★ (achacunsagloire) wrote in fandom_grammar,


EDITORIAL: "7 Grammar Rules You Should Really Pay Attention To"

I don't normally like the “x-number-of-things-that-you're-doing-wrong” articles that make up the side links of many a gossip site, but there's a certain charm in Ben Yagoda's 2013 “7 Grammar Rules You Should Really Pay Attention To.” In this article (which he wrote for TheWeek.Com), Yagoda uses a gentle but firm—not to mention cheeky—voice to address seven big grammar goofs that he often sees in professional writing. And we're not talking creative writing, either; we're talking employment applications, business letters, and opinion pieces meant to make an argument. In other words, places in which grammar faux pas such as lying books on a table or spinning through the air, Tommy swung the bat and hit the ball out of the park are a big No-No.

I myself view a ton of professional writing over the course of a week's time: mostly wills, petitions, orders, land contracts, and other legal documents of that ilk. And no joke: some of the grammar that I see in them is so embarrassingly bad that when I come across the name of the person who prepared the document(s) in question, I just stare at his or her name and shake my head. I admit, there are some rules of grammar that are more difficult to master than others, and modern language standards render them at least flexible in the correct usage thereof. But others have remained rigidly stiff in their dispositions, and they have remained that way for a good reason: they make the meaning of the sentence or phrase absolutely clear.

Two of these steely rules include those of bad parallelism and dangling modifiers. Bad parallelism, which entails the jumbling of verbs and objects, most often occurs when the writer is making a list of actions and gets carried away. It can be caught by making sure each one of your verbs is paired with the object that it affects. Dangling modifiers are phrases tacked onto the beginning, middle, or ending of a sentence to give it more language variety. They can be confusing as they often start with the present participle of a verb (which is basically any verb that ends with “-ing,” such as “hiking,” “sailing,” “eating,” etc.). With a few exceptions, dangling modifiers almost always describe the subject of a sentence; those that don't should be placed near the noun or action that they describe so as to avoid confusion that placement elsewhere might (and probably will) create. As long as you keep that in mind, you're good to go.

One thing on which I must respectfully disagree with Yagoda is his advice to avoid the usage of semicolons. On the contrary, I don't think we emphasize semicolons enough and that is part of why we are prone to slapping a comma in any spot that feels like it needs some sort of punctuation. One of these places is between two complete sentences that are meant to be said or read together quickly. In fact, this is the place where semicolons belong; a comma placed here creates a run-on sentence, which is a huge grammatical No-No.

But overall, the article is a nice glance-over lesson for the grammatically-impaired looking to sharpen their writing skills in preparation for a more professional setting.
Tags: author:achacunsagloire, editorial, errors:common errors, errors:dangling modifiers, pos:modifiers, punctuation:semi-colon

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