Archive for the ‘Subject/Verb Agreement’ Category

Two New Agreement Glitches

Friday, April 19th, 2013

If you visit this blog regularly, you know that subject/verb agreement and pronoun/antecedent agreement are among my pet peeves.  I have recent examples of each to share with you today. First, this sentence from an article by Barnett Wright for al.com:

The relationship between Sewell and some commissioners have been strained.

Whoops #1: The word RELATIONSHIP is singular. It is the subject of the sentence.  COMMISSIONERS, which is plural, is the object of the preposition BETWEEN and has nothing to do with the subject/verb connection. The verb should be HAS. The sentence should read this way:

The relationship between Sewell and some commissioners has been strained.

 

Second, this sentence from an article by Kent Faulk for al.com about abortion clinic bomber Eric Robert Rudolph:

Besides the fact that Rudolph had agreed in his plea deal, federal officials also have said that it is illegal for a criminal to profit from their actions.

Whoops #2: Rudolph is A CRIMINAL (singular), so unless he has an accomplice helping him write his autobiography (which he does not), the pronoun THEIR (plural) is incorrect. It should be HIS (singular). The sentence should read this way:

Besides the fact that Rudolph had agreed in his plea deal, federal officials also have said that it is illegal for a criminal to profit from his actions.

NOTE: For those who are uncomfortable using HIS to refer to CRIMINAL (because it suggests the exclusion of female criminals), simply change that part of the sentence to the plural and write it this way:

Besides the fact that Rudolph had agreed in his plea deal, federal officials also have said that it is illegal for criminals to profit from their actions.


Seven errors in one article?

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

In my last post, I promised to continue discussing the frequency of errors in newspaper articles. Last week I tried to read an article in The Birmingham News about a woman who had been recruiting homeless people to cash counterfeit checks for her. By the time I reached the end of the article, I had highlighed seven errors, which I will share with you here, along with their corrections.

Whoops #1: As written, this sentence makes it sound as if the woman was driving a car that had a typewriter for a sidecar.

Law enforcement recovered $22,000 in counterfeit checks from the car she was driving along with a typewriter, he said.

The problem here is poor word order. The phrase about the typewriter belongs next to the counterfeit checks because both things were recovered.  The sentence should read this way:

Law enforcement recovered a typewriter and $22,000 in counterfeit checks from the car she was driving, he said.

 

 Whoops #2: The problem with this sentence is subject/verb agreement.

According to a preliminary estimate, a little over $110,000 in counterfeit checks were seized by law enforcement from Tate's home and car the day she was arrested, Bailey testified.

 A LITTLE OVER $110,000 is a lump sum of money and should be considered singular. It should not be used with the plural verb WERE. The verb should be WAS.

 NOTE: An even more efficient way to improve this sentence and avoid the WAS/WERE decision is to make it active rather than passive:

According to a preliminary estimate, law enforcement seized a little over $110,000 in counterfeit checks from Tate's home and car the day she was arrested, Bailey testified.

 

Whoops #3: This glitch has to do with verb tense.

…her role was to show others involved where the banks are and where the homeless people congregated, he said.

The writer should decide whether he is speaking in the present tense or the past tense. If he says HER ROLE WAS, then he should not say WHERE THE BANKS ARE (present tense) and then flip back to the past tense with THE HOMELESS PEOPLE CONGREGATED. If they congregated in the past, why would you need them where the banks are now? The sentence should read this way to be parallel in structure and verb tense:

…her role was to show others involved where the banks were and where the homeless people congregated, he said.

 

 Whoops #4 and #5: Strings of phrases can confuse meaning. The writer should also remember that AN rather than A is the correct article (noun determiner) in front of a word that begins with a vowel.N N writer should also remember that An    g. The also 

Investigators had been looking into Tate and others  after a  incident in the fall of 2011 after authorities were alerted to a incident in Trussville where someone tried to cash a counterfeit check.

The two AFTER(s) confuse the time frame.  The two uses of INCIDENT make it sound as if there are two separate incidents.  WHERE should refer to location, not function. Here is what I consider a better version of this sentence:

 Investigators had been looking into Tate and others after authorities were alerted to an incident in Trussville in the fall of 2011 during which someone tried to cash a counterfeit check.

 

 Whoops #6: A comma should not needlessly separate one clause from another. If a subordinate clause comes after an independent clause, it should not be set off with a comma.

The woman from Atlanta tried to hide about $15,000 in counterfeit checks under the vehicle, when police approached.

NOTE: This sentence might be more effective if the WHEN clause were placed at the beginning. If it is placed there, the comma would come after APPROACHED: 

When police approached, the woman from Atlanta tried to hide about $15,000 in counterfeit checks under the vehicle.

 

Whoops #7: When using pronouns like THEIR and THEM, it should be clear to the reader who THEY are in the sentence:

Between six and 12 homeless people have identified Tate as having recruited them during their investigation.

As written, this sentence makes it sound as if the homeless people were conducting the investigation.  THEM refers to the homeless people Tate recruited, but THEIR is meant to refer to the police investigators. That won't work. The phrase DURING THE INVESTIGATION should probably be left completely out of this sentence because I doubt that Tate was doing the recruiting during the investigation. Here is how the sentence should read:

Between six and 12 homeless people have identified Tate as having recruited them.

 

Seven errors in one article would suggest that the writer did not proofread what he wrote. It would also suggest that The Birmingham News is no longer making good use of copy editors in the newsroom.


Pruning are?? Subject/verb agreement lacking

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

The "Ask a Landscaper" column in a recent issue of The Birmingham News contains a carelessly worded sentence:

Pruning off these buds are in essence pruning of the flowers before they bloom.

 The columnist is answering a reader's question about when to prune azaleas. First, the word PRUNING is a gerund (a verb turned into a noun by adding ING). It is the subject of the sentence and is a single function, so it is considered singular.  Therefore, the verb should be IS instead of ARE. Second, the columnist uses the phrase PRUNING OFF in reference to the BUDS, so it makes sense that he meant to use the same phrase PRUNING OFF in reference to the FLOWERS.  The sentence should read this way:

Pruning off these buds is in essence pruning off the flowers before they bloom.

I love gardening, and if you do, too, you are probably getting antsy about planting for the coming spring. I hope your azaleas and other plants are gorgeous this year.


Typos Tarnish a Good Article

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

We all create typos and grammar errors when writing. Sometimes a writer creates them with a slip of the finger on the keyboard. Other times they occur when the author decides to rewrite an awkward sentence and doesn't follow through with all of the necessary changes. And sometimes, the writer just plain does not know the correct usage. Most of the time, a good writer can catch and correct errors simply by taking time to proofread before hitting the Send button.

David Holloway writes energetic food articles for the new version of The Birmingham News. Although his information is always interesting and useful, his articles often contain careless typos and other mistakes that distract the reader. Here are some examples from one article that appeared during the holiday season:

We are not immune to a crackling fire, even though for many of that means  turning on the air conditioner. 

Whoops #1: The word US is missing from the sentence. It should read this way:

We are not immune to a crackling fire, even though for many of us that means  turning on the air conditioner. 

 

The second error involves typing one word when he meant to type another (and not going back to notice):

So in the coming weeks we will endeavor to offer you a guide to entertaining, only our party with  have a Southern accent. 

Whoops #2: The word WITH should be the word WILL:

So in the coming weeks we will endeavor to offer you a guide to entertaining, only our party will have a Southern accent.

 

The third error again involves the wrong word choice, but I am not sure exactly which correct word should replace it–GOER or HOST. See what you think:

…your working boy and professional party goes  has a few ideas about how not to overdo it. 

Whoops #3: David could be a PROFESSIONAL PARTY GOER or a PROFESSIONAL PARTY HOST, but certainly not a PROFESSIONAL PARTY GOES.

It is easy to type AND when you mean AN, and a spell checker doesn't know the difference, but a good writer proofreads and catches such things:

…you just aren't sure if you can eat and entire steamship round of beef.

 

Whoops #4–AND is a conjunction. What David wants here is the article AN in front of the noun phrase ENTIRE STEAMSHIP ROUND. It should read:

…you just aren't sure if you can eat an entire steamship round of beef.

 

The final error in this otherwise interesting article is a full-blown grammar glitch. If you read this blog often, you know it is one I point out frequently–subject/verb agreement. There is also a verb choice error:

And   if  you  attempt it you will only antagonize your host or hostess who aren't amused by your legendary eating skills.

 

 Whoops #5 and Whoops #6: It would be best to antagonize only one person–either the HOST or the HOSTESS, rather than both. Using the verb AREN'T (plural) doesn't work with the OR reference. Also, using the word WILL after IF suggests a possible outcome in the future, so the verb AREN'T does not work. The sentence should read this way:

And if you attempt it, you will only antagonize your host or hostess who will not be amused by your legendary eating skills.

PLEASE PROOFREAD!

 

 

 

 

 


BOTH BROTHERS = A YOUNG ADULT??

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Here is another "sermon" on agreement, which is an important part of good writing. In a recent article in The Birmingham News, I came across this sentence:

As a young adult, both brothers found their way back and ended up staying.

Whoops! #1:A YOUNG ADULT can only refer to one person. BOTH BROTHERS refers to two people. Therefore, A YOUNG ADULT (singular) needs to be changed to YOUNG ADULTS (plural). The sentence should read this way:

As young adults, both brothers found their way back and ended up staying.

The same issue of the newspaper contained this sentence, which also has an agreement problem:

Bob Smith Construction Co. of Trussville, with engineers from Blount County, are working to get the bridge fully restored and open to traffic.

Whoops! #2: The subject of this sentence is BOB SMITH CONSTRUCTION CO. (singular). The inserted phrase between the commas, WITH ENGINEERS FROM BLOUNT COUNTY, is not part of the subject. Therefore, the use of the plural verb ARE is incorrect.  The sentence should read this way:

Bob Smith Construction Co. of Trussville, with engineers from Blount County, is working to get the bridge fully restored and open to traffic.

And then there was this sentence:

As the state continues to close psychiatric hospitals–10 have been shuttered in the past 15 years–and moves toward community-based care, these kind of broadly-trained psyciatric nurse practitioners are greatly needed.

 

The word THESE is plural and cannot be used with the singular word KIND. The writer must use either THESE KINDS or THIS KIND. In this sentence, the writer is referring to NURSE PRACTITIONERS, which is plural, so the choice should be THESE KINDS. The sentence should read this way:

As the state continues to close psychiatric hospitals–10 have been shuttered in the past 15 years–and moves toward community-based care, these kinds of broadly-trained psyciatric nurse practitioners are greatly needed.

 

 

 

 

 

Whoops! #3: The word THESE is plural. It cannot be used with the singular word KIND. A writer must use either THESE KINDS or THIS KIND. In this sentence, the writer is referring to NURSE PRACTIIONERS (plural), so the choice should be THESE KINDS. The sentence should read this way:

As the state continues to close psychiatric hospitals–10 have been shuttered in the past 15 years–and moves toward community-based care, these kinds of broadly-trained psyciatric nurse practioners are greatly needed.

 


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

Monday, November 12th, 2012

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.


Subject/Verb Agreement Problems, Plus Corn Grounding??

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

The Birmingham area is adjusting this week to having its one remaining "daily" newspaper delivered three days a week. I'm not sure yet if I can get used to sitting down with hot tea and the paper only three mornings a week.  The first "new" edition was on our lawn this morning, after we spent two weekday mornings discovering that AL.com had two-day-old stories mixed in with current things on Monday and Tuesday and, despite the guide for using it, was not all that easy to navigate.  I finally figured out that I could find a little local news if I clicked on one local story and then scrolled to the right from there.

I'm also not sure I want to read three days of comics in one sitting, and I miss the national editorial comments from a broad range of thinkers. (Okay not everyone in this county thinks the range is broad enough), but I usually read everyone from Dana Milbank and Froma Harrop to George Will and Charles Krauthammer, then live with my own thoughts. I did enjoy a little extra morning time on Monday and Tuesday to read USA Today on line, The New Yorker articles I'd been meaning to get to, and a smattering of headline stories from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, so maybe I will get the hang of this.

I will reserve overall judgment about the quality of the writing in this new venture, but I was horrified to find that the lead story in the "Hoover" neighborhood section of the paper had no fewer than THREE subject/verb agreement errors in about six inches of copy. The story, about a Native American Festival to be held this Sunday at the beautiful Aldridge Gardens, was interesting, but these are glaring errors:

Other activities includes leaf pounding, beading, corn grounding, gourd making and pottery.

Whoops! ACTIVITIES is plural. Therefore, its verb should be INCLUDE (without the S). Also, I am not sure what CORN GROUNDING is. I checked Google and a dictionary or two and could not find any such thing. The verb GRIND has the past tense GROUND, but here, the ING form should be created with the present tense, so it should be GRINDING. This sentence should read this way:

Other activities include leaf pounding, beading, corn grinding, gourd making and pottery.

Last time I checked, the word CHILDREN was the plural form of CHILD, so it should take the plural verb ARE, but here is what the article said:

Children under 2 is free.

Of course, this sentence should read as follows:

Children under 2  are  free.

The sentence before this one puzzled me a little. It said that admission to the festival is $5 for 18 and older. My question is: Why doesn't the reporter mention what it will cost those between the ages of 2 and 18 to attend?

Finally, this sentence appeared near the end of the article:

 The festival is being made possible by the Alabama Department of Tourism and Aldridge Gardens' 10th Anniversary sponsors, which includes AT&T, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Brookwood Hospital, Ed Randle & Associates and Protective Life Corporation, organizers said.

 

Whoops again! The word SPONSORS is plural, and the words WHICH INCLUDES should refer to the five SPONSORS (plural) of the event. HINT: To avoid worrying about the subject/verb agreement, the writer could just use the word INCLUDING. The sentence should read one of these two ways:

The festival is being made possible by the Alabama Department of Tourism and Aldridge Gardens' 10th Anniversary sponsors, which include AT&T, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Brookwood Hospital, Ed Randle & Associates and Protective Life Corporation, organizers said.

The festival is being made possible by the Alabama Department of Tourism and Aldridge Gardens' 10th Anniversary sponsors, including AT&T, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Brookwood Hospital, Ed Randle & Associates and Protective Life Corporation, organizers said.


Luncheon topic headline has agreement problem plus a missing “earring comma.”

Monday, October 1st, 2012

A headline in the newsletter of a local ladies club caught my eye last week. Here it is:

Meteorologist James Spann, along with Karen Spann  present  "Beauty after the Storm"

The subject of this headline is JAMES SPANN (one person). The phrase ALONG WITH KAREN SPANN should be set off with two commas (which I like to refer to as "earring commas")–one at the end as well as the one at the beginning.  ALONG WITH KAREN SPANN is a dropped-in phrase, but it does not affect the relationship of the subject JAMES SPANN to the verb, which should be PRESENTS because its subject is one person. The headline should read this way:

Meteorologist James Spann, along with Karen Spann, presents "Beauty after the Storm"

 


The rigors isn’t??

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Grammar Glitch returns once more to subject/verb agreement.  Here is a sentence that appeared in an article about the recent Secret Service scandal:

The agency enjoys vaunted prestige in American popular culture, but the rigors of a protective detail–jet-setting the globe at a moment's notice to protect a dignitary, being on-call around the clock–isn't for everyone.

 

Whoops! The subject of the second part of this sentence (after BUT) is RIGORS, which is plural.  No matter how much wording appears between the dashes, the verb for that part of the sentence is ISN'T, which is singular.  It should be AREN'T to go with RIGORS.

NOTE: The phrase ON CALL is written as two separate words that are not hyphenated like JET-SETTING.

The sentence should read this way:

The agency enjoys vaunted prestige in American popular culture, but the rigors of a protective detail–jet-setting the globe at a moment's notice to protect a dignitary, being on call around the clock–aren't for everyone.

 

  A note of welcome to those who participated in my Advanced Business Writing workshops in Troy, Mobile, and Tuscumbia the past two weeks. Note the usage of hyphens and dashes in the example sentence above. We covered this in the workshop.

 

 

  

 

 


Difficulties was? Another agreement glitch.

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Here is a sentence I came across in an article about the attempted U.N. mission in Syria:

The difficulties of the team's mission was clear Wednesday during its visit to the suburb of Arbeen, just northeast of Damascus.

 

The subject of this sentence is DIFFICULTIES (plural), not MISSION (singular). Therefore, the verb should be WERE (plural), not WAS (singular). The sentence should read this way:

The difficulties of the team's mission were clear Wednesday during its visit to the suburb of Arbeen, just northeast of Damascus.