Tag Archives: grammar

One Newspaper, One Short Sentence, Two Errors

My Florida friend Cami found this confusing sentence in the Miami Herald. (She notes that Opa-Locka is a section of the Miami area): “A homeless family of six was found by Opa-Locka police officers living in their car.”

No doubt, this is a tragic situation. But from a grammatical standpoint, the sentence raises two questions: were the officers living in the same car with the family of six, or were the officers living in their separate car? It’s hard to tell because of the use of the pronoun their in the phrase living in their car. Their could refer to either the family or the police. Make sure you can clearly draw a mental arrow from your pronouns to their antecedents (the word or words they refer to).

It’s easy to fix this sentence. The rule with modifiers (words that give more information) is to place them right next to the word or words they are modifying. A clear version of this sentence would be, “A homeless family of six living in their car was found by Opa-Locka police officers.”

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Cats and Commas

From my friend Pat in New Jersey. How I love this!

Cat vs. Comma.jpg

Leave a comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Tearing My Hair Out

I’ve got a lot of hair, but at the rate I keep hearing a particular verbal atrocity, I may be bald by the weekend. My friend Cami in Miami heard this from the mouth of a supposedly literate and sophisticated lecturer and reacted as badly as I do when I hear it. I’m just surprised I haven’t written about this before.

Here goes: DO NOT SAY, “My wife (or anyone else) and I’s (fill in noun).”  “My friend and I’s lunch date had to be canceled.” 

No such possessive “word” as “I’s” exists. I think this problem arises because so many people think I is a classier pronoun than me or my. It’s not. If you need a subject pronoun, use I.  For an object pronoun, it’s going to be me or my. My wife’s and my apartment was painted last week. My friend’s and my lunch date had to be canceled.

The good news is that I have never seen anyone write this horror. You can use the search box on my blog to get more info about “I vs. me.”

 

Leave a comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Grammar Rocks!

An ex-English teacher friend sent this list to me; if you know me, you can imagine how tickled I was by it. See why you should have stayed awake in high school when your teacher was explaining dangling participles? 
• A dangling participle walks into a bar. Enjoying a cocktail and chatting with the bartender, the evening passes pleasantly.
 
• A bar was walked into by the passive voice.
 
• An oxymoron walked into a bar, and the silence was deafening.
 
• Two quotation marks walked into a “bar.”
 
• A malapropism walks into a bar, looking for all intensive purposes like a wolf in cheap clothing, muttering epitaphs and casting dispersions on his magnificent other, who takes him for granite.
 
• Hyperbole totally rips into this insane bar and absolutely destroys everything.
 
• A question mark walks into a bar?
 
• A non sequitur walks into a bar. In a strong wind, even turkeys can fly.
 
• Papyrus and Comic Sans walk into a bar. The bartender says, “Get out – we don’t serve your type.”
 
• A mixed metaphor walks into a bar, seeing the handwriting on the wall but hoping to nip it in the bud.
 
• A comma splice walks into a bar, it has a drink and then leaves.
 
• Three intransitive verbs walk into a bar. They sit. 
 
• They converse. They depart.
 
• A synonym strolls into a tavern.
 
• At the end of the day, a cliché walks into a bar – fresh as a daisy, cute as a button, and sharp as a tack.
 
• A run-on sentence walks into a bar it starts flirting. With a cute little sentence fragment.
 
• Falling slowly, softly falling, the chiasmus collapses to the bar floor.
 
• A figure of speech literally walks into a bar and ends up getting figuratively hammered.
 
• An allusion walks into a bar, despite the fact that alcohol is its Achilles heel.
 
• The subjunctive would have walked into a bar, had it only known.
 
• A misplaced modifier walks into a bar owned a man with a glass eye named Ralph.
 
• The past, present, and future walked into a bar. It was tense.
 
• A dyslexic walks into a bra.
 
• A verb walks into a bar, sees a beautiful noun, and suggests they conjugate. The noun declines.
 
• An Oxford comma walks into a bar, where it spends the evening watching the television getting drunk and smoking cigars.
 
• A simile walks into a bar, as parched as a desert.
 
• A gerund and an infinitive walk into a bar, drinking to forget.

2 Comments

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

How to Write Good

Sent to me by my friend Marilyn, another language maven. Enjoy.

50 Rules for Writing Good

One of the more popular items that circulate through the network of folk faxology is a perverse set of rules along the lines of Thimk, We Never Make Mistakes and (this one runs off the page) PlanAhe…. These injunctions call attention to the very mistakes they seek to enjoin. English teachers, students, scientists and (scientific) writers have been circulating a list of self-contradictory rules of usage for more than a century, and have been collecting and creating them for almost half of one. Whatever you think of these slightly cracked nuggets of rhetorical wisdom, just remember that all generalizations are bad.

  1. Each pronoun should agree with their antecedent.
  2. Between you and I, case is important.
  3. A writer must be sure to avoid using sexist pronouns in his writing.
  4. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
  5. Don’t be a person whom people realize confuses who and whom.
  6. Never use no double negatives.
  7. Never use a preposition to end a sentence with. That is something up with which your readers will not put.
  8. When writing, participles must not be dangled.
  9. Be careful to never, under any circumstances, split infinitives.
  10. Hopefully, you won’t float your adverbs.
  11. A writer must not shift your point of view.
  12. Lay down and die before using a transitive verb without an object.
  13. Join clauses good, like a conjunction should.
  14. The passive voice should be avoided.
  15. About sentence fragments.
  16. Don’t verb nouns.
  17. In letters themes reports and ads use commas to separate items in a series.
  18. Don’t use commas, that aren’t necessary.
  19. “Don’t overuse ‘quotation marks.’ “
  20. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (if the truth be told) superfluous.
  21. Contractions won’t, don’t and can’t help your writing voice.
  22. Don’t write run-on sentences they are hard to read.
  23. Don’t forget to use end punctuation
  24. Its important to use apostrophe’s in the right places.
  25. Don’t abbrev.
  26. Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!!
  27. Resist Unnecessary Capitalization.
  28. Avoid mispellings.
  29. Check to see if you any words out.
  30. One word sentences? Eliminate.
  31. Avoid annoying, affected, and awkward alliterations, always.
  32. Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
  33. The bottom line is to bag trendy locutions that sound flaky.
  34. By observing the distinctions between adjectives and adverbs, you will treat your readers real good.
  35. Parallel structure will help you in writing more effective sentences and to express yourself more gracefully.
  36. In my own personal opinion at this point of time, I think that authors, when they are writing, should not get into the habit of making use of too many unnecessary words that they don’t really need.
  37. Foreign words and phrases are the reader’s bete noire and are not apropos.
  38. Who needs rhetorical questions?
  39. Always go in search for the correct idiom.
  40. Do not cast statements in the negative form.

2 Comments

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Commas With Names

images.jpeg

To my consternation, I have noticed that many people and advertising companies, perhaps the majority, omit a comma when a person’s or team’s name is in the sentence. I’ll add an X where commas belong in the sentences below. Pay particular attention to sentences that directly address a person.

Good for youX Henry!

NoX Sam, you are wrong about who started the argument.

GoX Dodgers!

HiX Darrell.

Good morningX everyone.

SurpriseX Marlena!

In the last example, if you use the comma you are springing a surprise on Marlena. Without the comma, you are ordering someone to surprise Marlena as opposed to surprising someone else.

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Adverbs as Time Wasters

Adverbs are having their celebrity moment. The problem is that they are usually time and space wasters. How many times have you seen (or written) sentences containing the following?

Clearly

Actually

Basically

Virtually

Personally

Simply

Arguably

Absolutely

Instead, use a verb that carries precise meaning; then you’ll have no need to add a superfluous adverb. If a television is blaring, no need to say that it’s blaring loudly. When someone shouts, it won’t be done quietly.

A friend’s young granddaughter was fond of starting most sentences with “actually.” When her grandma asked her what “actually” meant, Nicole gave it serious thought and finally answered, “Actually, I don’t know.”

Leave a comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language