English is the language of Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, and Neil Gaiman, to name but a few. It was (mostly) in English that the Beatles crooned their way into posterity and in English that man's first words were spoken on the moon.
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows, my God! how I loathed the thing!"
- said he who hauled Sam McGee's frozen corpse across the Yukon, in English
"My only regret is that I have but one life to lose for my country."
- said the unfortunate Nathan Hale, also in English
Some of the usual culprits include:
- Saying "compared to" instead of "than". Example: Musicians showed superior performance on the task compared to non-musicians. It gets better when they try to fit multiple comparisons this way into a single sentence. If they said 'musicians performed better on the task than non-musicians', I would only have to read it once.
- Unbalanced comparisons. Example: Musicians showed better performance during the pitch perception condition. Better than who? Elves? The Pope? Frodo Baggins? Or did the musicians perform better during the pitch perception condition than during the pitch imagery condition?
- "Methodology" instead of "methods". Methodology is the study of methods. You did not use a methodology in your experiment; you used a method.
- "The question of [insert two-word phrase] has received little attention in the literature." I can't think of a single question worth researching that can be expressed in two words. Articulation is not a question. Neither is piano performance. In fact, articulation in piano performance isn't a question either.
- "Firstly". A word that should never be used. Likewise, "importantly" and "interestingly".
It's disheartening to find so many academics producing sub-optimal written work. How does a person complete 20 or so years of schooling - with alleged flying colours - and not know how to use a comma? And perhaps more important, how are their students going to learn when their professors don't know to correct them?
They use the wrong preposition in order to avoid saying "of" twice in the same sentence. They misplace commas and randomly-disperse semi-colons. They use words that are 85% of the way to being the right ones. When Mark Twain said that "the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between a lightning and a lightning bug", sometimes I wonder whether he'd been reading psychology journals.