Posts Tagged ‘word usage’

Photo is of a SCULPTOR, not a SCULPTURE!

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

not a sculpture 001An article in the March 2013 issue of Shelby Living contains the following sentence:

A photographer, painter and sculpture, Jackson's current passion involves creating leather masks.

This sentence has two problems.  First, as you can see, the person in this photograph is definitely not a SCULPTURE. On the contrary, Sarah Jackson is a talented SCULPTOR who began creating SCULPTED leather masks about a year ago.

Second, the subject of this sentence, as it is written, is PASSION. The sentence is poorly constructed because the phrase "a photographer, painter and sculptor" is meant to describe or modify Jackson, not her passion.

A much better way to word this sentence would be the following:

Jackson is a photographer, painter and sculptor  whose current passion  is creating leather masks.


If you'd like to see more of Sarah Jackson's artwork, please visit

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SUSPECT OF or SUSPECT IN? Police Officer Wants It Right.

Monday, March 11th, 2013

policemanIt is always fascinating to discover who reads this blog and finds it useful. Last week I heard from a police officer with a question about the grammar of a statement printed on a "Beheler Admonishment" card officers keep on hand to give to suspects.

I admit that I had to look up Beheler Admonishment–a statement used when a suspect is invited to the police station for a voluntary interview. It assures that the person is not under arrest and is free to leave at any time.

This is the wording the police officer questioned:

You are the suspect of a police investigation….

The officer believed the correct wording should be "in a police investigation," and he reported that there had been some heated discussion at the station about what was correct. "A person can be the suspect OF a crime," he said, "but not the suspect OF an investigation."

 I agreed and suggested they reprint the cards because , although a person can certainly be the SUBJECT of an investigation, that person cannot be the SUSPECT of the investigation. To me, the SUSPECT of an investigation would be someone who is skeptical about the investigation.

Perhaps a fine distinction, but it could be an important one in these days of legal hair-splitting.

Pruning are?? Subject/verb agreement lacking

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

The "Ask a Landscaper" column in a recent issue of The Birmingham News contains a carelessly worded sentence:

Pruning off these buds are in essence pruning of the flowers before they bloom.

 The columnist is answering a reader's question about when to prune azaleas. First, the word PRUNING is a gerund (a verb turned into a noun by adding ING). It is the subject of the sentence and is a single function, so it is considered singular.  Therefore, the verb should be IS instead of ARE. Second, the columnist uses the phrase PRUNING OFF in reference to the BUDS, so it makes sense that he meant to use the same phrase PRUNING OFF in reference to the FLOWERS.  The sentence should read this way:

Pruning off these buds is in essence pruning off the flowers before they bloom.

I love gardening, and if you do, too, you are probably getting antsy about planting for the coming spring. I hope your azaleas and other plants are gorgeous this year.

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. 


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.







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.



Poor usage reflects poorly on the writer.

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

 Are those who write for digital media more careless with usage than those who write for print? I do not know the answer to that, but I have come across a wave of incorrect usage on since I have had to migrate there four out of seven days a week. The reporters who make these mistakes come across as ESL students who are still learning a new language!

Here is one example:

In more cases than not, when I take guests on cruises, they will go off shore wearing two, three, or for layers of clothing.

 This is pretty basic: FOR is a preposition. The numeral that comes after THREE should be FOUR. Note that spell checker would not catch this error because both FOR and FOUR are words. The sentence should read this way:

In more cases than not, when I take guests on cruises, they will go off shore wearing two, three, or four layers of clothing.

Here is a second example:

W's father and his stepmother said even though they had visited their son in Walter Reed, the site of him arriving at the airport was 'overwhelming.'

The SITE (location) of the reunion with their son was the airport, but when they actually SAW him (with their eyes), that was a SIGHT (with their eyes) that was overwhelming. This sentence should read as follows:

W's father and his stepmother said even though they had visited their son in Walter Reed, the sight of him arriving at the airport was 'overwhelming.'


And finally, last week after the election, there was this:

This local candidate apparently road the coattails of statewide candidates.

The past tense of RIDE, which is what is needed here, is RODE. If you have a paved surface on which to do your RIDING, that would be a ROAD. Here is the corrected version of this sentence:

This local candidate apparently rode the coattails of statewide candidates.

Subject/Verb Agreement Problems, Plus Corn Grounding??

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

The Birmingham area is adjusting this week to having its one remaining "daily" newspaper delivered three days a week. I'm not sure yet if I can get used to sitting down with hot tea and the paper only three mornings a week.  The first "new" edition was on our lawn this morning, after we spent two weekday mornings discovering that had two-day-old stories mixed in with current things on Monday and Tuesday and, despite the guide for using it, was not all that easy to navigate.  I finally figured out that I could find a little local news if I clicked on one local story and then scrolled to the right from there.

I'm also not sure I want to read three days of comics in one sitting, and I miss the national editorial comments from a broad range of thinkers. (Okay not everyone in this county thinks the range is broad enough), but I usually read everyone from Dana Milbank and Froma Harrop to George Will and Charles Krauthammer, then live with my own thoughts. I did enjoy a little extra morning time on Monday and Tuesday to read USA Today on line, The New Yorker articles I'd been meaning to get to, and a smattering of headline stories from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, so maybe I will get the hang of this.

I will reserve overall judgment about the quality of the writing in this new venture, but I was horrified to find that the lead story in the "Hoover" neighborhood section of the paper had no fewer than THREE subject/verb agreement errors in about six inches of copy. The story, about a Native American Festival to be held this Sunday at the beautiful Aldridge Gardens, was interesting, but these are glaring errors:

Other activities includes leaf pounding, beading, corn grounding, gourd making and pottery.

Whoops! ACTIVITIES is plural. Therefore, its verb should be INCLUDE (without the S). Also, I am not sure what CORN GROUNDING is. I checked Google and a dictionary or two and could not find any such thing. The verb GRIND has the past tense GROUND, but here, the ING form should be created with the present tense, so it should be GRINDING. This sentence should read this way:

Other activities include leaf pounding, beading, corn grinding, gourd making and pottery.

Last time I checked, the word CHILDREN was the plural form of CHILD, so it should take the plural verb ARE, but here is what the article said:

Children under 2 is free.

Of course, this sentence should read as follows:

Children under 2  are  free.

The sentence before this one puzzled me a little. It said that admission to the festival is $5 for 18 and older. My question is: Why doesn't the reporter mention what it will cost those between the ages of 2 and 18 to attend?

Finally, this sentence appeared near the end of the article:

 The festival is being made possible by the Alabama Department of Tourism and Aldridge Gardens' 10th Anniversary sponsors, which includes AT&T, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Brookwood Hospital, Ed Randle & Associates and Protective Life Corporation, organizers said.


Whoops again! The word SPONSORS is plural, and the words WHICH INCLUDES should refer to the five SPONSORS (plural) of the event. HINT: To avoid worrying about the subject/verb agreement, the writer could just use the word INCLUDING. The sentence should read one of these two ways:

The festival is being made possible by the Alabama Department of Tourism and Aldridge Gardens' 10th Anniversary sponsors, which include AT&T, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Brookwood Hospital, Ed Randle & Associates and Protective Life Corporation, organizers said.

The festival is being made possible by the Alabama Department of Tourism and Aldridge Gardens' 10th Anniversary sponsors, including AT&T, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Brookwood Hospital, Ed Randle & Associates and Protective Life Corporation, organizers said.

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

To count or not to count? That is the issue with AMOUNT and NUMBER.

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

First, today is 9/11, a calendar date that will strike us all for the rest of our lives. Let us remember the thousands of citizens who were going about their lives that morning when evil touched them in New York and Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. Let us remember, too, the hundreds of first responders who rushed to help, so many also losing their lives or their health in the effort. I wish I could say that that evil no longer lurks in our world, but it does, and we are still seeking effective and viable ways to deal with it.

There were flags everywhere that September–in front yards, on car fenders and bumpers, on lapels, and in shop windows. We wanted to connect with each other in our love of country as well as our shock and sorrow. Early this morning, my husband set our flag in its holder on the garage–our simple way of saying to those who pass by that we remember and hope for our country. Later in the morning, I found an email from our homeowners' association, asking everyone to fly a flag on this day, and many have.  I hope many of my American readers will as well.

My Grammar Glitch for today comes from a sub headline to an article in last Saturday's newspaper that dealt with the distribution of 9/11 money to try to compensate, at least monetarily, for the losses so many suffered. Since the article appeared, a court has ruled that first responders who develop any of 58 types of cancer will be covered by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. A step in the right direction.

Here is the headline:

9/11 money distributor in struggle: Amount of eligible people not yet known


As I have pointed out before, our English language recognizes a distinction between "lump sum" items like money, laundry, grass, or population and items that can be counted like nickels or dimes, shirts or towels, blades of zoysia, and people. 

You cannot count MONEY because MONEY is a lump sum concept, as in "The  amount of  money (not nickels, dimes, and dollars) for the new hospital was raised in less than three months."

You can, however, count PEOPLE, as in "The number of people involved has not yet been announced."

The simple rule is that AMOUNT should be used for lump sum items and NUMBER should be used for items that can be counted. The headline should have read:

9/11 money distributor in struggle: Number of eligible people not yet known

Maybe? Or may be? That is the question.

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Spam subject lines often contain grammar errors, and recognizing that can be a good way to spot bogus emails that should be trashed. Here is a good example that appeared in my Inbox last week:


Remove errors that maybe harming your PC

 The single word MAYBE is an adverb that means the same thing as PERHAPS. It would be used in a sentence like this: MAYBE this is an email I should not open.


What this Spam creator should have used is the two verbs MAY and BE, which are separate words. His subject line should have read:


Remove errors that may be harming your PC


  Apparently I am not the only person who recognizes this problem. Please go to to see a long list of examples, using MAYBE and MAY BE correctly.  I don't know who put this together, but I must say: GOOD JOB!