Grammar Grabbers - "Grammar" Moses

Grammar Grabbers








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This looks like somebody's grandma ... ... but it is not "Grammar" Moses

"Grammar" Moses never uses bad words to punctuate her conversations with Whistler's Mother. Sometimes, though, she tells her how to improve poor phrasing.


Before

"Warning! While standing on station platforms, high-speed
trains may pass in either direction at any time."

Problems: Here's the infamous "dangling participle". The participle "standing" dangles because there is no clear connection to the rest of the sentence. Without the subject "you", it sounds like the trains are standing on the platform. You might also want to be careful about using words with funny and not-so-funny double meanings ("pass" is also short for "pass on").


After

"Warning! High-speed trains may pass by in either direction at any time when you're standing on station platforms."




Before

"This Page is to be considered to be a general guide and not an ultimate authority.

Problems: Avoid imperatives like "to be"; they sound imperious. Omit needless words.


After
"This Page is a general guide and not an ultimate authority."




Before

"Suggestions contained in these Pages can be used to improve writing styles."

Problem: Avoid the passive voice (something is done) . . . it makes your reader passive. Then again, I'm sure you know some people who should be more passive.


After

"Use suggestions contained in these Pages to improve writing styles."




Before

"Increase the focus on a whole new set of priorities."

Problem: This is a very specific example of the need to examine your writing closely, to see if it makes sense. How do you increase something that is new?


After

"Focus on an entirely new set of priorities."




Before

"We hope you enjoy your stay at the beautiful Airport Holiday Inn in Nome, Alaska and guests are asked not to walk in front of landing planes as they snowshoe their way to their hut."

Problems: Avoid long sentences, especially when they comprise separate thoughts. If they are closely related, use a semi-colon. Also, watch the parallelism (the what?!), i.e., don't mix separate forms in the same sentence (in this case active and passive voice). You can also shorten the sentence by assuming your reader is a guest.


After

"We hope you enjoy your stay at the beautiful Airport Holiday Inn in Nome, Alaska. Please do not walk in front of landing planes as you snowshoe your way to your hut."




Before

"The number of bugs reported for the Ralph Web Browser software are in excess of 800."

Problems: The main definition for "in excess" is "lack of moderation", so don't use it if that isn't what you mean. The verb "are" should be "is"; it modifies the singular "number" and not "bugs".







After

"The number of bugs reported for the Ralph Web Browser software exceeds 900."

or, better still,

"There are more than 1,400 bugs in the Ralph Web Browser software." (This "Ralph software problem" is getting worse as we speak.)




Before

"How many URL's have you bookmarked? Do you know that URL's Page size?"

Problem: First, as far as I can see, there's nothing grammatically wrong with the second sentence (so . . . what IS your problem, Bill?). I'm including it to show why you shouldn't use an apostrophe for plural acronyms (which differ from word-shortened abbreviations because they're formed by the first letter(s) of words in a phrase, e.g., "radar" or"snafu"). How does your reader determine which acronyms are plural and which are possessive case? (An exception: "dot your i's and cross your t's").


After

"How many URLs have you bookmarked? Do you know the URL's Page size?"


Before

"It will be handled by myself."

Problem: Reflexive pronouns must reflect back to a subject, which is missing in the preceding sentence. (Other reflexive pronouns include herself, ourselves and themselves.)


After

"It will be handled by me." or "I will handle it myself."




Before

"Vacations should be scheduled during all months of the year and, where possible, avoid extreme volume periods."

Problems: Shifting "points of view", in this case from passive to active voice, is poor grammar. The writer here also is making one sentence out of two. The complex adjectival phrase "extreme volume" preceding the noun is awkward; hyphenate it or, better still, use a different phrase.


After

"Schedule vacations in all months of the year. Where possible, avoid popular vacation periods."




Before

"Be sure you enroll in the program before expiration."

Problem: A modifying word or phrase must be clearly connected to the word it modifies. In this example, "expiration" can apply to "program" or "you". Since I'm not in the habit of placing a curse on my Web Page visitors, I'll just use my laptop here to change the ending to its expiration or, better still, since "expiration" likely refers to the enrolment period:


After

"Be sure you enroll in the program before the enrolment period ends."




Before

"Up until the present time, we only exercised our reimbursement option under that clause where the client might wish to be relieved from the obligation contained therein."

Problems: Again, there are too many unnecessary words. This time, however, the problem is compounded by one of parallelism ("exercised" and "wish to be") and the imprecise positioning of a modifier ("only").


After

"Until now, we used our reimbursement option in that clause only when the client wanted to be relieved of this obligation."




Before

"Give the customer their receipt."

Problem: This is an obvious example of a pronoun not agreeing with its antecedent. ("I thought you weren't going to use technical terms, Bill!")

In English that means both the subject of a sentence and a pronoun that subsequently replaces it both must be singular or plural. Check out my "Uncategoriza...Bill?" Page for some tips on avoiding the "he / she" sexism usually involved in these situations. For now, I'll give just two solutions.


After

"Give the customer his (or her) receipt." or "Give the receipt to the customer."




Before

"She lives in the apartment building
which is just around the corner. She shops in the supermarket that is closest to her home."

Problems: Break the spell of which is! Drop that, too! Most of them are unnecessary; deleting them streamlines your writing. By the way, don't forget home is not the same as house (a home is where you "hang your hat" and can be any structure or even a cave, if you live like me).

After

"She lives in the apartment building around the corner. She shops in the supermarket closest to her home."




Before

"In order to better serve our customers . . . "

Problems: Remember, using "in order to" is usually not in order. Also, I may be splitting hairs but I still say you should avoid split infinitives.


After

To serve our customers better . . . "


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