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If you have a writing, grammar, style or punctuation question, send an e-mail message to curiouscase at sign hotmail dot com.

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).

Monday, February 28, 2011

Poll Results 123

The question:

Are you planning to watch the Oscars?

9 (26%)
25 (73%)

Guess you guys don't watch movies so much. No biggie.

Friday, February 25, 2011

National Grammar Day Contest

March 4 is National Grammar Day. In honor of this momentous occasion, you can win a free copy of Grammar Girl's book.

Here's how:

In the Comments section of this post, write a sentence that contains a hilarious misplaced modifier. An example of a misplaced modifier is "Flying around the room, I saw a bird."

The deadline is midnight Pacific time on March 3. I'll decide which one is funniest, and I'll reveal the winner on March 4.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Criminal Sentence 517: The Yes-Comma Rule

From something I'm editing:

"I was not aware of, nor prepared for the unspoken no-thinking rule."

A little baby comma is missing here. Anyone want to flex their punctuation muscles?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Criminal Sentence 516: Toppling Capitalization Rules

Courtesy of CNN:

"Historic Cathedral toppled in New Zealand quake"

I am sorry to hear that Historic Cathedral fell down. Except I don't think that was its official name.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Poll Results 122

Here was the question:

Is this right? "He died, leaving behind a widow and four children."

52 (71%)
21 (28%)

I think this is not correct. I think it should be "He died, leaving behind a wife and four children." She became a widow after he died, right?

Those who thought it was correct: What is your thinking?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Criminal Sentence 515: A New Kind of Night Out

From something I'm editing:

" the girls for whine and cheese"

Now that sounds like fun!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Criminal Sentence 514: A New Phenomenon

From a blog post:

"a phenomenan"

There's this new thing called a dictionary! Use it, please!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Criminal Sentence 513: Presidential Boo Boo

From today's paper (a quote from Obama about Bush, a Medal of Honor winner):

"His humility and his decency reflects the very best of the American spirit."

Perhaps correct subject-verb agreement deserves some recognition, too!

"His humility" and "his decency" are two things, so they "reflect," not "reflects."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Criminal Sentence 512: Wearing a Bag

From a blog:

"a green baggie t-shirt"

An interesting garment! Unless this was a plastic bag, it should be "baggy."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Poll Results 121

Here was the question:

Correct or not? "The extent of death and destruction exceeded that of Dresden."

44 (62%)
Not Correct
26 (37%)

Congrats to 62% of you. The comparison here is between "extent," singular, and "that," singular. It's a match!

Friday, February 11, 2011

New Grammar Girl Episode: Commas with Adjectives

Criminal Sentence 511: Money Issues

From a book I'm reading:

"They looked over rows and rows of gold bars and banknotes worth hundred of millions of dollars."

This is about the Nazis.

This sentence isn't that evil, but an "S" is missing!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Criminal Sentence 510: What's in a Name II?

An error I see a lot:

"Edgar Alan Poe"

When you see the name Poe, think Allan: two L's and 2 A's!!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Criminal Sentence 509: What's in a Name?

From the Web:

"Martha Steward Living Magazine"

Did she change her name?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Criminal Sentence 508: A Whole Other Spelling

From a book I'm reading:

"Her role was to spy, to be the quiet mouse that slowly but surely chewed a whole in the foundation of the house."

I just about spit out my snack when I read that!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Poll Results 120

The question:

Which of these is correct?

Get ahold of yourself.
10 (11%)
She traveled to afar off land.
0 (0%)
I became apart of the family.
3 (3%)
More than one is correct.
5 (5%)
All are wrong.
67 (78%)

This seemed to be a hard one. Congrats to 11% of you. The phrase "ahold of" is actually correct. I had to look it up several times just to be sure.
The incorrect items should have been like this:
a far-off land
a part of the family

Friday, February 4, 2011

Criminal Sentence 507: What Is Passive?

From a blog post about what not to do in a first paragraph:

"Passive voice. As in 'he/she was', or 'he/she had'. I'd say, as a rule, if you have 'had' or 'was' anywhere in your first paragraph (or even your first SENTENCE), take 'em out. And obviously, over-use of either throughout a manuscript is a no-no."

Overall, this is good advice, but "he/she was" and "he/she had" are not passive voice constructions. "She was kissed by the man" is passive voice. The writer meant "Don't use weak verbs."

Also, the period goes inside the quotation mark in American English.

Also, overuse is one word with no hyphen.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Janet Reid's Most Recent Contest

I summoned my inner pervert and got on the finalists' list of her contest. Woo hoo!

Criminal Sentence 506: That Sentence Needs a Haircut

From a blog post:

"the shear volume..."

No shears involved. Two "E's" should be involved: "sheer."

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Criminal Sentence 505: Aaah, My Eyes!

From a blog post:

"My eyes glossed over."

My tongue hung out in disbelief (well, not really).

This is mixed up. You gloss over something when you explain something away. Your eyes glaze over when they're tired.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Criminal Sentence 504: The Difference an M Makes

From a class handout:

"Warming! This syllabus is designed to be read!"

And proofread?