Posts Tagged ‘sentence structure’

Weird Wording #1 and #2: Proofread!

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Although grammar and usage standards are important for good writing, so are common sense and logic. Often, what your mind sends to your fingers is not exactly what you meant to say. That is one more reason why proofreading–with your brain in gear–is so important. You might think your message is clear, but when you go back and proofread, you can see that the wording needs tweaking.

Here are two examples of illogical statements written by people who did not go back and tweak;

PTDC0006 Why would the US want to beef up the vulnerability of its satellites? Most likely,  what this headline creator meant to suggest was that the US would beef up its  SATELLITE SECURITY in order to avoid VULNERABILITY. A quick proofread  before hitting "Send" should have caught this.






And a second illogical statement. This one appeared in the article I mentioned recently–the one with 17 errors in it. Here is the sentence:

The waste is mostly dry, the wetter waste, known as "cake" is scraped out during the 14-day span between the departure and arrival of the new flock.

This is a terrible sentence for several reasons. Let's begin with the logic. How can there be a 14-day span between the departure and arrival of the new flock? What this reporter is trying to convey is that there is a 14-day span between the departure of the previous flock (the one now on its way to dinner tables) and the arrival of the new flock (which will actually live for only six weeks before meeting the same fate).


So now the logic has been dealt with. Next up, the run-on sentence. THE WASTE IS MOSTLY DRY should stand alone as a separate sentence.


The reporter places a comma after WASTE, suggesting that what comes next is an inserted phrase (KNOWN AS "CAKE"), but he fails to place a second comma after CAKE to indicate the end of the insert.


All three of these things make for a sentence that causes the reader to utter a mental "Huh?" Here is a clearer, smoother version.

The waste is mostly dry. The wetter waste, known as "cake," is scraped out during the 14-day span between the departure of the previous flock and the arrival of the new one.


I hope these details did not ruin anyone's appetite. Happy proofreading.

Two spaces after a period? Kelly Kazek column has great answer!

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Kelly KazekDuring business writing workshops, I am often asked about the proper number of spaces after a period at the end of a sentence. There is usually disagreement among the participants. Some say two spaces, absolutely. Others say one is enough.

The simple answer in 2015 is that one space is enough. Unlike typewriters, word processors automatically apportion the correct amount of space between letters and punctuation marks. If you doublespace after the period in something you've keyed in on a word processor, the receiver might have to make adjustments in the copy for your extra space.

In her column in The Birmingham News on Sunday, March 22, 2015, Kelly Kazek, who writes for from her base in Huntsville, offered a humorous look at this dilemma as well as some good examples of how that doublespace after a period is often viewed:

  • It makes you look older than carrying an AARP card in your wallet.
  • People will know you are now old enough to be a Walmart greeter.
  • Some HR folks use this to screen job applicants.
  • It is obsolete. No one teaches typing anymore.
  • Editors have to rekey copy submitted with two spaces after the period.
  • It is a "travesty" that bugs Kelly Kazek.

If you'd like to read Kelly's complete column, which is as hilarious as it is informative, you can find her on Pinterest at "Odd Travels" or "Real Alabama." Kelly says she writes about "the quirkiness of human nature from a humorous point of view," and this column is a perfect example. You can contact her at, find her on Facebook, or use this link to read her actual column: If you follow this link, you can also read the amazing array of comments.

Speaking of Facebook, please check out my post from March 25, 2015, which chastises Birmingham News reporters for using an apostrophe to form the plural of a word. As of this afternoon, this has been my most popular Facebook post yet at Grammar Glitch Central. That apostrophe error bugs me as much as the extra space after the period bugs Kelly.

ONTO or ON TO? Use your head about the meaning.

Monday, February 16th, 2015

Here is a sentence I came across in an Associated Press release about FBI Director James Comey's comments on race relations and law enforcement:

"Answering questions after a speech at Georgetown University, he noted that there was 'a tendency to move onto other things as busy people.'"

Whoops #1: There is a difference in meaning between ONTO and ON TO. ONTO involves motion to the top of something, as in jumping ONTO the top of a picnic table or gluing glitter ONTO a greeting card. ON TO uses ON to suggest going forward, as in moving ON or getting ON and TO to indicate which direction the subject is heading. 

Whoops #2: AS BUSY PEOPLE is in the wrong location for the meaning.

This sentence should read as follows:

Answering questions after a speech at Georgetown University, he noted that there was, among busy people, "a tendency to move on to other things."


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.

Be careful– A Grammar Glitch can spread like a virus!

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

A friend who does a lot of editing sent along this example of a classic dangling modifier:

Named for its natural freshwater waterhole, thirsty travelers have been visiting Jacobs Well since the mid-1800s.

Whoops! The subject of this sentence is TRAVELERS. The phrase NAMED FOR ITS NATURAL FRESHWATER WATERHOLE should modify the sentence subject, but it is Jacobs Well (not the thirsty travelers) that has been named for the freshwater waterhole.

The sentence should read this way: 

Named for its natural freshwater waterhole, Jacobs Well has welcomed thirsty travelers since the mid-1800s.

My editor friend pointed out that a bad sentence can spread on the Internet like a virus because one source often quotes (or just lifts from) another source. Just Google the original sentence above, and you will see what she means. virus  computer

In case you are curious about more than just the viral sentence, Jacobs Well is a tourist attraction on the Gold Coast of Australia, not far from Brisbane.


ADDED NOTE: My editor friend's eagle eye also spotted a sentence this week that talked about certain animals being in danger of DISTINCTION. Whoops! That should be IN DANGER OF EXTINCTION!

Commas are like breadcrumbs: They mark the trail through a sentence.

Friday, December 6th, 2013

When I teach business writing workshops, I like to explain commas as trail markers through the meaning of a sentence.One important trail marker is the comma at the end of an introductory clause or phrase. If it is left out, the reader can get lost trying to find the main subject and the focus of the sentence.Hansel and Gretel

A recent newsletter from the Gulas group makes some good points about email clutter and how to avoid it, but several of the sentences are difficult to read because this important trail marker has been left out. Take a look at these examples:

"Armed with this knowledge you will make better decisions."

"Set correctly your Calendar view will show your appointments,…."

"As more and more people synchronize their smartphones and mobile devices they are being distracted by email alerts, meeting reminders at all sorts of inconvenient times."

Each of the above sentences is difficult to read because of the missing comma, which would point out the location where the main clause begins. Here is how these sentences should be punctuated–with a comma after the introductory phrase or clause:

Armed with this knowledge, you will make better decisions.

Set correctly, your Calendar view will show your appointments.

As more and more people synchronize their smartphones and mobile devices, they are being distracted by email alerts (and) meeting reminders at all sorts of inconvenient times.

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!



Without commas, three-year-old follows boss’s orders for his mom.

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Here is an interesting sentence from an article about ongoing gambling issues in Alabama:

Spina said he will argue that Pouncy is a hardworking mother and wife with a 3-year-old son who reluctantly followed her boss' orders because she feared losing her job.


As written, this sentence makes it sound as if the three-year-old son reluctantly followed the boss's orders. Two well-placed commas would clear up the confusion.  Here is a clearer version of the sentence:

Spina said he will argue that  Pouncy, a hardworking mother and wife with a 3-year-old son,    reluctantly followed her boss' orders   because she feared losing her job.

Putting commas around the phrase A HARDWORKING MOTHER AND WIFE WITH A 3-YEAR-OLD SON lets the main clause of the sentence (POUNCY RELUCTANTLY FOLLOWED HER BOSS'S ORDERS) stand out and make sense.

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.

One article okay for two nouns? It depends.

Monday, April 30th, 2012

I came across this caption under a photograph in the local newspaper this week:

A  Canadian investment firm and entrepreneur  have acquired Eastwood Festival Centre and intend to add a police sub-station to the shopping center, as well as making other changes.

One thing or another has to be incorrect in this sentence. The verb is HAVE, which suggests that the subject is two separate entities (one CANADIAN INVESTMENT FIRM and one ENTREPRENEUR). However, if that is the case, the word AN should appear before ENTREPRENEUR, and it does not. As written, it sounds as if one entity–A CANADIAN INVESTMENT FIRM that is also an ENTREPRENEUR–HAS ACQUIRED the shopping center.

When I read the first paragraph of the article, it became clear that two entities are involved in the project. One is a CANADIAN INVESTMENT FIRM, and the other is an ENTREPRENEUR.  Therefore, the verb HAVE is correct, but the second entity requires its own article, AN.

I was also bothered by the lack of parallel structure between TO ADD in reference to the POLICE SUB-STATION and MAKING in reference to OTHER CHANGES.

In addition, I do not use a comma before AS WELL AS in the phrasing of a sentence.

Here is my suggested rewrite for this caption:

A Canadian investment firm and an entrepreneur have acquired Eastwood Festival Centre and intend to make changes to the shopping center, including the addition of a police sub-station.