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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, April 29, 2010

Criminal Sentence 381: What an Experience

The top line of a survey I saw:

Tell us about your "experience" with us.

Imagine your hands making the quotation mark gesture as you say this sentence. Did you have a good "experience"?

(As you can tell, no quotation marks necessary.)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Criminal Sentence 380: Latin Lesson

From a column in the newspaper (readers ask odd questions):

"Why do we use the a.m.-p.m. system for telling time? The 24-hour day (i.e. 1300 for 1 p.m.) that the military uses seems so much simpler."

For some reason we use Latin abbreviations in English. "Etc." is a common one. Two that often get confused are "i.e." and "e.g."

"i.e." translates as "that is," meaning you are restating something with more specific information. For example, I might say, "I have studied three languages; i.e., Spanish, French and Italian." In this example, I state that I studied three languages, and then I specifically state which ones.

"e.g." translates as "for example," meaning that you are giving an incomplete list. For example, I might say, "I have studied three languages;e.g., Spanish and Italian."As you can see, this is an incomplete list.

Have you seen the error yet?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Criminal Sentence 379: Colon-itis

Here is an example of an incorrect colon:

"Some common misconceptions are: a, b and c."

Just a space, please. It's the same thing with "include":

"Some common misconceptions include: a, b and c."

And definitely don't use a semicolon there!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Poll Results 84

This was the question:

How many words can you cut out of this wordy 12-word sentence? "Petroglyphs are images that are chipped into the surface of a rock."

2 (2%)
9 (10%)
10 (11%)
22 (25%)
44 (50%)

Congrats to 25% of you. This is how I would cut out words:

"Petroglyphs are images chipped into a rock's surface."

I cut these:

1) that
2) are
3) the
4) of

Friday, April 23, 2010

Criminal Sentence 378: Danger!

From a book I recently finished:

"The danger of this diagnosis and treatment are twofold."

The danger of subject-verb misagreement are twofold: Readers wonder how that sentence made it into print, and the writer looks ignorant.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Criminal Sentence 377: Location Location

From a book I'm reading:

"After the introduction, he walked up to the stage, a small man, trim and owlish."

I object to where the writer placed the description of the man. "A small man, trim and owlish" sits next to "the stage," and it clearly does not describe that. Let's get the real estate right:

"After the introduction, the small man, trim and owlish, walked up to the stage."

Ah, much better.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Criminal Sentence 376: Dashing Dreams

From something I edited:

"[The company] has transformed their client's dreams into reality."

At least two problemas here.

1) Only one client? How sad.
2) Have anything uncliché-ish to say?
3) Some may argue that "their" does not match a singular company name. Others say that using the plural to mean the entire company is ok.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Criminal Sentence 375: Rewriting History

From a notice from my cable company regarding the program "The Tudors." These sentences concern Henry VIII, who married six women. Here are two sentences of background before the error:

"When his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, is unable to give birth to a son, Henry seeks a divorce--which the Catholic Church refuses to grant him. As a result, Henry severs England's ties from Rome, and severs many heads in the process!"

Now for the mistake:

"He then remarries the beautiful Anne Boleyn."

This bad sentence suggests that Henry had already married Anne. He married each wife only once. The writer should have written something like this:

"He then gets married again, this time to the beautiful Anne Boleyn."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Poll Results 83

This was the question:

What's wrong? "The only thing growing in abundance was chaparral and weeds."

12 (13%)
Subject-verb agreement
36 (41%)
Another kind of agreement problem
36 (41%)
3 (3%)

This was tricky. Congrats to 13% of you.

It isn't a subject-verb agreement problem because the subject is "thing" and the verb is "was." Those agree.

It can't be spelling because everything is spelled right.

The other choice is another kind of agreement problem. It is true that "chaparral and weeds" is plural whereas the subject is singular, but it isn't incorrect, tough I wouldn't recommend writing this sentence because it does seem awkward.

I would rewrite it in one of two ways:

1) Make the subject plural: "The only things growing in abundance were chaparral and weeds."
2) Recast the sentence:
"Chaparral and weeds were the only things growing in abundance."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Criminal Sentence 374: Preposterous!

From a book I just finished:

A character asks himself "Any leads at all? Even preposterous one?"

A paragraph later:

"Preposterous or not, I needed to go to the police."

I have to say, that is preposterous!

If you don't know what I'm talking about, search for "misplaced modifier" on the blog.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Criminal Sentence 373: E Is for Proofreading

From something I'm reading:

"We breath it every minute of every day."

Just missing one little E.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Criminal Sentence 372: Head(line) Bashing

The headline of something I will be editing:

"A Leaders View"

This is not a good sign. May I admit that I dread reading the rest? But at least I'll be cashing a check eventually.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Poll Results 82

Here was the question:

Anything wrong here? "Take a peak at these items from our spring cleaning sale!"

Yes 51 (85%)
No 9 (15%)

Congratulations to 85% of you.
"Peak"=top of a mountain

I was disappointed to see this sentence on a writing Web site. :(

Friday, April 9, 2010

Criminal Sentence 371: Well, Then

From a blog (regarding how many queries the writer has in her inbox):

"I do believe I have fewer then 25 waiting to be read and responded to..."

"Than" is usually used in comparisons, as in "fewer than."
"Then" is usually used to indicate time, as in "Then, we went to the movies."

Sometimes I think this mistake is a typo, but then I truly think some don't know the difference between "then" and "than."

Is it a typo for you or confusion?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Criminal Sentence 370: On a Roll

From something I read:

"playing a major roll in the plot..."

A large bun was part of the plot?

Had to laugh at that one.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Criminal Sentence 369: What a Croc!

On a sign at a childcare facility:

"No crocks."

No crock pots for the little ones. I understand. But I suppose they meant those shoes with holes, called Crocs.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Criminal Sentence 368: Don't Waiver

From a book I finished recently:

"He continued to waiver."

To noun or not to noun. No, don't noun.

A "waiver" (noun) is something you sign to relinquish your right.
To "waver" (verb) means to show doubt, among other things.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Poll Results 81

Here was the question:

Is this correct? "She has a flare for the dramatic.""

Yes 29 (39%)
No 45 (60%)

Congrats to 60% of you.

Flare=Something you light when you want to signal for help: He lit a flare.
Flair=Ability or talent: She has a flair for grammar.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Criminal Sentence 367: Decimal Schmecimal

What a wonderful per-person price! Less than one cent each?!
It should be either of these options, as my third-grader reminded me when I mentioned there was a mistake on this item:

1) 99 cents
2) $0.99

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Criminal Sentence 366: Your Errors Are Numbered

From a book I'm reading:

"... more than a 1,000 percent"

Oops. Just one of those, please:

"a thousand percent"
"1,000 percent"

Remember to proofread!