I wrote this sentence:

Beside the main content, a web page may comprise of distracting parts such as ads, animations, logos, that can degrade the readability of the main content and pose difficulties to readers. In addition to these factors, colour contrast, font style, letter spacing, layout, line height and length of the content are among of the other factors that affect the readability of a web page. These problems could be more serious for specific population such as older adults, visually impaired users, non-native readers (those reading a page in a non-native language).

I guess the bold phrase should be common when someone want to say, the problem is more serious for specific group. but I wonder the Google results for it is just 2 case.

Are there better alternatives for my purpose?

Update: As I searched more "the problem could be more serious" (119000) and "the problem is more serious" (about 8 million results). I am convinced that I'd better use the latter phrase, but why so much difference? is "these problems" that odd?

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    Pay no attention at all to those "estimates" Google provides at the top. They're meaningless. Aug 16, 2015 at 20:58
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    This looks like proofreading to me (or a request for writing advice, equally Off Topic). Grammatically there's nothing wrong with your highlighted text, though I'd definitely change specific populations to specific individuals or similar. And if you want to sound more "formal" you might consider could be exacerbated rather than could be more serious. Aug 16, 2015 at 21:01
  • @StoneyB yes, but the difference is very considerable. I guess "the problem" is more common, even when there are multiple problems. they look all one issue.
    – Ahmad
    Aug 16, 2015 at 21:02
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    @Ahmad: It would be perfectly reasonable for your text to refer to this problem - the (single) problem being the presence within a web page of characteristics which detract from its readability. Aug 16, 2015 at 21:06
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    Note, before you go any further with this, that " colour contrast, font style, letter spacing, layout, line height and length of the content" are not inherently "problems". They are merely variables which can take problematic values. Aug 16, 2015 at 21:11

1 Answer 1


The use of subjunctive mood ('could' instead of 'can') is probably due to the unlikeliness of "specific population" visiting that page. The use of 'can/could be' instead of 'is' most likely due to the same notion - possibility.

The problem does not exist unless we have evidence to support it. If there is no evidence but speculation, and the conditions are likely to lead to the problem, then the usual way to say is "can be". If the circumstances are questionable for the problem to arise, or predicated on some coincidence, then "could be" is advised.


I have an uncle with a short temper who is 70. My uncle is an old grumpy man.

I have an aunt who is looking for a husband. With her looking, my uncle can be an old grumpy man.

My mother had a brother who died in his 20s. Had he lived, my uncle could be an old grumpy man.

As to your question about the possibility to improve, perhaps, but it is quite OK as it is. And it depends on what exactly you would like to say.

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