Posts Tagged ‘grammar’

“Pokemon Go” Articles Need Copy Editor

Friday, July 15th, 2016

Pokemon GoThe Birmingham News must have been in a hurry to rush its Pokemon stories to press on Wednesday. Their copy on Page A2 is full of errors. The first Glitch is in a headline:

"Games digital popularity also warping real life"

Whoops! #1: Assuming the headline creator means the digital popularity of Pokemon Go (one game), this headline needs an apostrophe before the S in "Games." It should read this way: Game's digital popularity also warping real life."

Whoops #2: Although I am not a Pokemon expert (yet), I do know that the phrase "a Pokemon" refers to one creature and that THEM is a plural pronoun referring to more than one of something, like Pokemon (plural) in general. Consider this sentence"

"Once you catch a Pokemon, you can take them to a gym where they can battle other Pokemon."

Okay, so what pronoun is appropriate for a single captured Pokemon? I'm not sure that has been worked out yet–it? she? he? The best solution, for now, is to avoid the pronoun completely, like this: Once you catch a Pokemon, you can take your captive to a gym for battles with other Pokemon.

Whoops #3: I had to read this sentence a couple times to figure out what the reporter was trying to say. One apostrophe and the correct spelling of THAN would have solved the confusion:

"AR (augmented reality), as its known, is different that virtual reality in which a completely computer-generated world is created."

It should read this way: AR, as it's known, is different than virtual reality in which a completely computer-generated world is created.

Whoops #4: Subject/verb agreement is the crime in this sentence. PERMISSIONS is plural, but the reporter chooses the singular verb MEANS to go with it:

The permissions, according to Engadget, means Niantic has access to your Google drive docs, search history, private Google photos and other items tied to your account."

For grammatically correct agreement, the sentence should read this way: The permissions, according to Engadget, mean Niantic has access to your google drive docs,….

Whoops #5: The reporter of the side story made the correct choice with  IT'S (IT + IS) but failed to recognize that the second ITS (correctly possessive) refers to the plural word PEOPLE.

"Niantic issued a statement assuring people it's not accessing its personal information and will only have access to a person's Google user ID and password."

The problem here is that the use of ITS makes it sound as if Niantic is not accessing Niantic's personal information, but they are referring to the PEOPLE'S personal information. It should read this way: Niantic issued a statement assuring people it's not accessing their personal information and will only have access to people's user IDs and passwords.

Whew! And all those Glitches appeared on ONE page.

Guest Post: Seven Proven Ways to Improve Your Grammar

Friday, February 14th, 2014

The following is a guest post submitted by Jeff Peters, a graduate student at Fresno State University who works part-time for several educational services, including, where he provides Jeff offers seven excellent suggestions for anyone wanting to master the grammar and vocabulary of a language:


Grammar is essential in understanding and utilizing a language. In order to gain proficiency, you should focus intensely on grammar and vocabulary. According to English tutors at, even though grammar may not be as important in informal communication, it is necessary in written and formal communication. It is good knowledge of grammar that qualifies you to write or speak up in a manner others can understand.


Seven basic tips to improve your grammar:

bookstore1) The easiest way is to use grammar and vocabulary books. Go to your local bookstore or browse through e-book stores to find a good advanced grammar and vocabulary book. Check the index to make sure it covers sentence construction as well as word application and classification. Work your way through the book and try the exercises at the end of each chapter. Most grammar books will have an answer glossary where you can check your skills and answers once you've completed an exercise.

2) Find a reading comprehension book that will test your understanding of grammatical application as well as content. Again, go through the exercises and then use the answer glossary to check your skills.

newspapers3) Read newspapers and magazines to improve your understanding of sentence construction. This activity will keep you updated on modern and practical techniques for creating sentences. It will also increase your vocabulary. As you read, make a point of learning five new words every day.

library card4) Sign up for a card at your local library. Your card will give you easy and affordable access to plenty of books, and reading books will definitely improve your language skills.

5) Check for grammar and vocabulary classes available online. These classes usually have an interactive session where you can discuss your everyday progress with tutors and fellow students.

6) Although it is true that people often do not use correct grammar in everyday conversation, you can improve your grammar by striving to speak correctly. By trying to speak as well as write correctly, you will develop the habit of identifying your grammatical weaknesses on a regular basis.

sit and study7) The more you practice a language, the easier its grammar and vocabulary will become for you. Try to allow an hour or two every day–or at least four days a week–to sit with grammar lessons and exercises. 

Improving grammar and vocabulary skills is not difficult IF you devote enough time to it and practice regularly. Having a good grasp of grammar makes it easier to master a language. It also lets you present yourself, both orally and on paper, in a clearer and more appealing way.


A COMMENT FROM GRAMMAR GLITCH: Although these tips are ideal for someone learning a second language, they can also be useful for native speakers who know their language skills are weak. Having spent a number of years teaching business-writing skills in the corporate community, I know the value employers place on good language skills. Many times, the advantage of one job applicant over another–in the resume and in the interview–comes down to good usage and grammar.

I sincerely believe that making a serious effort to follow these seven suggestions for several months will significantly improve your use of language.

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, 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 scoring system to rate myself, I ended up with a horrible score, based mostly on properly spelled proper nouns that were declared incorrect. 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. 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 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. 

Even cartoonists need to proofread.

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

From time to time, one of my readers (who goes by the nickname "Bob the Bookworm") spots and shares useful Grammar Glitches. This week he focused on the funnies and sent me two glitches from "Blondie."

Here is the first one:

After noticing that his neighbor is selling a house bought just six months earlier, Dagwood says to Blondie, "Just once, I'd like to be the first one to get new information about the economy on this block!"

Whoops! Dagwood doesn't want information about the economy on HIS block. He wants to be the first on his block to get information about the economy in general. It should read this way:

"Just once I'd like to be the first one on this block to get new information about the economy!"


Here is the second one:

Dagwood is sitting at the lunch counter and tells his favorite cook about a newspaper article he is reading. "Scientists say they'll be able to replicate a synthetic meat in the laboratory."

Whoops! REPLICATE means to copy or make a duplicate of. SYNTHETIC refers to an artificial version of something natural, like meat. The scientists are not going to copy the synthetic meat. They are going to create a synthetic version of real meat. The sentence should read this way:

"Scientists say they'll be able to CREATE a synthetic meat in the laboratory."


Bob the BookwormThanks, Bob!  Keep up the good work!



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.

Three errors in one sentence. Too many?

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

crack the whipAs newspapers evolve in these fast-changing times, it appears to me that they are placing less and less emphasis on careful copyediting. Frequent errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage not only detract from the quality of the journalism, they also distract the reader. Too often lately, I read a sentence and then ask myself, "What was that? What is this reporter trying to say?"

Apparently, I am not alone in my frustration with this. My friend Mark, an excellent copyeditor in New York, sent me an email string recently that contained the following dialogue, which occurred after his friend Stephen came across the following sentence in a New York Times article:

More than 2200 flights for Friday had been cancelled, according to the Web site FlightAware, the majority originiting or departing from the areas affected by the storm.

Stephen sent this email to the Executive Editor of The New York Times:

Doesn't the copy desk edit copy anymore? The number 2,200 requires a comma; the American spelling of "canceled" has only one l; and "originiting" requires no comment.

The Executive Editor replied:

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We all make errors, but you're absolutely right–three in one sentence is far too many. We'll get this fixed soon.

Stephen then emailed Mark:

In my opinion, three errors in the entire newspaper is far too many.

Mark responded with this:

Well dun, Steven. (Just kidding.) At least he didn't reply, "Your absolutely write…" On "cancelled," it is acceptable, not an outright error, but not the spelling preferred by Merriam-Webster. You and I as copyeditors would strike that second ell.

Keep on 'em. Keep crackin' the whip.

 I wonder what Mark and Stephen would think about a recent article (not an isolated example) in The Birmingham News that contained no fewer than SEVEN errors–in one article! In my next post, I will share those errors and their corrections.

In the meantime, I'd like to hear from any readers who have also noticed an increase in copy errors in local newspapers. Examples are always welcome, along with your comments, at Grammar Glitch Central. Mark asked me to encourage you to write to the editor(s) of your newspaper if you see examples of particularly careless writing or editing. He also said (and I agree) that it's good to write in and compliment the writers and editors when you see especially well-written pieces.

If your paper does not make it easy for readers to give feedback (say, with an email address at the end of an article or on the editorial page), contact the paper and ask them to open up for reader comments.

Like Mark, I would like to say, "Keep on 'em. Keep crackin' the whip." crack the whip

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.



How and where does people…? Whoops!

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Here is another sentence I came across on an Internet site this week:

How and where does people get rid of their timeshare without getting scam?

Whew! One sentence, three errors. That's uncalled for even for the Internet.


First, although the sentence begins with HOW AND WHERE (2 things), the verb DOES (singular) should go with the noun PEOPLE (plural), so the first problem is agreement.  PEOPLE DO, not PEOPLE DOES. Notice that in this question form, the subject (PEOPLE) comes after the verb (DOES).


Second, common sense would suggest that this writer is referring to many PEOPLE who are stuck with TIMESHARE(S) (plural), not TIMESHARE (singular), so THEIR TIMESHARES.


Third, SCAM is a noun. In this sentence, the past participle SCAMMED is needed after GETTING.

This sentence should read as follows:

How and where do people get rid of their timeshares without getting scammed?


As for content, I really don't know the best way to get rid of a timeshare, but I would certainly suggest seeking advice from a reputable real estate agent you trust.

PLEASE NOTE: Speaking of past participles, one of my readers asked a very good question about using participles like SCAMMED, DRIVEN, TASTED. Stay tuned, I will answer that question in the next post–which may be Monday if I don't get back from the Sylacauga Marble Festival early enough tomorrow. You can check my website at for more information about the third annual festival. Just click on the "News" button.

Place verbs on a “mental” time line.

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Verbs express action, and the reader should be able to understand easily when one action happens in relationship to another action.  With all the different tenses, that is not always easy to do.

My thanks to one of my readers for letting me use some example sentences from his writing about chess to illustrate this point.  Here is the first one:

When my father saw me one afternoon playing chess with my classmate, he hurriedly approach me and on that day he taught me how to play the right and serious way….

The first verb in this sentence is SAW (past tense). From that verb we know that the afternoon referred to has already occurred.  The second verb is APPROACH. If this verb were in the Present tense and used with HE, it would be written APPROACHES, but since the father SAW (past tense), the correct form would be APPROACHED (past tense) because the father APPROACHED on the same afternoon that he SAW. The third verb TAUGHT is correct because it is in the Past tense. The sentence should read this way:

When my father saw me playing chess one afternoon with my classmate, he hurriedly approached me, and on that day he taught me how to play the right and serious way….

Notice that I moved "one afternoon" to a smoother place in the sentence and added a comma after ME.


Here is the second sentence:

He didn't stop until I understand the proper use and value of my chess pieces.

The first verb in this sentence is DID STOP, which is Past tense. Therefore, UNDERSTOOD should also be in the Past tense because the chess player learned the proper use at a point in the past, not in the present. This sentence should read this way:

He didn't stop until I understood the proper use and value of my chess pieces.


Here is one more tip about verb use in sentences.  Take a look at this sentence:

 From beginner tactics to intermediate plans, all the fundamentals of chess were taught within a month by my father .

There is nothing grammatically incorrect about this sentence, but because it uses the Passive Voice (WERE TAUGHT), it does what I like to call "going around your elbow to say what you mean." It would be much more effective in the Active Voice.  This can be done by making MY FATHER the subject of the sentence as follows:

 From beginner tactics to intermediate plans, my father taught me all the fundamentals of chess within a month .

I think most readers would agree that this is more direct and easier to read.

Have a great weekend, everyone!