Ask Me a Question

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, October 31, 2011

Poll Results 157

The question:

Is something wrong here? "The heaviness and depth on his groundstrokes are also impressive, as is his agility and quickness around the court."

50 (84%)
9 (15%)

Congrats to 84% of you! Two problems, actually:

1) "Ground strokes" should be two words.
2) "Agility and quickness" are two separate concepts (as are "heaviness and depth"), so the "is" should be "are."

Shame on Tennis magazine!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Reader Question: "That"

Duncan's question:

I have a question for you.

I spotted this sign at my local Petrol Station today: "The carwash cars love".

The sign was advertising their brushless carwash. It hurts me to read it because I desperately would prefer that they wrote it "The carwash that cars love". So my question, as I'm sure you can guess, is whether or not its acceptable to leave out the "that" in that sentence. Please, break the news to me gently if it is acceptable.

My answer:

The "that" is optional, though I agree with Duncan that the sentence is a little awkward.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Reader Question: Capitalizing Titles

Amber's question:


Hello! I asked you a question the other day on Facebook, but I have yet another question if you don’t mind. For some reason my department has made me the editor! I am currently editing a greeting that will be sent out by our association president. This person is assuming a new role as president. My question is, when are you supposed to capitalize titles? For example, “…it is with great honor that I assume the role of President for the State governing council…” This a quote from the greeting. I am pretty sure none of the titles should be capitalized. Also, I don’t believe state should be capitalized. But, president is being directly addressed so it might be capitalized. Help!

The term governing council is used throughout this greeting as well and a couple of us are arguing if the term should be capitalized at any point in the greeting.

My answer:

Hi. Styles vary, so I would urge you to check the style guide your department tends to use. A general guideline is that if it forms part of a proper name you would capitalize but if it's used in a general sense, then lowercase. As for your examples, I would suggest lowercase "president" and lowercase "state," unless "State Governing Council" is the official name of the organization.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Criminal Sentence 610: Editor Needed!

From a Web site:

"We do have an editor on staff, whom will fix grammatical and spelling errors."

Yikes! Perhaps that editor should have checked the rules about "who" and "whom"!

He/she could have also reduced wordiness:

"Our staff editor will fix grammatical and spelling errors."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Poll Results 156

Here was the question:

Is there something wrong here? Search us on Facebook and "Like" us today!

12 (75%)
4 (25%)

Not too many votes, but I'm not convinced anything is wrong. What do you 12 say?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Criminal Sentence 609: Are NOT!

A sign at a Mexican restaurant:

"First bowl of chips are free."

The word we need to think about here is "bowl." That's singular, so the verb should be "is."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New Book I Edited

Here's a fun book I edited: How to Do a Stew. It's a look inside the life of a flight attendant and offers dating tips for single men. I got a few laughs.

Criminal Sentence 608: Who's Drunk?

A potentially ambiguous headline in today's paper:

"Police: Father let child drive while he was drunk"

My first thought was "The child was drunk?" Maybe this is the mom in me. Then I read that the child is a daughter.

Did you find this ambiguous?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Poll Results 155

The question:

What's wrong with this note written by my son? "I love you mom."

10 (13%)
18 (23%)
More than one thing.
13 (17%)
Something or more than one thing, but I will ignore it/them because the note is so sweet.
35 (46%)

I agree with 46% of you. My son was only nine at the time. There are two things wrong:

1) There should be a comma after "you."
2) "Mom" needs a capital M.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Funny Criminal

Check this out and watch your handwriting!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Poll Results 154

Here was the question:

Is something wrong with the text of this sign, seen on a mural at a movie theater? "J. Weissmiller Tarzan the Ape Man"

41 (95%)
2 (4%)


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Criminal Sentence 607: What's Wrong?

From a blog post:

Can you tell me how to "get it out there?"

Can YOU tell me what's wrong here?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Criminal Sentence 606: Brandishing My Horns

From a blog post:

"...she has a legitimate reason for horning in on the case."

I guess an "r" and an "n" next to each other could look like an "m," which needs to be in the middle of the word: "homing." All I can say is, "Weird"!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Criminal Sentence 605: People Are People

From a blog post:

"[The Internet] also allows people to be a jerk."

People are people; people are not a person. This sentence would be better this way:

"[The Internet] also allows people to be jerks."

Monday, October 3, 2011

Poll Results 153

Here was the question:

Do you proofread your own e-mail messages/texts/tweets?

Yes, I proofread everything I write.
36 (80%)
No, I don't proofread anything I write.
1 (2%)
Yes, but I don't worry if something slips through. It's only social media.
8 (17%)

Glad to hear readers of the blog proofread!