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Friday, September 21, 2012

Weak Reference Wreaks Havoc!

Like a hurricane that makes landfall and wreaks havoc, weak references in your writing can do the same.  No, weak reference does not refer to anything related to a job seeker's recommendations, but weak reference does deal with writing. 

Weak reference occurs when the antecedent of a pronoun (the word to which a pronoun refers) has not been expressed but exists only in the writer's mind.  The grammar rule clearly states:  Avoid weak reference. 

WEAK     Every time a circus came to town, Alice wanted to join them.

So, let me ask you -- who's them?  In this sentence there is no antecedent for the pronoun them.  Them refers to the people with the circuses, obviously, but these people are not specifically mentioned in the sentence.

CLEAR     Every time a circus came to town, Alice wanted to become one of the troupe.

Here's another example of a sentence with no clear antecedent for the pronoun these.

WEAK     He was a very superstitious person, and one of these was that walking under a ladder would bring bad luck.

In this sentence the antecedent for the pronoun these should be the noun superstitions, but the noun is only implied by the adjective superstitious.  The error may be corrected by substituting a noun for the pronoun or rewriting the first part of the sentence.

CLEAR     He was a very superstitious person; one of his superstitions was that walking under a ladder would bring bad luck.

BETTER     He had many superstitions, one of which was that walking under a ladder would bring bad luck.

Okay, let's see if you understand.  Here's one more example of weak reference.

WEAK     Mother is very much interested in psychiatry, but she doesn't believe they know all the answers.

CLEAR     Mother is very much interested in psychiatry, but she doesn't believe that psychiatrists know all the answers.

Remember weak reference may be corrected by replacing the weak pronoun with a noun or by giving the pronoun a clear and sensible antecedent.

Don't let storms of weak reference destroy your writing.  Keep your eyes on the winds whipping up that can blow your antecedents away.  Keep your eyes on your pronouns and write clearly. 

*(If anyone needs some practice sentences, let me know and I will type them up and send them to you.)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Have You Broke a Grammar Rule?

Have you broke a grammar rule by using this headline?  YES!!! 

Irregular verbs can cause quite a commotion when used improperly.  The irregular verb, break, creates many problems for some users, making others want to break them of their bad habit.

The principal forms of the verb break are:

INFINITIVE                             PAST                           PAST PARTICIPLE

break                                         broke                            (have) broken

The best way to learn irregular verb forms is to memorize the principal parts.  Next do some exercises.  Concentrate on any verb you have not used correctly and review its principal parts, repeating them over and over until the correct forms are fixed in your mind and the incorrect forms "hurt" your ears.  

Remember the past participle is always used with one or more helping, or auxiliary verbs -- is, are, was, have, have been, could have, might have, etc.  To remind yourself of this fact, always use have before the past participle when you repeat the principal parts of a verb.  Thus, you would say -- break, broke, have broken. 

Uh-oh!  The word have appears in the headline above.  What goes with a helper?  The past participle.  The headline should have read, "Have You Broken a Grammar Rule?" instead.

Here are some practice sentences using the irregular verb break.  What is the correct form that should fit in the blank?  Jot your answers down on a piece of paper before you check the answers with mine.

1.  Bob's cousin has __________ into show business.

2.  The silence was __________ by a sudden clap of thunder.

3.  While I was writing, my pencil suddenly  __________.

4.  Jenna's heart was ___________ when her boyfriend started dating someone else.

5.  Joe might have _____________ the rules.


Answers:  1.)  broken   2.)  broken   3.)  broke    4.)   broken   5.) broken

So make sure you have learned the principal parts of break.  That way you won't have to break out of jail after the Grammar Police imprison you for the use of an incorrect verb form.