Sign Up For Our Free Grammar E-Newsletter

How Did They Get In Here?

Writers today have problems keeping their sentences internally consistent. This is especially true of print journalists. Because of staff cutbacks at financially challenged newspapers, many articles are proofread hastily, if at all.

Combine that with the shocking decline in Americans’ English language skills over the last fifty years or so and you get sentences unworthy of the average sixth-grader in 1963. Here is a sentence from a recent article in a major metropolitan newspaper on the West Coast: “Each side in the condo fight has spent more than $350,000 on their campaigns…”

Everything is fine until that jarring “their” at the end. Go back to the subject: “each side.” The writer is talking about two things but is taking them one at a time—each side has spent, not have spent. So writing “their” confounds the ground rules of the sentence. It’s like setting the table with a fork and then eating with your hands.

This is an easy one to fix: “Each side in the condo fight has spent more than $350,000 on its campaign…”

 

POP QUIZ

The following sentences or fragments from recent print or broadcast media reflect contemporary bad habits. Can you fix them?

1. McDonalds is doing everything they can to shift costs to operators.
2. There needs to be better screening and a more foolproof monitoring system.
3. East Haven, Conn. plane crash…
4. No listener is ever happy with how much time they get.
5. He didn’t believe in the peoples’ right to know.

 

POP QUIZ ANSWERS

1. McDonalds is doing everything it can to shift costs to operators.
2. There need to be better screening and a more foolproof monitoring system.
3. East Haven, Conn., plane crash…
4. No listeners are ever happy with how much time they get.
5. He didn’t believe in the people’s right to know.

To comment on this grammar tip, click on the title.

Posted on Sunday, August 11, 2013, at 11:06 am


The Oxford Comma

The debate rages on regarding inclusion of the Oxford, or serial, comma. Our GrammarBook.com Rule 1 of Commas recommends, “To avoid confusion, use commas to separate words and word groups with a series of three or more.”

I would like to share the below OnlineSchools.com presentation with you for this week’s grammar tip. I apologize for the small size of the type; we could not make it bigger and still fit it into the post. If you find it hard to read, click on the graphic to see it in larger type. This chart does a nice job covering the pros and cons of the Oxford comma. Note their recommendation at the end, “If you’re in the United States, use it . . .”

The Oxford Comma
Courtesy of: OnlineSchools.com

To comment on this grammar tip, click on the title.

Posted on Tuesday, April 2, 2013, at 3:51 pm


Commas, Part 10

Rule 1 – Use a comma when beginning sentences with introductory words such as well, why, hello, no, yes, etc.
Examples:
Yes, I do need that report.
Well, I never thought I’d live to see the day…

Rule 2 – Use a comma before and after introductory words such as namely, that is, i.e., for example, e.g., or for instance when they are followed by a series of items.
Example:
You may be required to bring many items, e.g., sleeping bags, pans, and warm clothing.

NOTE: i.e. (in Latin: id est) means that is; e.g. (in Latin: exempli gratia) roughly means for example.

Pop Quiz
Select the correct sentence.

1A. No you may not have a dollar.
1B. No, you may not have a dollar.

2A. Well isn’t that the funniest thing you’ve ever heard?
2B. Well, isn’t that the funniest thing you’ve ever heard?

3A. I will work in one of only three states, namely, Washington, Oregon, or Idaho.
3B. I will work in one of only three states namely, Washington, Oregon, or Idaho.
3C. I will work in one of only three states namely Washington, Oregon, or Idaho.

4A. We are learning about many different punctuation marks, i.e., periods, commas, and semicolons.
4B. We are learning about many different punctuation marks, e.g., periods, commas, and semicolons.

Pop Quiz Answers

1B. No, you may not have a dollar.
2B. Well, isn’t that the funniest thing you’ve ever heard?
3A. I will work in one of only three states, namely, Washington, Oregon, or Idaho.
4B. We are learning about many different punctuation marks, e.g., periods, commas, and semicolons. (Using e.g. means that these three punctuation marks are examples of what you are learning about. Using i.e. would have meant that these three are the only ones you are learning about.)

To comment on this grammar tip, click on the title.

Posted on Friday, March 1, 2013, at 10:34 pm


Commas, Part 9

Rule 1 – Use a comma to separate a statement from a question.
Example: I can go, can’t I?

Rule 2 – Use a comma to separate contrasting parts of a sentence.
Example: That is my money, not yours.

Pop Quiz
Select the correct sentence.

1A. You’re Marvin from my old Denver neighborhood, aren’t you?
1B. You’re Marvin from my old Denver neighborhood aren’t you?

2A. I believe that’s my jacket, isn’t it?
2B. I believe that’s my jacket isn’t it?

3A. That is a mountain lion not a house cat.
3B. That is a mountain lion, not a house cat.

Pop Quiz Answers
1A. You’re Marvin from my old Denver neighborhood, aren’t you?
2A. I believe that’s my jacket, isn’t it?
3B. That is a mountain lion, not a house cat.

To comment on this grammar tip, click on the title.

Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013, at 2:45 pm


Commas, Part 8

To get started, let’s review the first rule of “Commas, Part 7.”
Rule: Use a comma to separate two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction–and, or, but, for, nor.
Example: He thought quickly, but he still did not answer correctly.

Now, let’s look at a slightly different situation.
Rule 1 - If the subject does not appear in front of the second verb, do not use a comma.
Example: He thought quickly but still did not answer correctly.

Rule 2 - Use commas to introduce or interrupt direct quotations shorter than three lines.
Examples:
He actually said, “I do not care.”
“Why,” I asked, “do you always forget to do it?”

Pop Quiz
Choose the correct sentence.
1A. She went to the mall and she found the perfect pair of shoes to wear at the wedding.
1B. She went to the mall, and she found the perfect pair of shoes to wear at the wedding.

2A. She went to the mall and found the perfect pair of shoes to wear at the wedding.
2B. She went to the mall, and found the perfect pair of shoes to wear at the wedding.

3A. “Baseball” Yogi Berra said “is ninety percent mental, and the other half is physical.”
3B. “Baseball” Yogi Berra said, “is ninety percent mental, and the other half is physical.”
3C. “Baseball,” Yogi Berra said, “is ninety percent mental, and the other half is physical.”

Pop Quiz Answers
1B. She went to the mall, and she found the perfect pair of shoes to wear at the wedding.
2A. She went to the mall and found the perfect pair of shoes to wear at the wedding.
3C. “Baseball,” Yogi Berra said, “is ninety percent mental, and the other half is physical.”

To comment on this grammar tip, click on the title.

Posted on Tuesday, February 12, 2013, at 5:42 pm