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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, June 30, 2011

Criminal Sentence 568: From and To

From a blog post:

"The event draws anywhere from 90-150 people."

Of course we understand this sentence, but since I'm picky, I need to say something about it!

If you have a "from," then you need a "to":

"The event draws anywhere from 90 to 150 people."

Another option is just a hyphen:

"The event draws 90-150 people."

You get to choose which one you like, but you can't mix them as in "from 90-150."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Criminal Sentence 567: Those "That" Clauses Are Causing Trouble

From an online Q&A with an agent:

"What's something you've sold that comes out soon that you're excited about?"

This sentence piles on the "that" clauses: two are easy to see but one is hiding.

The obvious ones are "that comes out soon" and "that you're excited about." The hidden one is "you've sold" (just add an imaginary "that" before it: "...something that you've sold...").

You can't have three clauses modifying one noun/pronoun, "something" in this case.

It's an awkward mouthful, so let's rewrite it:

"Which of your recent sales comes out soon and makes you excited about its debut?"

This isn't perfect so if anyone wants to try, please go ahead!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Criminal Sentence 566: Alot of Incorrectness

From a message I received:

"I need alot of help."

Yep. You need A LOT of help! Two words, my dear!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Poll Results 140

Here was the question:

What's wrong with this sentence? "He was brown haired, clean shaven, and had an engaging smile."

One or more hyphens is missing.
27 (42%)
A comma is incorrect.
10 (15%)
A word is missing.
10 (15%)
Nothing is wrong.
16 (25%)

Congratulations to 15% of you. The word "was" is missing before "clean shaven." This keeps the sentence parallel: verb, verb, verb ("was," "was," "had").

No hyphens are required because the adjectives come after the verb. They would be necessary if they came before the verb (e.g., The brown-haired, clean-shaven man was cute).

No comma error, either.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Criminal Sentence 565: Wanted: Insect Experience

From a job description online:

"1-3 moth experience required"

It might be hard for this company to find someone with this specific experience!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Criminal Sentence 564: Questionable Punctuation

From a Web site:

"I don't think your question is premature at all, but very relevant."

I don't think this punctuation is optimal. I kinda think a semicolon would be good, if we reword the end:

"I don't think your question is premature at all; rather, it's very relevant."

A comma in the original sentence makes the sentence too run of the mill, in my opinion. The semicolon in the rewrite adds emphasis to the fact that the question is relevant.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Criminal Sentence 563: Comma Hibernation

We have a pet bearded dragon, and my son wanted to know if it will hibernate. We learned this from the Internet:

"Dragon hibernation, which we call brumation is a semi-dormant state they may have for a few weeks to a few months, but only in winter."

The clause "which we call brumation" needs a closing comma. It is extra information, as discussed in this post.

So, the sentence should read "Dragon hibernation, which we call brumation, is ..."

Time to feed our dragon some crickets!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Poll Results 139

Here was the question:

What's wrong with this? [Narrator thinks to self about baby names] "I like Emma. And Ella. And Hannah." [Second character says] "Does every baby name have to be a palindrome?"

21 (44%)
3 (6%)
Word use
15 (31%)
8 (17%)

Congratulations to 31% of you. The source of the error is the word "palindrome," a word that is spelled the same both forwards and backwards. "Hannah" is an example, but "Emma" and "Ella" are not palindromes.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Criminal Sentence 562: College Error

From a Web site:

"I'm an alumni."

We don't speak or write much Latin these days, but this is a Latin error. It's the equivalent of saying "I'm a people."

"Alumni" is the masculine plural. The feminine plural is "alumnae." The singular words are "alumnus" (male) and "alumna" (female).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Criminal Sentence 561: Your OWN Typo

I was watching a show on OWN, and this typo flashed on the screen! My heart rate skyocketed (I mean, skyrocketed)!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Poll Results 138

Here was the question:

This is part of the first sentence of a middle grade novel: "Each type of substitute teacher had its own special weakness…" Your opinion?

I want to read more because this really grabs me.
1 (2%)
I need to read more to see if I want to give this book a chance.
14 (33%)
I do not want to read more because this sentence is awful.
27 (64%)

Seems that few people like this beginning. The "its" threw me the most.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Criminal Sentence 560: An Apostrophe in Paris

From a review of Woody Allen's latest film, "Midnight in Paris" (which I liked):

"...its a bit thin and glib to call a masterpiece, but it's still a delicious trifle..."

Which its/it's is incorrect, apostrophe and film buffs?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Criminal Sentence 559: A State of Repetition

Heard on the Diamondbacks' broadcast last night:

"He's from Bremerton, Washington, in the State of Washington."

Thanks for clearing that up!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Criminal Sentence 558: Questionable Age

From a blog post:

"Seventeen years old Andra’s life is full."

This sentence is not a good way to start a query letter!

When you have multiple words that combine to describe a noun (called a compound adjective), you need to add hyphens to join them up together. So it would need to be "Seventeen-year-old Andra." But this sentence has too many words describing "life," so we need to rearrange it. One option is this:

"The life of seventeen-year-old Andra is full."

That's not so wonderful. How about this:

"Seventeen-year-old Andra has a full life."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Poll Results 137

Here was the question:

What is wrong with this headline? "Terrifying videos emerge of deadly tornado"

Absolutely nothing!
12 (16%)
Word order
46 (61%)
Noun choice
2 (2%)
Adjective choice
3 (4%)
Verb choice
12 (16%)

Well, I take issue with the word order. The prepositional phrase "of deadly tornado" goes with "videos," but it is next to "emerge." It would be much better to write "Terrifying videos of deadly tornado emerge"

Ah. That word order is no longer terrifying!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Reader Question

Kurt asks this:

Is this a bad sentence?

"A pilot's final words before his doomed private jet plunged into a house in Kent have been replayed at an inquest into the deaths of its five occupants."

Well, it's grammatically correct, at least. The phrase "before his doomed private jet plunged into a house in Kent" separates the noun "words" with the verb "have been replayed."

As far as is it bad, you could argue that it's long and slightly awkward. Perhaps breaking it up into two sentences would be good.

Anyone want to try?