At FastProof we proofread lots of university papers written by students from overseas. They manage to study in an unfamiliar language, and we do our best to improve their grammar without influencing their content.
The topic is always interesting even if unfamiliar. In the last year proofreading has kept me well informed about housing in Mongolia, dairy farming in Brazil, the colonisation of Tonga, the construction of microwave conduits and the role of design in the restoration of Iraq.
One develops a relish for quickly absorbing new topics. Regrettably, most of the information the proofreader absorbs leaks out almost as fast as it went in. Or maybe that’s useful, because I don’t need to retain all that information for the proofreading.
In dealing with the “foreign” use of English, one encounters all kinds of grammatical constructions — unconventional, plain wrong or full-on wacky. English can be infinitely and divertingly mangled, and we can find ourselves smiling at the expressions they concoct.
Then I set to work dismantling the curious concoction. I constructed this communicative contrivance to depict and describe the problem of difficult passages. It seems apt: