Monday, September 24, 2007

Indianapolis Star, 9/21/07

"The verdict said 'guilty.' Like so much else in the confusing, contentious Floyd Landis doping case, though, none of the answers are really that simple."

First, "As with" is actually the proper way to begin the second sentence. "Like" implies an upcoming simile, which, let's face it, never occurred. Second, the word "really" is superfluous. It should be removed. And most importantly, "none of the answers IS that simple." Dammit, people. None means "no one" – a singular word. Therefore, NONE IS – not NONE ARE! In fact, never use NONE ARE. Agreement seems to be a major problem with the Star. They always write, "the couple are getting married on such-and-such a date," rather than "the couple IS…" Remember, "couple" is a singular word. It may contain two individuals, but those two individuals comprise just ONE couple.

42 comments:

Susan K. Morrow said...

True, "couple" is a singular word; however, it is also a noun indicating more than one person. Other examples are "band", "group", and "family". In the U.K., the acceptable usage is plural. Thus, "the couple are getting married", "the family are coming to dinner", etc.

And I thought I was a stickler. Wow.

samkay64 said...

But the Indianapolis Star is not in England. It should use the singular for band, group, and family.

(Does my second comma annoy you? I can't help it; I love it!)

bethany said...

sam - I like the oxford comma too.

Scott said...

I prefer the second comma. I learned it that way in grade school. When did English change?

Scott said...

Secondly, after living in Indiana for the first 26 years of my life, it's definitely not the place from which to expect perfection... :)

Shawn said...

i too agree with the 2nd comma - it was presented as optional when I learned it, but since i can no longer leave the water running while i brush my teeth, and i'm made to feel bad for driving my hummer around the corner to get my dolphin-unsafe tuna, i feel it is my god-given right to be wasteful with commas...

(oh, and periods too. i'm a big fan of the ellipsis)

ajofarc said...

I feel your pain, Andy. Blame the brits for tagging a plural verb onto "family."

As for "none," I've been banging my head against the proverbial wall for decades. Thanks to Mom for drilling the correct usage into my head. Even style and usage guides typically get this wrong.

I think we may be kindred spirits, Andy: Do you scream at the news anchors on TV, too?

ajofarc said...

As for the oxford comma: yuck. I'm an American. I take an elevator, not a lift. Love the Brits, but remember which side of the pond we're on, folks!

ajofarc said...

I'll confess to being an ellipsis addict, Shawn (though I'm definitely greener than thou, environmentally speaking). The ellipsis has a certain mystique to it...

Susan K. Morrow said...

Yay, ellipses...!

I still say that the British usage is acceptable here. My family are in agreement.

"Media" is a plural word that has become singular. Annoys the hell out of me.

Love the Oxford comma.

As for "none", sometimes it is acceptable to use it as a plural. See Paul Brians's page: http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/none.html

Love to all...

Thor said...

I hate the Oxford comma, personally. But this blog is getting much pedantic love.

Andy Ray said...

Sam:

I love the Oxford comma. I believe it should be used in all cases. When it is omitted, it can change the meaning of the sentence. I can't think of an example, but I've actually gone back and written it in a magazine, so that I could re-read the sentence and have it make sense. And I'm not talking about Entertainment Weekly here. As I recall, it was The Nation which omitted the Oxford comma.

And ajofarc, yes, we probably are kindred spirits. The mechanics of grammar seem so easy for me, yet so mysteriously difficult for many, including, as you mention, television news anchors.

Marco said...

Agreement seems to be a major problem with the Star. They always write, "the couple are getting married on such-and-such a date," rather than "the couple IS…"

Did everyone miss this?

The Star is singular. Therefore you should have wrote: "IT always writes."

Come on grammar Nazi. If you're going to host a site, chastizing newspaper writers about poor grammar, you can't be making mistakes on the first day!

denise said...

Andy,
Here's a 9/18/07 headline from the Weatherford Democrat.

Employee finds man dead at local business Man fell 12 feet to his death, laid there for hours

Victoria Barrett said...

Is this an Indianapolis-based blog? Or is my local paper, known throughout its home state for bad, bad writing, getting far-flung acclaim?

Katney said...

Today in the library I asked a sixth grader to tell the class what makes a a book realistic fiction. Her answer was, "It's like--real." I immediately jumped on that and said, "You are right. You correctly used the word 'like' because it not real it is like real." The reading teacher who was with the class and I both immediately cracked up. It took the kids a minute, but they did smile.

Philipp said...

You mustn't go to California, if you despise "like" in like every other sentence. The second like was placed there on purpose to show how frequently you can use the word "like". Cheers to this new blog. I love it.

jinx said...

Any thoughts on the use of "that" instead of "who"? As in, "The person that wrote that is an idiot." This error has become so widespread I've even seen it in the New York Times recently.

Andy Ray said...

Thank you, jinx! "The person WHO wrote this" is correct. If we substitute the word THAT, it implies the preceding word ("person") is an inanimate object. Unless the writer is referring to Dick Cheney, I believe he or she intends for the word "person" to imply an animate object.

Scott said...

Doesn't the MLA indicate that a space must be used before and after an ellipsis?

ajofarc said...

No spaces on either side of an ellipsis (unless it's at the end of the sentence, in which case normal spacing would occur after the ellipsis and ending punctuation...which still looks weird to me, because it means four dots). Also no spaces on either side of an em dash; but you do need spaces on either side of an en dash.

Rock on, Andy & jinx! (Love the Dick Cheney ref, Andy!) TV writers never seem to get this right! It's a good thing there's no hidden camera in my house; it would capture me repeating (aloud!) TV dialogue with grammatical corrections!

Here are two of my big peeves (dare I start this???)--screwing up "its" and "it's"; and playing the plural pronoun game. I particularly love it when a baseball announcer uses "their" to make a gender-neutral reference to a professional baseball player (or a player on a particular MLB team)--ALL OF WHOM ARE MEN! Why can't announcers (they!) just say "he"???

Here's a shocker: yes, I actually DO have a life!

LCC said...

Sorry, but I disagree about "none of the answers are." Some, any, none, all, and most can be either singular or plural depending on the context. So since none refers to the plural answers, I say "are" is just fine.

Andy Ray said...

ajofarc:

Even though it's commonplace nowadays, I don't believe "their" should EVER be used in the plural -- gender-neutral or not. "Everone" or "everybody" should always be paired with "his," "her," or "his or her," awkward as it may sound. "Everyone" and "they" sound like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

When my kids were little (early '90's), we watched the video of "Mary Poppins" a lot, and I was always struck by how utterly perfect her grammar was. Today, even the advertisers and news anchors speak incorrectly. And a high school English teacher friend of mine told me he doesn't even count off for the use of "everyone" and "they" used together anymore, because it is so commonplace, he can't fight it. Very sad.

The Ex said...

Oh, I like the idea for this site. (And I'm a huge proponent of the Oxford comma because IT JUST MAKES SENSE).

But, maybe you should add a link to the offending article? That would help with context, you know. :)

ashleyallinson said...

Speaking of grammar/syntax, why didn't you choose to use semicolons rather than periods when you wrote your three-pronged list?

IHateToast said...

The serial comma is also called the Harvard comma.
It's not about the pond.

Rosie said...

According to the American Heritage Dictionary and Merriam-Webster, "none" can be both plural and singular. In fact, American Heritage says: "The plural usage appears in the King James Bible as well as the works of John Dryden and Edmund Burke and is widespread in the works of respectable writers today. Of course, the singular usage is perfectly acceptable. The choice between a singular or plural verb depends on the desired effect."

el zed said...

Yes to the Oxford comma - it's not always essential, but frequently useful.
As for singular v plural verbs with collective nouns: there's an occasion for each. 'Let euphony be your guide,' a teacher once told me.
For example, just look at this: The audience screamed its head off. Correct, according to The Rules, with everything in agreement.
But it's ridiculous! Even if you change 'head' to 'heads', it's bad.

May I suggest rants against:
* the almost universal use in the US of 'lay' instead of 'lie'
* the disappearance of past participles like mown, shaven, shone, shown, sawn ...

Love this blog - I will be back. Thank you!

el zed said...

Eeek! Sorry to go on, but Marco's comment (above) is a case in point when it comes to past participles. Unless he's being funny.
'You should have WROTE'?
I may have to lie down ...

bethany said...

you may also appreciate these people:
http://grammarvulture.blogspot.com/

RogueTess said...

I found my peeps! As an English teacher, I often draw the line with my kids at what the SAT will count right or wrong (esp. with "everyone is..."). Each can say whatever HE or SHE wants in colloquial speech, but everyone should know enough to make that choice for HIMself when writing.

John said...

From the OED:

"It is sometimes held that none can take only a singular verb, never a plural verb:: none of them is coming tonight, rather than | none of them are coming tonight. There is little justification, historical or grammatical, for this view. None is descended from Old English nān, meaning ‘not one,’ and has been used for around a thousand years with both a singular and a plural verb, depending on the context and the emphasis needed."

Jason Crawford said...

Actually, the couple comprises the individuals, not the other way around.

Dr. Zoom said...

Was no one bothered by the very first sentence? How does a verdict say anything, short of miraculously growing a mouth?

No, the verdict was guilty!

(collapses on desk)

sonicfrog said...

I hate the Oxford comma, personally. But this blog is getting much pedantic love.

Wasn't that a song by Soft Cell? :-)

Thanks for this site. I used to be a theater major, and the art of writing true-to-life dialog eroded my writing skills (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it). Now I'm a history teacher, but try to correct grammatic muck when I recognize it. I was looking at the Oxford Comma wiki and notice it is also referred to as a serial comma... as if it's done something wrong; like it's a serial rapist or something.

Oh, and here's a nice little quote from the "Differences between American and British usage" section:

Nowadays… A passage peppered with commas — which in the past would have indicated painstaking and authoritative editorial attention — smacks simply of no backbone. People who put in all the commas betray themselves as moral weaklings with empty lives and out-of-date reference books. (Truss, 2004, p. 97–98)

Tell me what you really think sister!

PS. I am always the student. Did I use the semicolon correctly? Does Blogspot allow the use of blockquotes in comments?

sonicfrog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aram said...

Yes, Icc is correct. "None is" and "none are" are both correct because "none" can mean "not one" and "not any." See Bryan A. Garner, Garner's Modern American Usage (2003).

John said...

Punctuation isn't grammar.

The excessive use of quotations marks and the it's/its confusion are both examples of the former, not the latter.

Family, band, group, etc. are called "collective nouns" and, yes, the British prefer to use them with a plural noun.

"that" is perfectly acceptable for "who" in some contexts. See the KJB for examples galore, like this one from Gen. 12: "[3] And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."

Go on about "that" v. "which" if you want some fun with relative pronouns.

Andy Ray said...

Dr. Zoom makes a good point about "the verdict WAS guilty" rather than "the verdict SAID guilty." But I say the most accurate opening sentence would have been "the verdict READ guilty." Remember, the verdict is essentially a piece of paper. This piece of paper isn't really guilty of anything (other than assisting in the death of a tree), but it can be read. When it is read, the judge learns of the jury's verdict. Therefore, "the verdict READ guilty."

sonicfrog said...

Isn't the verdict a judgment? If you had a true or false question, you wouldn't say the answer said false, nor would you say the answer read false. You would write "the correct answer is / was false".

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