Monday, April 9, 2012

Grammar Police Monday - New Series

I've decided to add a new series to my blogging schedule called Grammar Police Monday. Each week I'll highlight a grammatical error or two and show you the way to correct them. Let me know what you think. If you like this, I'll keep it going.


We all should be forgiving of mistakes in quick, unedited correspondences such as emails and blog comments; but when it comes to professional writing of any sort, authors need to put their best foot forward. If an editor read your WIP right now, for how many grammar crimes could you be ticketed?

Grammar faux pas #1 - 'than' versus 'then.'
Often it's nothing more thenthan a typo, but some writers misuse these words.

'Than' is the word you want when making comparisons. 
Ex: I'd rather relax on the couch than move furniture.

If you are talking about time, choose 'then.'
Ex: I'll finish arranging the furniture; then I'm relaxing on the couch.

Grammar faux pas #2 (and one of my favorites) - Subject/verb agreement.
We must pair singular verbs with singular nouns and plural verbs with plural nouns. The problem is: verbs don't form their plurals by adding an s as nouns do. For some folks, this is really confusing.

For example, the plural of 'guinea pig' is 'guinea pigs.' That's easy. Just add 's.' But when it comes to the verb 'run,' that IS the plural form. The SINGULAR form is 'runs.'

Let's take a look...
My guinea pig runs across the floor so fast I can't catch him.
When I turn them all loose, my guinea pigs run in different directions.

(I haven't had a guinea pig since I was a kid. And mine rarely ran. She just sat on my shoulder, eating celery and watching TV with me.)

*Adorable animal intermission*

What's often at the root of mistakes with subject/verb agreement is improperly identifying the subject so one can choose the right verb.

Is this correct? The use of cell phones and pagers are prohibited.

At first glance, you might say 'yes,' but look closer at what is actually against the rules--the subject of the sentence. Is it 'cell phones and pagers'? Nope. It's the USE of them. ('of cell phones and pagers' is a prepositional phrase, so that can't be the subject.)

The correct version is: The use of cell phones and pagers is prohibited.
Or more simply: The use of cell phones and pagers is prohibited.

If you'll mentally mark out the modifiers and prepositional phrases, stripping the sentence down to it's subject and verb, the correct answer will often become clear.

Here's another one that stumps people. Neither of us are going.  
Is that correct?

No. When either and neither are subjects, they always take singular verbs.
The proper way is: Neither of us is going.

For a detailed lesson on subject/verb agreement, click here.

Thanks for visiting. : )

25 comments:

  1. Okay, I was fine with the first one but I think I need to work on the second :-)

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    1. I'm in the same boat. I usually get the subject/verb thing right, but I still have to look it up on occasion. Thanks for stopping by. :)

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  2. This is awesome. I think I do pretty well with grammar, but it's always good to brush up on the rules and make sure.

    New follower!

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  3. Pfft... grammar? I have a critter named Melissa for that!

    Kidding, kidding. :D Great post!

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    1. Hahaha - and mom. We can't forget mom. I'm gonna have to put her on retainer. :D

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    2. Oh, yes. Your mom is the authority on grammar, as far as I'm concerned. :)

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  4. Thanks for the support. Lie vs. lay gets me, too. I know which is which, but I still double-check the conjugation. And, guess what--I talk about that very thing next week! :)

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  5. Whew, I think I have these ones down, although sometimes I have to stop and read aloud to check the subject-verb agreement. Sometimes it looks wrong to me even when it's correct :)

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    1. Isn't that the truth! Thanks for visiting. :)

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  6. I am very thankful for this series! I am a grammar moron! Especially, when it comes to punctuation Comma, semi-colons, colons, etc. drive me nuts! Keep the lessons coming!

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    1. I would never have known it from reading your writing, CB. Either you're better than you think or I'm worse. :P

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  7. Great idea, Melissa. I keep a folder for grammar hints and I refer to it often. Your blog will definitely go into that folder. I look forward to your future posts.
    Richard Alan

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    1. Thanks, Richard. I guess this series really was a good idea. Glad you stopped by. :)

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  8. Hi! I'm so glad you are doing this. I plan to tune in each Monday. Jody
    www.jodysdevotionaljournal.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you, Jody. Glad you stopped by. :)

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  9. Melissa, then/than? I still shudder when reading one of my books where I had this mixed up. I'll certainly pop in here and read up - when I have more time than today allows!

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    1. I think we all have *shudder* moments when it comes to our writing journey. Thanks for stopping by. :)

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  10. Ah, I love grammar rules. I'm such a nerd. Great post. Those darn objects of the preposition get so many people. I'm looking forward to more of this series.

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  11. Great topic! I'll be visiting on Mondays. 8o)

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  12. Yes to Grammar Police Monday! Even those of us who feel like we know the rules can still benefit from the review! Great idea!

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    1. Woohoo! Yup. We all need a review from time to time. Glad you stopped by. :)

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Thanks for taking the time to comment. = )