Show Posts

This section allows you to view all posts made by this member. Note that you can only see posts made in areas you currently have access to.

Topics - Joe Carillo

Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 198
May 17, 2024—PHINMA Education, one of the biggest private higher education networks in Southeast Asia, has launched the Hawak Kamay (HK) 5.5 Scholarship Program to improve access to quality college education. In its most inclusive program yet, qualified students will only pay Php5,500 per semester (exclusive of books and uniforms) for both Education and Business programs offered across eight schools in the PHINMA Education network. Additionally, HK5.5 is available for the Criminology program at PHINMA University of Pangasinan.

This scholarship redefines accessibility not only by eliminating barriers, such as entrance exams and maintaining grades but also by providing unprecedented levels of financial support to its students. Importantly, the student’s fee of P5,500 per semester will remain unchanged throughout the student’s college journey to maintain affordability despite inflation. The launch of HK5.5 coincides with PHINMA Education’s 20th year anniversary to be celebrated by nine schools in the Philippines and one in Indonesia.

Christopher Tan, Country Head of PHINMA Education Philippines, said: “At PHINMA Education, our commitment goes beyond mere accessibility; we are dedicated to guiding students every step of their journey, from enrollment to employment. Our goal is not only to provide quality education but to also help the more vulnerable students in the country believe that they can change the course of their lives. The pandemic may be over, but serious economic hardships remain. Inflation has gone up, driven by increases in food and transportation costs. Especially during crises, schools have the responsibility to keep education accessible. We need to constantly find ways to reduce our costs so that we can reduce our fees.”

For two decades, PHINMA Education has provided hope through learning. With the new HK5.5, the network solidifies its commitment to social transformation by continuing the mission of making lives better through education.

The application for HK5.5 and other HK scholarship offerings for SY24-25 is ongoing. Students across the nation are encouraged to apply through this link:
PHINMA Education Holdings, Inc. (PEHI) under the conglomerate PHINMA Corporation, started investing in the education services sector in 2004 through the acquisition of PHINMA Araullo University in Nueva Ecija. It has since expanded its presence across the country with its network of schools namely: PHINMA Cagayan de Oro College, PHINMA University of Pangasinan, PHINMA University of Iloilo, Southwestern University PHINMA in Cebu City, PHINMA Saint Jude College in Manila and Quezon City, PHINMA Rizal College of Laguna, and PHINMA Union College of Laguna. It also aims to expand across Southeast Asia beginning with Horizon University in Karawang, West Java, Indonesia. For more information, please visit:


Simply click the web links to the 15 featured English grammar refreshers and general interest stories this week along with selected postings published in the Forum in previous years:

1. Essay by Jose A. Carillo: “The perils of sweeping generalizations”


2. Use and Misuse: “Pitfalls in constructing negative used to sentences”

THE AMERICAN ENGLISH PRESCRIPTION FOR “USED TO” USAGE                                     

3. You Asked Me This Question: “The problem with overellipted sentence constructions”

4. Students’ Sounding Board: “How to identify what’s wrong in a sentence construction test”

5. Students’ Sounding Board: “‘All’ can actually mean ‘totality,’ ‘everything,’ or even ‘nothing’”

6. Getting to Know English: “Revisiting the 'who'/'whom' grammar conundrum”

7. Education and Teaching: “Taylor Swift studies surging in North America akin to the 1990s Madonna-ology ”


8. Advocacies: “Deliberately and intentionally miseducating the Filipino,” a critique by Forum Contributor Antonio Calipjo Go of a 2015 DECS textbook

9. Language Humor At Its Finest: “Memorable quotes from famous celebrities of yesteryears”

10. Time Out From English Grammar: “Measuring up to the human body’s perfection in architectural terms”

11. You Asked Me This Question: “How do litotes and the double negative differ?”  

12. Essay by Jose Carillo (A Retrospective): Verbal fallacies nearer home”

13. Your Thoughts Exactly: "A Prayer to St. Jude," Retrospective Essay by Angel Casillan, Forum Contributor

14. Going Deeper Into Language: "Subordinate clauses don't always play second fiddle to main clauses”

15. The Forum Lounge: “'Pun-ography' is wordplay to make you smile”

Essays by Joe Carillo / The perils of sweeping generalizations
« on: May 15, 2024, 02:58:27 PM »
A common pitfall in writing is to mistake possibility or simple probability for certainty. Either from faulty grammar or faulty thinking, writers can unknowingly make sweeping generalizations—statements that assert too much on too little evidence. They thus overstate their case and undermine the very argument they are making.

Consider this opening statement of a recent advice column: “Your greatest weakness is the one that you are unaware of. Because you do not know that it exists, you become vulnerable to the one who spots it.” By using the superlative “greatest” without qualification, this statement makes an assertion that can’t be possibly proven. Being unaware of a weakness doesn’t necessarily make it one’s greatest weakness; more likely, one’s greatest weakness would be the weakness that one actually suffers from and is fully aware of. The premise thus proves logically indefensible. 

                                                  IMAGE CREDIT: PROWRITINGAID.COM

Here’s a simple grammar fix that can straighten the logic of such sweeping generalizations—qualify their premise as a possibility instead of an absolute certainty. See how the modal “could” efficiently eliminates the sweeping generalization from the statement above: “Your greatest weakness could be the one that you are unaware of. Because you do not know that it exists, you become vulnerable to the one who spots it.” Depending on the degree of possibility or conditionality, of course, the modals “can,” “may,” and “might” can also be used to qualify such statements.

Logic is likewise violated when conditional statements are made to appear like absolute truths. Take this lead sentence of a recent newspaper feature story: “Did you know that the country’s top chefs get their ingredients from Farmers Market in the Araneta Center in Cubao?” Although the story cites six Metro Manila-based chefs as getting their ingredients from the same market, this statement turns out to be a sweeping generalization because (1) it makes the unwarranted general claim that the country’s top chefs get their ingredients from that market, and (2) it makes the gratuitous implication that the five chefs mentioned in the story are the country’s top chefs, although they are cited only as examples of Metro Manila chefs sourcing their ingredients from the same market.

Such breaches of logic can be avoided by properly qualifying words or phrases that imply totality. See how much more credible the statement above becomes when we use “many” to qualify “the country’s top chiefs”: “Did you know that many of the country’s top chefs get their ingredients from Farmers Market in the Araneta Center in Cubao?” But even this statement may still be too sweeping, for it can be argued that “five well-known Metro Manila chefs” is not synonymous to “many of the country’s top chiefs.” Here’s a more accurate restatement that probably stands a better chance of silencing all objectors: “Did you know that many of Metro Manila’s top chiefs get their ingredients from Farmers Market in the Araneta Center in Cubao?”

In face-to-face interactions, making sweeping generalizations may not be so harmful because our listeners will usually prompt us and give us the opportunity to qualify our statements until their intended meaning gets clear enough. When we make sweeping generalizations in writing, however, we risk being totally misunderstood or being deemed unreliable because the opportunity to qualify our ideas is no longer available.

We thus need to be very precise in stating our premises, arguments, and conclusions. In particular, we should be extra cautious with words that imply absoluteness or totality, such as “always,” “never,” “everyone,” “everybody,” “completely,” “totally,” and “constantly.” As the old saying goes, there’s always an exception to the rule, so we should make it a point never to make absolute statements without properly qualifying them.

When proving a point, we must also beware the all-too-common temptation to use “all” for “some” or “most,” “none” for “few” or “hardly anyone” or “hardly anybody,” “always” for “usually” or “frequently,” “surely” for “probably” or “perhaps,” and “never” for “rarely” or “seldom.” One single imprecise qualifier can throw our statements out of kilter. For instance, even allowing for literary license, the following lead statement in a recent personality feature (the subject’s identity has been changed) obviously oversteps the bounds of its argument: “All her life [italics mine], Jennifer del Mar wanted to be a schoolteacher to help her poor parents make ends meet.”

By using “all her life” as a qualifier, the statement risks inviting disbelief. The subject could not have wanted to be a schoolteacher “all her life”; at most, she must have started wanting to become one when she was already in grade school or high school. The statement gets a better temporal perspective with this more realistic qualifying phrase: “Even as a child, Jennifer del Mar already dreamed to be a schoolteacher so she could help her poor parents make ends meet.”

This essay first appeared in my “English Plain and Simple” column in The Manila Times and subsequently became Chapter 136 of my book Give Your English the Winning Edge, ©2009 and published by the Manila Times Publishing Corp.

Read this essay and listen to its voice recording in The Manila Times:
The perils of sweeping generalizations

(Next: At a loss for words)        May 23, 2024                                                                                         

Visit Jose Carillo’s English Forum, You can follow me on Facebook and X (Twitter) and e-mail me at


Simply click the web links to the 15 featured English grammar refreshers and general interest stories this week along with selected postings published in the Forum in previous years:

1. Getting To Know English Better: “Using nondiscriminatory English – Part 2”

2. Use and Misuse: “What are substantive and attributive clauses?”

3. You Asked Me This Question: “Is it advisable to drop ‘that’ from reported speech?”

4. Getting To Know English: “How many types of adverbial clauses are there in English?”

5. Essays by Jose A. Carillo: “Dealing with various levels of intransitivity”

6. Students’ Sounding Board: “An assortment of bewildering questions about English usage”

7. Your Thoughts Exactly: “Some tangled tropes that annoy me,” essay by Forum Member Isabel Escoda

8. Going Deeper Into Language: “The need to know the English idioms”

9. Language Humor At Its Finest: “24 boggling imponderables to think through”

10. Advice and Dissent Retrospective:  “A compelling alternative to Shakespeare's true identity was that he was a woman

11. Readings in Language: “Tagalog among top 5 most widely spoken non-English languages in the U.S. today”  

12. Time Out From English Grammar: “Two memorable and truly inspiring commencement speeches”

13. A Forum Lounge Open Dialogue (A Retrospective): “Religions and the basis for faith”

14. Time Out From English Grammar: “Focusing on three things all at once is courting information overload”

15. Essays by Jose A. Carillo: “English in a used jar”

Now let’s focus on the success of contemporary English in avoiding asymmetrical treatment of people on account of their age, ethnicity and social standing. To begin with, it is no longer socially and politically correct to label people past middle age as “the old,” “the aged,” or “septuagenarians”; they are more properly referred to now as “older people,” “seniors,” or “senior citizens.” In the same token, to call people in the lower age bracket as “youths,” “juveniles,” “adolescents,” “greenhorns,” or “neophytes” would be insensitive; the socially acceptable generic terms today are “young persons” and “young people.” Then, when referring to ethnic group members in negative situations, it is now unthinkable for the mainstream mass media to run a discriminatory headline like this: “Lithuanian [Polynesian, Armenian, Dane, Filipino, etc.] Nabbed in Miami Multinational Drug Bust.” The era of gratuitously stereotyping ethnic people for shock effect is long over.

Here in the Philippines, however, we are still prone to using dangerously unfair English-language stereotypes, particularly when referring to the disadvantaged sectors of our society. Take this recent headline of a leading national newspaper: “Old building collapses; 10 looters feared dead.”
The story reported: “Nasipit Mayor Enrico Corvera said most of the victims were scavengers looking for metals inside the dilapidated and concrete-walled building...when it collapsed at around 2 p.m. yesterday.” The headline categorically labeled those who died in the accident as “looters,” while the mayor simply identified them as “scavengers.”

A “looter,” by definition, is someone who “plunders or sacks in war,” or who “robs especially on a large scale and usually by violence or corruption”; a “scavenger,” on the other hand, is plainly “a garbage collector” or “a junk collector.” “Looting” is a criminal offense while “scavenging” is not, however lowly the occupation may appear, and no amount of headline-letter-count constraints can justify glossing over that difference in meaning. Because of the writer’s semantic ignorance, the victims have not only been killed owing to their poverty but were slandered even in death.

Avoiding unfairly focusing on irrelevant or discriminatory characteristics of people when describing them in negative situations. It’s obviously difficult for people to forego or curb the tendency to use derogatory language privately against their opponents or pet peeves. Human nature seems to be permanently wired for that. But to use blatantly discriminatory language in polite society or in the mass media is an altogether different matter. We have to avoid it not only in the interest of good taste and political correctness but also to avoid committing slander or libel.

Take this discriminatory reporting still prevalent in Philippine journalism: “Singer X was adjudged the ‘Female Vocalist of the Year’ award despite her diminutive size, being only 54 cm. on bare feet.” (What does her height got to do with her singing voice?) Or this spiel by a TV sports commentator: “The two runners performed in the 20K marathon like geriatrics just out of the hospital.” (In one fell swoop, this discriminatory remark slanders both the runners and ailing aged people in general.) And then this recent diatribe by a magazine columnist: “And when [Politician X], ever so slowly (and perhaps painfully), raised his arthritic right arm to emphasize a point, as we were taught to do in Ateneo elocution class, it was obvious to me that his target audience was the Living Dead.” (Deliciously wicked, that dig at “the Living Dead,” but the terribly unkind reference to Politician X’s pain in raising his supposedly arthritic right arm borders on the libelous, I think.)

Having taken a quick look at the progress English has made so far in fighting discriminatory language, we will now examine its hard-core grammar limitation that we already know so well, but which we must take pains to learn how to handle better: English has no gender-neutral pronoun for the third person singular, a quirk that forces it to use the generic masculine forms “he,” “him,” and “his” to refer to both men and women. We thus usually end up with discriminatory language that makes women invisible, like this: “The typical Filipino voter is a laborer who works in a factory, or a farmer who subsists in marginal farming. He has a wife who usually augments the family income with piecework or retail selling. Sometimes these roles are simply reversed.”

For gender equality, and also considering the fact that Filipino women slightly outnumber the men, it would be prudent for that statement to refer to the “Filipino” in the generic plural: “Majority of Filipinos are laborers who work in a factory, or farmers who subsist in marginal farming. They have spouses who usually augment the family income through piecework or retail selling.”

In sum, by being more discerning in our choice of words, we can truly make ourselves confidently and pleasantly nondiscriminatory in our English.

This is the continuation of my 1,631-word  essay with the original title “Using nondiscriminatory language” that formed Chapter 135 of my book Give Your English the Winning Edge, © 2009 and published by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

Read this part of the essay and listen to its voice recording in The Manila Times:
Using nondiscriminatory English – Part 2

(Next: The perils of sweeping generalizations)        May 16, 2024
Visit Jose Carillo’s English Forum, You can follow me on Facebook and X (Twitter) and e-mail me at


Simply click the web links to the 15 featured English grammar refreshers and general interest stories this week along with selected postings published in the Forum in previous years:

1. Getting to Know English Better: “Using nondiscriminatory English – Part 1”

2. You Asked Me This Question: “How to deal with long, complicated noun phrases”

3. Going Deeper Into Language: “When faulty logic overrides good grammar and semantics”

4. Getting to Know English: “When simple indicative sentences can’t drive home our point”

5. Use and Misuse Retrospective: “Why an object needn’t follow the verb ‘told’ every time”

6. You Asked Me This Question: “What the origin of the word ‘gaslighting’ is and other questions”

7. Your Thoughts Exactly: “Outrage over a wasted investment in English proficiency”

8. Readings in Language: “Knowing this sprinkling of 'pilot speak' might save a troubled aircraft”

9. Language Humor At Its Finest: “Five dozen amusing job descriptions”

10. Time Out From Grammar Retrospective: "Shakespeare the ‘hard-headed businessman’ uncovered"

11. Time Out From English Grammar: “Thomas Edison’s greatest idea 'wasn’t something anybody could patent or touch'”  

12. Advice and Dissent: “A  review of 'The Man Who Organized Nature: The Life of Linnaeus'”

13. Notable Works by Our Very Own: “Fil-Am blogger thrives on her uncommon freedom to negotiate the web”

14. A Forum Lounge Retrospective: ”The one single thing that brought them all to America”

15. A Forum Lounge Retrospective: “A bold embodiment of what’s grand or fraudulent in American mass culture”

Getting to Know English / Using nondiscriminatory English – Part 1
« on: April 30, 2024, 09:21:09 PM »
During the past several decades, a sometimes raucous but generally silent revolution has been taking place within the English language. This revolution—call it an induced evolution, if you may—is the much welcome shift of English toward nondiscriminatory grammar, structure, and form. Fanned by the civil libertarian and feminist movements in the major English-speaking countries, this movement has substantially freed the inherently sexist, chauvinist language of Chaucer and Shakespeare from some of its most vexing linguistic biases. For the first time in its over 1,500-year history, and well in keeping with its role as today’s global language, English is now consciously nondiscriminatory in its more formal forms. Informally, of course, it still has to find ways of cleaning up some more of the intractable semantic vestiges that prevent it from expressing total equality and respect for all individuals.

                                                        IMAGE CREDIT: PINTEREST.COM
Concerted efforts have been made in recent years to make English more
nondiscriminatory, neutral, or non-inclusive, such as by eliminating
specifically feminine versions of professions or using “they”
to refer to singular individuals

The language has of late been most successful in handling four problematic tendencies: (1) discriminating against women in word formation, grammar, and sentence structure; (2) universalizing human attributes in favor of men; (3) treating people asymmetrically based on such aspects as gender, age, and ethnicity; and (4) unfairly focusing on irrelevant, discriminatory characteristics of people when describing them in negative situations. We will examine these areas of success more closely, then look at the hard-core semantic structures for which English still has to find enduring nondiscriminatory alternatives.

Nondiscriminatory word formation, grammar, and sentence structure. For centuries, English had been bedeviled by its linguistic propensity not only to treat men as superior to women but also to emphasize the dependence of women to men. We all know, for instance, how inherently sexist the most common English idioms are, like “the man in the street,” “the best man for the job,” “one-man show,” and “man to man.” Similarly, its generic occupational nouns and job titles have for ages been male-oriented: “laymen,” “policeman,” “businessman,” “craftsman,” “fireman,” “postman,” and “salesman.”

Due to pressure from the feminist movement, however, major inroads have been achieved against this blatant sexism in the English vocabulary, making those phrases politically incorrect in educated circles. As nondiscriminatory equivalents for “the man in the street,” for instance, we now have “the average citizen,” “the average person,” or “an ordinary person.” For “the best man for the job,” we now have “the best candidate [applicant, person] for the job”; and for “one-man show,” we now have “solo show” or “one-person show.” In the occupational areas, of course, the following nondiscriminatory equivalents are now routine in formal circles: for “layman,” we have “laypeople,” “nonspecialist,” or “nonprofessional”; for “policeman,” we have “police officer”; for “businessman,” we have “business executive”; and for “fireman,” we have “firefighter.”   

English is also successfully veering away from the traditionally sexist way of adding the suffixes “-ess”, “-ette”, and “-trix” to feminize male words, as in “seamstress” for “seamster” and “poetess” for “poet,” “usherette” for “usher,” “bachelorette” for “bachelor,” “administratrix” for “administrator,” and “mediatrix” for “mediator.” Self-respecting women rightly saw this manner of word formation as trivializing and discriminatory, in much the same way as labeling a female professional as, say, a “woman doctor,” a “lady lawyer,” a “woman reporter,” or a “female accountant.” Such expressions are now scrupulously avoided, particularly in contexts where gender-specific reference is irrelevant. 

Avoiding the tendency to universalize human attributes in favor of men. Because of its inherent male chauvinism, the English language has historically treated men as the universal stereotype for humanity in general, glossing over women to the point of their total invisibility or exclusion. Thus, even the usually politically correct American president Abraham Lincoln couldn’t help but be male-chauvinistic in his “Gettysburg Address”: “Fourscore and seven years ago, our forefathers brought forth to this continent a new nation…” What happened, the feminists correctly ask, to the mothers and grandmothers and sisters and aunts on board the ship Mayflower when it docked at Portsmouth? Today, of course, a politically astute editor or adviser would have easily convinced Lincoln to change “our forefathers” to “our forebears” or, even more semantically precise, to “our ancestors.” We are well advised to do the same in our spoken and written English in the interest of gender equality and political correctness.

Avoiding the asymmetrical treatment of people on such aspects as gender, age, and ethnicity. Another glaring discriminatory aspect of English usage that we must consciously avoid is the tendency to focus on the attributes or background of females in negative or unflattering contexts involving males, as in this statement: “Five suspected drug addicts, four of them teenage male students and the fifth a pretty coed, were arrested in a predawn raid on a drug joint in Taguig, Parañaque City.” (Why focus on the physical look of the woman yet be silent on how the men looked?) Such discriminatory language is now becoming rare in the more enlightened English-speaking countries, but it is still endemic in Philippine journalism, particularly in the English-language tabloids. We still have miles to go before we can finally exorcise such patently discriminatory goblins from our macho culture. (To be continued)

This is the first part of my 1,631-word  essay with the original title “Using nondiscriminatory language” that formed Chapter 135 of my book Give Your English the Winning Edge, © 2009 and published by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

Read this essay and listen to its voice recording in The Manila Times:
Using nondiscriminatory English – Part 1

(Next: Using nondiscriminatory English – Part 2)        May 9, 2024

Visit Jose Carillo’s English Forum, You can follow me on Facebook and X (Twitter) and e-mail me at


Simply click the web links to the 15 featured English grammar refreshers and general interest stories this week along with selected postings published in the Forum in previous years:

1. Essay by Jose A. Carillo: “When saying it once isn’t enough”

2. Going Deeper Into Language Retrospective: “Teaching our children to think logically”

3. You Asked Me This Question: “How present simple sentences differ from present continuous sentences”

4. Essay by Jose Carillo: “Avoiding the embarrassing pitfall of misusing certain English words”

5. You Asked Me This Question: “Why many young writers prefer ‘beneath’ to ‘under’ or ‘below,’” an e-mail conversation with Krip Yuson, Palanca Awards Hall of Famer and Philippine Star columnist

6. Students’ Sounding Board: “Differentiating the use of ‘than’ and ‘than that of’”

7. Essay by Jose A. Carillo: “A father’s letter to his son's teacher”

8. Your Thoughts Exactly: “Whatever became of ‘Fine!’, ‘You’re Welcome!’, and ‘Dead’?,” an essay on evolving English usage by Isabel Escoda, Forum Contributor

9. Language Humor At Its Finest: “24 incautious quotes or misquotes from visionears or the foresightless"

10. Advice and Dissent: “Grammar poll on a contentious subject-verb agreement disagreement”

11. Reading in Language: A review of Ed Simon’s “In Praise of the Long, Complicated Sentence”

12. Time Out From English Grammar: “Is it true that we're just an impurity in an otherwise beautiful universe?”

13. A Forum Lounge Sharing: “Verbatim: What is a photocopier?”

14. Time Out From English Grammar: “U.S. math professor stumbles on ancient Babylonian trick to solve quadratics”

15. A Forum Lounge Retrospective: “Just a few minutes of undiluted joy!”

Essays by Joe Carillo / When saying it once isn’t enough
« on: April 24, 2024, 11:21:40 AM »
Each one of us wants to make a deep impression on our readers or listeners. Whether we are a teacher teaching an inattentive, rowdy, or recalcitrant class; a priest or preacher preaching to a flock of insensate, glassy-eyed believers; a lawyer making logical or semantic convolutions to convince judge or jury that a guilty defendant is innocent; an advertising person hawking an old, jaded product as something excitingly new; or a ward leader trying to pass off a thoroughly unworthy candidate as the best there is for an elective post, we will always want to emphasize the things we want to be accepted as true and de-emphasize those we want to be rejected as untrue. The objective is the same in all cases: to convince the audience of the wisdom of the position we have taken, whether we are speaking with the light of truth or with a forked tongue.

                           IMAGE CREDIT: PINTEREST.COM
Filipina classroom teacher interacting with her pupils

The easiest way to emphasize things, of course, is to embellish them with such off-the-rack qualifiers as “new and improved,” “the one and only,” “especially,” “particularly,” “most of all,” and “the best choice,” as in this sentence: “X Facial Cream is especially designed for tropical use, but best of all, it gives 100% expert conditioning for crease-free cheeks.” As tools to snare the unthinking mind, however, such self-serving adverbs could be persuasive for at most only one or two hatchet jobs apiece. Discerning audiences can only take so much of words that demand acceptance not on the basis of logic but on blind faith.

A much better way to emphasize the things that we deem important is creative repetition. This is the technique of repeating in speech or in writing the same letters, syllables, or sounds; the same words; the same clauses or phrases; or the same ideas and patterns of thought. When done just right, this time-tested rhetorical strategy beats most other devices for achieving emphasis, clarity, retention and emotional punch.

Just to see how this strategy works, take a look again at how the first paragraph of this column tried to hook you to the subject of repetition. In the first sentence, the word-pair “teacher teaching” deliberately repeated the first syllable “teach”; the phrase “a priest or preacher preaching” used the “pr-” sound thrice and the syllable “preach” twice (this figure of speech is known as alliteration); the phrase “judge or jury” repeated the first syllable “ju-” sound (alliteration, again); and the five clauses that carry the examples of people wanting to make a great impression repeated the same structure and pattern of thought (parallelism). This reiteration of the same grammar and semantic patterns certainly didn’t come by accident; those patterns were intentionally constructed in the hope of making a human-interest appeal strong enough to make the reader read on. (Did they succeed? You be the judge.)

A staple device to achieve emphasis by repetition, of course, is to use the same key word or idea in a series, as in this statement: “At Village X, enjoy cosmopolitan living with a touch of country: a life with all the amenities but without the inconveniences of the big city, a life amidst lush farmlands fringed by pristine mountain and lake, a life that someone of good taste who has definitely arrived truly deserves.” (Recall from a recent lesson in this column that “a life” here functions as a resumptive modifier.) The repeated use of the key words “a life” emphasizes the promise of “cosmopolitan living with a touch of country,” progressively building up the imagery and giving it a strong emotional appeal. This kind of repetition is actually what most advertising in the mass media routinely uses to persuade us, for good or ill.

Even more powerful than simply repeating key words or phrases is suddenly breaking that pattern once it is established: “Airline X is first in passenger comfort and amenities, first in both in-flight and ground service, and last in delayed departures and arrivals.” The disruption by the word “last” of our expectation of a series of all “firsts” dramatizes the airline’s claim of being the industry leader in flight reliability. It’s a neat semantic device that rarely fails to catch immediate attention.

Persuasion by repetition is a powerful device for inducing audiences to identify, recognize, and respond to our messages, but we have to do it with an eye and ear and feel for words and sentence structure. Uncreative repetitions, like the ones that regularly assault us during election campaigns, are too predictable, awkward, tedious, and boring—if not downright untruthful. But when done purposively and competently, like the mesmerizing prayers and chants that we live by and the melodious songs, poems, mottos, and credos we love to sing or recite ad infinitum, repetition could shape our beliefs and likes and dislikes for life, Pavlov-like and unalterable. (This essay first appeared in this column on March 8, 2004)

Read this essay and listen to its voice recording in The Manila Times:
When saying it once isn’t enough

(Next: Using nondiscriminatory language)        April 25, 2024                                                                                              

Visit Jose Carillo’s English Forum, You can follow me on Facebook and X (Twitter) and e-mail me at

April 22, 2024

Dear Forum Member and Friend,

This fourth week of April, Jose Carillo’s English Forum is presenting a 5-part intensive review of parallelism in English writing. By parallelism, of course, we mean the orderly positioning of identical syntactical elements in English prose to ensure clarity and ease in reading comprehension. Writers and editors alike need perpetual vigilance and continuous honing of their skills in setting all grammatical elements of a sentence in the same form and structure. This parallelism goal applies to all parts of speech, from articles and prepositions to nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs and to infinitives, gerunds, and participles. Scrupulous adherence to the parallelism rule ultimately determines the readability and persuasiveness of the composition.

Go to the Homepage of Jose Carillo's English Forum now by simply clicking this link: After reading the Introduction, you can do each part of the review separately at your own pace by clicking its link until you’re done all with all four parts.

Good luck in your continuing personal quest for better English!

Sincerely yours,
Joe Carillo


Simply click the web links to the 15 featured English grammar refreshers and general interest stories this week along with selected postings published in the Forum in previous years:

1. Essay by Jose Carillo: “The world in 854 words: My nth retrospective since the early 2000s”

2. Getting to Know English Better: “A quick review of the English comparatives”

3. Use and Misuse “It’s foolhardy to stop learning English grammar just like that!”

4. Getting to Know English Retrospective: “Hyphenating compound modifiers for clarity”

5. You Asked Me This Question: “Precisely when do we use the past progressive tense?”

6. My Media English Watch Retrospective: “How 'right of reply' differs from “right to reply'”

7. Students’ Sounding Board: “When is sentence inversion a matter of grammar or style?”

8. Your Thoughts Exactly: “Bridges,” a retrospective essay by Antonio Calipjo Go, Forum Member and Contributor

9. Language Humor At Its Finest: “30 funny English signs from all over the world"

10. Advice and Dissent: “Our personal destiny may already be hard-wired into our brain”

11. Readings in Language: “Travails with learning just a smattering of Latin”

12. Time Out From English Grammar: “Challenging the dogma that our IQ sets a limit on what we can achieve”

13. The Forum Lounge: “Phenomenal rock star Freddie Mercury sings 'Barcelona' for the ages”

14. Time Out From English Grammar: “Did Mona Lisa have high cholesterol, and is Newton’s apple story authentic?”


15. Use and Misuse Retrospective: “It’s obtuse, even distasteful, to say that seeing a doctor is ‘pleasurable!’”

Essays by Joe Carillo / The world in 854 words: My nth retrospective
« on: April 17, 2024, 12:22:28 PM »
(This must be the nth time that I am doing a retrospective of this essay that I wrote in the early 2000s, hoping against hope that for its long-term survival, humanity will finally learn to be peaceably rational and rationally peaceable to keep the world free from strife and disorder. Otherwise, isn’t it obvious that all efforts towards mutual progress and amity among peoples are in vain and meaningless?)

If I were asked to describe the world as I see it today, I would readily give this answer: it has hardly changed since 2,200 years ago when Archimedes, the Greek mathematician and physicist, was said to have bragged that he could move the world if only he had the lever to lift it. For all his ingenuity and imagination, however, Archimedes was dead wrong on this count. He knew the power of the lever like the back of his hand, assiduously applying this knowledge to design military catapults and grappling irons; he figured out with stunning accuracy the mathematical properties of circles and spheres, including the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, or what we now know as pi (3.14159265...); he began the science of hydrostatics, or the forces that govern stationary fluids, after discovering the now familiar Archimedes Principle; and he even invented the Archimedes screw, an ingenious water-raising machine still used today to irrigate fields in Egypt.

But on hindsight, we know now that Archimedes obviously exceeded his mind’s grasp when he thought of lifting the world with a plank. It wouldn’t have been possible to do so even if a suitable fulcrum could be found. The world was actually (and still is) an ovaloid sphere 12,760 km in diameter, one that rotates on its axis in 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4.09 seconds and that revolves around a much bigger sphere—the sun—in 365 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes, and 9.6 seconds. The object Archimedes had bragged of lifting actually has a mass in tons of about 5.98 x 10 raised to the 21st power, and a volume in cubic meters of about 1.08 x 10 raised to the 21st power—figures too mind-boggling to even think about, much less to trifle with.

These elemental things obviously went beyond the ken of Archimedes’ overarching genius. It was only 1,750 years later, in fact, that the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus was to make the startling, heretical thesis that Earth was not the center of the universe but simply one of the planets that orbited the bigger, stationary sun. But on this even Copernicus, who began the scientific reawakening that came to be known as the Copernican Revolution, was only partly right. The sun, it turned out centuries later, was not stationary in the heavens at all. It was rotating on it own axis in a perpetually moving spiral arm of the galaxy that we now call the Milky Way.

All of these facts about our world are now well-established certainties. Despite this accumulated knowledge, however, mankind still acts more primitively and more irrationally than its ancestors before the time of Archimedes. Humanity is still as mired as ever in superstition and religious fundamentalism. Organized religion, superstition, and nationhood have no doubt been great civilizing forces, instilling fear, awe, faith, and patriotism in man, and marshaling both the motive and creative energies for such architectural marvels as the Stonehenge in England, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the stately cathedrals in Europe, the great mosques in the Middle East and in Asia, the Borobodur temples in Cambodia, and the huge statues of Buddha in Afghanistan. Yet these very same forces— organized religion, superstition, and nationhood—have been methodically destroying not only human lives by the thousands but even the physical, social, and cultural legacies humanity had accumulated in the interim.

Intolerance on the religious, political, or ideological plane has always plagued mankind through the centuries, of course, both long before and long after the time of Archimedes. It brought about so many of the horrible depredations on either side of the major religious or geopolitical divides, from the time of the Crusades—those armed Christian expeditions to the Holy Lands and Constantinople in the 11th century—to the destruction of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York in 2001. But more deeply disturbing is the fact that this intolerance and bloodshed have persisted even with the civilizing influence of the Age of Reason and Scientific Enlightenment. Today, people in many parts of the world are still murderously lunging at each other’s throats, intolerant of one another’s religious beliefs, disdainful of one another’s politics and ideology, and covetous of one another’s personal or national possessions. Humanity obviously has not learned its lessons well.

Thus, the great flowering of scientific knowledge and rational thinking that began with Archimedes and pursued with vigor by such great scientific minds as Copernicus, Galileo Galilee, Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein—not to mention Charles Darwin—seems not to have really amounted to much. Our mindsets and dispositions as a species have remained largely primitive—there are disturbing signs, in fact, that we have deteriorated as social and reasoning animals, perhaps irreversibly. It is therefore not at all surprising that today, on a shocking improvement on Archimedes’ claim that he could lift the world with a lever, people by the thousands could think and claim that they could move the world simply on pure belief—no lever, no fulcrum, no hands or physical effort even—just belief and absolutely nothing else.

Read this essay and listen to its voice recording in The Manila Times:
The world in 854 words

(Next: When saying it once isn’t enough)        April 18, 2024
Visit Jose Carillo’s English Forum, You can follow me on Facebook and X (Twitter) and e-mail me at


Simply click the web links to the 16 featured English grammar refreshers and general interest stories this week along with selected postings published in the Forum in previous years:

1. Essay by Jose A. Carillo: “When immodest medical jargon is used as a slogan”

2. Getting to Know English Better: “Mastery of the connectives can make us write and speak much better”

3. Use and Misuse: “Fused sentences are very serious, very annoying grammar violations”

4. You Asked Me This Question: “Inverted sentences have a subject-verb agreement peculiarity”

5. You Asked Me This Question: “A grammar conversation on parenthetical usage” with the late writer Ed Maranan, Palanca Awards Hall of Famer in Literature

6. My Media English Watch Retrospective: “Shock-and-awe English in Bohol earthquake reportage (2013)”

7. Getting To Know English Better: “Don’t get caught using wrong double negatives!”

8. Essays by Jose A.Carillo: “My hunch was right about the usage of 'between' and 'among'”

9. Language Humor At Its Finest: “Contributed jokes from all over to brighten up your day”

10. Your Thoughts Exactly: “Lockdown, Before and After,” a Retrospective by Tonybau, Forum Member and Contributor

11. Advice and Dissent: “As one goes way past the prime of one’s life,” a personal summing up by English professor and book writer Joseph Epstein

12. The Forum Lounge: “Young upcoming novelist on 'The Unbearable Costs of Becoming a Writer'”

13. Time Out From English Grammar: “Peeling off the multilayered legends from ancient Greece”


14. Time Out From English Grammar: “The thief who stole 106 priceless timepieces in audacious museum heist”

15. Readings in Language: “In self-defense, we must see through deliberately devious English jargon”

16. The Forum Lounge: “Book publishing's broken blurb system 'a plague on the industry'”

Many years back, while I was waiting for the traffic light to turn green on Ortigas Avenue corner EDSA in Metro Manila, my wife Leonor nudged me and pointed to an undulating phrase and image painted prominently on the side of a brand-new hospital ambulance that had stopped beside our car. The phrase was this hospital motto: “Patient on Center Stage, Service of Greater Worth.”

Leonor said with a scowl: “Oh that motto not only confuses me but gives me the creeps! If I were a patient in a hospital I wouldn’t want to be placed on center stage. I’d rather that they put me in a nice private room where only the doctors and nurses can efficiently but discreetly attend to me until I got well.”

Medical professionals at work in a modern hospital operating theater

“Dear, I think you misunderstood the phrase,” I said. “It’s using the words ‘Patient on Center Stage’ figuratively. It’s actually saying that when you are admitted into that hospital, you’ll become the focal point of its attention. They’ll treat you like a prima donna—the star of the show.”

“But that’s precisely what’s wrong with that phrase, Honey,” she said. “It considers being hospitalized more like showbiz than health care, and I must tell you that such a view evokes many unpleasant images in my mind.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, that phrase gives me the feeling that in that hospital, they’d put patients on conspicuous display as a matter of procedure. Remember that creepy old operating theater in that London hospital—if I remember right it was in that Frankenstein movie that had Robert De Niro in the monster’s role—where doctors did major surgery on patients while dozens of medical students and other observers watched from a winding observation gallery high above the operating table? That’s definitely not my idea of excellent hospital service!”

“Now I see your point,” I said. “It’s a semantic problem. The motto’s ‘center stage’ metaphor is giving you negative imagery. That’s what happens when highly figurative language is used in supposedly commonsense statements, and the problem gets worse when such language is mixed with fuzzy jargon or business-speak. But you know, some pretesting through focus-group interviews could have caught that motto’s problem with its language.”

“That’s right—and pretesting could have also caught the problem with the second phrase. You see, it’s so difficult to understand what ‘Service of Greater Worth’ means. Are they saying that the services of that hospital actually should be priced higher than those of other hospitals? But then that’s not something worth crowing about from a marketing standpoint, is it? Also, I always thought that in English, when using comparatives like ‘greater,’ you need to identify the thing you are comparing something with. That second phrase doesn’t do that.”

“You’re right, and that makes its use of the comparative grammatically wrong. But I can see now that the phrase has an even bigger problem: it uses the word ‘worth’ very loosely. Of course, what the motto is trying to convey is that this hospital offers ‘better service’ than other hospitals, but this message gets garbled because the phrase ‘greater worth’ is wrongly used to mean ‘of greater value,’ when in fact those two mean entirely different things.”

“So how would that motto go if you were to rephrase it?”

“Frankly, dear, I don’t know how! Coming up with a good motto or slogan isn’t easy. It’s a creative act, actually an art form that needs not only good sense but also a great eye and ear for wordplay. You just know that a slogan is great or good or bad when you read or hear it for the first time. Listen to these slogans: ‘We’ve got it all for you!’ (of that big department store chain), ‘Where beautiful skin happens’ (of that facial care center), ‘Your success is our business’ (of that local bank), and ‘Delighting you always’ (of that foreign maker of electronic cameras and computer printers). Each of them uses felicitous wordplay to express a clear and persuasive idea. And they all ring true and convincing, giving us no reason at all to quibble over their words or to debate in our minds whether what they are saying is true or not.”

“I agree with you that those slogans are well-crafted and pleasing to the ears. Now why don’t you make an improved version of that hospital’s motto along the same lines?”

“I can’t, my dear, and that’s precisely my point. Making good mottoes or slogans isn’t something that just anybody can do on short notice, and it certainly shouldn’t be assigned to professionals whose minds are so steeped in business or medical jargon that they no longer find it comfortable to think in plain and simple English. Mottoes and slogans meant for the world at large are best written by professional wordsmiths—people who can create extraordinarily expressive, convincing, and memorable messages in just a few words.”

“Well,” Leonor sighed, “I hope that hospital gets one such slogan professional very soon to fix its airy motto.” (2005)

Read this essay and listen to its voice recording in The Manila Times:
When immodest medical jargon is used as a slogan

(Next: The world in 854 words)        April 11, 2024                                                                                              

Visit Jose Carillo’s English Forum, You can follow me on Facebook and X (Twitter) and e-mail me at


Simply click the web links to the 15 featured English grammar refreshers and general interest stories this week along with selected postings published in the Forum in previous years:

1. Essay by Jose A. Carillo: “The importance of grammar-perfect English”

2. You Asked Me This Question: “How long should a sentence be to effectively deliver an idea?”

3. Use and Misuse: “The grammar of English conditional sentences”

4. Students’ Sounding Board: “How to use ‘to have been’ and ‘having been’”

5. Pervasive Prickly Problem With An Idiomatic Phrase: “With regard to ‘with regards to’ or ‘as regards to’”

6. Essay by Jose A. Carillo Retrospective: “Open secret to writing prose that leaps out from the page”

7. Time Out From English Grammar:  “Measuring up to the human body’s perfection in architectural terms”

8. You Asked Me This Question: “What does the term ‘Philippine area of responsibility’ mean?”

9. Language Humor at its Finest: “When children define science in their own terms”

There is a tremendous weight pushing down on the center of the Earth 
because of so much population stomping around up here these days.

10. Essay by Jose A. Carillo: "When even the passive voice isn't enough”

11. “Time Out From English Grammar: “The psychometric test that promised to be an ‘X-ray to the soul’”

12. Advice and Dissent: “Interpretive contests are essential in efforts to advance historical understanding"


13. Readings in Language Retrospective: “When you really don't have anything to say but simply need to say it well”

14. A Forum Lounge Retrospective: “23 stunning, magically beautiful sights from all over the world”

15. A Forum Lounge Retrospective: “A beauty and a love verboten” by Angel B. Casillan, Forum Contributor

Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 198