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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

5 Stupid Grammar Myths (and Why You Should Follow Them at Work) | Mignon Fogarty, The Daily Muse

I respect the advice of Mignon Fogarty, well-known author of the Grammar Girl books and columns. But though I understand her point in this article, I think she surrenders too easily. Given the audience of the website, however, perhaps she offers useful advice.

I also advise that people write to meet the needs and expectations of their targeted readers -- and follow that advice myself. But depending on the audience, the objectives of a document, and the role of the writer/editor, I also urge people to use words, terms and grammar correctly and consistently whenever possible.

Here's what I advise on the terms in Fogarty's column at Garbl's Editorial Style Manual:
data Normally a plural noun, it takes plural verbs and pronouns when writing about individual items: The data have been analyzed thoroughly. Data may take singular verbs when the group or quantity is considered a unit: The data is accurate. Stick with the plural verb after data if you're not sure which one to use.
Also, use data to refer to evidence, measurements, records and statistics from which conclusions can be inferred, not as a simple synonym for facts, knowledge, reports or information. If suitable, consider using simpler information or facts.
split infinitives Avoid awkward sentence constructions that split the infinitive forms of a verb, such as to leave or to help, as in this sentence: Try to not awkwardly or incorrectly split infinitives. But splitting infinitives is grammatically correct--and even useful if it helps strengthen the meaning of a sentence by placing the modifier before the word it's modifying: He wanted to really impress the council. Unfortunately, split infinitives can distract some readers who think they're incorrect.
prepositions ... Don't overuse prepositions in a single sentence. To provide clarity, rewrite and shorten long sentences containing many prepositions. It's correct to end a sentence with a preposition, but doing so could weaken the point of the sentence. Consider alternatives. ...
slow, slowly Slowly is the more common adverb to modify a verb, adjective or other adverb, but slow is also acceptable as an adverb (as well as an adjective to modify nouns and pronouns). Let your ear be your guide: He complained that his computer runs slowly. Her car is really slow, but her children say she drives slow.
done/finished I don't comment on those terms. But perhaps I should!

For additional insights on this topic, check out Garbl's Myths and Superstitions of Writing. Mignon's article is featured in today's (Aug. 1) Garbl's Style: Write Choices at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription. 

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