Poor English

Below you will find examples of bad or awkward phrasing, grammatical errors, style issues – in short, poor English. All are real-life examples, quoted from papers students who are native speakers of English have submitted in my classes. The original text appears in blue, followed by a section that explains the flaws of the quoted text.


When generalizing a group of people, it is important to respect the differences within that group, Muslims are not an exception.

generalizing a group of people is unclear.

important is not self explanatory and should be avoided.

differences cannot be within.

group, Muslims should be group; Muslims.


The laws were implemented in Russia in 1882, these laws limited the area in which Jews were allowed to live, quotas where put in place to limit the number of Jews that were allowed to attend high school and university, the number of Jewish physicians in the military was limited, and the right of Jews to sell alcohol was revoked.

Passage written in passive voice.

The laws were implemented in Russia in 1882, these laws… laws is redundant, these laws should be the beginning of a new sentence.

the area in which Jews were allowed should be the area where Jews were allowed.

the number of Jews and the number of Jewish is redundant.

limit and limited is redundant.


Israel has become a state where one group of people has seen and continue to see better earnings and educational benefits than the non-European part of that society.

has seen and continue to see should be replaced by has seen, as the present perfect tense already implies relevance in the present.

In this sentence one group of people is negated with the non-European part of that society. It is not clear who that group is, and what society the author is talking about (one can assume Israeli society, but the sentence reads Israel rather than its society).

to see better earnings and educational benefits is a bad informal structure: earnings are gained, not seen, and so are benefits.


With one’s own set of “ideologies” and “fears of the unknown,” we find ourselves searching for a way to defend ourselves from the unfamiliar and to fight for our beliefs.

ideologies and fears of the unknown should not be in quotation marks.

Sentence begins with one but continues with we.

in one’s own, the second word is redundant.


This is a basic format of human progression, and it is no surprise when a human run and human created government and country begin to start mimicking the traits of a human and their ideals.

format should be form, and even then it is unclear what the first part of the sentence means.

no surprise cannot be followed by when, but rather by that.

human run and human created government and country is redundant and wrong (human is repeated; a government is by definition created by humans, and a country is not).

begin to start is redundant.

mimicking the traits of a human and their ideals is poor phrasing and meaningless; it is not clear what their refers to.


Directly before the State of Israel was created, it had been called Palestine and was occupied by the British.

Sentence is in the passive.

A state is founded rather than created.

The second part of the sentence is incongruous with the first, as it refers to the land where Israel was founded (that was, and still is called Palestine), whereas the first part talks about the state itself, a political entity.


Jerusalem, which is the current but unrecognized and debated capital of the State of Israel, is the most fought over land in history because it is one of the main holy cities in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.

Sentence is mostly in the passive, and too long.

Jerusalem is not a land, it’s a city.

A claim such as the most fought over land in history is so general and unspecific that it suggests the author knows very little about the topic in question. A heavy use of such loose arguments is a great recipe for bad writing. The same goes for the last part of the sentence.


If a state becomes part of the House of Islam, it must remain forever, or be fought for until returned. Israel was at one point under the House of Islam, and therefore the Arab world will support the Palestinians for its retrieval and will not settle for only a small part of the land.

This is field specific, but a state does not become part of the House of Islam, an area or region do. It is a good example of a student who did not exercise due diligence when verifying information.

it must remain forever remain where?

or be fought for until return to where? and who will be doing the fighting? This is another demonstration of the weakness of sentences in the passive.

Israel was at one point under the House of Islam is a factual error, since the State of Israel did not exist when Muslims ruled the land. The author also shifts from present to the past tense without any apparent reason, and then shifts to the future.

the Palestinians for its retrieval it is not clear what its refers to.

will not settle for only a small word order: should be will not settle only for a small.


Governments are representations of their people and in order to govern effectively they need the support of the people. 

Instead of governments are representations of their people one should write governments represent their people.

The second part of the sentence not only contain in order to (a phrase to avoid), but is entirely unnecessary, as its information is already conveyed in the first part.


The Israelis, I believe, are willing to share their land in order to stop the bloodshed and war, but they are not willing to share their lands with people who are trying to annihilate them and have no respect for the preservation of another human being.

in order to should be avoided.

stop the bloodshed and war is a redundant phrase; use either one, or try a less sensational phrase as in to end the conflict.

willing is used twice.

preservation of another human being suggests preservation of a corpse; have no respect for the lives of others is better here.


Since the Mizrahi Jews came from mostly Islamic Arab countries, there were certain similarities between the Mizrahi Jewish culture and the Arab culture. Non-Jewish Arabs and Mizrahi Jews shared common family values and a common language.

Most errors here are field specific, yet demonstrate how carelessness in using terminology produces a disastrous argument. Thus the Mizrahi should be Mizrahi; Islamic Arab is redundant – although not meaning the same thing, one should only use the most appropriate of the two, in this case ArabMizrahi Jewish is redundant, as Mizrahi already implies Jewishnon-Jewish Arabs is also redundant for the same reason.

culture and common appear twice each.


There is no universally accepted explanation as to why, out of all the other ethnic Jews, the Mizrahi were the ones chosen to populate the isolated towns.

as to why is to be avoided.

out of all the other should be out of all other.

ethnic Jews is not the correct qualifier for Mizrahi (field specific, but the rule of using the right qualifier should be observed always – if not sure how to describe something, look it up or ask).

the Mizrahi should be Mizrahis or Mizrahi Jews (another example for getting your jargon right).

were the ones chosen should be were chosen or were those chosen.


Quantitative studies have been done that prove Mizrahi Jews were overwhelmingly placed in developmental towns more often than Ashkenazi immigrants, or any other group of immigrants, that immigrated during the 1950‘s.

Sentence too long, and in the passive.

have been done that prove should be have been done, proving.

overwhelmingly already suggests more often than so sentence should be revised.

immigrants appears twice, and in proximity to immigrated – redundant.


This, along with the disenfranchisement of the Palestinians with the other Arab countries and their own leadership, and an explosion of nationalist feelings and social organizations all lead to the outbreak of the riots in the late 1980’s.

disenfranchisement is usually not a good word to choose, since it is not very clear what the author means by the disenfranchisement of a certain people.

disenfranchisement is not followed by with.

in and their leadership, it is not clear who their refers to.

explosion of nationalist feelings is one of those pompous and empty expressions that give the impression of poor vocabulary and writing skills.

an explosion… social organizations means that someone blew up a number of social organizations, and even then it is not very good phrasing (one blows up a building or a car, not an organization).

in all lead to the lead should be in the simple past tense.

of the riots should be of riots.


We see the creation of several nationalist groups in the 1950’s and 60’s, the most influential of these ended up being the Fatah group created in 1959.

ended up being is poor phrasing that should be avoided; instead, the author could have said was.

group appears twice in this short sentence.

it is not clear in what sense Fatah was influential – just like important, interesting, andsignificant, it is one of those words that are not self explanatory.


Youth and student organizations were active early on in the organization of protests, and most of the members of these groups showed up at the protests. The groups were organized and interwoven, which provided a hierarchy and structure for the protest. Not only did these groups provide an interwoven social network, but also a place for like minded people to gather and express their frustrations with the current social and political situation. The expression of grievances accomplished several things: they provided a sense of social cohesion, provided an outlet for frustrations, and seemed to have functioned to build upon themselves, compounding situations.

early on can be omitted.

most of the members of these groups should be most members of these groups.

showed up is an informal way of saying attended or participated in.

groups, provideinterwoven, and protest appear too often in this short passage.

organized and interwoven is unclear.

hierarchy and structure for the protest is unclear (what does hierarchy for/of a protest mean?).

like minded should be like-minded.

The expression of grievances… they provided wrong pronoun, they refers to expression and should be it.

functioned to build upon themselves is unclear.

, compounding situations is a fragment that doesn’t seem to mean anything.

Understanding why the Soviet Union was attempting to gain influence in the Middle East has a lot to do with the United States Starting to gain influence in the region. Particularly over countries that traditionally held influence over the region such as the United Kingdom and France.

Understanding… has a lot to do is poor phrasing; it is better to say understanding… is important/essential/beneficial because or omit this sentence entirely, and just say the Soviet Union was attempting to gain influence in the Middle East etc. This is the better phrasing, since it also omits the dual present progressive verbs (understanding, attempting).

The second part (the United States Starting to gain influence in the region) will have to be rephrased too, and not just because Starting is written with a capital S. It repeats gain influence from the first part of the sentence and doesn’t really explain what the author attempts to address at the beginning.

Particularly over countries that traditionally held influence over etc. is a fragment and has redundant parts (held influence).


Why get involved with the Middle East, what are the effects of Soviet Union involvement in the region, and was the Soviet Union successful in gaining influence over the region specifically between Israel and the Arab states?

Why get involved with the Middle East is informal: one would say this in a conversation, but it is terribly awkward in writing.

the effects of Soviet Union involvement should be the effects of Soviet involvement.

involvement appears twice in proximity.

gaining influence over the region should be in the region, and even then this is one of those loose sentences that don’t really say much and project poor vocabulary.

gaining influence cannot be specifically between. Perhaps among is the correct preposition here, but even then that part of the sentence carries little meaning.


During the Cold War the United States was the super power that the Soviet Union was actively competing against. Much of this competition was based upon which economic model works best. A centrally planned economy or a free market based economy with the Soviet Union using a centrally planned economy.

The first sentence is redundant, since the Cold War already implies a US-Soviet rivalry (such a sentence, revised, would possibly be appropriate in the introductory passage of a book about the Cold War).

competition appears twice in proximity.

based goes with on and not upon, and here doesn’t work, since a competition is about something, emanates or evolves from, but is not based on something.

which economic model works best sentence began in the past and should thus be worked best, and even then, this is not very clear phrasing, since the author has not discussed economic models previously.

The last sentence is a fragment, where the hollow and redundant phrase a centrally planned economy appears twice.


The reason why both parties were threatened by one another is simply because both models worked quite efficiently, and both economic models have its inherent flaws.

A better way to say The reason why both parties were threatened by one another is simply both parties threatened each other because – a concise form that eliminates the passive voice.

both is redundant in this sentence.

both economic models have its inherent flaws is in the present but should be in the past, and its should be their.

This sentence, as a whole, is general rather than specific and actually doesn’t say much.


By the 1980s Egypt will be under the influence of the United States, and would eventually sell the surplus in arms to the United States to help aid the convert operation in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. The weapons used of course during the Yom Kippur War in 1972.

By the 1980s Egypt missing comma after 1980s.

Egypt will be under when describing something that happened in the past, will cannot be used.

be under the influence of the United States is poor phrasing, as it doesn’t really explain what kind of influence this was, to what extent the US was influential there, and whether this was something Egypt had wanted.

sell the surplus in arms assuming the surplus is Egypt’s (and that’s not clear here), the sentence should read sell its surplus in arms etc.

United States appears twice in proximity; rephrasing can eliminate one of them.

the convert operation wrong word; should be covert operation.

operation in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union nothing wrong with this part grammatically, but since this is the only place in the paper the author mentions such an operation, an explanation is called for.

The weapons used of course during the Yom Kippur War in 1972 is a fragment, and the Yom Kippur War took place in 1973.


This though was clear when the British occupied the territory that Jews and Arabs in Palestine would never peacefully coexist, and this has been the case. This is also not limited to Palestine what is now known as Israel, but with Israel’s neighbors.

until peacefully coexist this sentence has a wrong word order. Restructuring the sentence renders some of the words unnecessary: When the British occupied Palestine, it was clear that Jews and Arabs would never coexist.

peacefully coexist is redundant, since coexist already implies peacefully.

and this has been the case should be deleted (incorrect use of case).

This is also it is not clear what this refers to.

Palestine what is now known as Israel this is incorrect both grammatically (should be Palestine, now known as Israel) and conceptually (Palestine is the name of the land, Israel the state that now exists on parts of that land).

but with Israel’s neighbors this last part is a fragment that adds nothing to the sentence that precedes it, does not follow it logically, and should be deleted.


There were disadvantages to the population also. With a local power established, villagers were more thoroughly exploited than with the previous rulers.

disadvantages to the population a population is not generally qualified by disadvantage, but even if it did, the right way to say this would have been the population had disadvantages.

also should come at the beginning of this sentence.

With a local power established sentence in the passive and it is not clear what local power the author refers to, and who established it.

thoroughly exploited is redundant, as exploit already conveys the extremity that thoroughly refers to.


Once again, the Palestinians received no help from the world, only feigned ignorance. The fact that the Arab leader had been involved with the Nazis did not help the Arab cause. When the problem was dealt from Britain to the UN, the decision was made to allot the Arab portion of the land to Transjordan and accept statehood by the Zionists.

Once again implies repetition of something mentioned before, which should be avoided.

from the world here the author probably meant to say from other nations/countries or from the international community but instead chose a vague expression.

feigned ignorance is one of those pompous yet empty expressions; feigned, a verb, means pretended to be affected by, which makes this entire sentence meaningless.

The fact that should be avoided.

When the problem was dealt from Britain to the UN is a passive sentence, and dealt in this sense is not a good choice, as it is vague and has the aura of colloquial speech. Instead, this sentence can be restructured to read: When the British asked the UN to intervene etc.

the decision was made is again in the passive. One can perhaps assume the UN made the decision, but it is not entirely clear.

Arab portion of the land to Transjordan should read the land of Transjordan to the Arabs.

and accept statehood by the Zionists is again in the passive and rather vague: who accepts? and who will establish statehood?


Another component of the lost Palestinian identity is the Israeli education and political system in which they are placed. Two laws of Israel stand out that show the disregard of the Palestinians as a people.

a lost… identity cannot have components, since it is no longer in existence. What the author probably meant to say is: a feature of Palestinian identity is, dropping the word lost.

the Israeli education and political system is not in itself a component; something about it can be, but that something is not stated here.

in which they are placed it is not clear who they refers to, or what is the subject of the sentence this last fragment appears to relate to.

Two laws of Israel should be Two Israeli laws.

stand out should be placed at the end of the sentence.

the disregard of the Palestinians as a people who disregards? and as a people is redundant, since Palestinians already implies that they are a people.