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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, March 31, 2011

Criminal Sentence 532: Conscious vs. Conscience

From something I'm editing:

"He was haunted, as most people with a conscious would be."

A common word to get confused.

"Conscious" is an adjective that means awake; "conscience" is a noun that means the sense of right and wrong. I remember which is which by remembering that "science" is a noun, and "conscience" is a noun.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Criminal Sentence 531: A Man in Lingerie

From a book I'm reading:

"Dressed only in a t-shirt and panties, he then dragged her to his car."

I did a double take on that one.

Let's fix it:

"Dressed only in a t-shirt and panties, she was then dragged to his car."

I don't usually advocate using passive, but this seems to me the best way to fix it so there's no suggestion he was wearing panties.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Criminal Sentence 530: Dirty Deed

Reported in today's paper (Mariah Carey tweet):

"happy anniversary in deed"

I know that tweets are not rigorously put through a grammar checker (sigh), but she used one extra space there! The horror!

"Indeed" is one word--indeed!--unless you're saying something like "in thought, word and deed."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Poll Results 127

Here was the question:

"Do you get peeved when you read an error printed in a book by an NYT bestseller?"

27 (87%)
4 (12%)

Picky, aren't we?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Criminal Sentence 529: InAppRopriate Speling

From an app I use to post remotely:


Yes, "able" and "label" rhyme, but one is "le" and the other is "el."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Criminal Sentence 528: Alter-nate Reality

From something I'm editing:

"Instead of praying at the alter of most parishes, synagogues, or chapels, these hellions prayed at the foot of the porcelain alter."

I would alter that spelling (altar)!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Criminal Sentence 527: Go North

From a book I read:

"His weakened state was understandable given the hours he had spent crafting the bill and incorporating her edits, to say northing of the stress of working to elevate her to the presidency."

I have northing to say about this.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Criminal Sentence 526: Weepy Breakfast

From a book I finished:

"...what he's had for breakfast every morning for the last ten tears."

How could this have fallen through? I cry at least ten tears!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Poll Results 126

Here was the obviously too easy question:

Which is correct?

Your too old.
1 (1%)
Who's is that?
1 (1%)
Mom gave it to him and I.
3 (3%)
None of the above.
79 (94%)

94% of you are geniuses!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Criminal Sentence 525: Punctuating Speech

From a book I'm reading:

"'We've landed at Garden City Regional, ready for phase two,' he said."

Ready for a period also?

Just because it's casual speech doesn't mean you can dispense with punctuation. Let's fix it:

"'We've landed at Garden City Regional. Ready for phase two,' he said."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Criminal Sentence 524: Stung

I was looking up info on honey, and found these two sentences:
"The knowledge that bee venom possesses medicinal properties has come down to us from remote antiquity. Written evidence, as well as the observations of many beekeepers and our own long experience, confirm the effectiveness of been venom in the treatment of rheumatic fever, neuritis and some other diseases.

Anyone want to tell me what two errors there are? One is obvious. One is less so.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

Poll Results 125

Here was the question:

Which one is correct?

She peddled her bike to the market.
10 (10%)
She peddled her bike at the market.
3 (3%)
She pedaled her bike to the market.
29 (29%)
She pedaled her bike at the market.
2 (2%)
Two of the above
54 (55%)

Ah, the difference between to pedal (to use feet to move a bike) and to peddle (to sell). Congrats to 55% of you. The second (sold her bike at) and third (rode her bike to) options are correct.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Criminal Sentence 523: Cue up the Dictionary

From a book I'm reading (a character tells another to get a camera ready):

"Take manual control of camera nine and queue it up."

We're looking for the verb "to cue," which in this case means "to get ready."

A queue is a line, or a long braided ponytail.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Criminal Sentence 522: Twice in Two Years

From something I read:

"The fourth witness gave two accounts in 2001 and 2004."

This sentence seems to say that the witness gave two accounts in 2001 and two accounts in 2004, whereas I think the writer meant one in each year:

"The fourth witness gave two accounts, in 2001 and 2004."

You could also use a colon:

"The fourth witness gave two accounts: in 2001 and 2004."

Or even an em dash:

"The fourth witness gave two accounts--in 2001 and 2004."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Criminal Sentence 521: Sexy Golf Game

From something I'm editing:

"There were golf pictures of foursomes."

This sentence does not evoke what the author intended!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Poll Results 124

Here was the question:

Is there an error in this two-way conversation?

A: "Do I have all of your words?"

B: "You have our word, sir."

99 (62%)
60 (37%)

I would have to agree with 62% of you. "To have your word" is an expression meaning to promise, and you don't pluralize it just because more than one person is promising something. A should have said, "Do I have your word, everyone?" or something similar.

Friday, March 4, 2011

National Grammar Day Contest Winner!

Drum roll ...

The entry that made me laugh the loudest was Westley's:

"Leaking badly, the sailors abandoned the ship."

I'll bet they were so afraid that they were indeed leaking!

Congrats, Westley. Please e-mail me your address so I can get you your prize (

Thanks to everyone for entering!

Happy NG Day!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Criminal Sentence 520: I Feel Tense

From a book:

"Something truly horrible was taking place now as it did back then."

When you have two things that happened in the past and one happened earlier than the other, then you put the first item in the past perfect (e.g., "I had eaten). However, doing only that still isn't enough for this sentence:

"Something truly horrible was taking place now as it had back then."

It still sounds weird. Let's fix it a bit more:

"Something truly horrible was taking place now, just as it had back then."

Still not perfect but we can't scrap the sentence completely.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Criminal Sentence 519: Agreement Is a Priority

We had some lively discussion about CS 513, so here's another similar sentence to consider:

"Their capture and successful prosecution was the top priority."

The question, again, is this: Is this one subject or two separate subjects? To me, capture is one thing, and prosecution is another. The police do one, and the lawyers do the other. Thoughts?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Criminal Sentence 518: Fashionable Wheelchair

From a book:

"The woman in the wheelchair wearing burgundy scrubs is lovely."

That's a cool idea: dress up your wheelchair!