10/3/08


If time is irrelevant, how come it can either fly or go by slowly? Good question. I had to be away for over a week and it seems I've been gone for months! But I'm back now and hope to catch up with everyone. Is that making up for lost time? And if time is lost, how do you make it up? Later on I must do a post on time, since I love time travel!

In the meantime, (pun) I have an interesting perception to share on a more serious note. I don't know if you've heard of newspaperman Jeff Rubin, NPD, but he believes people need to learn more about the importance of proper punctuation for communicating clearly. In his words, "Punctuation has been devalued by a generation of computer wizards who ask, 'What's the point? Nobody writes in complete sentences anymore.' But the rules of proper punctuation haven't changed just because of computers... Careless punctuation mistakes cost time, money, and productivity."

He's right, you know, and that, of course goes double for writers. Today, I've decided to share some basic grammar rules. I know we all can benefit from this kind of review, so here goes.

Subject-Verb Agreement

Agreement is a basic concept of English grammar. Some of the culprits of subject-verb agreement errors will be familiar to you: the indefinite pronoun, the collective noun and alternate and compound subjects.

The following sentences illustrate how closely related these two issues are:

Bucky tends his father's cows. The brothers tend their father's cows.

Note that both the pronoun and the verb change when the noun changes from singular to plural. "Bucky" is a singular noun. It takes the singular form of the verb—"tends"—and the singular pronoun "his." "Brothers" is a plural noun, taking the plural form of the verb—"tend"—and the plural pronoun "their."

Let's review these two grammatical rules. The pronoun must agree in number with its antecedent. The verb must agree in number and person with its subject.

Indefinite Pronouns

These pronouns, no matter how plural they may seem (everybody, everyone, etc.), are in fact singular and, therefore, always take a singular verb.

Collective nouns

These nouns refer to a group of things as a unit (team, band, and committee). It is usually preferable to use singular forms of the verb for such nouns. However, when you think of a group as a collection of individuals each acting individually, you must use the plural.

See, simple basic stuff.
Okay, now that I've bored you enough, I think I'll stop for now. What is it about grammar that stumps you? Do you have a grammar rule that gets you every time and if so, what is it?

Kaye

8 comments:

Elizabeth said...

I have trouble with anything connected to grammar!

Cate said...

Interesting post, Kaye. Informative. I hope you keep posting about grammar because it is something we all need to review. I know I do.

Debs said...

I need all the help I can get with punctuation, so that was a thoroughly interesting post for me.

I hate seeing emails where there are no capitals and the punctuation has been entirely forgotten. Dreadful.

Kaye Manro said...

I agree Debs. And I'm glad you are using that cool photo!

Cate, I will post more on grammar later.

Elizabeth, just keep working on it.

Helen Hardt said...

Hi Kaye -- Refreshers like this are always good. One NYT bestseller, who shall remain nameless, constantly misuses "lay" for "lie." Drives me crazy!

Helen

Suzanne Brandyn said...

Hi, Kaye,
Recently being told I'm a 100% with grammar amazed me. lol.. But comma's are misunderstood. One lady in a small group I attend stated, "comma's are a personal choice."

Comma's serve a purppose and can change the meaning of a sentence if misplaced.
Example-
I detest liars like you, I believe that honesty is the best policy.

I detest liars; like you, I believe that honesty is the best policy.

So even the little comma has many purposes. :)

Shelley Munro said...

Commas have always been a headache for me. Different publishers use different rules, which makes it tricky at times and very confusing!

Linda Banche said...

Here's my helpful hint for its/it's.

If you can replace the its/it's with "it is" you use "it's". If not, you use "its".

"Its" is the genitive (like his or her) --his shirt, its color.

It's over here. It is over here.

Here's another blog post on punctuation from the Word Wenches:
http://wordwenches.typepad.com/word_wenches/2008/09/the-angry-apost.html