Friday, May 12, 2017

Grammar questions?

Hey, everyone,
I'm getting together some grammar lessons-- punctuation, sentences, wording. I'd love to do the lessons writers really need. What's your grammar question? I'll put it down on my list and write up a lesson for it. (I can't help it. I love this stuff.) Post here-- and also, if you see a lot of other writers' work-- what's the biggest issue you see, even if it's not a problem for you? I have to say, dialogue punctuation. (You know- She said "you don't understand" . )

What do writers need to be reminded to check?
What annoys you or intrigues you about grammar?

I just spent about a half hour trying to explain who/whom, and privately concluded this was something (along with subject/verb agreement) I might drop if I were Grammar Goddess.



Stacy McKitrick said...

Here's my question(s): What is a restrictive clause? What does it mean, really? What makes it restrictive?

I ask this, because I have a note that says if I'm using the word "which" in a restrictive clause, I should replace it with "that." It would be a helpful note if I knew what it meant! Hahaha! :)

Eilidh said...

Comma-spliced dialogue with action tags like, He arched an eyebrow, "What do you mean by that?"

Also, maybe not grammar, but I'm seeing a lot of qualifiers recently (fairly, rather, quite), and overuse of expletive construction (there is, it is), passive verbs, and the past imperfect tense.

Coolkayaker1 said...

"It's not uncommon to see vagrants on the streets there."

"It's not irregular that they show up on a Tuesday."
"So, they show up regularly on Tuesday's?"
"Not regularly, just sometimes."

"For some CEOs, it's not uncommon to hold a meeting at noon."

I see this all the time, Alicia, in everything from newspapers to The New Yorker magazine. While traditional grammar would say that "not uncommon" means "common", in modern parlance, that seems not to be the case. For instance, "For some CEOs, its common to hold a meeting at noon" makes it sound like a frequent occurrence, whereas "not uncommon" does not imply frequent.

It's subtle, but what is proper here?

Signed, Not Uncommonly Frustrated in Philly.

Adrian said...

I recently got into an online spat with someone who claimed that when you contract "there is" (or "here is), you can use it with a plural subject, as in, "There's many reasons why I disagree."

It sounds completely wrong to me, so I was flabbergasted when my opponent in this debate was able to cite academic references claiming this contraction was a grammatically legitimate exception to the general idea of subject-verb agreement. I noticed that all of the citations were British, and I've since been wondering whether this is a difference between American and British English.

Adrian said...

Commas in dates.

September 17, 1979, was the day I was taught to use commas on either side of the year in a sentence such as this one. The logic behind that rule was explained to me much later. Apparently the year is considered parenthetical and thus needs to be set off from the rest of the sentence. More and more, I see instances in professionally edited works where the comma after the year is omitted. Is that just the evolution of style? Or was I misled by my junior high English teacher?

Adrian said...

This seems like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get an up-to-date, reality-based explanation of these often-elusive, head-scratching rules of when to use hyphens and commas in and around adjectives (and other words working together as adjectives) in noun phrases.

Adrian said...

One more. This starts out as a rant, but I'll try to form a coherent question at the end.

My vocabulary-building Page-A-Day calendar today has this quotation (to illustrate tawdry):

"In spite of everything she painted her lips a tawdry red and cut her hair in a pert bob." --Philip Huang, Hyphen, Winter 2007.

Why omit the comma after the introductory phrase? When I first tried to read it, I mentally inserted the comma after "painted," took "her lips" to be the subject, then "a tawdry red" to be the beginning of a noun phrase in apposition (we are clearly eliding commas, after all), and it wasn't until I got to "her hair" that I realized I'd screwed up somewhere. For want of a comma, I was forced to back up and start again.

So my question: Is there a grammatical and/or stylistic advantage to omitting occasional commas like the one that belongs here?

Edittorrent said...

Okay, thanks!
Love that "not uncommon." Double negatives are always interesting. Let me work on those!
Will front-page the answers when I figure them out. :) You ask tough questions! I was hoping for something simple like, "How about that Oxford comma?"

Adrian said...

I posted a few questions here, but they went to moderation, and I never saw them appear. Are they lost to the ether or still stuck in the moderation queue?