Grammatical Horrors. Custom Essay Writing Service
Evans, chased all over town. In my overflowing file cabinet of news clippings is a quote from the Christian Coalition chief in Iowa, Bobbie Gobel, after she was fired. She denied she had fallen from the Lord after putting her "large breast" in a parishioner's face. She was fired, she said, for being too hard on presidential candidate Steve Forbes. In response to this charge she declared, "As a Christian, God allows me to be a fruit inspector." Perhaps if God had been a Muslim, he would have told her to keep her hands off the fruit.
The MM is a mistake that readers of The New Yorker and other language snobs love to snicker Perhaps due to its Germanic origins, English demands order. It loves consistency, symmetry, parallel structure. Things in a series must all be in the same form. Do not say "I love swimming, jogging, and sex." In this example, "sex" is not the same verb form as "swimming" and "jogging." Say "having sex." Or change the first two verbs: "I love to swim, to jog, and to . . ." (you choose your own verb here). If you are using the plural, stay with the plural. If you are in the past, stay there. If you have to change to the present, indicate clearly that you are doing so, perhaps with a new paragraph. Remember to be consistent. This is a style rule as well as a grammar rule. The most eloquent English uses parallel structures and forms to communicate. Striving to be a good writer, striving to learn how to argue effectively, means striving to use those models that enhance clear communication. I love Richard Niebuhr's description of the dismal state of Christianity in nineteenth-century America when "a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross."
This principle can be extended to cover those other errors of number and person that are far too common. If you begin with the first or second or third person as your subject, stick with it. Never write, "If one looks their best, you will always get laid." If you have a singular subject, use a singular verb. If you do not want to look ridiculous, avoid misplaced modifiers. "everyone," "anyone," "no one," "neither," are in fact singular and take singular verbs: "Everyone in this class is [not are] in danger of flunking." The committee is . . . but the members of the committee are . . . All you need do to get these right is to pay attention to the meaning of the words. Though it does not always seem so, the rules of American English are occasionally guided by logic. Curiously, British English gives the collective noun a plural verb: "The English team are playing in France this weekend." But the Brits have been going downhill since Cromwell.
Subject-verb agreement exhibits one of the irrational aspects of English usage that you simply have to accept. A clever Cambodian student, fresh off the boat, had a hard time making plurals. In his native language, "ten dog" clearly indicated that there was more than one dog. He didn't see the need for the "s" after dog to indicate more than one. "Just do it," I said. He did. When we got to verbs, he put his logical computer-nerd foot down. "Why do you put an s after the verb if the subject is singular?" he cunningly asked. "Why 'he shoots,' but 'they shoot'? Shouldn't the plural subject be indicated with an 's' and not the singular? Shouldn't it be 'he shoot' and 'they shoots'?" Logically, what he said made sense. Ever reasonable, sensitive, and full of compassion, "Just do it," I said.