Language Tip 26 (2014-15)

Present vs. represent

The verb “to present” can mean either “give” or “introduce” and is used with an object. When you want to say “to be,” however, the word to use is “represent” (and what follows is a subject complement).

Incorrect: “The sun imagery in the poem presents warmth.”
Correct: “The sun imagery in the poem represents warmth.”

Incorrect: “Allow me to represent John, who’s a good friend of mine.”
Correct: “Allow me to present John, who’s a good friend of mine.”

Also check out slang uses of represent: and…/represent.

All tips to date…


Language Tip 25 (2014-15)

Reflections on “reflect”

Remember to use “reflect” in the passive or with a reflexive pronoun when you mean “is manifested” or “is shown”:

Incorrect: “The mood of the poem reflects in the sombre diction.”
Correct: “The mood of the poem reflects itself in the sombre diction.”
Correct (and somewhat more elegant): “The mood of the poem is reflected in the sombre diction.”

Your safest bet is the passive as this is the more common option – Google, for instance, returns some 25 million hits for “is reflected” compared to 92,000 for “reflects itself”.

Jason Blake and Monika Kavalir


Language Tip 24 (2014-15)

[comma!] etc.

Be sure to add a comma before “etc.”

Example 1: “We bought bread, cheese, ham, etc.”

Also be sure NOT to italicize “etc.”

Example 2: See Example 1.

As well, be sure to add a comma AFTER “etc.” if your sentence does not end.

Example 3: “We bought bread, cheese, ham, etc., but then forgot them all at the supermarket counter.”

Jason Blake and Monika Kavalir


Language Tip 23 (2014-15)


English has always been adept at converting parts of speech – that is, making a noun function as a verb, or having what looks like a verb do the work of an adjective.

Though especially noun-verbs can scrape our ears on first hearing, we generally get used to them (think of “to task,” “to gift,” and “to friend”).

And yet… before converting parts of speech, verify whether there is a ready substitute.

For example, even though the verb “to higher” exists, it is so rare the majority of English speakers would probably claim there’s no such thing. You can raise (sic) your essay grade by avoiding “to higher.”

Jason Blake and Monika Kavalir


Language Tip 22 (2014-15)

raise vs. rise.

Both verbs have to do with growing, but RAISE is transitive (“Raising children is difficult”), while RISE is intransitive (“Prices have risen again.”).

Jason Blake and Monika Kavalir


Language Tip 21 (2014-15)


“Research” is normally a non-countable noun and you can live a full and happy life without ever writing “researches.”

Some use it in the plural to mean “separate scientific investigations” but others (including the writers of these weekly tips) find “researches” very strange. If possible, it is therefore better to use just research, especially when you mean it in a very general way – e.g. “Research has shown…”

As you know, “study” is a regular ol’ count noun:

“A study has shown…”

“Studies have shown…”

Jason Blake and Monika Kavalir

An ad hoc list of all tips from this academic year is available at:


Language Tip 20 (2014-15)

Spot the mistake in this sentence: “That is a belief in which we do not believe in.”

The mistake? A prepositional doubling-up (“That is a belief IN which we do not believe IN.”).

Other frequent examples:

“The theory of which we have been informed of.”
“The cousin with whom I went to the beach with.”

No great solutions here – just be vigilant!

Here are two links on the matter:…/plenary-session-david-cr……/on-world-in-which-we-li…

Jason Blake and Monika Kavalir


Language Tip 19 (2014-15)


The verb to age has to do with growing older, but the implication is generally that the person should be relatively close to old age (i.e. children don’t normally “age”) and that it is showing in their looks.

Both “aging” and “ageing” are acceptable spellings.

“Aging” is the more usual spelling in the US, while “ageing” appears to be more frequent in the UK.

In the past, Yorkshire children were taught to write “ageing,” while New Yorkers were taught to write “aging.”

From The New York Times: “An Aging Europe in Decline”

From The Guardian: “We know the population is ageing – now we must embrace the challenge”

Jason Blake and Monika Kavalir


Language Tip 18 (2014-15)

Visit vs. attend.

Here’s an easy way to remember the difference between “to visit” and “to attend”:

To visit means to go to some place or person to spend some time there, usually in your free time.
e.g. “Why don’t you come for a visit?”

When you go somewhere on a regular basis or for a more or less official purpose, we use the verb to attend (school, a funeral, a meeting).

e.g. “I was unable to attend the funeral because I was attending school.”

Jason Blake and Monika Kavalir


Language Tip 17 (2014-15)

The slash…

Try not to use it to separate synonyms:

“I went into the woods and saw a giant/huge toad.”

A sentence like that leaves the reader wondering:

1) What is there a difference between “giant” and “huge”?

2) If there is no great difference, why are both words needed?

3) Isn’t it the author’s job to choose the right word?

If you are signalling an alternative, remember that no space is needed before and after the slash (there are exceptions to this rule):

e.g. “he/she

Jason Blake and Monika Kavalir