I have an excessive number of complaints about this news article–three in one sentence!

This sentence, from a recent article in The Birmingham News about excessive force complaints to the local police department, may prompt me to file a complaint with the newspaper about excessive examples of poor grammar and usage:

But a Fraternal Order of Police officials and an attorney for the city of Birmingham says the number of excessive force complaints are very low compared to the tens of thousands of arrests….

Where to begin? This sentence, as you can see, is bleeding red with my markings of what should be edited.

Whoops #1: I am not sure what should be the correct subject for this sentence.  We have OFFICIALS (plural), which comes after the article A, which should only be used with something singular. Either it is AN OFFICIAL, or it is OFFICIALS without an article. That is followed by AND, which connects that OFFICIAL or those OFFICIALS to AN ATTORNEY, so no matter how many OFFICIALS are involved, at least one of them plus the ATTORNEY equals two, so I do not understand the use of the singular verb SAYS. The sentence should read one of these two ways:

1. But a Fraternal Order of Police official and an attorney for the city of Birmingham say….

 

2. But Fraternal Order of Police officials and an attorney for the city of Birmingham say….

 

 

Whoops #2: If you put "City of" in front of Birmingham, it should be capitalized.

Whoops #3: The subject of the second part of the sentence is NUMBER, which is a singular noun. The subject is not COMPLAINTS. Therefore, that part of the sentence should take the singular verb IS instead of the plural verb ARE, and it should read as follows:

But Fraternal Order of Police officials and an attorney for the City of Birmingham say the number of excessive force complaints is very low compared to the tens of thousands of arrests….

 

Whoops #4 in this article occurs in another paragraph. It is important to word correctly when using prepositional phrases. Otherwise, the reader has difficulty figuring out what goes with what. Here is an example sentence from this article:

 Between Jan. 1, 2007 through Feb. 1, 2012, Birmingham Police Officers completed 2,449 Use of Force Reports.

The wording should be either BETWEEN…AND or FROM…TO. BETWEEN should not be used with THROUGH. The sentence should read one of these two ways to be correct:

1. Between Jan. 1, 2007 and Feb. 1, 2012, Birmingham Police Officers completed 2,449 Use of Force Reports.

 

2. From Jan. 1, 2007 through Feb. 1, 2012, Birmingham Police Officers completed 2,449 Use of Force Reports.


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