Here is the same paragraph with the mistakes underlined. There are 7.
In May, 2017 a local high school experienced a mass shooting, killing several students and injuring many. One student said she laid still and played dead as the gunman walked past her. A tiny female teacher fearlessly pursued the gunman as if she was Rambo. After the police had the gunman in custody, they instructed the students to exit the building in single file, without backpacks and with hands above their heads. When the students stopped too near the school building, they were instructed to move further away. One elderly woman was devastated upon learning that her only great granddaughter was among the casualties.
#1 should be May 2017, no comma
CMoS 6.45, p. 322: Where month and year only are given, or a specific day (such as a holiday) with a year, neither system uses a comma.
#2 should be She lay stillCMoS 5.220, p. 287: lay: lie. Lay is a transitive verb—that is, it demands a direct object (lay your pencils down). It is inflected lay-laid-laid (I laid the book there yesterday). (These rumors have been laid to rest). Lie is an intransitive verb—that is, it never takes a direct object (lie down and rest). It is inflected lie-lay-lain. (she lay down and rested). (she hasn’t yet lain down).
To rest or recline intransitive verb, lie - lay - lain.
To place or put (an object) transitive verb, lay - laid - laid.
That the past tense of the intransitive verb is spelled the same as the present tense of the of the transitive verb may account for the confusion in correct usage. Remembering the forms that direct you to rest versus the forms that direct you to place an object should help. I add this extra explanation because these two verbs were the most misused verbs in all my teaching career.
CMoS 5.81, p. 250: Use and misuse of “like.” Like is governed by a noun or noun phrase (teens often see themselves as star-crossed lovers like Romeo and Juliet). As a preposition, like is followed by a noun or pronoun in the objective case (the person in that old portrait looks like me). Increasingly (but loosely) today in ordinary speech, like displaces as or as if as a conjunction to connect clauses. For example, in it happened just like I said it would happen, like should read as; and in you’re looking around like you’ve misplaced something, like should read as if. Although like as a conjunction has been considered nonstandard since the seventeenth century, today it is common in dialectal colloquial usage. Consider context and tone when deciding whether to impose standard English, as in the examples above.
Was vs Were
CMoS 5.137, p. 239: Present subjunctive. In present day English the present subjunctive typically appears in the form if I (he, she, it) were (if I were King) (if she were any different). That is, the present subjunctive ordinarily uses a past-tense verb (e.g. were) to connote uncertainty, impossibility, or unreality.
#5 ...backpacks and with hands should have a comma
CMoS 6.18, p.312: Series and the Serial Comma. When a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series of three or more, a comma should appear before the conjunction. Chicago strongly recommends this widely practiced usage since it prevents ambiguity.
#6 Further vs Farther
CMoS 5.220, p. 281: farther; further. The traditional distinction is to use farther for physical distance (we drove farther north to see the autumn foliage) and further for figurative distance (let’s examine this further).
#7 great granddaughter should be hyphenated
CMoS 7.75, p. 380. Compounds & Hyphens. Grand compounds closed; great compounds hyphenated.
Here's the paragraph as it should read.
In May 2017 a local high school experienced a mass shooting, killing several students and injuring many. One student said she lay still and played dead as the gunman walked past her. A tiny female teacher fearlessly pursued the gunman as if she were Rambo. After the police had the gunman in custody, they instructed the students to exit the building in single file, without backpacks, and with hands above their heads. When the students stopped too near the school building, they were instructed to move farther away. One elderly woman was devastated upon learning that her only great-granddaughter was among the casualties.
Grammar Police posts for further study:
(verb conjugation, including lie/lay)
So, how'd you do? Did you catch all 7?
Thanks again to author/editor Jeanette Pierce for guest-posting this month's Grammar Quest! For information about Jeanette's editing services, visit The Write Word.
Reminder: An Honorable Man releases tomorrow!