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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).

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Last new Grammar Girl guest-written episode this year

Happy Holidays, everyone.

Here is my last GG episode of the year. Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

New Grammar Girl episode

Here is a fun episode about phrases that contain the word blue!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Criminal Sentence 674: Let's Visit Dairy Island!

A chuckle-inducing sentence from an online blog:

"Don't stray from the dairy isle."

Don't worry. I won't jump on a boat and sail to that island. Instead, I'll go to the dairy aisle!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Criminal Sentence 673: How big of chunks?

A quote from someone in yesterday's newspaper, in an article about workers trying to stabilize a giant rock that is poised to fall:

"We don't know how big of chunks are going to fall."

That's a big chunk of strangeness in my opinion. I understand what the person meant, but that does sound very odd, doesn't it?

He probably should have said something like this:

"We don't know the size of the chunks that are going to fall."

I realize that regular joes don't always speak grammatically. Perhaps I can let it slide in conversation, but nobody should write a sentence like that.

The construction "how [adjective] of..." works with singular nouns, as in "How crazy of a person are you?" But as we can see here, it doesn't work with plural nouns. I don't really know why. Any theories?

New Grammar Girl episode: Diminutives

Here's my latest episode:

Monday, August 10, 2015

Criminal Sentence 672: Em Dash Doozy

From today's newspaper:

"Apple is one of--if not the--largest holding by many individual investors, says SigFig."

In this sentence, the words between the em dashes (the --) are being emphasized, or at least they would be if the punctuation were correct. If you stick something in the middle of a sentence for emphasis, you need to be able to remove the em dashes and everything between them (the removal test), and the sentence needs to still make sense. Let's see what happens when we do this with our sentence:

"Apple is one of largest holding by many individual investors, says SigFig."

That's not right. In fact, it's downright criminal!

Let's fix it:

"Apple is one of the largest--if not the largest--holdings by many individual investors, says SigFig."

We had to repeat a word, but the new sentence is better. If we do the removal test, we end up with a coherent sentence:

"Apple is one of the largest holdings by many individual investors, says SigFig."

Of course, the sentence would probably sound better if we remove the passive "by" construction, but I'll hold off on complaining about that.

Monday, July 20, 2015

New Grammar Girl episode!

This is all about last names (though I made a bonehead error, saying that last names are sometimes called Christian names). Despite that bozo moment, I think you'll find the episode informative.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Criminal Sentence 671: The Curious Case of the Missing L

Last night, the kids and I enjoyed a nice dinner at a Chinese restaurant. I am glad I ate the "pork dumping"--er, I mean pork dumpling--before I saw this typo!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Criminal Sentence 670: This Time, a Criminal Editor

From today's newspaper, in a column explaining the jet stream:

"They are created by temperature contrasts which create pressure difference. Those contrasts create pressure differences and those pressure differences create winds."

Sounds a bit repetitive, huh? Well, it's clear that the writer's original sentence was the first one and then the copyeditor fixed it to be the second sentence (changing passive voice to active voice, and removing the "which"). However, the editor forgot to delete the original sentence. Oops!

As an editor, I edit original sentences like this one all the time. It's an editor's job to improve the text, not introduce errors, however. I try my best to reread what I've just edited, especially in a heavily edited piece.

This Criminal Sentence is a good reminder for me to do just that, and non-editors should reread their work, too!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Monday, March 2, 2015

Criminal Sentence 669: Hello. My name is Monday Joe

From a book I'm reading:

"Monday Joe will make the judge see that." ("that" refers to "my [the narrator's] point of view.")

There's nothing technically wrong with this but it's ambiguous. The author means "On Monday" but writes just "Monday." The character's name is Joe, but it looks like Monday Joe. A comma might help:

"Monday, Joe will make the judge see that."

I think "On Monday," would be even better:

"On Monday, Joe will make the judge see that."

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Criminal Sentence 668: Fifty Shades of Ungrammatical

Happy Valentine's Day! Happy Ungrammatical Day!

From today's paper, in an article about how adult stores are going mainstream:

"Most people are not comfortable talking about how to improve their romance life with a complete stranger."

I had to chuckle at this: People are having romance with a complete stranger? Or are they talking with a complete stranger?

Some people have romance with a complete stranger, but on Valentine's you probably want romance with someone you know!

Let's fix it:

"Most people are not comfortable talking with a complete stranger about how to improve their romance life."

Now, go have some romance with someone, maybe even a stranger!