It’s Unprofessional

It’s a little thing, but it disturbs me. Why why why can’t otherwise educated people spell the possessive form of it correctly? THERE IS NO APOSTROPHE! This morning, I received an emailed health bulletin to which I subscribe touting the benefits of a particular mineral. When I reached the last paragraphs, I read:
it’s amazing benefits…

It’s a little thing, but it isn’t a typo. It’s a spelling error. Why send out professional letters or print promotional material if you can’t spell correctly? It makes the issuer appear unprofessional. The fact that many readers accept or ignore the spelling error is particularly disturbing.

Grammar Cop is citing this offender. I now worry what other areas of the company’s output is sloppy or suspect. Before you comment that Grammar Cop is a nut job, please know that this isn’t the first offense for this publication. Everyone is entitled to a second chance, but I’ve seen it repeatedly.

ITS is the possessive form. IT’S is a contraction.

End of rant.

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Dangling Participles?

Writers, do your editors red-mark you for dangling participles? Or do you have a grammar cop critique partner who cites you for a dangler? Have no fear. Grammar Cop is here.

First, know what is meant by participle. A participle is a verb behaving as an adjective…sort of. For example, in the sentence Sensing that she was stressed, I kept my mouth shut, the phrase Sensing that she was stressed modifies the pronoun and serves as an adjective. Yet the phrase also reveals the “why” of the subject’s behavior, serving as an adverb. Regardless of the participle’s label, it modifies the subject of the sentence. That’s crucial for writers to remember when self-editing.

The trouble arises when the participle doesn’t modify the subject. It’s left dangling. For example, Sensing she was stressed, a hush fell over the room.  Seems absurd, right? The room can’t sense her feelings of stress. The people in the room might, if the writer is using third-person omniscient point of view.

My pet peeve is the participle growing up. Be careful or you might commit a gaffe like Growing up, my parents didn’t know where our next meal would come from. or Growing up, there was no remote control for the television. Growing up is a dangling participle in either example. The subject of the sentence is not modified by the participle.

Participles are useful when applied correctly. Just don’t let yours dangle.

Flout and Flaunt

Two verbs writers occasionally confuse are flout and flaunt. They may look similar, but they aren’t synonyms.

Flaunt means to show off.  She flaunted her wealth by driving her Mercedes convertible everywhere.

Flout means to scorn or show contempt. She flouted the traffic laws with her excessive speeding. (Flout can be used also as a noun meaning scornful insult, but I’ve seen only Shakespeare do it.)

Next time you’re tempted to write She flouted her wealth, be sure you mean she scorned it. Otherwise, change to She flaunted her wealth.

Happy writing!

You don’t say!

Welcome to another edition of “You don’t say!” when we examine expressions and sayings often confused or misunderstood. Here are some favorites.

  • If you think that, you have another thing coming.
  • She made a 360 degree change in attitude.
  • We’ll play irregardless of the weather.
  • I could care less.
  • Supposably that’s his real name.
  • He intended to extract revenge if it took every dime he had.

If you write or say any of these, stop! Your meaning is confused or contradicted. Here are the corrected sayings.

  • If you think that, you have another think coming. (As in “think again.”)
  • She made a 180 degree change in attitude. (360 gets her all the way back where she began)
  • We’ll play regardless of the weather. (Irredgardless isn’t a word. Period.)
  • I couldn’t care less. (Otherwise, you care because you could care less)
  • Supposedly that’s his real name. (There’s no such word as supposably.)
  • He intended to exact revenge if it took every dime he had. (I guess one could extract revenge, but it’d be messy.)

What incorrect sayings do you see or hear?

Writing Product Reviews–Specifics Help

Have merchants asked you for a review of a recent purchase? I try to leave reviews, on everything from kitchen tools to bedding and books. I often read reviews left by others to help me decide on a purchase. Through the years, I’ve read some reviews that needed an editor’s attention because of ambiguity.

Here’s an example as quoted from TV: “The [service providers] I’ve found on Angie’s List have literally blown me away.”

This is found in a shopping club membership ad: “The money we save with the membership is unreal.”

First, why would businesses advertise these useless testimonies? They offer no helpful information. I may be “blown away” by bad service or good. If the money I save with a membership is unreal, it’s not for me. I want real savings.

When you write a product review, remember the purpose of your feedback is to guide potential buyers. What information would you find useful in a review? I want specifics, not vague “performs beautifully” or “this totally sucks” reviews. 

“My savings in belonging to [Buyer’s Club] exceeds my annual membership fee.” Or “Every service provider I’ve found and used on Angie’s List has been dependable and affordable” are specific and helpful comments. If you have a negative, be specific but don’t trash everything and everybody. “The knife sharpener performed as advertised, although the suction cup didn’t hold it steady. When I complained, the company replaced the sharpener, but the new one had the same issue. If you don’t mind holding the knife sharpener with one hand while running the knife through the blades, this product delivers.”

The same advice holds true for book or movie reviews, with an additional caveat: Don’t give anything away without prefacing it with SPOILER ALERT or SPOILERS. What buyers find helpful are genre information, comparisons to similar books or films, and level of adult material. For instance, here’s a good example of a review of the film The Crew:

If you saw Goodfellas, you’ll get a kick out of The Crew. It spoofs it with an Over The Hill Gang twist.Richard Dreyfus and Burt Reynolds give strong performances as two retired wise guys living in South Beach, Florida, with two other retirees from their “crew” from back in the day in New Jersey. When they scheme to take back their apartment building from greedy landlords, they soon find themselves back in the game, but with surprising–and comedic–consequences. Rated PG for mild profanity and adult situations.

Don’t shy away from writing reviews. They help other buyers. But please give thought to what you write before you submit it.

 

The Bike’s named Ralph?

An encore of an earlier post:

A common syntax problem for writers involves misplaced modifiers. MMs can also occur as dangling participles. Either can cause your reader to burst out in laughter even if you aren’t writing a comedy.

Watch for sentences like: Eager to be starting their married life together, the wedding was held at the courthouse. The wedding was eager?

Here’s one from author Elizabeth Sinclair, whose young daughter rushed into the house declaring, “I just saw a deer riding my bicycle!” Her older sister asked, “A deer was riding your bicycle?”

As a child, I puzzled over Davy Crockett and how he “killed him a bear when he was only three.” Was the bear three? If so, how did Davy know his age? If Davy was three, how did he manage to kill the bear?

I’m sure the newscaster wasn’t trying for a chuckle when she said: The police officer arrested the man who had tried to carjack the couple brandishing a weapon. Brave carjacker!

Finally, here is my own example. In reviewing the draft version of Reclaim My Life, my critique partner caught this MM: “Are you familiar with a mentally challenged young man who rides a bike named Ralph?” She wrote in the margin “The bike’s named Ralph?” Too funny. See, the Grammar Cop isn’t perfect, either. Thank God for my critique partner!

To avoid misplaced and misleading modifiers, identify the subject and verb of your sentence. Then be sure your modifier refers back to the subject. If it doesn’t, you need to re-word.

Cheryl

The Case of the Misplaced Modifier

A common syntax problem for writers involves misplaced modifiers. MMs can also occur as dangling participles. Either can cause your reader to burst out in laughter even if you aren’t writing a comedy.

Watch for sentences like: Eager to be starting their married life together, the wedding was held at the courthouse. The wedding was eager?

Here’s one from author Elizabeth Sinclair, whose

young daughter rushed into the house declaring, “I just saw a deer riding my bicycle!” Her older sister asked, “A deer was riding your bicycle?”

As a child, I puzzled over Davy Crockett and how he “killed him a bear when he was only three.” Was the bear three? If so, how did Davy know his age? If Davy was three, how did he manage to kill the bear?

I’m sure the newscaster wasn’t trying for a chuckle when she said: The police officer arrested the man who had tried to carjack the couple brandishing a weapon. Brave carjacker!

To avoid misplaced and misleading modifiers, identify the subject and verb of your sentence. Then be sure your modifier refers back to the subject. If it doesn’t, you need to re-word.

Happy summer!

Cheryl