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Here is another batch of fizzles and fumbles from dailies and periodicals.
• Headline for an editorial: “Let he who is without spin.” It’s clever, it’s glib, it’s … a disaster.
It’s supposed to be a twist on a well-known biblical verse, but that verse is routinely misquoted. Many people believe it goes like this: “Let
he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Here is the actual quotation from the Gospel of John: “He that is without sin among you, let him
first cast a stone at her.” Note the wording: “let him.” That’s because “let he” is almost grammatically impossible. (No one would claim that Marie Antoinette said, “Let they eat cake.”)
• “Fear, borne of national security hysteria, can threaten Americans’ rights.” Either replace “borne” with
“born” or, depending on how you interpret the sentence, replace “of” with “by.”
To be born is to be given birth to, as babies are born. Or it can mean “to be created”: ideas are born the moment we think of them.
To be borne is to be carried, transmitted, or tolerated: a mosquito-borne disease, charges borne equally by the payer and the receiver. When you see borne of, the writer almost certainly meant born of. You are far more
likely to see born of or borne by than borne of in a correct sentence.
Our staff prefers born of in the instance cited. Fear is born of—springs from or is created by—hysteria.
• “The criteria for a permit is whether the business is compatible with the impacted neighborhood.”
“The criteria is” is ungrammatical; there is no such thing as one criteria. Criteria is the plural of criterion, a
standard used for judging, deciding, or acting. So make it “One of the criteria for a permit is …”
But we aren’t done yet. Do not say “impacted neighborhood” when you mean “affected neighborhood.” As a verb, impact
is constantly misused, and affect is almost always the remedy. To impact means “to pack tightly together,” as in an impacted tooth. That is not what the sentence is saying about this particular neighborhood.
• “She did not specify his exit date or what lead to his decision.” Make it “what led to his decision.”
Budding writers are increasingly using lead instead of led as the past tense of the verb to lead. There are three reasons for
this confusion. First, lead reminds us of read, and everyone knows that the past tense of the verb to read is read. Second, the word lead, when it refers to a metal, is pronounced led, just like the past tense of the verb to lead. And third, they don’t drill spelling in schools the way they used to.
Because of the e-newsletter’s large readership, please submit your English usage questions through GrammarBook.com’s “Grammar Blog.”
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. “One thing they didn’t find were bullet casings.”
2. “Were either of you kids exposed to the virus?”
3. “His family is at their wits’ end.”
4. “Last year, less than a hundred thousand Americans visited Cuba.”
5. “They want to talk to everyone with whom he may have came into contact.”
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If these newspaper headlines found circulating the Internet are authentic, they surely demonstrate an absence of thoughtful editing.
Pop Quiz Answers
1. “One thing they didn’t find was bullet casings.”
2. “Was either of you kids exposed to the virus?”
3. “His family is at its wits’ end.” OR “His family are at their wits’ end.”
4. “Last year, fewer than a hundred thousand Americans visited Cuba.”
5. “They want to talk to everyone with whom he may have come into contact.”
Learn all about who and whom, affect and effect, subjects and verbs, adjectives and adverbs, commas, semicolons, quotation marks, and much more by just sitting back and enjoying these easy-to-follow lessons. Tell your colleagues (and boss), children, teachers, and friends. Click here to watch.