An American-British usage experiment: please participate!

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Glosso readers: may I ask for your help and input for a little usage exercise? It’s fun, and it shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes. (And I mean that in the British rather than the American sense.) I’m trying to determine whether a certain usage trend is disappearing in the UK while remaining healthy and robust in the U.S.

Please read these four sentences, which are nearly but not quite identical, and then answer the questions that follow (in the comments section below). There’s no “right” or “wrong” here: just answer honestly and without too much thought. Next week we’ll look at the results and what they might suggest.

Many thanks for your participation!

Sentences:

A) “Looking at the three designs, I was most drawn to the round one that bled outside the page border; however, I liked the square one too.”

B) “Looking at the three designs, I was most drawn to the round one which bled outside the page border; however, I liked the square one too.”

C) “Looking at the three designs, I was most drawn to the round one, that bled outside the page border; however, I liked the square one too.”

D) “Looking at the three designs, I was most drawn to the round one, which bled outside the page border; however, I liked the square one too.”

Questions:

Q1: Are you American or British? (Or Australian, Canadian or other English-speaker?)

Q2: Do any of the sentences look strange or “incorrect” to you? (Let’s not give any explanations until we’ve gathered some reactions; we’ll examine the whys and wherefores in a follow-up post.) If so, please specify which sentence(s) you’d be inclined to edit.

Q3: Can you tell from any of the sentences how many of the three designs are round? If so, please identify the sentence and the number of round designs.

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19 thoughts on “An American-British usage experiment: please participate!

  1. Bill Bukowski

    1. American
    2. All four sentences look a little strange, but sentences B and D seem to make the most sense. The others need work.
    3. Sentence D gives the clearest sense that there are two round designs.

    Reply
  2. Alan M Dunsmuir

    1. British (Raised in Scotland.)

    2. The second comma in C and D jarred at first sight, but then made some sense if I assumed that “the one” had been elided from the text immediately afterwards. In this particular usage, I personally see no difference between “which” and “that”, and use the two words interchangeably.

    3. A & B both imply two round designs; C & D suggest 1 round, one square and 1 unspecified.

    Reply
  3. dw

    Didn’t answer Q3:

    A and B; can’t tell how many are round.

    C and D seem to imply that only one is round.

    The technique used in C and D would be OK for me if it were a true parenthesis, for example:

    The round design, which bled outside the page border, was the one I preferred.

    Reply
  4. John Cowan

    A1. American.

    A2. A, Β, D are all acceptable to me. However, A is somewhat better than B, and D is fine in writing but I wouldn’t say it.

    A3. A and B suggest that there are two round designs, but don’t guarantee it. D is only good if there is exactly one round design.

    Reply
  5. Rex

    US American.

    Sentence C feels wrong–I would never write that. Sentence B isn’t wrong, but feels awkward.

    A and B: two round designs out of three.
    C: one out of three.
    It took some thought to answer this one!

    Reply
  6. Warsaw Will

    British, and a teacher of BrE. A, B and D are fine, but that C isn’t.

    But I have to disagree with Bill Bukowski about D – it seems to me there are three different shapes here: ‘the round one, which bled outside the page border’ , the square one, and another unnamed shape. It’s A and B that suggest that there are two round designs, as Rex has said.

    Reply
  7. Lindsey

    1.Neither and both – lived in UK for 6 years and US for 7 years.
    2. C seems incorrect to me
    3. To me they all indicate there could be two round ones but A seems to say clearly that there are two round ones.

    Reply
  8. Don Earnest

    American

    In US usage, B and D are considered incorrect. B needs a comma before ‘which’ while C needs the comma before ‘that’ deleted.

    A implies two round designs; B implies only one.

    As an editor, who has Americanized many British books, I’m a bit of ringer on this.

    Reply
  9. Pingback: An American-British experiment: some interesting results … « Words, Phrases & Expressions « Glossophilia

  10. Stuart Brown

    British

    None of the sentences seem incorrect.

    A and B seem to indicate that there are two round designs.

    Reply
  11. Rene

    1. American, but dating a Brit for the last 2 years.
    2. C and D look incorrect to me.
    3. A and B seem to indicate that there may be two round designs, with only one bleeding outside the page border, but it is not possible to determine for certain from any of the sentences.

    Reply

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