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Here is another assemblage of less than shining achievements in journalism.
• From a review of a movie about a ninety-three-year-old designer: “She makes no attempt to deny the pains and rigors of life in her ninth
decade.” Let’s see now, a three-year-old is in her first decade; a thirteen-year-old is in her second decade; a twenty-three-year-old is in her
third decade. Do the math: a ninety-three-year-old is in her tenth decade.
• “It’s a real kudo for Yahoo.” There is no such thing as “a kudo.” Kudos is a Greek word meaning
“praise” or “glory.” Despite the s on the end, kudos is singular, not plural.
• “Green yelled, ‘I told ya’ll it was over!!!’ ” The punctuation is a mess even before the sentence ends with that intemperate outburst of exclamation points. Apparently the writer’s MO is to just fling apostrophes around and pray they make a smooth landing.
Well, the one in “ya’ll” sure didn’t. Why would anyone want to harm a nice word like all by disfiguring it with a wayward
apostrophe? The correct contraction of you all is y’all. The apostrophe replaces the ou in you—just as it stands in for the wi in you will when we write you’ll or the ha in you have when we
write you’ve. What missing letter or letters does the apostrophe in ya’ll replace?
• Three sentences from three articles that share one problem: “But improvements could take awhile.” “Every once in awhile, then,
you feel like you’re watching an old mystery.” “Hanging around with fantastic writers rubs off on you after awhile.”
All three writers should have used the two-word noun phrase a while. It is worthwhile preserving the difference between awhile and a while. As one word, awhile is an adverb meaning “for a while.” Obviously the writer of the first sentence
didn’t mean “improvements could take for a while,” which makes no sense. He should have gone with the noun phrase “a while,”
making the noun “while” the object of “could take.”
The writers of the second and third sentences have mistakenly made awhile the object of the prepositions in and after. But only
nouns and pronouns may be objects of prepositions, never adverbs. Claire Kehrwald Cook sums it all up in her book Line by Line: “Use the
article [a] and noun [while], not the adverb [awhile], after a preposition … Use awhile only where you can
substitute the synonymous phrase for a time.”
• “It is a memorial to the thousands of soldiers who fought and died in the June 18, 1815 battle of Waterloo.” Add a comma after
“1815.” Most people still use a comma to separate the day of the month from the year, but many forget to put another comma after the year.
• “Our design critic’s favorite example of ‘defensive architecture’ are the wooden benches on Mission.” The writer
forgot what every schoolchild learns the first week of English class: The verb must agree with the subject. The subject is “example.” The
critic’s favorite example is the wooden benches. Case closed.
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. Our answers are at the bottom of the newsletter.
1. “Iran is as great a threat that Israel has ever faced.”
2. “It’s a extremely politicized department.”
3. “Every one of our allies in the region are up in arms.”
4. “It’s a good opportunity for whomever becomes the nominee.”
5. “This could spurn other people to do the same thing.”
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A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
I did not object to the object.
Pop Quiz Answers
1. “Iran is as great a threat as Israel has ever faced.”
2. “It’s an extremely politicized department.”
3. “Every one of our allies in the region is up in arms.”
4. “It’s a good opportunity for whoever becomes the nominee.”
5. “This could spur other people to do the same thing.”
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.