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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Those Grammar Gaffes Will Get You

Writing guru extraordinaire Bryan A. Garner has posted another useful blog article based on his new book, HBR Guide to Better Business Writing.

He highlights two common problems:

  1. Subject-verb disagreement. A verb must agree in person and number with its subject. ... [such as the choice between there is and there are].
  2. Double negatives. ... "We didn't have no choice" ... "We couldn't scarcely manage to keep up with the demand." ...
I comment on using there is, there are in Garbl's Editorial Style and Usage Manual:
there is, there are, there's, there was, there were Avoid beginning sentences with these often unnecessary, wordy phrases. Try rewriting the sentence. Change: There were two native rhododendrons at the nursery. To: Two native rhododendrons were at the nursery. Also, there's is a contraction for there is; it refers to a single noun: There's one signal at the intersection. Do not use it with plural nouns. Incorrect: There's better ways to write this sentence. There sure are!
Garner also gives advice on the correct use of pronouns and two artificial rules "that plague so much writing":
  • the "rule" about beginning sentences with conjunctions
  • the "rule" about ending sentences with a preposition.
He writes:

Do you worry that your readers will think a sentence-starting conjunction or a sentence-ending preposition is wrong? They won't even notice it. Good style gets readers focused on your clear, concise message. Bad style draws attention to itself.
I comment on those two writing "rules" and nine others at Garbl's Myths and Superstitions of Writing.

Garner's Modern American Usage is one of my first-choice reference books on writing. I consider it the contemporary equivalent of similar books by Fowler and Follett.
The Garner blog item is featured today, march 13, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Style: Write Choices, available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

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