Media Watch: Verbs, Prepositions, Commas

Here is another bundle of woeful lapses by the print and broadcast media.

• Triple trouble from an international news organization: “Garcia graduated law school in California and passed the state’s bar exam, but has been forbidden from practicing law.”

Using graduate as a transitive verb here is still frowned on by traditionalists. Make it “Garcia graduated from law school.”

The sentence would be tidier with a he before “has”: “but he has been forbidden …” And the final four words should be “forbidden to practice law.” The New York Times stylebook says: “Use to with forbid and from with prohibit: forbid them to attend; prohibit them from attending.”

• “Growing up near West Palm Beach, he and his mother lived in six different apartments.” The phrase “growing up” should describe the sentence’s subject, but note that there are two subjects, “he and his mother,” and his mother had already grown up. This is an unusual example of a dangler (the nemesis of callow or distracted writers). The sentence must be rewritten so that “growing up” applies only to “he”: “Growing up near West Palm Beach, he lived with his mother …” But that’s not all—why “six different apartments”? Aren’t all apartments different? “Six different apartments” seems to be an imprecise way of saying “six apartments at different times.” It would be better to write something like Growing up near West Palm Beach, he lived with his mother in six apartments over the years.

• “Neither the name of the victim nor the suspect was immediately released.” This sentence is ambiguous because of faulty parallelism. The sentence says the suspect was not released, but it wants to say that the suspect’s name was not released. We can make it right without changing a word: The name of neither the victim nor the suspect was immediately released.

• “The gift by Ronald Linde and his wife Maxine will go to support promising initiatives and research.” Why by? A book or a painting is by someone; a gift is from someone. And commas are needed around “Maxine”—since Mr. Linde can have but one wife at a time, we need not know her name to understand the sentence. In grammatical terms “Maxine” is nonessential (or nonrestrictive) information and therefore requires commas. So make it The gift from Ronald Linde and his wife, Maxine, will go to support promising initiatives and research.

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NOTE: For more on faulty parallelism, see our February 2014 post “Simple Words, Fancy Label.” For more on essential vs. nonessential phrases and clauses, see our three-part series on the subject, which ran August 19, 26, and September 2, 2014.

You’ll find these posts on the GrammarBook.com website. On the home page, click on the Grammar Blog tab, scroll down to Monthly Blog Archives in the right column, and select the desired month and year.

 

Pop Quiz

The following are sentences recently heard over the airwaves. See if you can spot the errors. Answers are at the bottom of the newsletter.

  1. “The proof, they say, are in three text messages.”
  2. “She is in unchartered territory.”
  3. “Bacteria thrives in a warm environment.”
  4. “I’m neither a comedian or an aspiring comedian.”
  5. “He realized he had spoke too soon.”

 

Pop Quiz Answers

  1. “The proof, they say, is in three text messages.”
  2. “She is in uncharted territory.”
  3. “Bacteria thrive in a warm environment.”
  4. “I’m neither a comedian nor an aspiring comedian.”
  5. “He realized he had spoken too soon.”

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12 Comments on Media Watch: Verbs, Prepositions, Commas

12 responses to “Media Watch: Verbs, Prepositions, Commas”

  1. Remi M says:

    Can you please clarify use of the word broadcast vs broadcasted? AMany times I see the word broadcasted being used when I seem to remember the correct word is broadcast.

  2. Anna R. says:

    My friends and I always argue about the phrase “by accident” vs “on accident”. Which is correct? For me the phrase by accident is correct because it’s by accident, or on purpose, but my friends think it’s on accident and on purpose. I would really appreciate it if you could shed some light on this for us.

  3. Brad J. says:

    I wrote: Correct is “He realized he spoke too soon”.

    What do you think is the matter with that sentence?

    If you think that sentence it is O.K, as I do, how can 5. also be correct …

    5. “He realized he had spoken too soon.”

    … unless you think the use of the past perfect is optional, which it never is. Its meaning is very specific and its use is thus never optional.

    [Some] Users of English put the helping verb had in front of the past participle spoken to express themselves in the past perfect tense.

    Many users of English put ‘had’ in front of both regular and irregular past tense verbs, the latter of which forces the irregular past participle, as in answer 5. The word ‘had’ should NEVER be in front of a past tense verb.

    • They can have slightly different meanings and contexts. For instance, He realized he spoke too soon might describe a remark that “he” had made only moments before; whereas He realized he had spoken too soon might describe a remark he had made days or weeks before.

  4. Brad J. says:

    Pop Quiz Answers
    1. “The proof, they say, is in three text messages.”
    2. “She is in uncharted territory.”
    3. “Bacteria thrive in a warm environment.”
    4. “I’m neither a comedian nor an aspiring comedian.”
    5. “He realized he had spoken too soon.”

    Number 5 is incorrect.

    Correct is “He realized he spoke too soon”.

    You jammed ‘had’ in front of an irregular past tense verb ‘spoke’, which forces the irregular past participle ‘spoken’.

    Kindly acknowledge.

    • You are comparing simple past tense with past perfect and saying the latter is illegitimate. Nobody “jammed” anything. Users of English put the helping verb had in front of the past participle spoken to express themselves in the past perfect tense.

  5. Rick M. says:

    5. “He realized he had spoke too soon.” drop had or make it spoken.

    The correction on “they lived in six apartments” – couldn’t this be interpreted as over the years they lived in six apartments – all during the six years?

  6. Patti Q. says:

    I think the sentence The gift from Ronald Linde and his wife, Maxine, will go to support promising initiatives and research.

    could be improved further. Do gifts really “go” anywhere? Why not just say, “The gift from Ronald Linde and his wife, Maxine, will support promising initiatives and research,” or, if that doesn’t flow quite right to the ear, try “The gift from Ronald Linde and his wife, Maxine, will provide support for promising initiatives and research.”

    Both of those are better options than gifts that go places.

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