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Can You Detect What's Incorrect?

Rob Kyff on

You're the editor! See whether you can identify the grammatical or wording problem in each sentence and fix it. Warning: These are tricky and picky!

1. The senator's proposal appealed to Americans of all regions, ages, backgrounds, social class and national origin.

2. We should never laugh at another's misfortune.

3. The hiker worried that the mosquitoes would be abundant, the weather would be hot and the trails would have a lot of rocks.

4. The students seemed to have enjoyed the respite the fire drill provided.

5. The combination of cost reductions and higher returns on investments were credited with producing a balanced budget.

6. This is one of those myths that leads to poor financial decisions.

7. The park ranger said after the rain the elk would move to higher pastures.

8. Tom always orders spaghetti at this restaurant because he likes it more than anything on the menu.

Revisions and explanations:

1. "Social class" and "national origin" should be plural. We wouldn't say "Americans of all social class" or "Americans of all national origin."

2. Because the subject of the sentence (We) is plural, the pronoun and noun later in the sentence (another, misfortune) should be plural as well. Better: We should never laugh at another's misfortunes.

3. The three clauses following "worried" are not precisely parallel in structure. Better: The hiker worried that the mosquitos would be abundant, the weather would be hot and the trails would be rocky.

4. There's no need for a past perfect infinitive (to have enjoyed) after the past tense verb "seemed." The tenseless infinitive "to enjoy" should be used: The students seemed to enjoy . . .

5. The subject "combination" is singular, despite the intervening plural nouns "reductions" and "returns." So the verb must be "was" to agree with "combination."

6. The singular "one" tricks us into using a singular verb (leads). Instead, the verb should take its number from the plural noun to which "one" refers -- "myths." Better: This is one of those myths that lead to poor financial decisions.

7. The adverb clause "after the rain" is an ambiguous modifier. Does it tell when the ranger spoke or when the elk will move? Better: The park ranger said the elk would move to higher pastures after the rain.

8. Technically, this sentence means that spaghetti is not on the menu. Adding "else" clarifies the fact that spaghetti is on the menu.

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Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Conn., invites your language sightings. Send your reports of misuse and abuse, as well as examples of good writing, via email to Wordguy@aol.com or by regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.
 

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