Compound Objects

rogersgeorge on October 6th, 2017

I suppose this Beetle Bailey comic is a repeat of the second-oldest joke in the book, descending as it does from sixth grade English (Hi, Mrs. Clemens!). Lots of folks get confused when they have two objects of a single preposition, and the mistake is so common that I decided to repeat the joke as a reminder. The trick, by the way, is to think the phrase without mentioning the other guy; then it’s easy to get the correct word.

The other second-oldest joke, I suppose, is the one about the restaurant manager who goes someplace else to eat.

What??? You want to know the world’s oldest joke? Well, just between you and (ahem) me, it’s somewhat scatological, so I won’t repeat it here, but they found it on a cuneiform tablet that dates to about 4000 years ago. Google “oldest joke.” Reuters has a short article about it.

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Fluff!

rogersgeorge on October 4th, 2017

The time has come to write about fluff again—I ran into a comic on the subject. We curmudgeons also call fluff redundancy, wordiness, and unnecessary verbiage. Probably some saltier terms, too. Fluff is the antithesis of conciseness, one of my gold rules for good writing.

I’ve featured this gal in Jump Start before. Several times, actually; that one was just a sample.

So when you write, look over what you wrote. (You always proofread, don’t you?) Do you see any words that you could delete without changing the meaning? Delete ’em! Your readers will thank you.

Per!

rogersgeorge on October 2nd, 2017

I mentioned this solecism (at least) once before, but I found a comic for it, so here’s a repeat.

The rule is that “per” means “according to,” and that’s all you need to say. Don’t use “as per”!!! Ever. Unless you’re telling someone not to use it.

Paul Trap does a good job of making Dad try to be formal, but managing only to be pretentious. Considering that’s he’s talking to an infant, the pretentiousness is even more out of place.

Remember, you want to write so your reader thinks about the subject, not about the writing.

Bad Apostrophe, Good Apostrophe

rogersgeorge on September 28th, 2017

I was going to post this Mallard Fillmore comic just because the comic’s funny and about grammar, but it reminded me of a rule: Don’t use apostrophes for plurals.

But English has two exceptions that you might get away with: plurals of numerals and plurals of abbreviations. You don’t need to write plurals of numerals very often, but when you do, it’s okay, but not necessary, to use an apostrophe, and the tendency these days is to use the apostrophe less and less.

So, for example, referring to a decade,  write “the 1960s.” If you really want to, you can write 1960’s and you’ll get away with it. Buying house numbers? The neighbor of the Beast bought two 6s and an 8. Or is it two 6’s and an 8?

Moving on to abbreviations; the rule is do what is easier to understand. Walking into the vacant space, she said, “Wow! This office has enough room for three AAAs.” Or three old-fashioned AAA’s.

Usually I leave off the apostrophe, and no one has fired me for it yet.

 

Counting or Measuring?

rogersgeorge on September 26th, 2017
We use “few” for counting, which is a number, and “less” for measuring, which refers to amounts. But you have room for ambiguity sometimes—referring to time, for instance, and distances. Depending on what you’re saying, either way can work.

Here, is Mr. Tinkerson counting the number of sheets or measuring the amount of paper?

Either way makes sense. Same thing when you’re referring to time. Yes, we count the hours, but it took less than three hours to give blood Saturday. Since time is continuous, you can measure it as well as count the units. Same thing for distance.

So be careful, and think about whether you’re measuring or counting.