September 15, 2014
AppositivesTOPICS: COPY EDITING, GRAMMAR
Some grammar terms aren't important to know. But others can lead you to better use of the language. "Appositive," which means a noun phrase that restates another noun phrase, is one worth learning.
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My Favorite E-mail Exchange of LatePosted by June on September 15, 2014
LABELS: COPY EDITING, GRAMMAR
Here's one of the most memorable e-mails I've gotten about my newspaper column, followed by my reply. You don't need to read the column that inspired it, but if you want to, it's here: http://bit.ly/1sYcTcV
Subject: You’re Very Disappointing
Dear Ms. Casagrande:
As a copy editor, you’re an embarrassment. You wrote “A group of university researchers working with some Facebook folks have recently determined that I’m not a dinosaur. Not yet, at least.”
Group is the subject of the sentence. It’s singular not plural. The verb should be “has.” “Not yet, at least” is a fragment.
Your third paragraph starts with a sentence that begins with a conjunction. Your fourth paragraph ends with a sentence that begins with a conjunction. Your tenth paragraph begins with a conjunction as does your twelfth. "Scooch" is slang.
You wrote “these memes mutate, but in the process they noticed” where the antecedent of “they” is “memes,” which can’t notice although you intended the antecedent to be researchers. You employed the same confusing word pattern in the last paragraph, which also began with another fragment.
Before you start criticism bad grammar in others, edit yourself.
What a delight to open an e-mail with that subject line and see that the writer is wrong on every count. I make quite a few mistakes in my column and often get called on them. So your e-mail, in which you're wrong on every point, was a treat.
One at a time. You wrote:
<<Group is the subject of the sentence. >
Nope. When you have a noun modified by a prepositional phrase, there's no rule that says the head of the noun phrase is the subject of the verb. I explain in this link:
<<Your third paragraph starts with a sentence that begins with a conjunction. Your fourth paragraph ends with a sentence that begins with a conjunction. Your tenth paragraph begins with a conjunction as does your twelfth.>>
I'm afraid you've bought into an old superstition. There's no rule against beginning a sentence with a conjunction. Here's a column I did on that.
<<Scooch is slang.>>
You're saying there's something wrong with that?
<<You wrote “these memes mutate, but in the process they noticed” where the antecedent of “they” is “memes,”>>
After 13 years of fielding e-mails from people who, like you, are victims of grammar superstitions, I thought I'd heard it all. But this appears to be a new one: You seem to be under the impression that only the noun nearest a pronoun can function as its antecedent. That's just silly. I wrote, "The researchers were mainly interested in how these memes mutate, but in the process they noticed." The antecedent of "they" is the researchers.
Do you not know how publishing works? News media, etc., have editors, who read writers' work with the sole purpose of fixing errors. Had any of these things actually been mistakes, someone else would have fixed them (presumably).
You really should get your facts straight before you fire off e-mails with statements like "You're very disappointing" and "You're an embarrassment."
P.S. If you're also under the impression that it's wrong to split an infinitive, end a sentence with a preposition or use "healthy" to mean "healthful" (common misconceptions among people like you), you should look those up, too.
June Casagrande is a writer and journalist whose weekly grammar/humor column, “A Word, Please,” appears in community newspapers in California, Florida, and Texas. more
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