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I had an email forwarded to me and one of the sentences in it sounded kind of wrong...:

"It would be helpful if you can send me the agenda as 10am-3pm is quite a huge block of time for the students."

The words that sound wrong to me are in bold.

The email sounds formal, but I don't like how this part sounds. Is there a better way to phrase or better words to use in this case?

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  • What about that part strikes you as odd?
    – emsoff
    Mar 3, 2014 at 6:29
  • I don't understand what you mean...?
    – Valentin
    Mar 3, 2014 at 6:40
  • I don't understand why you feel they "sound wrong." Is it because you don't think they're formal enough or is it just a matter of phrasing?
    – emsoff
    Mar 3, 2014 at 6:42
  • The choice of words doesn't feel right. "A huge block of" doesn't sound appropriate to be used to describe time, so I'm looking for better and more apt words and descriptions.
    – Valentin
    Mar 3, 2014 at 6:47
  • "It would be helpful if you can send me the agenda; 10am-3pm is a large block of time for the students, and I might have some some further thoughts on the proposed programme." Mar 3, 2014 at 8:51

3 Answers 3

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'Block' is regularly used with time. A child's school day is divided into 'blocks' for different lessons and activities. A 'block' of time is allocated by professionals for particular client needs etc. There is nothing at all unusual about the word 'block' in the context of time.

The sentence in question could have been better written, but not, in my view. by replacing the phrases you suggest.

What I sense has happened is that you have proposed some activities for a group of students that cover a five-hour period. The questioner is asking you to supply an 'agenda' (perfectly normal word to use in the circumstances) for the activities you propose as it seems a large 'block' of time. It all sounds perfectly normal. I would however rephrase the sentence to read:

'It would be helpful if you could supply me with the agenda, as 10am-3pm is a large block of time for the students.'

NB I have changed can to could which is better. But had you already suggested sending the agenda, then can might be more appropriate.

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I would say re-phrase it to something like:

"It would be helpful if you can send me the agenda as 10am-3pm is quite a long/lengthy period of time for the students."

I think the word agenda is formal enough though.

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  • What about "block"? Doesn't sound right to me to use that word to describe time...
    – Valentin
    Mar 3, 2014 at 6:50
  • Right. I think "period" is more appropriate.
    – Rami
    Mar 3, 2014 at 6:51
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What about "block"? Doesn't sound right to me to use that word to describe time...

On the contrary; "a block of" is certainly appropriate when referring to time. See Macmillan, Definition #4:

block (n.) a continuous period of time : We need to find a two-hour block when we are all free for this seminar.

In the context of a typical 9-to-5 schedule, 10am to 3pm is a rather huge block of time, because it doesn't leave people very much room to do anything else during their day. One glimpse at my weekly planner shows what a huge block of time it is:

enter image description here

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  • It all depends on the metaphor used. You can talk of time as money (spend an hour, waste your time, thank you for your time), or a path (it's behind you now, look forward, approaching months), or a two-dimensional area to be filled with activities, as above. If you are a native speaker, you need to read more different kinds of things; you're missing a lot. If you're not a native speaker, you need to not trust your intuitions about the way things sound; native speakers define the language, not the rules in books. Mar 3, 2014 at 15:53
  • @JohnL - I assume your comment is directed at the O.P., not me. At any rate, you bring up a good point, "block" is hardly the only possible word. Personally, I have no problem with "chunk" of time, even, if someone is trying to "carve" out an appointment in my schedule. Also, I agree that native speakers define the language, not the books, but, to their credit, the books do try to keep up when a word or usage gains enough traction.
    – J.R.
    Mar 3, 2014 at 19:38

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