Position those Modifiers Correctly

rogersgeorge on March 6th, 2017

It’s fun to catch the mass Media, such as (ahem) CNBC when they get something wrong. I suppose they were in a hurry to get this headline out ahead of the competition, but still.

NASA: Seven Earth-sized planets discovered orbiting another star that could host water and life

The clause that starts with “that” is an adjective clause. You know where adjective clauses go, don’t you? Right after the word they refer to! Not halfway down the sentence. That star can’t host water and life, the planets could!

Here’s one correct way:

NASA: Seven Earth-sized planets that could host water and life discovered orbiting another star


I read the article, and it happens that the headline is wrong anyway. Only three of the planets are in the habitable zone. The other four aren’t. Beware of sensationalism and bad grammar.

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Another Absolute

rogersgeorge on March 4th, 2017

Absolutes are concepts that either are or aren’t—no middle ground. Perhaps the most well known use of an absolute is a quip, “she’s a little bit pregnant.” Pregnancy is a thing where either you are or you aren’t. I mentioned an absolute, unique, some time ago. Here’s another that I just ran into. Misused in […]

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Another Figure of Speech

rogersgeorge on March 2nd, 2017

Some time ago I posted a series about figures of speech, which I invite you to check out if you like. Recently I ran into another figure of speech, called paraprosdokian. It’s Greek for something like “given against and alongside.” A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence is unexpected and […]

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An Interesting Use of the Future Tense

rogersgeorge on February 28th, 2017

I generally advocate not using the future tense in expository writing, saying that you should use the present tense for customary actions no matter when the action happens. But here’s a usage that I haven’t seen for a while. It hinges on context, in this case temporal context. First the quote: 1513 Pope Julius II […]

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A Grammar Magazine?

rogersgeorge on February 26th, 2017

The genius of Dan Piraro’s Bizarro strikes again. I hardly know what to say, except that I’ve written about every topic mentioned on the cover. Except the lips. Lessee… Participles (sort of), Adjectives (several; here’s one), adverbs (also several), S-V agreement (at least twice), pronouns (also more than once). Well, The Writing Rag site has been around since January of 2009 […]

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