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[Grammar] 5 Embarrassing Grammatical Mistakes


TalonRider

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This article was suggested to me and I thought I would share it here.

 

5 Embarrassing Grammatical Mistakes

by Martha Brockenbrough

 

I once had a job opening for an editor on my team. In the middle of an interview, I noticed the candidate--an otherwise very nice man--had a giant piece of spinach wedged into his teeth.

 

This was no speck; had I a pair of tweezers, I probably could have plucked it out and used it to swaddle a grape.

 

As hard as it was to watch him smile and answer my questions, the salad to-go didn't cost him the job. The grammatical errors on his Web site--a spelling error and a missing comma--were another story, though. As gross as the spinach was, I could look away from it. Typos, on the other hand, I could not ignore, and as nice as he was, I had to turn him down.

 

That's the thing with bad grammar. It's the intellectual equivalent of spinach in your teeth, especially when you're at work or looking for a better job. With that in mind, here are five errors that are easy to prevent. Think of them as mental floss.

 

1) Be agreeable

When it comes to language, we can't just agree to disagree--at least not when it comes to subjects and verbs. If your subject is singular, your verb must be, too. Usually, this is easy:

 

 

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Regarding apostrophes in possessives, my rule has been that if you pronounce it, put the apostrphe in. If not, then leave it out. For example, James's shoes didn't fit him well, but Socrates' sandals were just fine. Sometimes the ending 's' is so strongly pronounced that it sounds odd if you add an 's' after the apostrohe. Mephistophiles' feet should be put to the fire.

 

The AP stylebook, unfortunately, has the apostrophe-only rule for possessives, but that's largely, I believe, because of space limitatios--especially in headlines.

 

rec

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Regarding apostrophes in possessives, my rule has been that if you pronounce it, put the apostrphe in. If not, then leave it out. For example, James's shoes didn't fit him well, but Socrates' sandals were just fine. Sometimes the ending 's' is so strongly pronounced that it sounds odd if you add an 's' after the apostrohe. Mephistophiles' feet should be put to the fire.

 

The AP stylebook, unfortunately, has the apostrophe-only rule for possessives, but that's largely, I believe, because of space limitatios--especially in headlines.

 

rec

Personally I find all names ending with an s to sound equally odd (or normal) with an additional "'s". So I'd be just as likely to say "James's shoes" as "Socrates's feet" or "Mephistophiles's feet". They all sound about equally cumbersome to say, and in fact of the three I think "Socrates's" sounds the best (probably because I pronounce his name with more of a "z" sound than an "s" so adding another "s" doesn't sound as bad). Anyway that's just the way they sound to me.

 

When actually writing it, I've always just thrown an "'s" on the end of all names ending with an "s".

 

-Kevin

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  • 1 year later...

Some malapropisms are funnier than others. Groucho Marx left us with a classic.

 

"Love flies out the door when money comes innuendo."

 

This is also an example of the English language's flexible grammar rules and gigantic vocabulary. Talk about something losing it's meaning in translation, defy anyone to try translating it into any other language.

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Personally I find all names ending with an s to sound equally odd (or normal) with an additional "'s". So I'd be just as likely to say "James's shoes" as "Socrates's feet" or "Mephistophiles's feet". They all sound about equally cumbersome to say, and in fact of the three I think "Socrates's" sounds the best (probably because I pronounce his name with more of a "z" sound than an "s" so adding another "s" doesn't sound as bad). Anyway that's just the way they sound to me.

 

When actually writing it, I've always just thrown an "'s" on the end of all names ending with an "s".

 

-Kevin

 

When I was going through High School, and College (A little, yes. Surprised?) we were taught that a name ending with 's' should simply have the apostrophe added at the end with no additional 's', for example: Kevin's feet, James' toes.

 

Some malapropisms are funnier than others. Groucho Marx left us with a classic.

 

"Love flies out the door when money comes innuendo."

 

This is also an example of the English language's flexible grammar rules and gigantic vocabulary. Talk about something losing it's meaning in translation, defy anyone to try translating it into any other language.

 

Another one that loses in translations is an old line: The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. The earliest translation software programs would translate this one from english to russian and back as: The wine is good, but the meat is spoiled.

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When I was going through High School, and College (A little, yes. Surprised?) we were taught that a name ending with 's' should simply have the apostrophe added at the end with no additional 's', for example: Kevin's feet, James' toes.

 

That's the way I learned it too. If the noun (or name) ends in s, just add an apostrophe to make it possessive. If it does not end in s, add an apostrophe followed by an s.
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1) Be agreeable

 

So, in American usage, you'd say, "The group of people is eating the pie."

 

What's the trick here? Knowing how to identify the subject. In this sentence, "the group" is the subject, not "people." In any sentence, the subject is whoever or whatever is performing the action. In this case, it doesn't matter if there are 100 students eating pie; the group is the subject of that sentence, and it needs a singular verb.

 

well sort of, but english knows plural nouns (e.g. the police are combing the area) and also singular (the news is just coming in--although the news were indeed plural up to the late 18th century)

 

another interesting area of english when it comes to plural/singular are units of measurements. colloquial usage pluralizes (most) units of measurement, scientific usage doesn't. the man on the street says "a whale weighs 30 tonnes (or tons)", the scientist would say "a whale has a mass of 30 000 kilogram (singular noun)". an exception to this rule is 'horsepower' which is rarely found in the plural.

 

In a similar vein, I just got a letter home from my daughter's school that said, "A child reads better if you read to them every day."

 

absolutely correct english. the third-person singular gender-neutral pronoun is 'they'. you can find it in all major authors. it fell out of fashion in the victorian period but has been enjoying a much deserved renaissance recently.
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  • 5 months later...

I ran into the letter-grade problem, and the "As" was jarring, especially as it occurred at the start of a sentence. However, some research showed that in the case of letters, an apostrophe is used in SOME style manuals.

 

My opinion has always been that when the rules of grammar conflict with clarity, clarity trumps all. Therefor, even without the style manual reference, I use A's than As. It is IMHO better to transgress on a possible (and disputed) rule of grammar than to create ambiguity or confusion.

 

In a similar vein, the second s in a possessive singular that ends in s is an issue I have wrestled with (badly, in many cases). There are conflicting views, and some style sheets do indeed have differing rules for biblical names and the names.

 

This presents a conundrum. For example, the name "Jesus" is a common one in some parts of the Spanish-speaking worlds. So, are we to use differing forms? (Jesus' and Jesus's)?

 

After much research, I decided that the most sensible way was to disregard the official (and often contradictory) rules, and in the interests of clarity I now use the second s when it is pronounced, and omit it when it isn't.

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  • 1 year later...

thanks for the offerings & suggestions. on the possessive thing, i always heard the rule as ... if the 's at the end makes 3 s sounds (like Jesus's and Moses's), then don't use the 's and the 3rd s sound, just use the ' ... it wasn't because they were biblical, but because it would make a 3rd s sound, which overloads the auditory senses. ;-) if it's only one s sound that occurs prior to the ' , then use 's (like, James's).

 

When someone verbally says, "This is James' book", i usually miss the next thing or two they say, cuz i'm fixated on the incorrect grammar they just used. ;-)

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I love these types of discussions. I was in the group being taught that A's on a report card are great. Students' with good grades will get better jobs. However, a poor student's grades can always be improved.

 

Jesus', James', and Steve's cars are each a different color.

 

The green, blue, purple, and red are beautiful. Not: The green, blue, purple and red is beautiful. However... The greens, blues, purples, and red are beautiful.

 

When I was in college, I was a writing tutor and during my training for it even the English professors were not in unanimous agreement on how to deal with many of the finer details of punctuation and grammar. For every document explaining one way of handling it, there seemed to be another document explaining a different way.

 

Or should I have typed it this way?

 

When I was in college, I was a writing tutor and during my training for it, even the English professors were not in unanimous agreement on how to deal with many of the finer details of punctuation and grammar. For every document explaining one way of handling it, there seemed to be another document explaining a different way.

 

I like the idea of erring on the side of clarity.

Edited by Tipdin
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I like reading about grammar rules when people write them as if speaking about them, not lecturing. Providing examples and such make so much more sense than using the correct terms for each part of a sentence and just giving the rule. I haven't had a grammar lesson since I was 12 or 13. Most of the way I write and beta read is instinctual from simply being a reader for most of my life. I can tell you if something doesn't sound right and what I could change the words or sentence to in order for it to make sense; but I can't quote the rules.

 

Being on GA has vastly improved my education on such rules. I often have to be able to explain myself to my writers with more than just, I like this better for some reason. Reading topics like this one definitely make that easier. I have to say the one that drives me the most nuts, however, is not there, their, they're but your, you're and yore. I often see those incorrectly used and I just can't help but want to reach into the document and mark it with red.

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This one's easy. Loose rhymes with goose. And as they said in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "How loose is your goose? Your goose is totally loose"--whatever that means.

 

Meanwhile, lose is a loser. It has lost its other o. And if you can remember that, you'll be a winner--grammatically speaking, at least.

Love Buffy and this is such a great way to remember the difference. :P

 

Thanks for the thread, I enjoyed reading these contributions.

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When i started writing, i found grammar quite difficult. Especially within my english coursework last year, it was an absolute disaster :(

 

But since i started to develop in my writing, my grammar has improved dramatically. Having editors helps alot as well :)

 

I like the article, quite interesting :) I follow another link given to me by sharon when i have dialog issues in particular :)

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  • 2 months later...

A error I notice in a lot of North American writing is the confusion of "then" and than". For the life of me I cannot understand the confusion, and yet when reading, it is so jarring.

 

 

 

That it appears to be largely north american writers could be because I read more north american authors than others......

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  • 1 year later...

A error I notice in a lot of North American writing is the confusion of "then" and than". For the life of me I cannot understand the confusion, and yet when reading, it is so jarring.

 

 

 

That it appears to be largely north american writers could be because I read more north american authors than others......

 

I agree. I also cannot understand the confusion of "their" and "there" or "to" "too" and "two"...

 

Oh, and what about "your" and "you're"? I find it amazing that professors and teachers use these incorrectly.

 

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  • 9 months later...

Regarding apostrophes in possessives, my rule has been that if you pronounce it, put the apostrphe in. If not, then leave it out. For example, James's shoes didn't fit him well, but Socrates' sandals were just fine. Sometimes the ending 's' is so strongly pronounced that it sounds odd if you add an 's' after the apostrohe. Mephistophiles' feet should be put to the fire.

 

The AP stylebook, unfortunately, has the apostrophe-only rule for possessives, but that's largely, I believe, because of space limitatios--especially in headlines.

 

rec

 

'Mephisophiles's feet' sounds so cute! Like, Mephistophiles's little footsies! <3

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