Posts Tagged ‘Grammar Glitch’

Compliment? Or Complement? With wine, it depends.

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

wine dinnerThe Greystone Living review of a recent wine dinner was riddled with Grammar Glitches. Here is the first problem sentence:

"The event was held at the Legacy Clubhouse and featured Silver Oak representative Jeffery Flood, who gave a speech and had a great selection of wines for the guest to compliment the excellent dishes prepared by Executive Chef Daniel Mitchell."

Whoops #1: Logic (and the accompanying photos) show that more than one GUEST attended this event.

Whoops #2: The wines were there to ENHANCE the dishes prepared by the chef, not pop their corks and shout out COMPLIMENTS about the good food. COMPLEMENT, meaning to partner with something in order to enhance it, is the correct choice here. 

This sentence should read as follows:

The event was held at the Legacy Clubhouse and featured Silver Oak representative Jeffery Flood, who gave a speech and offered the guests a great selection of wines to complement the excellent dishes prepared by Executive Chef Daniel Mitchell.

Here is the next problem sentence: 

"We try and feature wine dinners once a quarter at Greystone."

Whoops #3: The proper usage here is TRY TO, not TRY AND. It should read this way: We try to feature wine dinners once a quarter at Greystone.

And finally, this sentence:

"The next dinner will be held on November 5th and the guest of honor will be Juelle Fisher Proprietor from Fisher Winery."

Whoops #4: When writing a date within a sentence, the ON can be left out. Even though we pronounce FIFTH, it is not necessary to write the TH at the end of the numeral. 

Whoops #5: Because PROPRIETOR renames JUELLE FISHER, there should be a comma between FISHER and PROPRIETOR. 

Whoops #6: Proper usage is that JUELLE FISHER is the PROPRIETOR OF, not the PROPRIETOR FROM the winery. There is no reason to capitalize PROPRIETOR when it does not come before the person's name.

This sentence should read as follows:

The next dinner will be held November 5 and the guest of honor will be Juelle Fisher, proprietor of Fisher Winery.


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

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

brain in gear

I use Grammarly's 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. 


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!

 

 

 

 

 


Allergy’s?? Reader spots several Glitches in medical ad.

Monday, January 24th, 2011

One of my regular readers sent me an email this morning about a large advertisement for an ENT practice that appeared in this morning's The Birmingham News.  Her accompanying comment–"Hope they practice medicine better than they proof ad copy!"–emphasizes the point I've been making in my past 298 posts.

Potential clients and customers do judge competency, at least in part, on how well professionals communicate.  Here is one paragraph from this morning's ad:

 

 

WHOOPS #1: The way to create the plural of ALLERGY is to change the Y to an I and add ES.  The word should be ALLERGIES.

WHOOPS #2: The "INCLUDING" phrase should not be set off as a separate sentence.  There is no need for a colon after INCLUDING unless the writer is setting up a bullet list.  (See below.)

WHOOPS #3: The smattering of commas in the list that follows INCLUDING is illogical and does not create the divisions it should.

WHOOPS #4: How do you SPECIALIZE in "people of all ages from infants to geriatrics?  It would be better to say something like, "Our practice INCLUDES people of all ages…."

WHOOPS #5: It would be much more effective to separate the last part of the last sentence so that it stands out as an important statement.

Here is my edit of this paragraph:

At ENT Associates of Alabama, P.C., we care for ALL of your ear, nose and throat needs, including:

  • surgery of ear, nose and throat
  • head and neck cancer surgery
  • facial plastic and reconstructive surgery
  • upper respiratory infections
  • flu
  • allergies
  • voice restoration
  • Botox, fillers, laser resurfacing
  • hearing aids and much more

We treat people of all ages, from infants to geriatrics.  All of our doctors are board certified and dedicated to providing exemplary care at all locations.

 

I hope my readers agree that this wording and layout would make the ad much more effective.

POSTSCRIPT: I am happy to report that the ALLERGIES correction was made two days later.  Now all they need to do is fix the other four Glitches.


Star Quarterback Touts GOOD vs. WELL

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

University of Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, described by sports columnist Jon Solomon as "the near Rhodes Scholar," has a thing for good grammar.  He is known to have corrected his team's offensive coordinator Jim McElwain from time to time.

"The guy helps me with my vocabulary," McElwain said during a press conference at the end of McElroy's senior season.  "He can correct me when I am grammatically incorrect."

Here is an example correction that can serve as a good reminder for everyone about the correct use of GOOD and WELL:

"Sometimes, he'll (McElwain) be in the middle of telling us something, and he'll say, 'We didn't really do that good,' and I'll say 'We didn't really do that well,' or 'We could do that better.'"

 

REMINDER:  If you are describing a verb like DO, you want the adverb WELL.  Use GOOD as an adjective, as in THIS IS A GOOD EXAMPLE.


Comma Placement (or Period) Clarifies Meaning

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Here is one of those sentences you read two or three times before you figure out the intent.  It appeared in a news feed article (The Birmingham News) about guns for Somalia being seized in South Africa :

Police had been tracking the shipment and four people–two South Africans and two foreigners–were arrested in the December 23  raid and are out on bail.

What was that again?  At first read, you think the police had been tracking the shipment and four people.  You get further into the sentence, and it's difficult to figure out where the next two verb phrases (WERE ARRESTED and ARE) fit in.

The problem is that the police were tracking the shipment.  The four people were arrested and are out on bail.  The punctuation does not fit the meaning.  Here are two possible solutions:

Police had been tracking the shipment, and four people–two South Africans and two foreigners–were arrested in the December 23 raid.  They are out on bail.

EVEN BETTER: Police had been tracking the shipment.  Four people–two South Africans and two foreigners–were arrested in the December 23 raid and are out on bail.

 

Happy New Year,  everyone!  Please come back in 2011 for more Grammar Glitches and their solutions.


Agreement Issue: And? Has or Have?

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

 

One Birmingham neighborhood has come up with a unique idea for selling homes in this tough economic market.  They have stationed artists in homes on their "Winter Purple House Parade" tour.  The neighborhood is home to a number of artists and craftspeople, so the idea works well for encouraging more artists to buy in the area.

One sentence in Kent Faulk's article about this project (East Lake goes purple) bothered me:

Margaret Anne Crawford, along with her husband, Marcus Rollins, have renovated and sold nearly ten homes in South East Lake in the past five years.

CRAWFORD is the subject of this sentence.  ALONG WITH HER HUSBAND, MARCUS ROLLINS is an inserted phrase that should not affect the relationship between the subject and the verb, which should be HAS (singular).  If the sentence said referred to Crawford AND her husband, then the verb could be HAVE.  As written, though, the sentence should read this way:

Margaret Anne Crawford, along with her husband, Marcus Rollins, has renovated and sold nearly ten homes in South East Lake in the past five years.

So nice to see a project like this in a historic neighborhood that could use a boost.

 

By the way, in case you don't follow Grammar Glitch on Facebook, here is this week's Grammar Glitch Giggle of the Week: (as seen on ABC 33/40 news last evening)

HEADLINE: Watson Bong Hearing Tomorrow. Hm-mmmm–when did they add that charge?

For my non-Birmingham readers, this was supposed to refer to a BOND hearing for a man recently extradited from Australia.


Associated Press Proofreads, Fixes Headline

Monday, December 13th, 2010

 

The second GRAMMAR GLITCH CENTRAL Getting the Grammar Right award goes to The Associated Press for catching and fixing an error in one of their online headlines.  When I first scanned the headlines on my home page this morning, this one made me cringe:

Snow in NW Indiana trap more than 70 motorists

Whoops! SNOW is a collective noun (like LAUNDRY or SALT or MONEY).  It takes a singular verb (with an S on the end).

By the time I ran a few Christmas errands and came back to the computer, AP had corrected the headline to read correctly:

Snow in NW Indiana traps more than 70 motorists

Hats off to AP for spotting the error and correcting it. Let's hope those 70 motorists have now been rescued and are cozy and warm at home.

If you missed the first GRAMMAR GLITCH CENTRAL Getting the Grammar Right award, please check back to my blog entry for June 4, 2010.  It went to Publix Grocery for using the word FEWER correctly on a sign at their checkout lanes.


To split or not to split? The infinitive question!

Friday, December 10th, 2010

One grammar guideline I like suggests avoiding split infinitives "most of the time."  I don't believe in an absolute rule on this one.  There are times when a split infinitive is effective for emphasis.  I think common sense should be used when deciding whether to split or not to split.

In a recent blog post, Mignon Fogarty reminds of us perhaps the most famous effective split infinitive–the Star Trek mission "to boldly go where no one has gone before."  (See http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/split-infinitives.aspx.)

A quick refresher: An infinitive is TO + a verb, as in TO GO or TO DRIVE.

I do think it is wise to avoid splitting an infinitive (inserting a word between TO and the verb) unless there is a compelling reason to do so.  Here are two examples from a recent edition of The Birmingham News:

In an article on school bullying, Marienne Thomas-Ogle wrote this sentence:

The system's bullying prevention committee is working to not only stop bullying from occurring, but to detect and do away with any that exists.

Inserting NOT ONLY between TO and STOP creates a split infinitive that is not necessary and sounds awkward. The usual phrasing with NOT ONLY is BUT ALSO.  The concept of "stop bullying from occurring" really means "prevent," so I would change STOP to PREVENT for clearer meaning.  I also think "from occurring" serves no purpose in this sentence, and I would not place a comma before BUT.  Here is my edit (without the split infinitive):

The system's bullying prevention committee is working not only to prevent bullying, but also to detect and do away with any that exists.

 

Here is a second example from a "Just a Chat" interview by Val Walton.  NOTE: It is a good example, but it is also a quotation, so the reporter would not be expected to change the grammar:

I would often go to Europe to visit family and to also sight-see.

WOULD OFTEN GO is a wordy phrase that should be replaced with OFTEN WENT.  The word ALSO splits the infinitive TO SIGHTSEE and should be moved.  I checked my trusty American Heritage Dictionary as well as numerous websites and determined that the standard usage is SIGHTSEE (without the hyphen).  I would reword this sentence as follows:

I often went to Europe to visit family and also to sightsee.

 

If you'd like to read a comprehensive analysis of  the split infinitive–its history, its usage, and opinions about when to split it and when not to, please visit Grammar Girl at the web address given earlier in this post.

Alas, poor writer, there is no absolute rule or answer on this one.

 


Another Perp Transforms Self into Police

Monday, December 6th, 2010

I wrote about this two years ago (See post for December 16, 2008.), but apparently it is time for another reminder.  INTO and IN TO are both legitimate and have completely different meanings.  Consider this sentence from a weekend report in The Birmingham News:

He then showered, loaded the couple's three children in the car and dropped them at their grandparents' house before turning himself into police.

What this man did was to turn himself IN, and he did it at the police station.  Although it might have helped his case, he did not turn (transform) himself INTO the police. The sentence should read this way:

He then showered, loaded the couple's three children in the car and dropped them at their grandparents' house before turning himself in to the police.