What we did Before TV and Radio

rogersgeorge on January 16th, 2018

We read! (Okay, we talked, and played music, too.) And since the language itself was a large part of the entertainment, and we had the time to reflect on what we read, the writing could afford to be rather more complicated (or tedious) than we’re willing to tolerate in our faster-paced world.

When I started reading this comic, I figured I’d go get my copy of Milton and quote a few sentences as examples, but I see I don’t need to to give you the idea. Besides, I quoted some other elderly English several posts back.

Wanna try your hand at a sentence like that?

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A Tricky Construction

rogersgeorge on January 14th, 2018

Almost every time I post, I use single sentences for the substance of my lessons. Today I’m going to play a trick on you. First, the sentence, from the excellent site A Word A Day:

See here and here, for example.

Shouldn’t that be “here and here, as examples”? Or something with a plural of “example”?

Let’s  add the sentence that came before:

While voluntourism may be well-intentioned, it may not always be the best way to help. See here and here, for example.

What does “example” refer to? It’s “best way to help,” a singular! Here we have an uncommon example of a modifier (in this case, an adjectival prepositional phrase) referring to something in another sentence! It happens.

See if you can think up an example or two of something in one sentence referring to something in another sentence.

PS—I didn’t follow those links in the quote, so I don’t know what you’ll get if you click them.

PPS—Should that PS have said “the quote” or “the quotes”?

Correct, but not Good

rogersgeorge on January 12th, 2018

Many people write perfectly grammatical sentences that aren’t very good. Unnecessary words, modifiers out of place, that sort of thing. Here’s a (ahem) good example. Look at the item about the pencil:

Believe it or Not has long been a favorite of mine, and I don’t often find solecisms in it. This sentence has two!

Here’s the sentence:

The metal sleeve on a pencil, which holds the eraser, is called the ferrule

  • First, the comma before “which” is correct. But the remark is not an aside! They should have written “the metal sleeve on a pencil that holds the eraser…”
  • Also, they got things in the wrong order. The pencil engineering is more accurate if you say “The metal sleeve that holds the eraser on a pencil…”

Smoother, now, isn’t it?

Can Anything be More Important than Good Spelling?

rogersgeorge on January 10th, 2018

Well, according to Perry Bible Fellowship, the Orca thinks not…

Unless the cartoonist is suggesting that reality is more important than spelling. On closer examination I see the Orca got the whole group of penguins, not just the lecturer. Hmm.

Two comics about spelling in one day! How can I resist???

By the way, don’t trust your spell checker a whole lot.

Why But?

rogersgeorge on January 8th, 2018

English has a type of word called  a coordinating conjunction. Coordinating conjunctions go between two parts of a sentence, and they imply that the two parts are more or less equivalent, at least grammatically. You know coordinating conjunctions as “and” and “but.”

“But” is interesting because it connects the two things and implies some kind of opposition between the two things. For example,

I am sick, but I don’t think I’m contagious.

We think of contagiousness as going with sickness, so the sentence uses “but” to contradict this usual circumstance.

If I may digress a bit, I attended a sales class once in which the instructor said to avoid using but, because it’s negative.

It’s a fine encyclopedia, but it’s inexpensive.

should be

It’s a fine encyclopedia, and it’s inexpensive.

Hmm. Try getting rid of some buts and see how it feels. (It feels funny, but/and interesting.)

And that leads to my intended object lesson for this post, compliments of Curtis, which hinges on the kid ignoring the implied contradiction between corniness and the feeling of love in his dad’s statement, which definitely needs the but.

The lesson: Pay attention to your buts.