Comparative, Superlative

rogersgeorge on March 12th, 2017

The comic Luann (here Luann Againn), by Greg Evans, has a character characterized by interest in physical appearance and lack of interest in things academic. Her loss. But she’s a good example of what not to do, so that’s a good thing, I guess. Does her mistake jump out at you? If you’re a regular reader of this humble site, it should.

Right! When you compare two things, you use the comparative form, not the superlative. It’s “better,” not “best.” And when you’re not comparing anything, use the positive form, in this case, “good.” Poor Tiffany.

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I warned you about Pronouns

rogersgeorge on December 31st, 2016

Pronouns are tricky because sometimes you can’t tell what the pronoun refers to (called an antecedent, by the way). This is sometimes a source of humor in grammar textbooks, but occasionally this weakness turns up in the comics, too. I ran into a humorous take on missed antecedents in this Luann:

Luann Againn

The Hard Part of Writing

rogersgeorge on October 5th, 2016

I haven’t mentioned this “the hard part of writing” in a while. Long enough ago that I don’t entirely remember what I wrote back then, but you probably don’t either, so it won’t matter if I repeat myself.

The hard part of writing is when you have a perfectly grammatical sentence, but it the sentence could be better—but and you have to think to make it better.

Here are I will share a few rules of thumb to make it writing good sentences a little easier.

Avoid using a false subject. Examples: “there is,” “there are,” and “it is.” (Except with the weather. You can say, “It’s raining.” But You can improve even on that: “Look at that rain!” “Good weather for ducks, eh?” “The rain is really coming down.”)

It’s a real problem
We have a real problem

… it hit me that I might still have special privileges with them
I realized that I might still have special privileges with them

It’s often said that faster is better
My shop teacher always said that faster is better.

Make the subjects of your sentences real.

Avoid using Use a better verb than the verb “to be.” (By which I mean all the forms of that verb, not just the infinitive.) “Make” and “do” are good ones to stay away from, too. This is why it’s using some other verb is harder: You have to think of another word. But if you do, your writing will be more colorful, interesting, and meaningful.

…which is the biggest rocket humanity has made.
…which currently stands as by far the biggest rocket humanity has made.

The writer wrote the second line is what the. It’s Better, isn’t it?

Nouns are better than pronouns. I mentioned this recently, so it’s not necessary I don’t need want to repeat myself. The idea is that Pronouns generally have words they refer to (antecedents) and your reader might have trouble figuring out what the antecedent is the pronoun refers to.

You might think of some more rules, but these are enough should give you enough to think about for a start. I made it this post hard enough to read by sharing some of my edits.

I mentioned conciseness recently, but avoiding unnecessary words is a good enough rule that it bears repeating. Make your writing concise.

Here’s a related comic, a Luann from a couple years back:


Got any suggestions of your own? Share in the comments.


rogersgeorge on February 18th, 2014

Malaprops are incorrect words (or non-words) that sound similar to the intended word, often to humorous effect. They are named after a certain Mrs. Malaprop, a character in a Dickens novel (but I read recently she’s in something by Richard Brinsley Sheridan written in the late 1700’s. I’m too lazy to research it.) Here’s a more up-to-date example of this linguistic comedy:


From Luann, Feb 4, 2001.

Malaprop, referring to the humorous error, is called a malapropism by some, and this leads me to mention a more insidious error, one that occurs too often among educated folks, (who are more likely to read this blog than people who make malaprops). The error I refer to is pretentiousism. Pretentiousisms are grammatically correct words that are longer, harder to understand, or more obscure than plain, clear writing or speaking. I’ve mentioned pretentiousism in the past; you can search this blog for it.

Don’t add unnecessary syllables or Latinisms to your writing. Don’t say “utilize” when “use” will do. Don’t say “obfuscate” when “confuse” will do. Don’t say “malapropism” when “malaprop” will do.

Here are a few more malaprops, from the pen of the talented Darrin Bell, who writes Candorville:

An exercise for the reader

rogersgeorge on January 30th, 2014

Alas for the hardships of an English teacher. I present this strip, Luann from December 10, 1991, without comment. How would you correct the last panel?