I try to write some scientific text. The sentence I wrote does not sound good to me, and also MS Word gives me this green line to consider the sentence again. In general I don't have any specific question about grammar but I don't know how to correct the sentence or even if it really should be corrected.

Can I post my sentence on ELL and ask:

  • If it is grammatically correct?

  • If the sentence is understandable?

  • If the sentence can be written in a better way?

If this is not appropriate or to narrow, is there any way to get help with the specific sentence?

To be fully clear, the example of the sentence is:

"When the survey platform is moving on the path which is not perpendicular, all three components of the magnetic field (MF) source change together with the boat’s movement. As the platform moves from point P_0 to P_1 by vector m(m^((x)),m^((y)),m^((z))=0), the source of MF moves by projection of the vector m into the vector of the direction of the cable d(d^((x)),d^((y)),d^((z)))."

I found similar question but I'm not sure if the general question about sentences is allowed.

  • Since you were kind enough to ask on meta before posting, I'll give you a run-down of what's up with that sentence anyway: 1) "is moving on the path which is not perpendicular" Have you referred to the path which is not perpendicular earlier in the text, as a specific path? If not, and this can be any path in general which is perpendicular, you would say a path, not the path. 2) This might be my lack of scientific understanding here, but "moves by projection of the vector m into the vector of the direction of the cable" sounds off to me. Is it correct terminology to say (cont'd)
    – WendiKidd
    Jun 5, 2013 at 23:44
  • 1
    something moves by projection? If so then that's fine, but if it's not specific terminology to your field, there's something off about that. Also I'm not sure you can move into a vector. Also check again if that's specific terminology; if it isn't, it's odd English. 3) It's redundant to say "the vector of the direction of the cable". A vector is the direction (and magnitude) of something. So just say the vector of the cable (or even the cable's vector).
    – WendiKidd
    Jun 5, 2013 at 23:46
  • It might be my lack of scientific understanding too, but I kinda suspect the "non-perpendicular paths" bit might be more normally expressed as not (falling) straight down (under the influence of gravity). Not that you'd ever expect a boat to fall down/move perpendicularly, so I'm still baffled as to why it needs to be mentioned that it isn't. Jun 6, 2013 at 4:07
  • 1
    MS Word tells me the first sentence is a fragment. MS Word is wrong. ... I'd say projection of vector m onto the vector ... Jun 6, 2013 at 23:09

2 Answers 2


Unfortunately questions which are strictly proofreading are Off Topic here on ELL. If you did have a specific question about the sentence, or an idea about what might be wrong, or MS word had given you a specific correction you didn't understand, the question would be appropriate. But if you're just wondering, in general, if anything is wrong with the sentence, that falls under Proofreading and is not allowed.

When you have a question like this, consider: is there anything in the sentence that you specifically think might be wrong, and do you have a reason for thinking so? You don't have to be right, you just have to have a specific problem you'd like us to address. One problem is enough; if you post a question asking about one aspect of the sentence and there is an error somewhere else, answerers are going to point this out to you. So the moral of the story is: if you have a specific, constructive question to ask about the sentence, we're going to go ahead and check the rest of it for you anyway. Just make sure you have that question first!

Hope that helped; if I missed something you're concerned about or you have any other questions, please let me know! (As a side note, I'm pretty sure the reason MS Word is freaking out about this sentence in particular is all the coding notation. The MS Word grammar checker is not magical; it makes lots of mistakes. If it can't understand you, it's going to flag it. That doesn't always mean you've done something wrong.)

  • 1
    The way the O.P. presented the question here doesn't sound like proofreading to me. Proofreading is, "I wrote this, what do you think? Does this look okay to you? How might I improve it?" However the O.P. is not asking that, the O.P. is asking instead, "This sentence doesn't sound right to me; moreover, MS Word is telling me it might be grammatically unsound. Can someone explain where the error might be?" I wouldn't classify that as proofreading; that's seeking help for a real-world problem that we face.
    – J.R. Mod
    Jun 8, 2013 at 10:35
  • I use lang-8.com for this kind of proofreading. (I am not associated with them) Jun 12, 2013 at 7:57

Can I post my sentence on ELL and ask:

If it is grammatically correct?

  • Yes, but only if you're careful to qualify where you think the error might be, or why you think there might be an error.

If the sentence is understandable?

  • I wouldn't ask this question by itself, but it might be a legitimate follow-on question if you're asking about something very specific.

If the sentence can be written in a better way?

  • You don't usually need to ask this explicitly; when ELL members can think of a better way to say something, they'll often incorporate that into their answer.

There are some gray areas here, but I think the most important factor in whether or not your question is considered off-topic is how well you've presented the question. If you make it specific, as opposed to leaving it open-ended, you've got a much better shot at success.

My best advice is to put as much effort into the question as you can. Proofreading is considered off-topic because we don't want this to become a place where scores of students are treating ELL like a free editing service.

I've said this before; check out how Yoishi asks questions on ELU (like this one). His questions are invariably lengthy, filled with statements such as "I looked this up in the dictionary, and the dictionary said..." or "I think this is a similar expression..." When reading one of his questions, it is very evident that this is a user who has done a lot of research already, and is courteous enough to include all those findings in a carefully crafted question. This is clearly a person who is truly curious, a person who understands their role in the Exchange process, not a person who is not asking merely to earn rep points, or take the easy way out.

The community can be a helpful community, but I've found we tend to be more helpful toward those who put a lot of effort into researching their questions, as opposed to those who ask questions flippantly. I believe that's fair, too – if I'm not willing to invest time in writing my question, why should I expect others to invest their time answering it?

  • 1
    J.R., yes, and other than Yoishi's exemplary questions, you might cite, as a good and tangible example of what you say, this question and its flippant form.
    – user114
    Jun 8, 2013 at 15:36

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