Archive for the ‘wording’ Category

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.


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.

 

 


Poor usage reflects poorly on the writer.

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

 Are those who write for digital media more careless with usage than those who write for print? I do not know the answer to that, but I have come across a wave of incorrect usage on AL.com since I have had to migrate there four out of seven days a week. The reporters who make these mistakes come across as ESL students who are still learning a new language!

Here is one example:

In more cases than not, when I take guests on cruises, they will go off shore wearing two, three, or for layers of clothing.

 This is pretty basic: FOR is a preposition. The numeral that comes after THREE should be FOUR. Note that spell checker would not catch this error because both FOR and FOUR are words. The sentence should read this way:

In more cases than not, when I take guests on cruises, they will go off shore wearing two, three, or four layers of clothing.

Here is a second example:

W's father and his stepmother said even though they had visited their son in Walter Reed, the site of him arriving at the airport was 'overwhelming.'

The SITE (location) of the reunion with their son was the airport, but when they actually SAW him (with their eyes), that was a SIGHT (with their eyes) that was overwhelming. This sentence should read as follows:

W's father and his stepmother said even though they had visited their son in Walter Reed, the sight of him arriving at the airport was 'overwhelming.'

 

And finally, last week after the election, there was this:

This local candidate apparently road the coattails of statewide candidates.

The past tense of RIDE, which is what is needed here, is RODE. If you have a paved surface on which to do your RIDING, that would be a ROAD. Here is the corrected version of this sentence:

This local candidate apparently rode the coattails of statewide candidates.


Alarmist Headline Inaccurate

Friday, October 19th, 2012

The current outbreak of fungal meningitis in the United States is tragic, and my heart goes out to the people who are dealing with this.

The Birmingham News carried a headline on Wednesday stating that 44 health facilities in Alabama had received medications that were tainted with the fungus. Oh no, I thought. Our state is now among the growing number connected to this tragedy.  Here is the headline:

Anyone who read only the headline kept the same impression I started with–that Alabama had received tainted medications. However, when I read the entire article, I found this information in the second paragraph:

Williamson (State Health Officer Dr. Donald Williamson) said none of the medicines sent to Alabama is known to be infection-causing.

That means that Alabama received medications from the New England Compounding Center but not the ones known to cause fungal meningitis.

A headline should accurately reflect the information contained in the story, especially in a situation like this one.


Where you put the modifiers matters!

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

I am still adjusting to the three-day newspaper format and trying to become friends with AL.com. Here is a lead sentence from an article on AL.com on October 6:

Two units of the apartment complex at 4252 3rd Ave. S. this evening were damaged by fire and two others sustained smoke damage.

 

What I want to know is where this apartment complex is the rest of the time. By placing the descriptive phrase (modifier) THIS EVENING right after the location of the apartment complex, the sentence makes it sound as if the complex is only in this location THIS EVENING. The phrase THIS EVENING is meant to describe when the fire damage occurred, but it cannot do that if it is not placed correctly.  The sentence should read this way:

Two units of the apartment complex at 4252 3rd Ave. S. were damaged by fire this evening and two others sustained smoke damage.

Whenever you use modifiers or descriptive phrases (adjectives and adverbs), read back through your writing to make sure they describe what they should describe.


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.


Tough Times Only on Wednesday Night?

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Arranging all of the qualifying phrases in the lead sentence of an article can be difficult. How does a writer cram in the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and WHY without writing something that is confusing?  It is important to play around with the wording, looking for the best arrangement.  It is also important to go back and proofread a final time once the wording seems correct.

elections,elephants,emotions,politicians,politics,Republicans,signs,smiles,smiley,smiley face,smiley faces,smileys,smilie,smilie face,smilie faces,smilies,smiling,smily,smily face,smily faces,smilys,symbols,US,USA,votesHere is a classic example of a lead sentence that has the phrasing out of order. Let's hope whoever is elected vice president gets it better than reporter David Espo of The Associated Press who wrote this yesterday about Paul Ryan's acceptance speech:

Seizing the Republican National Convention spotlight, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan welcomed "the calling of my generation" to help lead the country in tough times Wednesday night.

 This sentence makes it sound as if Ryan thinks his calling is to lead the country in tough times, but only on Wednesday night. Which Wednesday night?  All of them?  What about the rest of the week? 

WEDNESDAY NIGHT refers to the evening before when Ryan seized the convention spotlight, yet those two words are nowhere near what they describe.  The sentence should read this way:

Seizing the Republican National Convention spotlight Wednesday night, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan welcomed "the calling of my generation" to help lead the country in tough times .


Bopping your idea twice does not improve clarity.

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Every writer's first draft–a report, a business letter, a novel, or even a simple email–is full of redundancy because the writer is trying hard to make a point. The trick is to proofread and edit out unnecessary wording so that the writing doesn't sound as if it is trying too hard. Here is a good example:

Either one or both of the two men then started shooting, he said.

 In this sentence, the words BOTH and TWO mean basically the same thing.  Only one of them is needed. In this case, the word needed is BOTH. TWO can be edited out, as follows:

Either one or both of the men then started shooting, he said.

 Here is another example of what I like to call "bopping it twice when once will do."

The end result is that this procedure will hinder our forward progress in 2012.

 END and RESULT mean about the same thing, and I have never known PROGRESS to move in any direction other than FORWARD. The sentence is much more effective this way:

The result is that this procedure will hinder our progress in 2012.

  


A Pair of Usage Glitches in One Football Article

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

I am still proofreading a recent issue of The Messenger newspaper from Troy, Alabama.  In one article about football spring practice, I came across two usage Glitches.  Here is the first one:

CR will again take the reigns of the wide-open Trojan attack at quarterback.

 Whoops #1: REIGN is a noun or verb that refers to exercising sovereign power over a country, as a king or queen would do. I doubt CR plans to rule over the football team like a king.  More likely, CR will take the REINS (leather straps attached to a bit so a rider or driver can guide a horse) and guide his team to victory.  This sentence should read:

CR will again take the reins of the wide-open Trojan attack at quarterback.

 Another Glitch appears in the same paragraph:

The offensive coordinator is determined to compliment Troy's air assault with a solid dose of hard-nosed running.

 Whoops #2: The word COMPLIMENT (with an I) means to offer praise to someone.  I doubt the coordinator would offer praise by delivering A DOSE OF HARD-NOSED RUNNING.  The word COMPLEMENT (with an E) means to supplement or balance one thing with another.  More likely, the coordinator wants to balance the air assault with the hard-nosed running.  Therefore, the sentence should read this way:

The offensive coordinator is determined to complement Troy's air assault with a solid dose of hard-nosed running.

 


Verb tense affects meaning, plus two additional awkward sentences.

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

A participant in one of my recent business writing workshops sent me a copy of his hometown newspaper and suggested I might "have fun" proofreading it.  Although proofreading is not the only thing I do for fun, I decided to take his challenge.

Here is my first comment after reading the "Sports" page of The Messenger. This newspaper is published five days a week in Troy, Alabama, and has been providing news in that area for more than 125 years.

Verb tense is important for accurate meaning. Here is a sentence from an article in The Messenger about a recent golf tournament:

After winning their first tournament of the spring season at the Lady Eagle Invitational on March 13, the Troy women's golf team has brought home its second tournament win on Tuesday, April 10.

The past tense (BROUGHT) should be used for events that began in the past and ended in the past. Because this issue of the newspaper was printed on April 12, the second tournament victory on April 10 ended before the newspaper was printed.  The present perfect tense (HAS BROUGHT) should only be used for events that began in the past but are ongoing.  The season may be ongoing, but the second tournament win ended on April 10. Therefore, the sentence should read this way:

After winning their first tournament of the spring season at the Lady Eagle Invitational on March 13, the Troy women's golf team brought home its second tournament win on Tuesday, April 10.

 

In another article on the same page, two sentences caught my eye because of awkward wording.  Here is the first one:

For many, being struck with a line drive in the face would slow the desire to return to the pitching circle.

   A good writer groups   phrases in ways that make reading easy to follow.  In this sentence, IN THE FACE ought to come after STRUCK for clear meaning.  It should read this way:

For many, being struck in the face with a line drive would slow the desire to return to the pitching circle.

 

A few lines later, I came across this sentence:

The batted ball stuck (the girl) in the face breaking a bone near her eye as well as her nose.

This sentence has several problems.  First, the ball STRUCK the girl.  I doubt it actually STUCK to her face. Second, it is usually a good idea to place a comma before an ING phrase that comes after the noun it describes. Third, as written, this sentence makes it sound as if the bone that was broken was near HER EYE AS WELL AS HER NOSE.  Actually, her nose was broken, along with a bone near her eye.  The sentence should read this way:

The batted ball struck (the girl) in the face, breaking her nose as well as a bone near her eye .

I am happy to report that the young lady in this story is now healthy and back on the pitching mound for her school.