On “Good” Language Use

Blogging to Share Knowledge

Language ‘mistakes’ should be blamed on the language more than the speaker.”

A while ago, I was reading a technical article. It was well-written and engaging. Then, I saw a line like the following:

We want to document programmer learnings while using this system.

I wasn’t bothered by this. So English wasn’t the first language of the author. The paper was perfectly understandable, and this minor mistake didn’t distract from the content. But it still got me thinking about why this was a mistake and what the author might have been thinking when he made it.

The author understood the verb – to learn, and understood gerunds – that adding ING to a verb can turn it into a noun. Therefore, he logically applied this process and made the result plural. The problem is, this didn’t quite work for the same reason that so many attempts to apply…

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