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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Indefinite Personal Attacks!

Have you attacked personal pronouns with apostrophes?  Have you armed yourself in a fight against apostrophes and indefinite pronouns?  Apostrophes can drive writers to word battles as well as madness. 

Here are two apostrophe/pronoun rules to provide your mighty pen with some much needed R & R.

RULE # 1.  Personal pronouns in the possessive case (his, hers, its, ours, yours, theirs) and the relative pronoun whose do not require apostrophes.

INCORRECT:     The books were her's.
CORRECT:         The books were hers.

INCORRECT:     The leopard can't change it's spots.
CORRECT:         The leopard can't change its spots.

INCORRECT:     Mary is the girl who's mother I met.
CORRECT:         Mary is the girl whose mother I met.

RULE # 2:  An indefinite pronoun (one, everyone, everybody, etc.) in the possessive case requires an apostrophe and an s.


     Each one's time is recorded separately.
     He seems to need everybody's attention.

*Note:  In such forms as anyone else, somebody else, etc., the correct possessives are anyone else's, somebody else's, etc.  The word oneself has no apostrophe.  Remember -- no one's perfect unless they use an apostrophe!

Grab your sword, I mean, mighty pen, and prepare for battle!  May the apostrophe be with or without you, depending on the case!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Show; Don't Tell -- Explanation and Examples

Since I had some questions from writers concerning the first rule of writing -- Show; Don't Tell -- I found an outstanding website that provides excellent examples.

Here's the website:

I think any writer will find the examples and explanations on the website, Inspiration for Writers, immensely helpful.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Are You in Agreement?

I found this headline yesterday in a magazine I was reading:  ONE IN FOUR SENIORS STRUGGLESIs this headline grammatically correct?  Does it sound like something's not correct?  Are you in agreement with the author/editor, or do you disagree?

Agreement in the grammar world often seems tricky.  However, the headline is grammatically correct -- "one" is actually the subject, not "seniors," and "struggles" is the predicate. ("In four seniors" is a prepositional phrase, and, as I used to explain to my students, subjects are never, ever in preppy phrases.  Preppy phrases are simply extra information.)

Both "one" and "struggles" are singular, and therefore, in agreement. (Some people automatically associate an "s" with "plural" which is incorrect in the world of verbs, so if you think of the "s" on most regular verbs as starting the word "singular," you will be able to remember which verb is which.) 

Although you are familiar with the singular and plural forms of nouns, pronouns, and verbs, you may still include "agreement errors" in your sentences.  So why do these errors occur?  As you proofread, perhaps you fail to analyze your sentences correctly and do not determine the true subjects of the sentences.  Certain sentence constructions tend to make it more difficult, unless you take the time to actually look at the sentence's construction, to find the true subject.

In many sentences a phrase intervenes between the subject and the verb, as in the example above, and it's easy then to become confused and make a mistake about the number of the verb.  Just as an intervening phrase can do, a clause can also come between the subject and verb, making it more difficult for you to choose the correct form of the verb.

Remember the basic principle of agreement:  The verb must agree with its subject, not with any modifiers the subject may have.

Here's the actual grammar rule:  The number of the subject is not changed by a phrase or clause following the subject.


This tape is by the Boston Pops Orchestra.

This tape of songs from a Broadway musical is by the Boston Pops Orchestra.  [Tape is still the subject.  "Of songs" and "from a Broadway musical" are both prepositional phrases.]

The girl is our next-door neighbor.  ["Girl" is singular, and "is" is singular.]

The girl who sells eggs is our next-door neighbor.  [Girl is, not eggs are. "Who sells eggs" is a clause.]

Tsetse flies, which carry the dreaded disease called sleeping sickness, attack both humans and cattle.

A single milk pail, in addition to a rotting log and bird tracks, appears in a painting by Andrew Wyeth.

Agreement is important in constructing your sentences and writing correctly.  Do you agree?