is possible, but not certain?)
    • X, do you mean “could” or “can” here? (Are you talking about something that is possible, but not certain or are you making a general statement about what is possible?)
  • “led” (in the past) or “could lead” (in the future)?
  • Are you talking about a hypothetical effect or a real effect that does occur (though this effect perhaps hasn’t yet been measured)? In that case, what verb tense should you be using here?
  • X, are you talking about a hypothetical situation here? (See http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/conditional.htm for more information)
  • X, what English verb tense is used with “past unreal events”?
  • X, I’m pretty sure you mean “One naturally wonders how the interactions among the several aspects affect the surface quality” — because you believe these interactions among the several aspects do have real-world effects on the surface quality, though the details of what these effects are may not yet have been researched very well. You do not believe the effects of these interactions are only hypothetical, existing only in the your imagination — or you wouldn’t be seeking through your research to identify a more effective means of measuring the surface quality! Make sense?
  • According to COCA, can your phrasing “could trigger” be used to describe a possible explanation of the past or only to express a possibility in the future? What about the phrasing “could have triggered”?
  • X, you are suggesting in this sentence that something has possibly happened at some time in the past. Therefore, what word are you missing here? (See https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar/verbs/modal-verbs/may-might-may-have-and-might-have) for more information)
  • In your study? (Or is this just a possible application of your study? If yes, how can you express that you’re speaking of something that is possible rather than certain/definite/guaranteed here?)

Deontic modals *

(Used to indicate ability, permission, or necessity)

  • X, you may have learned in middle school that the difference between “could” and “can” is not verb tense — it’s politeness. That’s true, but not the whole truth. “Could” is weaker/softer/less direct/more polite than “can” when it’s used to ask permission. However, research article authors don’t ordinarily ask their readers for permission to do something, right? — So while the “‘ask permission” difference in meaning between “can” and “could” very often applies to face-to-face communication, emails, etc., it basically never applies to research writing — Make sense? Instead, you can figure out the difference in meaning relevant here by reading Science Research Writing, pp. 4-7 ☺
  • Also, “may” has multiple meanings in English, so it can be risky to use when asking for someone’s help, especially in writing when tone of voice can’t help you make your meaning and politeness clear, i.e. your sentence “The data may include” could be interpreted as “I give you permission to include” (suggesting you’re a higher-status person talking to a lower-status person!). Although I’m certain Dr. Jones easily figured out you did not mean that, it can sometimes be difficult for people to escape all the effects of less-than-positive first impressions—therefore, English speakers tend to express your meaning with something like “It would be great if the data could include. . . .”
  • Most teachers at Iowa State won’t require their graduate students to prove they have good reason for absences. In order to ensure that your email doesn’t accidentally communicate to a teacher that you think he/she is unreasonably strict or will assume you’re lying about the reason for your absence unless you prove otherwise, you should probably use the softer “can” (i.e. “On Monday I can bring. . . .”) rather than the stronger “will” (i.e. “On Monday I will bring. . . .”). Please talk to me if you don’t understand what I mean. . . .I’d be happy to explain further.  (However, honestly, I think the chances of your current email actually causing such a misunderstanding are fairly small. Therefore, I think I can safely mark it as “okay” in terms of politeness.)
  • You “have to” (= “must”) — but you don’t want to???

Realis *

Indicative mood (Realis) *

X, please check your use of conditional “would” at http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/conditional.htm (Monica, is this the best source to send people to who are using “would” for “realis” situations?)

Irrealis *

Conditional mood (Irrealis) *
Need the zero conditional *

If-clause (present simple), main clause (present simple )

(Used to indicate a situation is certain because it’s what always happens; often used to give instructions)

  • X, you’ve already indicated the possibility that modern entertainment can excite people’s nerves before bedtime. If people’s nerves are excited, won’t that basically certainly lead to sleeplessness? Do you therefore need again to signal you’re discussing a possibility by using the word “might”? Also, check in COCA what verb form usually follows your (very sophisticated!) phrasing, “, thus [v*]” — in your COCA, search, be sure to include your preceding comma.
Need the first conditional *

If-clause (present simple/continuous/perfect), main clause (future simple, “may/might/can,” or command/request/advice structures)

(Used to indicate a situation is probable)

  • Aren’t you describing a future situation here that you think is very probable? Therefore, you need to use the “first conditional” (http://www.englishtenses.com/first_conditional), not the “second conditional” “would” that you’re currently using (http://www.englishtenses.com/second_conditional)
  • Don’t you think it’s possible that if researchers take into account different considerations specific to countries that are unlike the U.S., it will result in their identifying different solutions than those proposed for the U.S. situation? Therefore, you need to use the “first conditional,” not the “second conditional” “would” that you’re currently using.
Need the second conditional *

If-clause (subjunctive “past”), main clause (conditional “would/could/might” + present or present continuous tense)

(Used to indicate a situation is imaginary/hypothetical or improbable)

Need the third conditional *

If-clause (past perfect or past perfect continuous), main clause (perfect conditional “would/could/might” + present or present continuous tense)

(Used to indicate a situation is impossible because the “if-clause” condition didn’t happen)

Need a mixed conditional *

(Used to indicate unreal situations with differing times referred to in its “if-clause” than in its main clause)

Subjunctive mood *

Verb form errors (serious according to the error gravity research) *

Infinitives vs. participles as main verbs *

  • Can a main verb in English use just the “-ing” form? If not, what word do you need to add to make using the “-ing” form okay?
  • X, check in COCA what verb form usually follows your (very sophisticated!) phrasing, “, thus [v*]” — in your COCA, search, be sure to include your preceding comma.

Infinitives vs. gerunds *

  • I see you’re getting trapped by one of the tricky “set phrases” of English. Check in COCA your phrases:
    • I’m looking forward to know more about you. (from your message to X)

    Sorry English is so confusing!!!

Adjectival past vs. present participles *

Irregular verbs *

  • The English verb “shut” is irregular — the spelling “shut” is used for both the present and the past tense (i.e. It’s weird, but there is actually no such word as “shutted.”). You will see this in COCA if you check it ☺
  • The English verb “show” is irregular — Check in COCA the exact search term “as [show] in” to figure out which form of the word “show” you should be using here

Sentence-level verb errors *

Sentence is missing the main verb *

  • X, compare in Google the exact quotes “the less you would likely to” to the “less likely you would be likely to” — Which is the preferred phrasing for expressing your idea?
  • English (unlike Spanish?) requires every sentence to have an explicit verb. Can you figure out what verb is needed here? (Another, more sophisticated way, would be to make the second part a “summative modifier” (See http://grammar.about.com/od/rs/g/summativemodifierterm.htm):
  • Is this a complete sentence? (= What is its subject and main verb?) (I know that in Chinese, it’s okay to omit the subject where it’s obvious from the context, but this is never okay in anything but very informal English writing, e.g., text messages)
  • X, this is not a complete sentence!
    • Is your sentence starting with “Because” a complete sentence? What is its main subject and main verb?

Comments on noun-related errors *

Overall feedback *

Overall praise *

Overall critique *

  • X, please try to correct the errors indicated above in gray using Science Research Writing, pp. 50-55 and 109, as well as the relevant web pages I’ve linked for you (and also add a note in your “English 101D Writing Journal” for each error pattern you notice, so that you can specifically check for this/these kinds of errors in the future — Make sense?)
  • X, it appears you tend frequently to make English subject/verb agreement and article usage (particularly in the case of “the”) errors, so you may want to be particularly careful in checking for this kind of error in the future.
  • Please check your article usage and for countable/uncountable noun mistakes

Agreement errors *

Subject-verb agreement *

  • Check in COCA — when should you use “as follow” and when should you use “as follows
  • “this particular group. . .need_”??? (Check for subject/verb agreement)

Noun-pronoun agreement *

  • X, applying “it” to humans in English is very disrespectful and therefore definitely not a mistake you want to make!
  • Do you mean “each other” or “one another”?
  • Is the English word “reason” always a countable noun?
  • transistors = it? (vs. “they”?)

Noun-possessive agreement *

  • X, check in COCA your phrasing here (because, given your field, it’s probably very important for you to know how to say this using standard phrasing!):
    • people ‘s [live]
    • people ‘s [life]

Countable vs. uncountable nouns *

Specific praise *

Specific critique *

  • Previously in this paper, you’ve used “casting” (correctly!) with both its countable and uncountable meanings. Which meaning do you intend here?
Countable nouns *
  • Based on your field, it’s probably important that you remember the English word “algorithm” is countable
  • Is the term “bridge” not countable according to the technical communication norms of your field?
  • X, the word “data” is technically plural (its singular form is “datum,” though the singular form is basically never used). Therefore, should you say, “The data also indicates” or “The data also indicate”? (FYI: Because the word “data” is such a weird plural, though, I should let you know that even native English speakers frequently make this mistake!)
  • Is the English word “gym” countable? Also, most people habitually go to the same gym all the time. According to COCA, how does that impact which article generally gets used in this phrase?
    • X, compare in Google the exact quotes “development of the economy” to simply “development of economy” — Which is the preferred phrasing for expressing your idea? (Can you figure out why? Generally, in any country, which economy is the one that locally written articles are most likely talk about?)
  • Check in COCA – Is the word “increase” usually countable or uncountable when it’s used in the phrase “significant increase”? Therefore, what word basically always precedes this phrase?
  • X, the noun “industry” is (usually) countable. . . .
  • Check in COCA- Is the English word “pattern” countable or uncountable?
  • Check in COCA — Is your intended meaning “some part” or “some parts” of the world?
  • X, you’re right that “impact” can be used countably, but check in COCA via the exact search term “[impact]”- Do English speakers prefer to use it countably or uncountably?
    • Check in COCA via the exact search term “serious [pollution]” whether the English word “pollution” is normally used countably or uncountably
Singular/Plural Errors *
  • X, my big concern about your data commentary is that you seem to have a pattern of using the singular noun “count” when your meaning is actually the plural noun “counts.” Because the phrase “traffic count” is apparently a very important technical term in your research, this mistake suggests you’re most definitely not an expert in your purported area of research focus — since you apparently don’t even know how to use its technical terms correctly! Therefore, it’s very important that you work hard at avoiding this mistake in the future. Make sense?
  • Only one suggestion?
  • In one single-pass sample or all single-pass samples?
  • Check in COCA — Should nouns preceded by “any” be singular or plural?
  • Do all of us share one single life?
Uncountable/mass nouns *
  • amount” — (See http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/grammar/british-grammar/amount-of-number-of-or-quantity-of)
  • “congestion” — Check in COCA the exact search term “[avoid] [congestion]” to see whether the English word “congestion” is generally countable or uncountable.
  • culture” — X, you’re right that the English word “culture” can be uncountable — but in a situation where you’re contrasting two different types of cultures, are you using it uncountably? (Check in COCA to see how the word “[culture]” is sometimes used uncountably and sometimes countably)
    • X, when you write “two types of. . . culture,” you’re using the English word “culture” as a countable noun. According to COCA, should you therefore write “two types of culture” or “two types of cultures“?
  • encouragement” — You might want to check in COCA whether “encouragement” is a countable noun. . . . ☺
  • feedback” — You may want to check in COCA whether the English word “feedback” is countable or not ☺
  • information” — Is the English word “information” countable or uncountable? (Then what verb form should you use here?)
  • input” — Although “input” can be countable when used in as a technical term, particularly in the computing context, in general English, it’s uncountable
  • mixture” — Is “mixture” a countable or uncountable noun in English?
  • “research” — X, the English noun “research” is not countable, so can’t be made plural. . . .and apparently, this is an error that irritates language editors, so it’s probably one you want to pay particular attention to avoiding
  • traffic” — Check in COCA — is the English word “traffic” countable?

Articles *

(Monica’s hypothesis: While errors with “the” often substantially impact listener/reader understanding, “a”/”an” errors rarely do, though they may lead to interlocutor irritation, particularly in the case of ESL vs. EIL communication — Does any error gravity research exist demonstrating this? )

Another good resource on articles: http://www2.gsu.edu/~eslhpb/grammar/lecture_5/specific.html

Overall praise *

  • Your introduction has a couple of article mistakes, but mostly your English article usage is perfect. Good job!
  • Nearly perfect — Wow! (x, I think your use of the English articles “a” and “an” and “the” in this data commentary is one of the best I’ve seen among all the introductions I’ve checked so far — I’m SO impressed! Wow!)

Overall critique *

Specific praise *

  • Yes, you’re exactly right. So it’s actually incorrect to say “an awesome feedback.” Instead, you have to say “That was really awesome feedback” ☺ — Make sense?

Specific critique *

  • Check out your phrase “got chance” in COCA — it should contain a word you accidentally missed. Can you figure out what it is? ☺
  • Have you used the phrase “solution approach” before? Will your reader already know about the specific “solution approach” you’re talking about? If not, you may want to consider making it clear by using the possessive pronoun “our” instead. Make sense? (You also want to do this because it’s VERY important that what YOU have contributed to the field is clear to readers. You don’t want them to think you’re talking here about some solution someone else has proposed! Make sense?)
  • You’ll see if you check COCA that your phrasing “the. . .Middle East” is correct, but what about “the Asia”?

definite article “the” *

Overall critique *

X, it appears based on your revised summaries that the English articles remain a big problem for you. You may want to review pp. 50-55 of Science Research Writing and Edufind’s post “The Definite Article” at http://www.edufind.com/english-grammar/definite-article/.

“the” for some specific person/place/thing both you and your listener/reader know about: *

Vs. Ø

  • Aren’t you talking specifically about lecture videos you and Dr. X both know about? Don’t both you and Dr. X know which “IT Department” you’re talking about?

Vs. “a/an”

  • Is the specific day that you’re talking about here (i.e., the “average weekday”) either unknown/unimportant to your readers? (See SRW, pp. 50-55)

Vs. either Ø or “a/an” (or not yet categorized!)

  • Are you talking about a specific source of energy? Or are you talking about energy in general? Based on Science Research Writing, pp. 50-55, therefore, do you need an article here?
  • Are you talking about some specific categor(ies) of leisure and sports that both you and your readers already know about? Or are you talking about leisure and sports in general? Based on Science Research Writing, pp. 50-55, therefore, do you need an article here?
    • Both you and your readers know you’re talking about a specific market here, right? What word needs to precede specific nouns/noun phrases in English?
    • Do both you and your readers know which specific web requests you’re talking about here?
    • Have you made clear to readers which specific political decisions you’re talking about (so both you and your readers know exactly/specifically what you’re talking about)?
    • This is a specific span of time that both you and your reader already know about because it’s already been presented in your figure, right?
    • You’re talking here about a specific population that both you and your reader already know about (the U.S. population) because you mentioned it earlier, right? What word therefore do you need to add before the word “population”?
      • Have you previously mentioned the idea of “food security”? Or is this your initial introduction of this general topic to your readers? (According to Science Research Writing, pp. 50-55, therefore, do you need an article here?)
        • Have you previously mentioned your current study? Or is this your initial introduction of your study to your readers? (According to Science Research Writing, pp. 50-55, therefore, do you need an article here?) (Would “this” be clearer”?)
      • Have you mentioned this X before in your introduction so that both you and your readers know specifically which X you’re talking about? (According to Science Research Writing, pp. 50-55, therefore, do you need an article here?)
      • Are you talking about resistance in general or some specific type of resistance that both you and your reader know you’re talking about (e.g., because you’ve introduced this type of resistance earlier)?
    • X, this sentence clearly specifies which benchmark suite you mean, so you need to use “the” to mark that you’re talking about something specific both you and your readers know about (See SRW, pp.53-54)
      • X, your phrase “of Internet usage” makes it clear to readers which specific rate you mean, so you need to use “the” to mark that you’re talking about something specific both you and your readers know about (See SRW, pp.53-54) (In fact, most English nouns followed by “of” phrases are made specific by the “of” phrase and therefore must be preceded by “the”)
      • In your “problem is” phrase in the email below, I as a reader know which specific problem you mean because the rest of your sentence clarifies it. Therefore,  you need to precede your “problem is” with “the” in order to mark that you’re talking about something specific that both you and your listener/reader know about, i.e., you need to write “the problem is” — Make sense?(See SRW, pp.53-54 or #2b here for more information.)
  • You’ve provided enough information here that both you and your readers can know which specific formants you’re talking about. What word in English must precede basically all specific nouns? (See SRW, pp. 53-54)
    • Yes, but using “a” suggests you’re asking Dr. X to send you any one of his perhaps several Y protocols that he decides he’s willing to send you. I think what you’re actually asking for is the specific Y protocol that you heard him talk about at the conference, so saying something like “Requesting your Y protocol” or “Requesting your Y protocol introduced at Z conference” would be more standard— Make sense?
    • In your phrase “boss’s work” above, the boss you’re obviously talking about is a specific boss, i.e., the boss of any employee who doesn’t feel comfortably directly expressing his/her opinion to the boss because of his/her high-power-distance culture. Therefore, what word does English require be added before the word “boss”?
  • You’re expecting your listeners/readers to know which specific business you mean (i.e. the hospitality business), so you need to use “the” to mark that you’re talking about something specific that both you and your listener/reader know about, i.e. you need to write either  “the business” or more directly, “the hospitality business.” (See SRW, pp. 53-54 or #2b here for more information)
    • X, if your paper is targeting North American readers, particularly U.S. readers, they will have a pretty good idea of which U.S. states are “Rocky Mountain states,” so in fact both you as the writer and your readers already know what’s being talked about. . . .therefore, based on SRW, pp. 50-55, what do you need to add here? (The same is true for the two assays you mention in the last sentence of this paragraph—Can you figure out why?) — Also, check for an unnecessarily capitalized word in your “Rocky Mountain States” phrase)
  • X, research writers only define a technical term if they assume readers don’t already know how their paper will define it, right? Therefore, should “the” precede a technical term that’s being defined? (See Science Research Writing, pp. 50-55, for more information)
  • All possible methods or just some possible methods? Does your reader already know exactly which methods you’re talking about?
 “the” with premodifiers
  • X, the adjective “same” premodifies your noun “state,” making it clear to readers exactly which state you’re talking about— See section 2b of this excellent, easy-to-understand article from the University of Toronto on figuring out when you need “the” and when you don’t J: http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/english-as-a-second-language/definite-article
  • X, the noun “email” premodifies your singular noun “greeting,” making it clear to readers exactly which industry you’re talking about— See section 2b of this excellent, easy-to-understand article from the University of Toronto on figuring out when you need “the” and when you don’t J: http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/english-as-a-second-language/definite-article
  • Does “receiving,” “in-process” and “final” consist of a single stage or multiple stages? (And note, these adjectives are also premodifying the noun stage. . . .so do you need to use “the” here or not?)
  • the phrase “visual inspector’s” premodifies the singular noun “performance”
  • Is the singular noun “process” being premodified by anything?
  • Check in Google. In what situation does “the” precede a year or range of years in English? When the year or range of years is the main noun of a phrase (e.g., “in 2003-2007”) or when the year or range of years is an adjective describing some other main noun, (e.g., “during the 2015-2016 school year”)? See section 2b of this excellent, easy-to-understand article from the University of Toronto on figuring out when you need “the” and when you don’t
  • X, according to COCA, what word normally precedes the word “next” in English? One reason for this is because “next” premodifies nouns such as your “finding” (and your “of” phrase postmodifies “finding”), making it clear to readers which finding you’re talking about— See section 2b of this excellent, easy-to-understand article from the University of Toronto on figuring out when you need “the” and when you don’t J: http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/english-as-a-second-language/definite-article
 “the” with postmodifiers
  • X, your “of” phrase postmodifies your noun “time,” making clear the specific “average time” you’re talking about and therefore requiring the definite article “the” — See section 2b of this excellent, easy-to-understand article from the University of Toronto on figuring out when you need “the” and when you don’t J: http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/english-as-a-second-language/definite-article
    • X, your “of” phrase postmodifies your noun “effects,” making clear the specific “effects” you’re talking about and therefore requiring the definite article “the” — See section 2b of this excellent, easy-to-understand article from the University of Toronto on figuring out when you need “the” and when you don’t. (P.S. If you check COCA, you’ll see that most “of” phrases have this effect.)
    • How does this “of” phrase affect your need for the definite article “the”?
    • Although it’s abbreviated here, your underlying meaning, of course, is the “Iowa Department of Transportation.” Therefore, because your “of” phrase postmodifies your noun “department,” making it definite, this phrases must be preceded by the definite article “the” — See section 2b of this excellent, easy-to-understand article from the University of Toronto on figuring out when you need “the” and when you don’t
  • X, your “that” clause postmodifies your pronoun “one” (meaning your previous noun, “assignment”), making it definite and therefore requiring the definite article “the” — See section 2b of this excellent, easy-to-understand article from the University of Toronto on figuring out when you need “the” and when you don’t
 “the” with one or more premodifiers and postmodifiers
  • X, here the noun/country name “U.S.” premodifies  and your “of” phrase postmodifies your singular noun “bureau,” making clear the specific “bureau” you’re talking about and therefore requiring the definite article “the” — See section 2b of this excellent, easy-to-understand article from the University of Toronto on figuring out when you need “the” and when you don’t.
“the” with names
  • X, are English norms to use “the” before uncountable product names such as “Kraftwerk2010”? — Which scholar.google.com search term has the largest number of results? “the Kraftwerk” or just “Kraftwerk”? Which set of results best matches your intended meaning?
  • X, are English norms to use “the” before uncountable product names such as “X”? (You can probably find the answer to this question by checking whether “the” is used before related product/entity names)
  • In English, the official names of cities (e.g., “Ames”), states (e.g., “Iowa”), and countries (e.g., “Canada”) are not preceded by “the” unless they contain the word “United” (e.g., “the United States” and “the U.S.”; “the United Kingdom” and “the U.K.”) or the word “of” (e.g., “the District of Columbia”). Non-official names sometimes consist of an adjective that combines with the noun to make it specific and therefore are preceded by “the” (e.g. “the Twin Cities”).
  • I suspect you use your “Biomedical Sciences Department” phrase fairly often, so please try to figure out what word it’s missing via our Science Research Writing textbook, pages 50-55 and 109 (available electronically at Parks Library) — and your “RT-QuIC assay” phrase also needs the same word added (for the same reason!)
  • What word usually precedes the name of this region according to COCA? Why do you think this is the case?
“the” with things that are specific because there’s only one of them *
  • X, if you check in COCA, you’ll see that when the word “Internet” is used as a noun, it’s preceded by “the” (because there’s only one, so your readers will know exactly which Internet you’re referring to) – Make sense?

    • “Internet” here is an adjective describing “usage” rather than a noun. How does that affect its use with “the” according to COCA?
  • X, if you check in COCA, you’ll see that the phrase “whole population” is basically always preceded by “the” (because there’s only one “whole population” — so your readers will know exactly which population you’re referring to) – Make sense?
  • You’re talking about one of potentially several possible reasons here, right? Therefore, according to COCA, should the word “reason” be singular or plural?
  • X, according to COCA, what word normally precedes the phrase “second reason” in English? One reason for this is because the adjective “second” premodifies your noun “reason,” making it clear to readers exactly which reason you’re talking about— See section 2b of this excellent, easy-to-understand article from the University of Toronto on figuring out when you need “the” and when you don’t J: http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/english-as-a-second-language/definite-article
  • What word usually precedes the name of this region according to COCA? Why do you think this is the case?
“the” with superlatives *
  • Check in COCA: What’s the difference in meaning between the phrases “most useful” and “the most useful”? Which best matches your intended meaning here? (Clue: In one of the phrases, “most” simply means “very”)
  • How many decisions can possible be most optimum? (Check your phrasing in COCA if you’re not sure why I’m asking.)
“the” to refer to “all of them [some singular noun] everywhere” *
  • Check in COCA. . . .are English speakers more likely to say “the boss” and “the employee” when speaking about all bosses and employees everywhere in the Western context (or just “boss” and “employee” or “a boss” and “an employee”)?

“the” vs. discourse deictic referential “this”/”that”

  • Have you previously mentioned your current study? Or is this your initial introduction of your study to your readers? (According to Science Research Writing, pp. 50-55, therefore, do you need an article here?) (Would “this” be clearer”?)
  • What specific previous noun is your “that” referring to here? (None of your recent sentences refer to the two different time periods described in the table!. . . .However, because your readers will know which specific time periods you’re talking about, you can use “the” here”)
  • X, you’re referring here to the incident which you’ve just been talking about in this email. Therefore, which deictic — “this” or “that” — best fits this sentence?

indefinite articles “a”/”an” *

  • Is the specific “original large object” that you’re talking about here either unknown/unimportant to your readers? (See SRW, pp. 50-55)
  • Are you talking about a specific earlier stage that both you and your reader know about or just about some so-far-unspecified earlier stage? (Remember time is a line with infinite points, so there are presumedly multiple possible earlier stages, unless you’ve previously specified which earlier stage you’re talking about. . . .) Therefore, which article should you be using here? (See Science Research Writing, pp. 50-55, for more information)
  • According to COCA, does an article (“a,” “an” or “the”) usually precede the English phrase “number of”? If yes, which article do you need? (See Science Research Writing, pages 50-55 and 109 to figure it out)
  • X, as indicated in Science Research Writing, pp. 50-55, singular countable nouns in English need a determiner (e.g., the articles “a” or “an” or “the”). Check in COCA — is the English word “period” a singular, countable noun? Which article, therefore, should precede it?
    • X, as indicated in Science Research Writing, pp. 50-55, singular countable nouns in English need a determiner (e.g., the articles “a” or “an” or “the”). Check in COCA — is the English word “cascade” a singular, countable noun? Do you think it would therefore be better for you to change “network” to its plural form (so no article is required) or to insert an article here?
  • Do you mean one of many possible “first order phase transformations”? If yes, then is “the” the right article to use here?
  • Isn’t 1-80 one of several “main highways” maintained by the Iowa DOT? If yes, then is “the” the right article to use here?
  • Check in COCA the exact search term “* accurate [nn*] *” — I know it’s not what you’d expect, but is “the” the right article to use here?

Ø article *

  • X, according to the video, is the technical term “power distance” generally preceded by “the”? What do you think is the reason for this? (Is the purpose of “power” in the term “power distance” to specify the kind of distance we’re talking about [e.g., “power distance” vs. “geographical distance” vs. “emotional distance,” etc.] or simply to describe the kind of distance we’re talking about? A specifying purpose requires “the”; a describing purpose doesn’t.)
  • Are you talking about some specific category of tuition and fees that both you and your readers already know about? Or are you talking about tuition and fees in general? Based on Science Research Writing, pp. 50-55, therefore, do you need an article here?
  • Are you talking about some specific students that both you and your readers already know about? Based on Science Research Writing, pp. 50-55, therefore, do you need an article here?
  • Are you making a general statement about mesh size here or are you talking about the size of some specific mesh? Therefore, do you need the article “the” here?
  • Does your reader already know about the specific station model you’re talking about here?
    • Have you previously mentioned the idea of “time use for college students” in your data commentary (so that both you and your readers know what specific aspects of time use for college students are reported in the study)? Or is this your initial introduction to readers of the general topic “time use for college students”?  (According to Science Research Writing, pp. 50-55, therefore, do you need to use “the” here?)
      • Have you previously mentioned in your data commentary the specific students investigated in this study (so that both you and your readers already know which specific students you’re talking about here)? Or is this your initial introduction to readers of the two groups of students investigated in this study? (Therefore, according to Science Research Writing, pp. 50-55, therefore, do you need to use “the” here?)
    • Do both you and your readers know which specific college you’re referring to here? (See Science Research Writing, pp. 50-55, for more information)
    • Don’t all critical devices in the electric infrastructure need protection? Therefore, you’re not talking about any specific critical device here that both you and your reader know about, so you can omit the “the”
    • Are you talking about the recrystallization process in general (i.e., suggesting that your specific research findings can be generalized to other similarly-conducted studies) or are you stating your specific research findings, but not wanting to suggest your findings are generalizable? Thus, should you be using “the” here or not?
  • “all the prion diseases” is possible, but I think you’ll discover in COCA that “all [specifying adjective] [noun]” without the “the” is preferred. (So it’s an exception to what Science Research Writing (SRW) teaches about when to use “the”)
  • Do English speakers combine “the” with possessives made from proper nouns or pronouns referring to proper nouns like “Thursday’s” or “Tom’s” or “here”?
  • X, do English speakers use “the” before nouns that are followed by a number?no definite article needed before numbered items(I know these results might be surprising!)
Need to specify with a noun/possessive, not just with “the” *
  • If you wrote this email within a day or two of Dr. X’s presentation, “the conference” might be okay, but otherwise you need to specify exactly which conference you’re talking about because it’s possible Dr. X goes to many conferences and will have trouble remembering at which conference you would have met him — Make sense?
  • Whose purchase history? Will a browser remembering all of its users’ purchase history help it best select information to present to a specific user? (Replacing “the” with “their” would make more clear whose purchase history you’re talking about here – Make sense?)
Need to specify with discourse deictic referential “this,” not just with “the” *
  • Are you here continuing to talk about the situation that was the focus of your previous sentence? If so, you should use “this” instead of the “the” to let readers know you’re continuing to focus on the same situation vs. referring back to something that wasn’t the focus of the previous sentence — make sense?
  • Are you here continuing to talk about the data that was the focus of your previous paragraph? If so, you need to precede the word “data” with “these” (i.e., “these data”) in order to let readers know you’re continuing to talk about the topic currently under discussion. (Otherwise, it will sound like you’re referring to some random, unspecified data you haven’t talked about yet — make sense?)
  • Do you mean uncertainty in general (no article required) or the specific aspects of uncertainty that you referred to in the previous sentence (requiring that deictic “this” precede “uncertainty” — so “this uncertainty”)?
  • Your multiple instances of “this” in this sentence refer back to different things — and therefore will likely confuse your readers

Relative clauses *

Participle phrases *

  • X, what punctuation mark do you need before “being”? (Because your phrase beginning with “being” is not necessary in order to identify what  you are talking about) — See the explanation here regarding “Middle Participial Phrases” to find out.) What does this mean for whether or not you need to use “the”?

Sentence-level noun errors *

Sentence is missing the grammatical subject *

  • X, English requires every sentence/clause to include an explicit subject (even if it’s just a pronoun like “it,” so “I can see what? I can see that it is very simple” — Does Telugu grammar allow implicit subjects?
  • What “is going to be”? English requires you to explicitly specify what this clause is talking about by saying “it is going to be” (so repeating the idea you mentioned earlier)
  • English requires every sentence/clause to have an explicit subject (even if it’s just a pronoun like “it” — so what’s missing from this sentence? “I think what? I think __ is possible”
  • X, you’re accidentally missing an “empty subject” that English (but not Spanish?) grammar requires (specifically the “empty subject” commonly used to introduce new topics)
  • X, you’re accidentally missing an “empty subject” that English (but not Spanish?) grammar requires (specifically the “empty subject” commonly used to to give an opinion followed by to-infinitive)
  • Here you again need an explicit subject
  • X, you need to repeat “it” here, because the “it” in the previous part of the sentence is not an empty subject, but an “it” referring to the visual inspection process — Make sense? (FYI: In case you don’t know — though I suspect you do — English requires all sentences/clauses to have an explicit subject. In this case the empty subject used to give an opinion.)
  • Is this a complete sentence? (= What is its subject and main verb?)
    • Is your sentence starting with “Because” a complete sentence? What is its main subject and main verb?

Sentence uses the wrong “empty subject” *

Sentence is missing its transitive-verb-required direct object *


Comments on easy-to-correct errors *

(Highly frequent, careless errors signal disrespect in professional writing)

Overall easy-to-correct error praise *
  • X, you have basically no easy-to-correct errors at all! Wow! J
  • No errors here, except for the one dealing with your very complex English sentence structure including “otherwise” J
  • Your editing errors are all the kind that native speakers of English frequently make, so I don’t think it’s fair to take points off for them J
  • Yes, except in your reference list. . . but it’s not fair for me to take points off in two places for the same mistakes.
Overall easy-to-correct error critique *
  • X, you sometimes add extra punctuation marks where English doesn’t require them.
  • X, please check your capitalization, spelling, spacing and punctuation, as your data commentary contains each of these easy-to-correct errors. (Thus, you may also want to be particularly careful in checking for such easy-to-correct errors in your future English writing!)
  • X, my biggest concern for you is how common easy-to-correct capitalization and punctuation (particularly comma) errors are in your writing. In the U.S. context (and especially in the U.S. professional and academic contexts), the presence of lots of careless typos is likely to make your recipients feel you disrespect them (I know it did me to such an extent that I almost reduced your grade by one level even though this is our first assignment for which my norm is to give full points because my goal for this assignment is NOT to have student errors impact their final grade but instead just to show students the pattern of errors they need to check for in future assignments! Even though my automatic response to the frequency of your easy-to-correct errors was irritation because of how my culturally American upbringing has trained me to interpret such errors as clearly signaling you don’t believe I or your classmates are worth the time it takes to check for even easy-to-correct errors(!), I know as a teacher that it’s possible you made these errors having no idea of how seriously they can impact others’ opinion of you both personally and professionally. Therefore, while I have not reduced your grade due to careless errors this time, I need to let you know that if I see such carelessness again, they WILL impact your grade. . . .because of how others’ impression of you as a professional and academic if you continue so frequently to make such errors. I by far prefer for you to do poorly in my class but do well in the real world than to have you do well in my class, but lose opportunities in the real world due to not realizing how disrespectful highly frequent careless errors are interpreted as being in at least the U.S. context (and probably far beyond the U.S. context)!
  • X, please check for careless capitalization/spelling/punctuation/spacing errors in your professional English writing. (Unfortunately, as described in the Professional Email Portfolio rubric I use to guide my grading of your emails, “In English [writing], especially in professional contexts, the presence of ‘easy to fix’ errors in capitalization, spelling, or punctuation can suggest to readers that a writer doesn’t think his/her readers are worth even the minimal time required to check and fix these “easily-correctable” mistakes! That is, such errors suggest to readers that a writer disrespects them.” I’m VERY sure this is not the impression you want to give!)
    (In fact, though, overall I can see you’ve become much more careful to avoid making careless errors than you were at the beginning of the semester, which pleases me VERY much!!!)
  • X, did you copy-edit your introduction at all? It contains a huge number of careless spacing errors!!! L While I marked most (all?) cases of spaces you have missed in the first paragraph, this is a BIG problem throughout your introduction!!! L
    • X, did you copy-edit your data commentary at all? It contains a huge number of careless spacing errors!!! L While I marked most (all?) cases of spaces you have missed as well as most (all?) cases where your space is on the wrong side of a punctuation mark, your data commentary additionally contains numerous cases of excess spaces between words that I didn’t mark!!! L The presence of so many careless errors in your data commentary makes it very difficult for me to adequately draw your attention in my comments to the “easy-to-correct” errors that are likely to be real mistakes for you (i.e., due to a real lack of knowledge on your part) so that you can work on growing your understanding of English in these areas L L L
  • X, why is your paragraph’s indentation so inconsistent? (This, along with your inconsistent spacing overall, makes it look like you put minimal effort into writing your introduction, which makes me as the intended reader of your introduction feel very disrespected. If I weren’t your teacher, and therefore to be fair, must give your paper the same amount of time and effort I give the rest of your class, I would immediately throw out such a disrespectful paper without reading it!!! Especially since we’ve already repeatedly discussed in class how highly frequent careless errors are commonly interpreted as disrespectful in English writing contexts, I can only interpret your continued carelessness as demonstrating you truly do disrespect me!!! L L L As a result, I can’t help but feel angry — and I can basically guarantee your professor and any journal editor, etc., will feel the same way if you ever submit such a poorly written paper to them. Please, please, please — for the sake of your own future academic and professional success — be more careful about checking your English writing before giving it to others to read.

Counting a phrasing error as an easy-to-correct editing error *

  • X, I think I’m going to count this as a careless editing error rather than as a COCA-correctable phrasing error — because in fact, that’s what I think it really is (and because then I’ll need to reduce your final grade on this paper for only one category, not two! J)

Punctuation *

Overall praise *

Overall critique *

  • X, let’s talk about your comma usage. I see you keep repeating a few mistakes over and over.

Specific praise *

Specific critique *

  • Check this sentence’s ending punctuation.
  • X, please check this phrasing in COCA. What’s missing? J
  • X, you have expressed this very long and complex sentence using almost perfect English grammar/mechanics (except in the case of its several noun-related and easy-to-correct errors that I think are probably not real errors — made because of a real gap in your knowledge — but instead are probably the result of you not writing carefully enough). The one mistake in this sentence that I do think might be a real error is its missing comma — but you should be able to correct it if you think about the following question:

Apostrophes *

Possessives *
  • How can you show that these Internet users belong to developing countries? (Compare in COCA “* countries’ [n*]” to “[n*] in * countries”)
  • What punctuation mark does English require to be added to “each other” in order to show that the ideas belong to “each other”?
  • What punctuation mark does English require to mark possessives?
  • “their boss directives” should be either “their boss’ directives” (common in written English) or “their boss’s directives” (common in spoken English)
    • What’s the possessive form of the plural noun “bosses”?
    • Check this phrasing in COCA and Google – Is it missing something? (What’s the possessive form of the pronoun “it”?)
    • Do you mean the material’s (bioadvantaged bitumen) performance or the materials’ (involving “each material” from the previous sentence”) performance?
Contractions *

Commas *

Avoiding comma splices *
  • X, although comma splices — i.e., connecting two, usually closely related, sentences with a comma — are acceptable/required in some languages (including Spanish?), they’re considered errors in English. I’m afraid your introduction has a lot of comma splices. Please use the linked article to identify and correct them.
  • Please also check for capitalization errors, spelling errors, and punctuation errors, including comma splice errors (FYI: Although comma splices — i.e., connecting two, usually closely related, sentences with a comma — are acceptable/required in some languages [including Chinese], they’re considered errors in English. Neverthless comma splices are errors frequently made by native English speakers also, so native-English-speaking readers do vary in how serious a problem they consider comma splices to be.)
  • X, although comma splices — i.e., connecting two, usually closely related, sentences with a comma — are acceptable/required in some languages (including Chinese), they’re considered errors in English. Based on the second page of “comma splice” information linked above, how can you correct the comma splice error in your one-sentence summary using a semicolon?
Avoiding comma between subjects and verbs *
Avoiding commas between compound nouns, verbs, etc. *
Punctuating sentences containing coordinating conjunctions *
  • It would be helpful if you put a comma between the two “sentences” in this compound sentences, so readers don’t read (as I just did!) “affect the surface quality and the qualitative nature of inspection” — and then become totally confused when they get to the verb “poses” (What’s that verb doing here? This sentence doesn’t make sense”) and then they have to reread the sentence looking for another way of understanding it that logically includes the verb phrase “poses a further challenge” — Make sense?
  • Check COCA regarding how two sentences connected with “but” should be punctuated
    • Check COCA regarding how two sentences connected with “so” should be punctuated and capitalized
    • Check in COCA how sentences in written English that begin with “but” (only acceptable in informal English!) should be punctuated
Punctuating sentences containing subordinating conjunctions *
Punctuating sentences containing conjunctive adverbs *
Commas after introductory phrases *
  • Check in COCA – What punctuation mark usually follows long beginning-of-sentence prepositional phrases such as yours here beginning with “in”? (Monica, a high-quality, brief article on this topic needs to be written because after reviewing 10 pages of Google results for the search term “comma after introductory short vs long prepositional phrases,” the linked section from a Google book is ALL I could find that clearly and concisely explains English norms for this without students needing to search through a lot of junk on comma rules in general to get to the relevant point. . . .it would be nice if at the end of such an article, the author compared the comma guidelines for introductory prepositional phrases to the guidelines for other introductory elements in English.)
  • Check in COCA – What punctuation mark usually follows beginning-of-sentence adverbs such as “Generally”? (Compare the number of results for the [exact] COCA search term “. Generally *” that are and are not immediately followed by a punctuation mark. When is a punctuation mark needed and when isn’t it? (Also, check to see whether your findings are relevant in general to beginning-of-sentence “-ly” adverbs via the [exact] COCA search term “. *ly *” — I think you’ll find the results of these searches very informative! 😉 )
  • Check in COCA – What punctuation mark usually follows beginning-of-sentence phrases such as those whose first words are “According to”?
    • Check in COCA – What punctuation mark usually follows beginning-of-sentence phrases such as those whose first words are “According to”?
  • Check in COCA the exact search term “. After that” (including the period/full stop) to see what punctuation mark you’re missing here.
    • Check in COCA – what punctuation mark usually follows the phrase “as a result”?
    • Check in COCA – what punctuation mark usually follows the phrase “for example”?
    • Check in COCA the exact search term “. In contrast” (including the period/full stop) to see what punctuation mark you’re missing here.
    • Check in COCA – what punctuation mark usually follows the phrase “on the other hand”?
  • Check in COCA – what punctuation mark usually follows introductory “to” phrases?
  • X, check in COCA using the exact search term “[y*] otherwise [n*] [v*]”— what punctuation mark should precede “otherwise” in a sentence like yours?
  • X, what punctuation mark follows introductory “as” phrases according to the following COCA search? “. As the [n*] of [n*] is [v*]” (Be sure to include the introductory period/full stop in your COCA search, so that your COCA output includes only sentence-initial “as” phrases!)
  • I’ve noticed that you often omit the comma in introductory phrases, e.g. your sentence “As a matter of fact sometimes I do the same as you” should be “As a matter of fact, sometimes I do the same as you.” I’ll try to point out some other sentences where this is a problem, so you can see the pattern. . . .
  • Here are a few other sentences where you accidentally omitted the comma in introductory phrases:
    • To me, “break” and “brake” sound like homophones.
    • Without proofreading, I’m prone to have this kind of mistakes.
  • Here are a few more sentences where you’ve omitted the comma following the introductory phrase ☺:
    • Reading your post, I’ve realized that I do something similar.
    • In my case, I’ve changed the subtitles in my language for closed captions.
Commas to separate “interrupters” (nondefining/nonessential/nonrestrictive parenthetical elements) from the rest of a sentence *
Commas to set off end-of-sentence “addendum” (?) phrases *

Commas between list items *

Commas don’t necessarily replace all spoken pauses *

  • It’s true that if English speakers were to speak this sentence aloud, they would likely pause here. However, while basically all commas required in English occur at places where speakers are likely to pause, not all places speakers are likely to pause necessarily require a comma. You should only include a comma at a likely pause point if you know it’s required by some rule of English punctuation.

No commas should set off defining/essential/restrictive appositives or adjective (relative) clauses *

  • X, if you omitted the name of the specific database system you’re talking about here, there is no way we could know which specific system you’re referring to. When an appositive is thus essential to readers’ understanding, is it okay in English to include a comma separating the appositive from the noun it defines? (See https://www.englishgrammar101.com/module-8/verbals-and-phrases/lesson-9/restrictive-and-nonrestrictive-appositives to find out.)
  • X, we can’t know which specific case you’re talking about here without your “when the maximum mesh size remains the same and the minimum mesh size is increased” adjective clause description that lets readers know the limits of the specific case that you’re talking about. When an adjective clause description is thus essential to readers’ understanding of the limits of your topic, is it okay in English to include a comma separating the adjective clause from the noun it describes? (See http://www.cws.illinois.edu/workshop/writers/restrictiveclauses/ to find out.)

Commas in set phrases *

  • Compare in COCA the following two collocates searches:
    • The less the — less — 0 — 9
    • The less the — more — 0 — 9
    • The more the — more — 0 — 9
    • The more the — less — 0 — 9
    • What punctuation mark is this sentence missing?

Too many commas make a sentence hard to read *

  • Actually, although it’s awkward because your introductory clause (necessarily! ) includes commas, English speakers would use a comma here, not a semicolon (Though you’re right that a semicolon is used to substitute for a comma in a list when list items contain sentence-internal commas!) If possible, rearranging your sentence would be the ideal solution for avoiding this awkwardness — but honestly, I’m not sure that’s possible, given the intended focus of your sentence. What do you think?

 

Hyphens *

Compound adjectives should be hyphenated *
  • “life time” should be hyphenated because these two words combine together to produce a single description of the following noun “ambition.” See About.com’s easy explanation of this for more information.
  • According to standard “general English” norms, your “second order” should be hyphenated because these two words combine together to produce a single description of the following noun “variations.” See About.com’s easy explanation of this for more information. However, please do check whether people in your field follow this guideline for this particular technical term before you change your punctuation of it!
  • Because “area” here is in fact short for “area-efficient,” it needs to be followed by a hyphen (i.e., “Area- and power-efficient techniques”)
  • “three pass” should be hyphenated (as you correctly punctuated it earlier in your data commentary☺) because these two words combine together to produce a single description of the following noun “sample.” See About.com’s easy explanation of this for more information: http://grammar.about.com/od/c/g/compadjterm.htm)
Most prefixed words are not hyphenated *
  • Check in COCA — are nouns beginning with the prefix “mis-” generally hyphenated or not hyphenated?

Hyphenation of time ranges *

No hyphen between qualifying adverb and the adjective it qualifies *

  • X, check in COCA the exact search term “one of the most *ly” to figure out whether your hyphen between the adverb “widely” and adjective “used” is necessary

 

Dashes *

  • FYI: You can type an “em dash” by holding down the “Alt” key while typing the numbers 0151 J

Periods/full stops *

  • The abbreviation “dept.” is usually spelled out as “department” whenever it’s used in complete sentences, e.g. in emails. Only when used in merely a phrase (e.g. in a CV) is it usually abbreviated — Make sense?
    • That is a splendid question! Actually, although I’ve never seen two periods used in a row at the end of a sentence, I had to look up whether there’s actually a RULE about this. (I’ve always just avoided looking to see whether there’s a rule before by rearranging my sentence or by spelling out my abbreviation at the end of a sentence, e.g. by using “the United States” instead of “the U.S.” to end my sentence!) However, your question made me VERY curious, so I finally looked it up. All the resources I read said NOT to use two periods. The period ending the abbreviation also counts as the period belonging to the end of the sentence. Here’s the best explanation of the rule I found:http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/ending-sentence-abbreviation
  • In English, the title of an article at the beginning of the article and the title of a section at the beginning of an article section are not generally followed by period/full stop. Please check your discipline’s style manual to see what the norms are for your field.
    • Are titles of journal articles, theses, or dissertations followed by a period/full stop when they are not in a reference list?
    • Your period/full stop here is in the wrong place. . . .you should locate your in-text citation of sources from which you derived a sentence’s information inside the sentence, i.e. your period/full stop for that sentence should follow your in-text citation, not precede it.
    • Your period/full stop for the preceding sentence should be located just after the this closing parenthesis,  as described above.
    • X, what happened to your final sentence’s full stop/period?

Quotation marks *

Quotation mark praise *
  • I’m very impressed that you know how to use scare quotes correctly. Wow!!!
Quotation mark critique *
  • X, in English, state and other place names are not put in quotation marks, as I’m sure you’ll quickly see if you read a few news articles or research articles in your field that specify the local region for whatever’s being studied J
  • X, here the words “Working” and “Others” are categories — they’re not being used to express what they normally mean. That is, “Working” here doesn’t express  “[He/she is] working” — it expresses one of the table’s category labels. Similarly, “Other” here isn’t an adjective — it also is a category label, i.e., a noun. To make this clear, words that are used as categories are usually italicized or set off via quotation marks (as you correctly did in your second-to-last paragraph ☺). (See http://www.sussex.ac.uk/informatics/punctuation/quotes/about and http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2015/04/using-italics-for-technical-or-key-terms.html and for more information)
Punctuation inside vs. outside quotation marks *
  • X, only one period/full stop should be used here. The U.S. grammar rules regarding on which side of the quotation mark you should locate that period/full stop are inconveniently contradictory to the grammar rules of the rest of the English-speaking world L. However, because I see you’re following the non-U.S. pattern, I think I should let you know (in case your professor corrects you on this — or wants you to correct it!) that: “In the United States, periods and commas go inside quotation marks regardless of logic.” (quoted from http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/marks/quotation.htm) That is, according to U.S. punctuation guidelines, you should actually write, “X.” — with the period/full stop inside the final quotation mark.
  • Also, this isn’t very important because it deals with something where U.S. grammar rules and the grammar rules of the rest of the English-speaking world are contradictory. However, because I see you’re consistently following the non-U.S. pattern, I think I should let you know (in case your professor corrects you on this — or wants you to correct it!) that: “In the United States, periods and commas go inside quotation marks regardless of logic.” (quoted from http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/marks/quotation.htm) That is, according to U.S. punctuation guidelines, you should actually write, “X,” — with the comma inside the final quotation mark. In other posts of yours, according to U.S. guidelines, you should have written:
    • In my first-day writing exercise, I wrote “Some causes that might helped the increase in the tuition.
    • In my first-day writing exercise, I wrote ” X has been somewhat stable….

However, because the rest of the English-speaking world is more logical about this ☺, I don’t plan to “correct” it in your future writing:

  • In the United Kingdom, Canada, and islands under the influence of British education, punctuation around quotation marks is more apt to follow logic. In American style, then, you would write: My favorite poem is Robert Frost’s “Design.” But in England you would write: My favorite poem is Robert Frost’s “Design”. (again quoted from http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/marks/quotation.htm) — I just wanted you to know what U.S. rules are for this in case you get “in trouble” with your professor or a future editor about it. ☺
Single vs. double quotation marks *

Colons: *

  • What punctuation mark do you need here? Can you figure out why? (Here’s a clue!) (Monica, is this the best resource to link to for this?)

Parentheses *

  • Is this a parenthetical definition of the Ginzburg-Landau (GL) model? If yes, shouldn’t it be in parentheses?

Capitalization Errors *

  • Is there a reason this word is capitalized when the other non-initial words in your title are not?
  • You capitalize all “major words” in the titles of all the other journals you cite, so I think you’re making a capitalization mistake here
  • Aren’t the title of newspapers capitalized in English?
  • The only (very minor!) comment I need to make is that although it’s true that the table capitalized the first word of each item it includes, the items it lists aren’t normally capitalized when they’re embedded in the middle of a sentence J
  • You’ve uncovered a tricky area of English. ☺ Although some rules of English capitalization are quite reliable, some aren’t. I just checked five different online resources regarding capitalization and none of them addressed your question at all! I then checked seven textbooks I have on research writing to see whether they capitalized the parts of a research paper and discovered that some did and some didn’t. (Interestingly, even different textbooks I have that happen to be written by the same authorial team differ in whether or not they capitalize the names of the parts of a research paper! Another of my textbooks differed in its capitalization of the parts of a research paper even in the same paragraph! [That is bad, though!!! Where multiple options are okay, the one rule that DOES apply is “Be consistent”!!!]) So I’m afraid I can’t give you a clear answer. I can just say that most of my resources (and my own preference is to) go ahead and capitalize the names of different parts of a research paper. (I think because inside research papers, these various parts of the paper are usually capitalized because they’re the title of article subsections). Thanks for the very interesting question ☺

Spelling Errors *

(My hypothesis regarding the “error gravity” of spelling errors, but I don’t know of empirical research demonstrating this: Spelling errors can be serious with people of higher status or people you don’t know very well when they’re apparently the result of either genuine incompetence or laziness. They tend to be less serious in quick peer-to-peer communications when they’re apparently the result of your having prioritized speed over accuracy or in the case of “understandable” errors, e.g. homophone mispellings — though they can still be serious in peer-to-peer communication if they’re apparently the result of genuine incompetence!)

“Serious” spelling errors:

  • Also, can you please be more careful in checking your spelling in your writing for my class? Thanks!

Your message above contains several typos that are clearly typos (vs. spelling mistakes made because you don’t know how to spell a word). In the U.S. context (and especially in the U.S. professional and academic contexts), the presence of lots of careless typos in emails is likely to make your recipients feel you disrespect them. That will definitely hurt their impression of you both personally and professionally!

Many Americans haven’t thought through why they feel this way, so they’d have a hard time explaining it. However, my hypothesis is that Americans tend to assume “lots of typos = disrespect” because we feel that lots of typos means a writer doesn’t think his/her readers are worth even the minimal time required to check and fix these easily-correctable mistakes! Thus, we conclude  “lots of typos = disrespect for one’s readers.” Make sense?

Monica

P.S. I should let you know that occasional typos are generally accepted in American email communication since it’s recognized that basically everyone is busy, so it’s sometimes hard to check one’s messages very carefully before sending them!)

  Mispelling names

  • Please check your spelling more carefully. It’s considered disrespectful in the American context to misspell someone’s name with a misspelling that’s sooooooooooo different from the correct spelling — make sense?
  • Please  verify that you’ve spelled Shanon’s name correctly. (I’ve never seen the spelling “Shanon” before, though I’ve seen the spelling “Shannon” many times — so I’m a little concerned you might be misspelling his/her name! As you can probably guess, misspelling someone’s name communicates you don’t respect them enough even at the most basic level of learning to spell their names, which obviously has potential to damage your relationship with them. However, other than this possible error, your email has no capitalization, spelling or punctuation errors at all☺— Great job!
  • Did you accidentally misspell your own name?!?
  • Please check your spelling of this (your home!) region.

Misspelling technical terms

  • X, please check your spelling of this technical term.
  • X, I’m afraid that technical term misspellings in one’s writing suggests to readers not only that one’s English needs to be improved, but far more seriously, that in fact, one really knows little or nothing about the topic one’s writing about. This, of course, leads readers to distrust whatever you’ve written. Therefore, although you made only one other (very understandable!) error in this category, I feel I have no choice but to take off all points for this category L. I’m so sorry! Please be very careful to fix this problem in your revision!

Inconsistent spellings

  • You’re not spelling this word consistently throughout your paper
  • Also, be careful of your spelling of the word “field.” Sometimes you spelled it correctly, but twice you spelled it as “filed” — because “filed” is also a real word, that misspelling has potential to be particularly confusing to readers.

Potentially “less serious” spelling errors

Probably typos:

  • Be careful not to mix up the spellings of “form” and “from”
  • Is this “P” a typo or is it intentional?

One-word spellings vs. two-word spellings vs. hyphenated spellings

  • Check in COCA — are nouns beginning with the prefix “mis-” generally hyphenated or not hyphenated?
  • Google the following search term (including the quotation marks to limit your results to this exact phrasing): “inter class separability” — Is this its preferred spelling/punctuation?
  • “Biodegradable” is now such a common term in English that most English speakers no longer hyphenate it, but instead treat it as a single, joined word. Therefore, unless your target publication journal requires you to use the older, hyphenated form, I think you can safely use the single word spelling also

Confusing words:

  • Do you mean the verb “affect” or the verb “effect”?
  • P.S. FYI: The spelling is actually “break the ice,” not “brake the ice” — Sorry that English spelling is so confusing!
  • X, doublecheck your spelling of the contraction of “it is”
  • X, check for a missing word in this sentence as well as regarding your punctuation of “masters
  • I sometimes make spelling mistakes with homophones, too — for the same reason ☹. In English (although I think not in Spanish because your spelling is so much more predictable than ours), that’s part of why editing is so important for written communication in a professional context (even though it really is a pain!)
  • What’s the (irregular) plural form of the English word “phenomenon”?

POS mix-ups:

  • X, is “social” a noun?

Accidentally doubling words: Be careful of doubled words in your writing, e.g. “your your.” Such errors make it look like you were careless in your writing. . . . especially in formal writing.

Spacing Errors *

  • X, frequent spacing errors such as in your email above indicate to readers that you don’t believe they’re worth your taking the few minutes it takes to check and correct even easy-to-correct errors. This is probably not the impression you want to give when writing professional emails, particularly when writing to people of higher status whom you do not know very well — Make sense?
  • Compare your spacing at the beginning of this paragraph to your spacing at the beginning of your first paragraph — actually, pay attention to your spacing generally. This appears frequently to be an issue for you.
  • Your spacing for the name of this software needs to be consistent!
  • Why is there an extra space between these paragraphs different than that between your other paragraphs?

Italics *

  • Italics are required for most foreign words, but not necessarily common Latin scientific terms: http://www.enago.com/blog/when-latin-becomes-english-italics-become-obsolete/
    • X, you’re right that “foreign” words are generally italicized in English, but even though “et al.” is from Latin originally, most style manuals indicate it has become so common in English that italics are no longer needed. Therefore, I advise that you check the style manual commonly used in your fields and/or the style requirements of whatever journal you’re hoping to publish in
  • When you’re defining a term, italicize the term (or put it in quotation marks, depending on the style manual used in your field or by your target publication journal)
  • X, here the words “Working” and “Others” are categories — they’re not being used to express what they normally mean. That is, “Working” here doesn’t express  “[He/she is] working” — it expresses one of the table’s category labels. Similarly, “Other” here isn’t an adjective — it also is a category label, i.e., a noun. To make this clear, words that are used as categories are usually italicized or set off via quotation marks (as you correctly did in your second-to-last paragraph ☺). (See http://www.sussex.ac.uk/informatics/punctuation/quotes/about and http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2015/04/using-italics-for-technical-or-key-terms.html and for more information)
  • In English, TV program names are generally italicized

Formatting/Styling *

  • Do you think writing out the numbers “one” and “two” in these labels will be clearer/easier for your readers to understand than your just using the numerals “1” and 2″? Or are you writing out these numbers as words because that’s what’s required by 1) your field’s preferred style manual or 2) your target journal’s style requirements?
  • X, although I can tell by the quality of your writing that you wrote this summary VERY carefully J, visually — because of this sudden change in font size/style — it looks like you wrote this paragraph quite carelessly. This is probably not the impression you want to give as a professional/academic writer, right?
  • X, in whatever software you used to write your research article introduction, your default font settings are apparently something like DengXian Regular (Body). This font is undoubtedly fine when you’re writing in Chinese, but because it is a monospaced font (它是等宽字体。”), it doesn’t work well for English (since it inserts unnatural spacing around the apostrophe in English contractions such as “doesn’t”). Therefore, whenever you write in English, please change your font settings to some English-appropriate font, e.g., Times New Roman. Make sense?

 


Plagiarism *

  • Plagiarized from [URL]
  • Plagiarized from the subsection “Importance of reverse logistics” at X (or some other similar definitional source)

 

General comments: *

Not knowing the academic and technical language you need to is a common problem. I know when I took an oral Chinese exam a few years ago, I got a relatively bad score because I only know (some!) Chinese appropriate to speaking it with friends. I didn’t know how to be appropriately polite in Chinese during the “visa officer interview” I needed to pretend to do for the exam.

We’ll be working in 101D on how to communicate in an appropriately formal way and I’ll try to point out anything I notice in your major 101D assignments that’s too informal/nontechnical. If you can’t think of a more formal alternative, check out thesaurus.com for ideas, and check out the ideas in COCA so you know they really ARE appropriate to your context. Building the ability to automatically speak English in a standard way obviously takes time, but being very intentional about applying my feedback not only in the current paper but also by thinking about whether or not you think it’s likely you might make this mistake in the future, and if so, adding it to a checklist you can use when self-editing future papers before you turn them in. . . .make sense? (Also, paying attention to when other people say things differently than how you would is helpful, especially if you are comfortable enough with them to ask if the way you’d naturally say it is also an option or if it’s incorrect.)

Anyway, I hope you’ll find our 101D class helpful!

I have a similar problem in Chinese as you describe in English: Using informal oral language when I should be using polite formal Chinese and also translating from English.☹

  • Even native English speakers find the GRE difficult because they don’t know all the GRE vocabulary, etc., so it makes sense international students do, too.

Growing one’s knowledge of and automaticity in using standard English grammar *

  • I do know that most of my students really want to work on their vocabulary and grammar and this is really important to me. Please work very hard on the COCA assignments (and also read carefully any articles I link to on grammar topics in my feedback to you). . . .if you do this, I think I can guarantee you will be a lot more proficient and also more confident in your English vocabulary and grammar (and you’ll know how to find answers to many of your English vocabulary and grammar questions by yourself). . . .On the other hand, if you don’t do this, I think you probably won’t make very much progress at all in our class in your vocabulary and grammar. . . .and that would be very sad, especially given your future academic goals!!!
  • I hope our COCA Discovery assignments help you become much more proficient and confident in self-correcting your grammar errors, since you said you think that’s a major problem in your writing ☺
  • Avoiding direct translation from one’s native language into English *

    You probably know this, but actually the problem you describe of always translating from Chinese when writing in English is a problem faced by all of us when learning any foreign language. I have a similar problem in Chinese as you describe in English: Using informal oral language when I should be using polite formal Chinese and also translating from English.☹

I’m sure this is not your meaning, but the sentence “I like your previous projects” suggests “but I don’t like your current project(s).” One way you could more clearly express what I believe is your actual meaning is “I really like the kinds of projects you do.”

  • The phrasing “there is a possibility I would really consider it” makes it sound in English like there is also a significant possibility that you wouldn’t consider it (which, considering the status difference between you and the professor, might easily be viewed negatively, i.e. “If I offer him a position, he should want it.”) In future emails, therefore, you’ll want to put extra focus on avoiding giving a negative impression, especially in the case of high-stakes emails like this one.

 Feedback Master (Vocabulary and Grammar)


Comments

Feedback Master — No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *