Another Less-Few Comic

Remember the rule: use fewer when you’re counting, and less when you’re measuring. You count how many kids you have, right? Should be fewer

Of course, some things can go either way, such as time. You can count hours, for example (Since I retired, I work far fewer hours than I used to.), but you can also measure the time using units such as hours (I spent less time at work today than I usually do.).

So pay attention to what you’re writing!

This post first appeared on The Writing Rag.

Two Wrong, One Right

Okay, forget about the comic itself (I don’t get it, and besides, this is a grammar blog, not a comic blog).

First mistake; third panel: If you’re talking about distance, use “farther,” not “further.” “Further” is for abstract things that can’t be described by distance.

Second mistake; last panel: He’s talking about the manner in which something is being done, so he needs an adverb, not an adjective. He should say “quickly.”

Third item, not a mistake, but most people get it wrong: His “I” is correct. “I” is the subject of the implied sentence “I can look it up.” People get this wrong so often that you would be ahead to supply the missing verb: “…as quickly as I can.”

Grocer’s Error

I’ve heard of two grammar errors frequently attributed to grocers. One is putting unnecessary quotes around words in signs. The other is incorrect apostrophes to make plurals.

I don’t think the skunk is a grocer, but that’s the error. Maybe the cartoonist wanted to make the skunk seem lower class, no offense to grocers. Next-to-last panel:

The rule: You don’t need an apostrophe for plurals!

This post first appeared on The Writing Rag.

Three Things

First, something unusual. We have a person in a thought bubble talking to the person who has the thought bubble. First time I’ve seen that.

Next, we have a writing lesson. It’s about being concise.

  • “Unique” means “one of a kind.” That’s an absolute; you can’t be very one of a kind. You either are or you aren’t.
  • “Individual” is also one of a kind, so “unique individual” is redundant. You don’t need both words.
  • Solution: be concise. Say something like “Delray is unusual.” “Unique” all by itself would work, too.

Finally, the getting-along-with-others lesson. Both Marcy and I have a rule: Don’t correct someone’s English unless they ask. Especially if the person is your boss.

This post first appeared on The Writing Rag.

Sounds Wrong, Doesn’t It?

First speech bubble. It’s correct!

That “whom” sounds wrong because we’re used to hearing the subject of the sentence first. That ‘whom’ is really the object of “of.” You can also say that the “whom” is introducing the noun clause that’s the direct object of “know”!

To fix the word order a bit, you’d have:

Do you know of whom she reminds me?

Of course now you have a rather awkward question. I fear that “who” will become the only form to appear at the beginning of a sentence regardless of the word’s function in the sentence.

PS—If it were me, I’d write. “Hey! She reminds me of someone I knew.”

PPS—Since I ran into it today, here’s a strip that gets it wrong twice. Second panel:

PPPS—And here’s one where he gets it right. First panel.

This post first appeared on The Writing Rag.

A Grim Solecism

A solecism is a mistake in grammar. Usually I say “goof,” but lightheartedness doesn’t seem appropriate for this solecism. It has to do with the verb “to hang.” Here’s the illustration; look in the lower right corner:

The past tense of “hang” is usually “hung.” But when you’re mentioning someone getting killed by being suspended by their neck, the word is “hanged,” whether suicide, execution, or murder. I see too many professionals using the wrong verb lately. If you’re talking about death, it’s “hanged.”

Not a pleasant subject, but at least get it right.

This post first appeared on The Writing Rag.

Who Goes First?

Yes, the comic breaks a rule, but you know that rule: “I” is for the subject of a sentence, not “me.” This post is about another rule: Don’t put yourself first! But be sure to read the comment after the comic.

We have no grammatical rule that says not to put yourself first! All it is, is being polite to mention others first. Particularly in scientific writing the author mentions the main researcher, him- or herself, first, and adds associates (mere grad students maybe?) who participated, second.

So if you deserve most of the credit, go ahead and mention yourself first. But use “I,” (or “we”) not “me” (or “us”)!

I ran into a sentence that correctly puts “we” first:

These recent updates, suggesting that climate change and its impacts are emerging faster than scientists previously thought, are consistent with observations that we and other colleagues have made identifying a pattern in assessments of climate research of underestimation of certain key climate indicators, and therefore underestimation of the threat of climate disruption.

This post first appeared on The Writing Rag.

He’s Correct, But…

…He’s being a jerk about it. This is why I regularly promise not to correct someone’s grammar unless they ask me to.

I gotta admit, he’s unlikely to forget his PIN, though.

This post first appeared on The Writing Rag.

The Janitor Gets it Right

The rule he gets right has to do with the apostrophe when you want to make a word possessive.

If the word you want to make possessive ends in “s,” just add an apostrophe; don’t add another “s.”

Last panel:

But you pronounce the possessive as if that second “s” were there! So it sounds like “Joneses.”

A head locker room attendant is a janitor, right?

This post first appeared on The Writing Rag.

Follow-on to the Previous Post

The previous post was mainly about the verbs lay and lie, but it made a brief reference to the transitive-intransitive dichotomy. Here’s an article that got it right, then got it wrong. Should help make the distinction clear.

First the headline, which is correct:

MSDN Magazine will publish its last issue, ending a Microsoft developer era

And the article’s first sentence (it’s the subhead), which is incorrect:

The final issue of the print magazine will publish this November.

“Publish” is transitive! You always publish something! In this case they publish an issue.

  • So to make that second sentence correct, they need to use either the passive (ick) by saying it will be published;
  • Or they need to give the verb a direct object, saying something like they will publish the last issue this November.
  • Or they could use an intransitive verb, saying the magazine will end in November.

See the difference? Good. Now you’re a grammar expert. For practice, go look for a few more examples.

I like pictures in these posts, so here’s a picture of the product that the magazine was all about.

MSDN Magazine's heyday fell firmly in the era of Windows XP Professional.

This post first appeared on The Writing Rag.