Posts Tagged ‘adjectives and adverbs’

Countables and Uncountables (NUMBER or AMOUNT? FEWER or LESS?)

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

countingOne of my readers pointed out recently that distinguishing between lump sum items (laundry, money, salt) and items that can be counted (dirty shirts, dollar bills, grains of salt) is referred to in ESL (English as a Second Language) classes as "countables" and "uncountables." Remembering that phrasing can be a big help when you are not sure whether to use AMOUNT or NUMBER. 

Here is an example from a recent news article:

"Investigators were following up what they described as an 'overwhelming' amount of tips, but no one had been arrested."

Whoops! TIPS can be counted (as every restaurant server knows). Therefore, the correct choice is NUMBER, not AMOUNT. The sentence should read this way:

Investigators were following up what they described as an "overwhelming" number of tips, but no one had been arrested.

The same concept is true with FEWER and LESS. Here is another example from a recent news article:

"This will ultimately lead to less Medicaid providers in the state."

Whoops again! PROVIDERS can be counted, so the correct choice should be FEWER:

This will ultimately lead to fewer Medicaid providers in the state."

Vielen Dank, Schorschi!


MOSTLY ABOUT or MORE ABOUT? Check the context.

Saturday, January 10th, 2015

Mary Sanchez  columnist  Mary Sanchez, opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star, could have benefited from a quick edit of her recent column about the new U. S. policy on Cuba. Using comparative and superlative forms like MORE and MOST can be tricky.

  Take a look at this sentence:

"Our country's stand against the Castro regime was always mostly about the geopolitical threat to us, our country, than it was about the oppression of the Cuban people."

Good point, but MOSTLY is the superlative form (like GREATEST, FINEST, COSTLIEST). It does not imply a direct comparison between two things–in this case, THE GEOPOLITICAL THREAT TO OUR COUNTRY and THE OPPRESSION OF THE CUBAN PEOPLE. It does not fit with THAN. What is needed here is the comparative form, which would be MORE ABOUT….THAN…. The sentence should read this way:

Our country's stand against the Castro regime was always more about the geopolitical threat to us, our country, than it was about the oppression of the Cuban people.

We all make these mistakes as we commit our thoughts to paper. The solution is to spot and correct them by going back and editing the wording for clarity.

NOTE: Welcome to any of my Mobile workshop participants who may be reading this blog for the first time this week. I hope you find it useful and will visit often.


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.


To use or not to use? (A grammar checker, that is.)

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

brain in gear

I use Grammarly's free grammar checker because I don't want to misplace a comma and end up eating Gramma (as in "Let's eat Gramma!" instead of "Let's eat, Gramma!").

When I teach business writing workshops, I often remind participants to use grammar checkers with “brain in gear.” A grammar checker can point out possible problems in your writing, but if you choose to use one, you must have enough self confidence to recognize when the grammar checker has misinterpreted your meaning. After all, grammar checkers are NOT human, and they don’t catch all the nuances of what we humans write.

That said, I recently reviewed Grammarly.com, which bills itself as “the world’s most accurate online grammar checker.” I tried it out on several pieces of my own writing as well as a newspaper article. It spotted one overlooked typo and offered good suggestions for two overly wordy sentences. It also detected an incorrect indefinite article (A vs. AN). However, it declared EVERY proper noun I used (e.g. TALLASSEE, TUKABAHCHI, and WOODALL) to be a misspelling. Using the Grammarly.com scoring system to rate myself, I ended up with a horrible score, based mostly on properly spelled proper nouns that were declared incorrect.

Grammarly.com failed to spot a missing apostrophe in this sentence from an article about new education standards in Alabama:

“The change is intended to more closely align students education with the ACT, improving high school seniors’ scores….”

SENIORS’ SCORES is correct, with the apostrophe after the S, but STUDENTS EDUCATION should also be possessive (STUDENTS’ EDUCATION). As I write this, I see that the Word grammar checker put a green squiggly line under that one, but overall, I don't think Word's grammar checker is as effective as this one.

Grammarly.com also missed the incorrect plural form in this sentence:

“However, the director of student academic support at Auburn University said low ACT scores tend to be a better indicators of which students won’t perform well in college than high ACT scores are of which students will do well.”

A BETTER INDICATORS (plural) should be simply BETTER INDICATORS without A in front.

I do think Grammarly.com does an excellent job of explaining the errors it spots, and the examples it offers for correction are clear and easy to understand. As someone who writes virtually every day, I would say Grammarly could be a useful tool IF you keep your own brain in gear and view Grammarly as a helper rather than a quick cure for all errors. To try Grammarly.com, you can search "free grammar checker" or go to http://www.grammarly.com.


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.


Ikea high chair restraint buckles open worldwide!

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Here is a good example of where proofreading could improve a sentence:

Ikea has received eight reports of the buckles opening worldwide, with three reports of injuries.

 What was that again?  Ikea has (to their credit) voluntarily recalled high chairs sold between 2006 and the beginning of 2010 because of a problem with restraint buckles. However, the sentence above makes it sound as if these buckles OPEN WORLDWIDE. What the reporter means is that, worldwide, there have been eight reports of the buckles opening unexpectedly, but that is not what the sentence says.  It should read this way:

Worldwide, Ikea has received eight reports of the buckles opening unexpectedly, with three reports of injuries.

It is important to be sure that a modifier like WORLDWIDE is inserted where it will describe the correct thing.


Corporate Writing Pro on Commas with Adjectives (Guest Post, Part II)

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

As promised, here is Part II of the Corporate Writing Pro's Guest Post for Grammar Glitch Central. Michelle Baker is a teacher, scholar, and business professional from West Virginia whose mission is to help people communicate more clearly. You will find a link to her blog site, Keys to Easy Writing, on the Home Page for Grammar Glitch Central. Here is her post:

 Everyone trips over commas, especially the little one that sits between adjectives. That's because there's a difference between coordinate and cumulative adjectives. And most of us don't know how to test our adjectives to find that difference.

Remember, adjectives are words that give more information about nouns–words like pretty, blue, light, nice, fabulous. Sometimes we use more than one in front of the same noun, like in this sentence:

The dark red dress was her favorite.

DARK and RED are both adjectives. Should we separate them with a comma?  Here's the test:

       1) Can you separate the adjectives with the word AND?

       2) Can you reverse their order?

In this case, you cannot.  It is not a DARK and RED DRESS, nor is it a RED DARK DRESS.  It's a DARK RED DRESS.

The word DARK is describing the kind of red–it's not light red, or brick red, or rose red; it's dark red. The two adjectives build on one another, and that's why we call them cumulative.

But what about this sentence?

Did you read about Macomber's short, happy life?

You could say SHORT AND HAPPY LIFE; HAPPY AND SHORT LIFE; or HAPPY, SHORT LIFE.  The order of the words does not matter, and so the two adjectives are coordinate and need a comma between them.

Remember to test your adjectives. (Or, just stick to one at a time!)


Hearing aid company ad offers perfect example of bad usage = bad impression.

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

The heated debate about the importance of good spelling continues on LinkedIn (see previous blog post). When I opened my local newspaper yesterday morning, page 8A carried a perfect example of the kind of poor advertisement that can detract from a company's professional image. Today's ad for Patillo Balance and Hearing Center, a respected business in Birmingham, contains not one but SEVEN spelling and usage errors in ONE ad!  I believe that is a record in my collection, and I cannot imagine how it got past proofreaders at Patillo and at The Birmingham News.  Yoo-hoo, anybody in that capacity on duty? 

 Whoops #1–Although PREFORM is a word, it is not the one needed here.  It should be PERFORM, which is what you would want your hearing aid to do when you want to hear. PREFORM means to shape something ahead of time.

 

Whoops #2–THROUGH is a word, but it is not the one needed here.  You don't want a THROUGH computerized hearing test, you want one that is comprehensive (THOROUGH).

 

Whoops #3 and #4–POWERFULL is simply misspelled.  It should have only one L at the end (POWERFUL), and a quick spell check (if someone had bothered) would have caught that one. The same is true with DESCREET, which is not a word at all.  You want your hearing aid to be DISCREET (not standing out like a sore thumb).

 

Whoops #5–MANUFACTURERS refers to the producers of the hearing aids, so possession should be indicated with an apostrophe.  This coupon entry should read: FREE CLEANING AND INSPECTION OF ANY MANUFACTURER'S HEARING AIDS.

 

Whoops #6 and #7–The word CLEARER is a comparative adjective, as in CLEARER hearing or CLEARER sound.  CLEARER describes a noun.  In this sentence, the writer is referring to the word HEAR, which is a verb.  Therefore, the comparative adverb MORE CLEARLY is needed.  This is followed by the phrase ON THE PHOTO.  I read that three or four times before I figured out that it should have been PHONE, not PHOTO. That sentence should read as follows:

  • Hear more clearly on the phone, in the car, even outside.

Fifty-four word sentence needs editor. Best rewrite WINS!

Monday, July 11th, 2011

I've decided to offer a contest today–with 1st and 2nd place prizes.  The following 54-word sentence appeared in my newspaper this weekend, in an article about soil contamination around a brand new school in Birmingham.  Here is the sentence:

While saying there has been nothing to show where the contaminants came from its plant, Walter Coke, the largest company still operating in the area that has had many heavy industrial operations, is voluntarily paying for some soil testing in the area, as well as soil replacement at Hudson K-8 and 23 surrounding properties.

You have until Wednesday, July 13, 2011, at 5:00 Central time to come up with the best possible rewrite of this sentence and submit it as a comment to this blog.  I'll announce the best and second best rewrites on Thursday and award the following prizes:

1) A personal critique of up to five pages of your own writing, with comments on usage, grammar, and style. (a $40 value)

2) A personal critique of up to two pages of your own writing, with comments on usage, grammar, and style. (a $20 value)

 

Hope to hear from many of you!  Meanwhile, take a look at the Grammar Glitch follow-up below:

 My blog post for July 7 dealt with LY endings on adverbs, and I didn't expect to see this Glitch again so soon, but there it was in Mary Sanchez's "Other Views" column in this morning's The Birmingham News.  It is an excellent column about Operation Fast and Furious, which involved tracking the sales of weapons to buyers procuring them for criminals in Mexico.  Here is the sentence:

The initial sales of both guns from a Phoenix-area gun shop, along with serial numbers, had been careful tracked by ATF agents.

Whoops! HAD BEEN TRACKED is a verb phrase, and CAREFUL is supposed to describe how the guns were tracked.  A word that describes a verb (TRACKED) should be an adverb (CAREFULLY), not an adjective (CAREFUL).  The sentence should read this way:

The initial sales of both guns from a Phoenix-area gun shop, along with serial numbers, had been carefully tracked by ATF agents.


Remember when to use LY at the end of a word.

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Here is a coupon I came across recently:

The word REGULAR is describing the word PRICED, which is an adjective that describes ITEM. It would be correct to write A REGULAR (adjective) ITEM, with REGULAR describing the noun ITEM.

Here, though, REGULAR refers to PRICED, which is an adjective itself.  The word needs to be an adverb (REGULARLY).  Adverbs describe verbs (The snake slithered SLOWLY.) or adjectives (REGULARLY PRICED or COMPLETELY mistaken) or other adverbs (The snake slithered VERY SLOWLY. or Traffic is moving TOO SLOWLY.) 

On this coupon the wording should be as follows:

25% off any one regularly priced item of $150 or more…