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Add Your Own Criminal Sentence!

If you find a particularly terrible sentence somewhere, post it for all to see (go here and put it in the Comments section).

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Criminal Sentence 455: Woody

From something I'm editing:

"If you get tired or board,"

Had to chuckle at this! At least I wasn't BORED with the sentence!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Criminal Sentence 454: A Country in the Garden

A laughable sentence from a book I'm reading (about the Tower of London):

"Raleigh was even allowed to grow the exotic plants he brought back from the countries he discovered in the Tower garden."

He discovered countries in the garden?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Criminal Sentence 453: Cut/Sever That Out!

From something I am editing:

"Enter your sever credentials."

I used to edit a lot of end-user computer books, and I trained myself to look for these two misspellings, which would creep in past Spell Checker:

"Manger" for "Manager"


"Sever" for "Server"

And don't get me started on "Pubic" for "Public"!

Just for fun, let's put them all together: pubic sever manger!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Poll Results 105

The question:

Is this right? "It isn’t always something you can see per say."

9 (10%)
75 (89%)

OK. That was too easy. "Per se" is right.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Criminal Sentence 452: Lost Adverb

From something I read recently:

"He took everything that he found immediately to the Lost Property Office."

This adverb--"immediately"--needs to be redirected from the Lost Property Office to the Office of Correctly Placed Adverbs. Right now, it seems to be describing how the man found everything, but it should really be describing how he took everything:

"He immediately took everything that he found to the Lost Property Office."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Criminal Sentence 451: Grammar in the Sky

From something I read online:

"The skies the limit."

Hmm. This is not meant to be a pattern: "the" and a noun; "the" and a noun. This is supposed to be a cliche: "The sky's the limit."

Use neither, please!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Criminal Sentence 450: Take a Breath

From something I edited:

"the tremendous depth and breathe we have"


Oh, you meant "breadth"!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Criminal Sentence 449: Funny Homes

This is from my local paper today. You don't need the "s" on "homes"; "home prices" or "prices of homes" would be correct.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Poll Results 104

Here was the question:

Is this phrasing correct? "Each of the last two years..."

37 (49%)
38 (50%)

That's evenly divided. When I first read this, I did a double take, thinking it was wrong, but then I looked it up, and says this: "every one of two or more considered individually or one by one," and it gave the example "a hallway with a door at each end." This example is talking about a hallway with two ends, and "each" is used. I therefore think that "each of the last two years" is correct, though wordy. "Both years" would be more concise.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Criminal Sentence 448: Cringe

From a writing advice Web site:

"As someone who isn't trained as a designer (but who has worked with many designers over the years, and knows the benefit of great design), the following advice is going to sound paradoxical, yet..."

I always cringe when I read poorly written writing advice on a writing Web site. Shouldn't these publishing people know better?

Apparently not.

This sentence came from a piece on Web site design, but still.

Here's the problem:

"As someone.... the following advice..."

Is "the following advice" someone? I think not.

Watch your misplaced modifiers, people.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Criminal Sentence 447: First Sentence, First Impression

Contained within the first sentence of an otherwise excellent novel:

"...a parking lot florescent..."

This snippet describes a light in a parking lot. I know that it's odd to stick a "u" in there, but "u" know it's necessary:


By the way, "florescence" means "the act, state, or period of flowering; bloom," according to

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Criminal Sentence 446: Where's Your Mustache?

From a book I recently read:

"There in the parking lot was this lumbering big guy with a mustache in a casual suit."

Ha ha!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Criminal Sentence 445: Mom to a Wife?

From an article about tennis player Kim Clijsters, who won the US Open:

"Now a mom to a young child and a wife, she ..."

This makes it sound as if she is mom to a wife! Interesting thought, but her daughter is only two! If you switch things around, the sentence will not be funny:

"Now a wife and a mom to a young child, she ..."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Poll Results 103

Here was the question:

Is this sentence correct? "He admitted to the shooting in the police interview."

17 (30%)
39 (69%)

Congrats to 69% of you. The sentence suggests that someone did a shooting during a police interview. That would be interesting! We need to rewrite!

"When police interviewed the suspect, he admitted that he shot the victim."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Criminal Sentence 444: Toad-ally Funny

From a Web site:

"The main dirt toad..."

Good thing I wasn't drinking anything when I read this. Otherwise, my laptop would have become soaked with liquid spewing from my laughing lips.

Um. That would be main dirt ROAD, guys.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Criminal Sentence 443: When to cApitaliZe

A Web site I sometimes visit has these heads:

My Account
How it Works
Sign Out

One of these things is not like the others!

There are two common schools of thought about the capitalization of heads:

1) Just initial cap everything.
2) Initial cap everything except articles (like "a" and "the") and short prepositions (like "to"). Prepositions at the end, however, get an initial cap (as is done in "Sign Out").

In case you're confused, I'm harping on "How it Works." Although "it" is short, it's not an article or a preposition. If you're following school of thought 1, then "it" should be capped. If you're with number 2, same result. There is no school of thought 3, where short words stay lowercase.

When you're deciding which way to go, pick the way you like and be consistent.

thank You!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Criminal Sentence 442: That's Final

I was watching the US Open on ESPN2 yesterday. When I desperately need to know the score of a baseball game, I do turn to ESPN2 to see the score on the crawl, but when I'm watching something on that channel, it gets annoying to see the same stuff over and over. So when I saw this last night, I was excited:

"Final Alert"

I thought, yippee! The last alert of the night. Well, no. It was an alert about the scores of baseball games that were over. I guess some would see "Final Alert" and avert their eyes if they didn't want to know.

This isn't wrong, but it did give off the wrong impression, I think.

It might have been better to say something like "Completed Games: Scores Coming Now." A bit long, I know. Any other suggestions?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Poll Results 102

Here was the question:

Is something wrong with this? "That alone makes this book a worthy read to check out if you have an interest in Japan, ex-patriots, or writing."

47 (79%)
12 (20%)

Congrats to 79% of you. An "ex-patriot" would be someone who used to be a patriot. Someone who is living abroad is called an "expatriate," or "expat" for short.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Reader Question: She and I's

A reader asked this:

I am hoping that you will be able to clarify some compound possessive sentences.
I have been hearing people say things such as:
"She and I's relationship."
"Sally and I's relationship."
I have also heard:
"It is the end of John and your's vacation."
"It is the end of you and John's vacation."
"It is the end of your and John's vacation."
When I hear or read any of these, I find myself feeling annoyed and frustrated. Annoyed because none of the sentences sound correct and frustrated because I do not know the proper usage.

I was happy to help her. Here's what I said:

These choices would be correct though not ideal:

Sally's and my relationship
John's and your vacation

Recasting the sentence to avoid these awkward possessives works best:

the relationship between Sally and me
the end of vacation time for both John and you

I hope that you's and your three-day weekend is fun! (I mean, your weekend!)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Criminal Sentence 441: That's Un-Fare!

From a Web site:

"[It's] something with strong enough themes that would warrant book club discussion, but still has the readability of more commercial fair."

Uh oh!

That should be "fare," which means something offered to the public. It also means food, as in "Asian fare."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Criminal Sentence 440: The Krabby Grammarian

Overheard on SpongeBob (in this snippet, Mr. Krabs is talking to himself):

"How does it feel to be in the hole, so to speak, Mr. Krabs? Not well, I suppose."

Nope. It doesn't feel good, Mr. Krabs.

The idiom here is "it feels good to such and such." You would never say, "It feels well to such and such."

For a useful discussion of "I'm good" vs. "I'm well," check this out.