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In a forum of a website, I read the following sentences (the writer is referring to a session in a conference):

Makes lots of sense. Not sure what can I be of help (and I already have two sessions on the official schedule), but would be happy to be of help.

Is it correct to say what can I be of help?
Is it commonly used? Is it used in restricted groups?

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I would diagnose 'typo' of 'what' where 'that' was intended. It is not correct, but in a forum, you cannot expect every message to be perfectly grammatically correct, and should allow for lax usage. (This forum is something of an exception; the people here are concerned about correct usage, so most content can be scrutinized for accuracy.) – Jonathan Leffler Feb 15 '11 at 17:17
up vote 7 down vote accepted

The sentences contains some quirks, and a lot of references are omitted.

Sense is not quantifiable, so the variation a lot of sense feels more natural and is more commonly used than lots of sense.

The expression isn't what can I be of help but rather what I can do to help or how I can be of help.

I fleshed out the sentences so that they read like written language:

That makes a lot of sense. I'm not sure what I can do to be of help (and I already have two sessions on the official schedule), but I would be happy to be of help.

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Do you mean that the answer to my last two questions is then "no"? – kiamlaluno Feb 15 '11 at 14:51
@kiamlaluno: Sorry if I was unclear. That is correct, the answer is no; the expression is wrong. – Guffa Feb 15 '11 at 15:09
@Guffa: There is no need to be sorry. I wanted to be sure that what you meant was what I understood. I was not sure you noticed those "subquestions", and you simply forgot to answer to those. – kiamlaluno Feb 15 '11 at 15:20
"lots of sense" sounds fine to my ears. Maybe not grammatical, but who cares ;-). Other than that, I agree. – Jürgen A. Erhard Feb 15 '11 at 15:43
lots of is reported from the NOAD as variant for a lot of; both the phrases are marked as informal, in sentences like she had lots of fun. – kiamlaluno Feb 15 '11 at 17:20

Better to say How can I be of help? or What can I help with? (yes I know there is a preposition at the end), or even more simply How can I help?

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Just to reinforce Henry's point: "Not sure what I can be of help" sounds quite awkward, and it is something to be avoided. – Kosmonaut Feb 15 '11 at 14:32
What is your answer to my last three "sub-questions"? – kiamlaluno Feb 15 '11 at 14:52
@kiamlaluno: No, no and I doubt it. – Henry Feb 16 '11 at 0:33

or Not sure what I can do to be of help. The original reads as though the writer was in a hurry, and so employed faulty grammar.

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I read what can I be of help as a possible contraction of in what way can I be of help. Regardless of what the writer means, however, the construction can I is incongruous here, as is it usually used in the interrogative sense. Thus, it should be I can.

Summary of possible options for this context:

  • [In] what [way] I can be of help
  • how I can be of help
  • when I can be of help (the writer points to scheduling obligations)
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