Posted By: heni79 "Improve its weaknesses" - Right or wrong? - 03/14/07 09:37 PM
I have a dilemma of semantic nature. I would love to
hear everyone's opinions. Read the following sentence:

"Our results could help STING to enhance the strengths
of the program and improve its weaknesses."

Let's focus on this part of the sentence: "improve its weaknesses." In this sense it means 'eliminate/lessen weaknesses'. It DOES NOT mean 'heighten weaknesses'.

1. Do you think the intended meaning of the sentence
comes across adequately?

2. Would you say it is flat out incorrect to use the
above mentioned phrasing?

3. Do you think there is any semantic difference
between "improve its weaknesses" and "improve on/upon
its weaknesses"? If a preposition is added (on/upon),
does that clarify the meaning of the sentence in any
way? Does it REALLY serve anything, or is it just a

A bet is riding on this, so I hope everyone will give
their input regarding this issue.

Posted By: Zed Re: "Improve its weaknesses" - Right or wrong? - 03/15/07 12:12 AM
Hi Heni
I understand what is meant quite clearly but I would still call it incorrect. On/upon sounds correct though.
(did I win anything??)
Would replacing "improve" with "ameliorate" be allowable?
Originally Posted By: Zed
I would still call it incorrect. On/upon sounds correct though. (did I win anything??)

But why exactly is it incorrect? And how come it is correct when you add on/upon? Doesn't it have the exact same meaning as before? When I read the two alternatives aloud to myself, they had the same meaning to me. Is it just me? I should point out that I am not a naitive speaker of English.

Thanks for responding to my message, BTW! :-)

Originally Posted By: sjmaxq
Would replacing "improve" with "ameliorate" be allowable?

I discussed this with a friend (replacing "improve"), and the best alternative that we could come up with was "amend its weaknesses." But if I absolutely want to keep "improve", is the preposition really necessary?

Thanks for posting your input! :-)

Posted By: olly Re: "Improve its weaknesses" - Right or wrong? - 03/15/07 01:07 AM
Kia ora Heni,
At first glance I read 'Lessen weaknesses' then I saw the the error, i.e.'Heighten weaknesses' so,
1. Yes, In context it would be read as intended.
2. Yes, it is incorrect.
3. Why not, 'Lessen it's weaknesses'

Are you for it being o.k.?
Posted By: tsuwm Re: "Improve its weaknesses" - Right or wrong? - 03/15/07 01:24 AM
I think that "improve (upon) its weaknesses" is a weak construction in either case, although use of the prep. soounds slightly better. You want to lessen or mitigate or alleviate its weaknesses.

as to improve v. improve upon:
The difference between these two may be that in the latter you are coming up with something separate. If you improve my recipe, you modify my recipe. If you improve upon it, you are coming up with a separate recipe of your own touted to be better.
I agree that "improve its weaknesses" is contrary to the intended meaning.
It would be better to simply state, "reduce its weaknesses".
I agree that it is obvious what you mean even though it's not what you say.

IMO, "improve upon" is worse than "improve". As said above, I'd say it almost means we'll come up with new and improved weaknesses.

I'd just change the word - ameliorate is a little obscure, so how about "overcome its weaknesses", "triumph over its weaknesses", etc.
1. No. It is likely to be understood anyway since a literal interpretation will be dismissed as nonsense [especially by the apologist crowd (They know who they are) ].

2. Yes, unless the literal meaning is intended.

3. Yes. "[I]mprove on/upon" at least lends a degree of separation between the verb and object, albeit not as an adequate improvement. Agreed that "improve upon" does sound as if to imply replacement vice adjustment, but it still 'improves upon' the lame construction given.
Originally Posted By: olly
Are you for it being o.k.?

I was for "improve its weaknesses." I also did not understand how there could be any real difference between "improve its weaknesses" and "improve on/upon its weaknesses." If one was bad, so was the other (IMO). I agree with the statements that either construction is weak. The other alternatives for "improve" that you have suggested are much better and on target. I'm really grateful for all the wonderful advice and the comments you have shared with me. Thanks guys!

BTW, Heini, Welcome!!!
Originally Posted By: ParkinT
BTW, Heini, Welcome!!!

Thanks so much! This place is a real gem! :-)

BTW, a quick question. Is there any difference between "A case study of companies" and "A case study on companies"? Are both prepositions acceptable?

You guys rock!!
Not sure, 'Of' would indicate a few companies; 'on' would indicate companies in general. That's only if you name examples, though.

By the way, did you notice that the phrase 'not sure' allowed me to spout random advice without corroborating it? A fun thing indeed, that.
Posted By: Zed Re: "Improve its weaknesses" - Right or wrong? - 03/17/07 12:19 AM
In the medical field, my background, a case study is an indepth look at one case, ie. one patient's specific problem, treatment and outcome. You cannot do a case study of arthritis, only of Mr. X who has arthritis. So I would assume that a case study on companies would look at very few specific companies in detail. A case study of companies in general would be an oxymoron.
I'm curious to know how you would say the opposite of these words: "Improve its weaknesses". (or improve on etc.)

Would you say worsen its weaknesses? Make its weaknesses worse?
Increase? is there a single, active word for that?
Posted By: tsuwm "worsen its weaknesses" - 03/17/07 01:53 PM
I'd say exacerbate.. but that's just me. <g>

-ken (erin go braugh!) speckle
Posted By: BranShea Re: "worsen its weaknesses" - 03/17/07 05:22 PM
Ah! exacerbate! aggravate and exasperate I found now. But...

- ken (erin go braugh!) speckle. ??
Posted By: musick worsen your strength - 03/17/07 05:53 PM
Who *says "weakness" is a bad thing?

Posted By: BranShea Re: worsen your strength - 03/17/07 06:46 PM
Weakness is a luxury only few can afford.
Posted By: Faldage Re: worsen your strength - 03/17/07 06:52 PM
There are some for whom weakness is a strength.
Posted By: BranShea Re: worsen your strength - 03/17/07 07:33 PM
Tell me.
Posted By: musick Re: worsen your strength - 03/17/07 08:18 PM
Submissive character is appealing to some.

Having a weak gag reflex during an eating contest might help. (whether watching or participating <lol>)

Being fearless (even slightly less) may help one experience things never dreamt about by the timid.
Posted By: BranShea Re: worsen your strength - 03/17/07 10:21 PM
The first two: are about weakness becoming an advantage under certain circumstances. Weak in itself stays weak.

The third one: being fearless might be regarded as a strenght
but being totally fearless is unwise and could prove to be a weakness after all. It does not work well as an example anyway of what Faldage might mean.

Does Faldage have an answer of his own to this? (as we are talking indirectly anyway)
Curuinor and Zed,

THANKS for your input!!

I was perhaps oversimplifying a little. There are those who can use weakness to their advantage:

"Oh, I'm so weak and delicate. Could the big strong man scrape the ice off my windshield?"
Hello Heni79

I tried to understand the positive better by looking for the negative.
Thanks to having been given the active negative word, I think that to improve its weaknesses cannot be misunderstood , even without the on / upon.

Improve means making better. Thus giving a positive turn to weaknesses.
It could never be understood as exacerbate, aggravate its weaknesses.

That's why I brought in the negative. Not as a distraction from your subject, but for better understanding.

Originally Posted By: BranShea

I tried to understand the positive better by looking for the negative.

Sometimes a contrast in elements serves to heighten the salient points of each. It works in art (and by extension, to philosophy). The Italians had a name for it: chiaroscuro. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiaroscuro.
Posted By: musick OW!! My liver! - 03/18/07 10:43 PM
...I was perhaps oversimplifying a little.

I'll just lay here, above the roaring fire, right arm toasting, my torso holding up the photoframed snapshots of Uncle Earl and Cousin Betsy. I wish someone would wind this clock.. or at least break out the lemon pledge...
Posted By: BranShea Re: OW!! My liver! - 03/19/07 10:05 AM
Musick, I read your post with respectful, roaring laughter and have been trying to give you a bigger smile then these microscopicones. But the wordpad drawing did not hold through two transformations.
So this avangarde giant try of a smile.

......... &&&&&&& ------------------> happy hairdo
.....&v!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! v&
....v ......--..........--.... v
Ov ... >@ -------- @< ....vO
...v ............................v
....v........>VV< ....... v
.....v.."!>sss sss!<".....v ----------> Ssssmile!
.......v................. v

Pennies from Heaven! Yes, you are right. Chiaroscuro , clair-obscure : Caravaggio, de Ribera. Rembrand and George de la Tour.
It started with Caravaggio.
I'm a painter (somewhere between a cartoonist and Michelangelo.)
(thanks, Etaoin). More on this side of the middle.
And an educator still, but retired from the large groups to small private studio groups.
Posted By: Aramis Re: worsen your strength - 03/22/07 08:02 PM
Originally Posted By: musick
Who *says "weakness" is a bad thing?

When weakness is becoming obsessed with a glamourous club hostess kitty at the space port on Fake World and ending up feeling like a frayed and dejected ball of yarn, it is a bad thing. Just an opinion.
Posted By: belMarduk Re: worsen your strength - 03/23/07 05:12 PM
Aramis...I've no idea what you've just said. [very confused-e]
Posted By: Aramis Re: worsen your strength - 03/23/07 07:45 PM
It's all right. Girlies tend to stick together on such things.
Posted By: musick Tighten my belt - 03/23/07 11:10 PM
I suppose I should've quantified "bad thing" with "only".
Posted By: Aramis Re: Tighten my belt - 04/02/07 05:51 PM
Well yes, in all fairness that was only a selected example.
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