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Grammatical Horrors

Taken from Stunk and White famous Elements of Style, this simple rule applies more often than any other to papers I correct. I need to get a stamp made with this on it. I follow Ray Kroc's rule, "K.I.S.S.," "Keep It Simple, Stupid." The fewer words in which something can be said, the better. Don't use eight words when two will do. Don't say "Following is the next argument to be made in support of the proposition here under consideration"; say "Next,” When you begin a sentence, states the subject only once (sportscasters notwithstanding): "The author of this book, he is really a jerk" should instead be "The author of this book is a jerk." Better yet, name him and the book: "In the book Moby Dick, by the writer Herman Melville, the author says" can easily be shortened to "In Moby Dick, Herman Melville writes."

A sentence must have at least a subject and a verb and usually but not always an object. Sometimes phrases will appear that do not have a subject or a verb. Like this one. Such phrases set off as if they were sentences that could stand alone are called sentence fragments or "dependent" (as opposed to "independent") clauses. More often than not, these sentence fragments will be descriptive phrases tacked to the end of sentences. They really should be preceded by a comma and not treated as a separate sentence. Never mind what Time does; Time is wrong. You can be creative later. But you must learn how to do it right before you can appreciate the liberties involved in doing it wrong. Make sure each sentence has a subject and a verb, at the very least.

A misplaced modifier is what some grammar books call a "dangling modifier" or a "dangling participle." Whether you intend it or not, a descriptive phrase at the beginning of a sentence modifies the very first noun that follows. Hence, if you write "Walking down the street, a piano fell on my head," you are saying that a piano was walking down the street. I once read on a paper the sentence "Being the early sixties, democracy was not yet known in New Jersey." According to this sentence, democracy is "the early sixties." The sentence is weird enough without that misplaced modifier.

I also have in my overflowing file of grammatical horrors this ad for Wendy's: "As our valued guest, we guarantee to serve you" the best. In this sentence, "we" are our own "valued guest." If Wendy's wants to serve itself, it should at least make the word "guest" plural to agree with the plural "we." These mistakes abound. The sentence "Beautiful and sensually dressed, the men noticed her immediately" could make sense only if the men were at a transvestite ball. I once had to pull the car to the side of the highway and stop to jot down this one from the radio: "If not caught in time, Dr. Evans said the virus will spread." Poor Dr.



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