Posts Tagged ‘verbs’

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.


Verb Tense Matters and Affects Meaning

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Choosing the correct tense and form for a verb is important for clear writing. An incorrect choice can often lead to a distortion of meaning, as in this example sentence from the Sports section of The Birmingham News:

She has been an Alabama fan her entire life and had a brother, Chris, who played as a member of the 2009 and 2011 national championship teams.

The present perfect verb form HAS BEEN tells the reader that SHE (the subject of the sentence) is alive and well in the present and is still an Alabama fan. However, the past tense verb form HAD, in reference to her brother, makes it sound as if her brother has passed away.  To say SHE HAD A BROTHER suggests that the brother is no longer alive, which is not the case.

Here is another sentence with a verb form problem. It is from the same issue of the newspaper:

For the past three years, "Trading Christmas"–based on the best-selling Debbie Macomber novel about how house swapping can led to romance–has been the most-watched movie on Hallmark, whose audience is 55 percent female.

 LED is the past tense of the verb LEAD, as in "Alabama LED for the entire first quarter." It is also the past participle, which is used with helping verbs like HAS and HAVE, as in "Notre Dame HAS LED in the ratings." However, when the helping verb CAN is used, the present tense form is needed. Therefore, this sentence should read as follows:

For the past three years, "Trading Christmas"–based on the best-selling Debbie Macomber novel about how house swapping can lead to romance–has been the most-watched movie on Hallmark, whose audience is 55 percent female.

 

Here is one final verb problem, also from the same issue of the newspaper:

Turnovers also be the key and the team that makes the bigger plays on special teams, as always, should take the victory.

I have no problem with sports writing being a bit more casual with the rules. A "slangy" style works, to some extent. However, I do think using BE as the present tense verb goes too far. This is unacceptable usage and makes the writer sound far less than professional. The verb to go with TURNOVERS should be ARE because TURNOVERS is plural. The sentence should read this way:

Turnovers are also the key, and the team that makes the bigger plays on special teams, as always, should take the victory.

 

NOTE: Being a diehard Buckeye and an Auburn fan, I don't have a sure favorite in tonight's BCS championship game. May the truly best team win!


AP headline grammar does not “add” up.

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Here is a headline that appeared in an online list of headlines this week.  It also appeared this way at the top of the actual story:

 

Whoops! The word AD is short for advertisement. It is a noun, not a verb, and cannot refer to Ashland putting an ADDITIONAL person on its board.  The word needed here is the verb ADD, as in "Her company plans to ADD ten additional employees next month."

This Associated Press headline should read as follows:

 

Ashland adds former Avon exec Janice Teal to board


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.


How do you OVERROAD a veto? By UPS, perhaps?

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Here is a usage glitch I've never come across:

In fact, they overroad then-Gov. Bob Riley's veto, preserving their 61 percent increase in compensation.

Whoops! What the OUR VIEWS page of The Birmingham News meant to use in their editorial about state government budget woes was the word OVERRODE (past tense of RIDE).  ROAD, of course, is a noun that does not fit this situation.  The sentence should read as follows:

In fact, they overrode then-Gov. Bob Riley's veto, preserving their 61 percent increase in compensation.


They had came? Whoops!

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

An article about an unsung hero in a recent issue of The Huntsville Times included this sentence:

When the children were on their way, L. quietly went back to where he'd parked, turned around and took his family back the way they'd came.

Whoops! The word THEY'D is a contraction of THEY and HAD.  When a writer uses the helping verb HAD, that writer must also choose the past participle of the verb (COME), not the past tense form (CAME). The sentence should read this way:

When the children were on their way, L. quietly went back to where he'd parked, turned around and took his family back the way they'd come.


Thou shalt not create a dangling participle.

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

A dangling participle was the supreme no-no in Mrs. Wagner's English class.  It may not get as much attention today, but it still creates confused writing.  Consider this sentence from an article in a recent issue of 280 Living:

Suffering from depression, financial concerns, marital problems and mourning the loss of his mother a year earlier, (this woman) believes her father was actually dealing with undiagnosed bipolar disorder.

THIS WOMAN (the daughter) is the subject of this sentence. An ING phrase set in front of that subject should describe the subject, but in reality, it is the FATHER who has had all these difficult experiences.  The writer needs to find a way to have the SUFFERING and MOURNING describe the father.  Here is my suggestion for a rewrite:

This woman believes her father, who suffered from depression, financial concerns and marital problems while mourning the loss of his mother a year earlier, was actually dealing with undiagnosed bipolar disorder.

 

TODAY'S BONUS GRAMMAR GLITCH: This one appeared in a comment on the Grammar Glitch Central blog.

I get exactly where your coming from.  Whoops! YOUR is a possessive adjective used to describe a noun, as in IT IS YOUR FAULT….or YOUR GRAMMAR GLITCH IS SHOWING.

What this writer wants is the contraction of YOU + ARE.  The sentence should read: I get exactly where you're coming from.


Blogger needs ADVICE on how to ADVISE about writing a novel.

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Linkedin has an interesting feature where authors can post links to their blogs about writing.  Here is a sentence I came across on one of those posts this week:

I don't give tips (God knows I'm too ornery but not petulant enough to think I can advice anyone about anything), I don't review books or ask anyone to review mine;…

Whoops! ADVICE is a noun, not a verb, as in "I don't give anyone ADVICE (noun) about anything," or "Please give me some ADVICE (noun) about how to get published."

 This writer wants the verb ADVISE in his sentence, as in "Could you ADVISE (verb) me about getting published?" His sentence should read this way:

I don't give tips (God knows I'm too ornery but not petulant enough to think I can advise anyone about anything), I don't review books or ask anyone to review mine;…


IF clauses and VERB choices

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

It can be tricky to choose the correct verbs when an IF clause is involved.  Take a look at this sentence that appeared in a recent article about the possibility of shutting down Birmingham's Cooper Green Hospital:

If the hospital shut down, he said, patients will avoid getting care until they are really sick.

 The writer of this sentence needed to decide whether the IF part of the sentence was supposed to describe something factual (IF the  hospital SHUTS down….) or a more hypothetical situation (IF the hospital SHUT down….) The verbs in the next part of this sentence (either WILL or WOULD and ARE or WERE) depend on that decision.  There are two correct ways to word this sentence, but the parts are not interchangeable.  It should read one of these two ways:

If the hospital shuts down, he said, patients will avoid getting care until they are really sick.

If the hospital (were to) shut down, he said, patients would avoid getting care until they were really sick.

 


LIE BACK? or LAY BACK? There is a correct choice.

Monday, May 16th, 2011

One of our local cable channel providers had an advertisement in this morning's newspaper. The headline at the top read as follows:

Lay back and explore or lean in and record.

 

Whoops! LIE is a verb that means to recline, which is certainly what the young man in this illustration is doing.  LAY is a verb that takes an object and refers to putting something down, as in "Please LAY an egg" if I am impatient with my hen or "LAY your head upon my shoulder" if I am speaking to my significant other. (The object of LAY is either EGG or HEAD.)

The sentence at the top of this advertisement should read as follows:

Lie back and explore or lean in and record.