Archive for the ‘verbs’ Category

Do you confuse LIE and LAY? Here’s a simple solution.

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

I am about to finish a great first novel by Pauline Livers. Titled Cementville (Counterpoint Press) and set in rural Kentucky during the Vietnam War, it tells the story of a town that loses seven young National Guard soldiers in one brutal overseas attack. There is much more to it, but that is where the story begins.

I love the writing and the characterization, but I keep coming across sentences using LAY where LIE would be correct. Here are two examples:

from page 72: "…she lays staring at the brown stains in the ceiling, raggedy islands in a dirty sea."

from page 98: "They lay by the water on a soft bed of storm-tossed leaves,…"

Whoops! Both of these sentences are in the present tense, which means that a form of LIE is the correct choice. Here is why: LIE is an intransitive verb describing the act of reclining. It does not take an object. LAY is a transitive verb describing the act of putting or placing something. It does take an object (the thing being put or placed.)

Here is how these two sentences should read: 

from page 72: "…she lies staring at the brown stains in the ceiling, raggedy islands in a dirty sea."

from page 98: "They lie by the water on a soft bed of storm-tossed leaves,…"

 

NOTE: For another example of how to use LIE and LAY correctly, please see my most recent Facebook post on the Grammar Glitch Central page. (December 28, 2014)

Cementville

Please do not let these minor corrections keep you from seeking out and reading this excellent novel. If you like southern fiction that calls to mind writers like William Faulkner or Ron Rash, you will find Cementville to be a good read.

 


How do you put a call INTO a friend? Is that a good idea?

Friday, February 21st, 2014

INTO and IN TO can be confusing. If you are a grammar-savvy reader, it might be enough to explain that INTO is a preposition (as in "into attending her high school reunion"). INTO takes an object (in this case, ATTENDING). IN by itself is an adverb that describes the verb coming before it, and TO is a separate preposition (as in "…he put a call in to a friend…."). IN describes the verb PUT. FRIEND is the object of the preposition TO.

Consider this sentence from an al.com column about tonight's (February 21, 2014) speaker (author Ann Patchett) at the Hoover library Southern Voices conference:

When a recent divorcee gets talked in to attending her high school reunion, she works to overcome her phobia of highway driving to experience the adventure of a lifetime.

Then consider this sentence that appeared recently in an al.com article about a change in police vests:

Hagler recalled seeing Chicago police officers wearing load-bearing vests when he was there for an International Association of Chiefs of Police convention, and he put a call into a friend on the Chicago force.

If you want to be correct but don't care so much about the actual grammar rules, think of this in terms of visual image. You don't want to PUT A CALL INTO your friend. Ouch! (That might require some sort of surgery or mystic spell.) You also don't want to TALK THAT DIVORCEE IN (the way the control tower might talk a plane in during bad weather). The images you want are "put IN a call" and "talked INTO attending."

These sentences should read this way:

When a recent divorcee gets talked into attending her high school reunion, she works to overcome her phobia of highway driving to experience the adventure of a lifetime.

Hagler recalled seeing Chicago police officers wearing load-bearing vests when he was there for an International Association of Chiefs of Police convention, and he put in a call to a friend on the Chicago force."

COMMENT: I'd like to take this opportunity to commend the Hoover Public Library in Hoover, Alabama, for its wonderful Southern Voices conference. Year after year, their great staff bring outstanding well-known authors and new rising stars in a unique format that is loved by readers and authors alike. This year is no exception, beginning this evening with a talk by novelist and non-fiction author Ann Patchett.


Verb Tense Glitch Leads to Confusion

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

When I taught a recent certification workshop on good writing, one participant commented that her biggest writing issue is choosing verb tenses to match the time frames she is describing. The following quotation from a Birmingham News article about an upcoming ALDOT expansion project is a perfect example:

construction barrierIt won't always be smooth sailing, …but it shouldn't be like the Interstate 20/59 mess in Bessemer in  2012.  When a refurbishing project began taking out entire directions of Interstate 20 Monday and for the next several months, existing Interstates 59 and 459 should be able to shoulder the burden of diverted traffic.

I have highlighted all of the words and phrases in this quote that give hints about the time frames involved. In the first sentence, WON'T is a contraction of WILL NOT, which is future tense. The word SHOULD is a conditional verb that refers to something expected to happen (but hasn't yet) in a certain way.

Now look at the second sentence. WHEN used with BEGAN is past tense, yet MONDAY and FOR THE NEXT SEVERAL MONTHS refer to the future. (This article was written before next Monday, when the project will begin.) SHOULD BE ABLE TO SHOULDER also refers to the expected situation in the future.

Here is my suggested revision to correct the verb usage and make the time frame clearer and consistent with the facts:

 

It won't always be smooth sailing, …but it shouldn't be like the Interstate 20/59 mess in Bessemer in 2012. When a refurbishing project begins taking out entire directions of Interstate 20 next Monday, existing Interstates 59 and 459 should be able to shoulder the burden of diverted traffic.

 

My very best wishes for peace and patience to all those who travel this route "over the next several months." My very best wishes as well to ALDOT (one of my favorite workshop groups) for a successful completion of this important project.

 

 

It won't always be smooth sailing, …but it shouldn't be like the Interstate 20/59 mess in Bessemer in 2012. When a refurbishing project began taking out entire directions of Interstate 20 Monday and for the next several months, existing Interstates 59 and 459 should be able to shoulder the burden of diverted traffic. It won't always be smooth sailing, …but it shouldn't be like the Interstate 20/59 mess in Bessemer in 2012. When a refurbishing project began taking out entire directions of Interstate 20 Monday and for the next several months, existing Interstates 59 and 459 should be able to shoulder the burden of diverted traffic.


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.


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!

 

 

 

 

 


Verb Tense Matters and Affects Meaning

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Choosing the correct tense and form for a verb is important for clear writing. An incorrect choice can often lead to a distortion of meaning, as in this example sentence from the Sports section of The Birmingham News:

She has been an Alabama fan her entire life and had a brother, Chris, who played as a member of the 2009 and 2011 national championship teams.

The present perfect verb form HAS BEEN tells the reader that SHE (the subject of the sentence) is alive and well in the present and is still an Alabama fan. However, the past tense verb form HAD, in reference to her brother, makes it sound as if her brother has passed away.  To say SHE HAD A BROTHER suggests that the brother is no longer alive, which is not the case.

Here is another sentence with a verb form problem. It is from the same issue of the newspaper:

For the past three years, "Trading Christmas"–based on the best-selling Debbie Macomber novel about how house swapping can led to romance–has been the most-watched movie on Hallmark, whose audience is 55 percent female.

 LED is the past tense of the verb LEAD, as in "Alabama LED for the entire first quarter." It is also the past participle, which is used with helping verbs like HAS and HAVE, as in "Notre Dame HAS LED in the ratings." However, when the helping verb CAN is used, the present tense form is needed. Therefore, this sentence should read as follows:

For the past three years, "Trading Christmas"–based on the best-selling Debbie Macomber novel about how house swapping can lead to romance–has been the most-watched movie on Hallmark, whose audience is 55 percent female.

 

Here is one final verb problem, also from the same issue of the newspaper:

Turnovers also be the key and the team that makes the bigger plays on special teams, as always, should take the victory.

I have no problem with sports writing being a bit more casual with the rules. A "slangy" style works, to some extent. However, I do think using BE as the present tense verb goes too far. This is unacceptable usage and makes the writer sound far less than professional. The verb to go with TURNOVERS should be ARE because TURNOVERS is plural. The sentence should read this way:

Turnovers are also the key, and the team that makes the bigger plays on special teams, as always, should take the victory.

 

NOTE: Being a diehard Buckeye and an Auburn fan, I don't have a sure favorite in tonight's BCS championship game. May the truly best team win!


Sloppy proofreading detracts from company image

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Happy New YearFirst, I'd like to wish all of my Grammar Glitch Central readers a Happy New Year. May your writing be error-free and easy to read in 2013. Many thanks to those who have taken time to comment during 2012. Your observations and questions always add value to this blog.

 

Today's Grammar Glitch point involves an advertisement for a spa and hot tub company that contains several glaring errors. Simple proofreading should have caught these and kept them from downgrading the company's public image.

 

GRammar Glitch on spas

 Unfortunately, the first error occurs glaringly in large print. The city name should be BIRMINGHAM, ending in M, not N.

The second error is at the beginning of the final sentence. OVER 20-MODELS ON DISPLAY is poorly worded and punctuated. There should not be a hyphen between 20 and MODELS. The number 20 simply modifies the word MODELS. Perhaps space was the issue here, but the phrase MORE THAN works much better than OVER here.

The third error is a verb form error. CHOSE is the past tense verb, but the buyer would CHOOSE in the present. Also, I believe the word FROM is missing here.  The buyer is not choosing 4 colors or 8 acylic colors. The buyer is choosing FROM among those options.

Here is my edited version of that last sentence:

More than 20 models on display. Choose from 4 different cabinet colors and 8 different acrylic colors.

 

 


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.


AP headline grammar does not “add” up.

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Here is a headline that appeared in an online list of headlines this week.  It also appeared this way at the top of the actual story:

 

Whoops! The word AD is short for advertisement. It is a noun, not a verb, and cannot refer to Ashland putting an ADDITIONAL person on its board.  The word needed here is the verb ADD, as in "Her company plans to ADD ten additional employees next month."

This Associated Press headline should read as follows:

 

Ashland adds former Avon exec Janice Teal to board


Maybe? Or may be? That is the question.

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Spam subject lines often contain grammar errors, and recognizing that can be a good way to spot bogus emails that should be trashed. Here is a good example that appeared in my Inbox last week:

 

Remove errors that maybe harming your PC

 The single word MAYBE is an adverb that means the same thing as PERHAPS. It would be used in a sentence like this: MAYBE this is an email I should not open.

 

What this Spam creator should have used is the two verbs MAY and BE, which are separate words. His subject line should have read:

 

Remove errors that may be harming your PC

 

  Apparently I am not the only person who recognizes this problem. Please go to www.maybe.com to see a long list of examples, using MAYBE and MAY BE correctly.  I don't know who put this together, but I must say: GOOD JOB!