Posts Tagged ‘grammar’

Does the FDA clean produce on their website??

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Here is the second Grammar Glitch I promised yesterday.  It has to do with placing prepositional phrases in the proper order to keep meaning clear.  Here is the sentence:

The Federal Drug (sic) Administration has guidelines for properly cleaning produce on their website.

Whoops! The prepositional phrase ON THEIR WEBSITE should be placed next to GUIDELINES.  Otherwise, it sounds as if the FDA has gone into the business of cleaning produce on their website.

A second comment: The FDA is one group, so I would choose the possessive ITS instead of THEIR to refer to the website.

As I pointed out yesterday, FDA stands for FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, not Federal Drug Administration.  An important part of proofreading is verifying sources and proper names.

I would rewrite the sentence this way:

The Food and Drug Administration has guidelines on its website for properly cleaning produce .

Speaking of proofreading, stay tuned for tomorrow's post when I will poke fun at myself for sending an email too early in the morning and committing the grave error of not proofreading properly. I will also post a reminder of the difference between COMPLIMENT and COMPLEMENT.


ALTOGETHER or ALL TOGETHER? There is a difference.

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Yesterday's The Birmingham News carried Christie Dedman's "Birmingham Bargain Mom" column, as it does every Sunday.  I like her tips for saving on purchases of meat and produce as prices continue to rise. 

However, I had two Glitch problems with this week's column.  Here is the first:

     If purchasing organic produce is getting too costly, don't skip purchasing fruit and veggies    all   together.

I agree with The Chicago Manual of Style on this one. (Check the "Links" at the right side of my home page for this manual.) It points out that ALL TOGETHER (written as two separate words) means "unity of time or place" as in something like–We were ALL TOGETHER at John's house when he got the phone call OR, Those records are ALL TOGETHER in the bottom file drawer.

The word needed in Dedman's column is ALTOGETHER (written as one word with only one L).  It means "wholly" or "entirely," as in something like–The rumor going around the neighborhood is ALTOGETHER false. OR, I have stopped listening to political talk shows ALTOGETHER.

Dedman's sentence does not refer to the organic fruit and veggies being ALL TOGETHER in the produce department.  It refers to skipping the purchase of them entirely.  The sentence should read this way:

If organic produce is getting too costly, don't skip purchasing fruit and veggies    al  together.

 PleasePleaseNotice that I omitted the word PURCHASING from the introductory clause of this sentence.  It is not necessary and does not contribute to the meaning.

I should mention that Dedman suggests buying non-organic produce and taking time to clean it thoroughly.  She notes that the Federal Drug Administration (I believe she means the Food and Drug Administration.) has guidelines for doing this properly.  You will find those guidelines at

Stay tuned.  Tomorrow I'll post the second Glitch problem with this column.

Run-on Sentence, plus Amount vs. Number

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

I am still proofreading the advertisement for the International Vintage Guitar Collectors Association advertisement.  This sentence appears as part of a bullet list about how their buying system works:

Gather any and all musical instruments there is no limit to the amount of items you can bring.

Whoops #1: This is a run-on sentence.  There should be a period after INSTRUMENTS, and THERE should be capitalized.

Whoops #2: As I have pointed out in at least one other post, there is a difference between AMOUNT and NUMBER.  AMOUNT should be used for "lump sum" items like salt, money, or laundry.  If items can be counted (like INSTRUMENTS), the choice should be NUMBER.

This sentence should read as follows:

Gather any and all musical instruments. There is no limit to the number of items you can bring.


NOTE: For more on this subject, please see my post for January 9, 2010.

Use the THAT pasture to improve writing style.

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

When I teach workshops on business writing, I often suggest the use of what I call the THAT pasture.  As a writer myself, one of the first things I do when I edit copy–mine or someone else's–is to look for all the uses of THAT.  Many of them are not necessary, and that is where the THAT  pasture comes in.

Here is a sentence from an article by Birmingham News staff writer William Thornton about possible solutions for the clogged Highway 280 traffic conditions.  It illustrates exactly what I mean:

Mountain Brook Mayor Terry Oden said he hopes that once the Bentley administration gets going in Montgomery, that it will take a look at the 280 project.

This is a frequent grammar swamp–using THAT twice when once will do.  There is also a problem here with commas.  What should be set off by commas (on both ends) is the inserted clause ONCE THE BENTLEY ADMINISTRATION GETS GOING IN MONTGOMERY.  The writer puts a comma at the end of this inserted clause but not at the beginning.  Here is how I think the sentence should read–with the second THAT put out to pasture:

 Mountain Brook Mayor Terry Oden said he hopes that, once the Bentley administration gets going in Montgomery, it will take a look at the 280 project. 

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.

Apostrophe problems abound in local newsletter

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

I would love to hear reader comments on why apostrophes are such a pesky, persistent problem.  I have only read the first three pages of a ladies' club newsletter that landed in my mailbox this week, and the lack of rules and consistency with apostrophes is quite distracting.  Here are two examples:

Our thanks again go to Jane Doe as she plans this years' Social.

Inside this newsletter you will find a green flyer…announcing this years' event.

In both of these sentences, something belongs to the YEAR, so an apostrophe is needed.  But the writer is referring only to this YEAR (singular), so I do not understand why the apostrophe comes after the S.  The sentences should be written this way:

Our thanks again go to Jane Doe as she plans this year's Social.

Inside this newsletter you will find a green flyer…announcing this year's event.


On the first page of this newsletter, the theme of an upcoming event is titled "Rhinestones and Wranglers."  Here  the event title is written correctly with no apostrophe because both words are plural, not possessive.  However, on the second and third pages, this same event is referred to as "Rhinestones &  Wrangler's."   I do not understand the shift to the apostrophe (and to the ampersand instead of the word AND).  WRANGLERS is still simply plural.  I also wonder why, if the writer insisted on using an apostrophe in WRANGLER'S, she did not put one in RHINESTONES.  No logic, no consistency.

It is important to do two things well when you write:  1) Know the basic rules of good grammar.  2) Be consistent.

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.

End-up? Or end up? There IS a difference.

Monday, December 27th, 2010

When to hyphenate and when not to.  This is a common issue.  Here is a sentence from an article about an art show:

Artists that make their living this way generally end-up with pieces that have been nicked or otherwise damaged in the constant load and unloading that they do.

In this example, END is a verb, and UP is an adverb.  They should not be connected by a hyphen.  END UP should be treated the same as TWO YEAR OLD.  The hyphen would only be used if you were creating an adjective to go in front of a noun, as in A TWO-YEAR-OLD CONTRACT or AN END-UP something or other (I cannot think of a good example for this usage!).


BONUS COMMENT #1: I would suggest changing THAT to WHO when referring to the ARTISTS. (Use WHO for people and THAT for "non-people" things.)


BONUS COMMENT #2: Because UNLOADING ends in ING, I would use parallel structure and use LOADING as well.


Here is my edit for this sentence:

Artists who make their living this way generally end up with pieces that have been nicked or otherwise damaged in the constant loading and unloading that they do.


If you would like additional information about correct hyphen usage, run a Search (lower right corner) for "Hyphen," and see all the posts that come up.  Among them should be my posts for November 23, 2010 and March 5, 2009 and October 30, 2008.  This is definitely at least an annual issue.

Comford Food? Freinds and Family? Paula Deen spellchecker needed!

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Paula Deen is branching out with a new furniture collection for every room in the home.  A recent ad in Shop280 & announces her collection, which can be seen at TD's Fine Furniture Outlet in Sumiton, Alabama:



The ad refers to Paula Deen's "love of hospitality and comford food."  It also suggests that now is the best time to "let these furnishings welcome your freinds and family in and truly bring comfort home."

I do not know if these glaring spelling errors are the fault of Paula Deen's staff, the staff of TD's in Sumiton, or the staff of Shop280 &, but they certainly detract from an otherwise appealing ad.  I would guess that almost ANYONE who took the time to proofread this copy would have spotted both of these.

Just in case, COMFORT has a T on the end, and FRIENDS follows that old elementary school rule of I before E except after C.