Archive for October, 2006|Monthly archive page

Subject-Verb Agreement

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Make verb agree with its subject, not with a word that comes between.

Wrong:
The overplucked brows on that face needs serious eyebrow penciling.

Right:
The overplucked brows on that face need serious eyebrow penciling.

The word “and” makes the subjects plural

Wrong:
His broad soft belly and glassy grey eye scares me to my bones.

Right:
His broad soft belly and glassy grey eye scare me to my bones.

If you join subjects with “or” or “nor” make the verb agree with the part of the subject nearer to the verb.

Wrong:
If a cigarette or a doobie are what you need, call me after midnight and I’ll be right over.
Right:
If a cigarette or a doobie is what you need, call me after midnight and I’ll be right over.

Wrong:
Neither Belasco nor his five girlfriends was capable of listening to advice; they were too drunk with passion.

Right:
Neither Belasco nor his five girlfriends were capable of listening to advice; they were too drunk with passion.

Indefinite pronouns are singular

Examples of indefinite pronouns:

Anybody, anyone, anything, each , either, everybody, everyone, everything, neither, nobody, no one, nothing, somebody, someone, something.

Wrong:

Everyone on the battlefield during a missile barrage know that death is near.

Right:
Everyone on the battlefield during a missile barrage knows that death is near.

Most collective nouns are singular

Committee, jury, audience, family, troop are examples of collective nouns. Unless the meaning is obviously plural, treat them as singular.

Wrong:
The audience detested Good Charlotte’s top ten hit “The Anthem,” so they pelted the band with chewing gum and used Tampons.

Right:
The audience detested Good Charlotte’s top ten hit “The Anthem,” so it pelted the band with chewing gum and used Tampons.

Verb must agree with the subject even when subject follows verb

Wrong:
There was a 3-foot tall lunatic dressed as Puff Daddy and a 10-foot laughing clown who made the children cry.

Right:
There were a 3-foot tall lunatic dressed as Puff Daddy and a 10-foot laughing clown who made the children cry.

Who, which, and that, need verbs that agree with their antecedents.

Wrong:
My ability to lie is one of the things that make me a better guy than you.

Right:
My ability to lie is one of the things that makes me a better guy than you.

Many words look plural—measles, mumps, athletics, mathematics—but are singular.

Wrong:
Mathematics are my favorite subject because Professor Lobachevsky is cuter than Sponge Bob Squarepants.

Right:
Mathematics is my favorite subject because Professor Lobachevsky is cuter than Sponge Bob Squarepants.

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Exercises.

1. The friendship of the lame little balloonman and the bubblelicious teacher’s pet have, over the past decade, meant a great deal to me.

2. Her breasts swings lightly as she bend; she is a woman in the prime of life.

3. Young, hot, and divorced, Ashley and her sisters dates only tawdry and tacky fellows.

4. Waiting in the dugout, chewing tobacco, was a Bolshevik Jew and a blood-thirsty blob of mozzarella sticks.

5. Neither the naked truth nor the huge mothers was able to force him to confess.

6. Bink and Pepper make out until their lips turn to mush.

7. Scarlett Johansson and Pete Yorn is singing a duet tonight at the Pimple Pop Café.

8. If a pair of Levi’s skinny or two pairs of Calvin Klein copper wash is needed, then spend what you must.

9. Arnold and I believes that shopping for a Hugo Boss suit should be as uncomplicated as buying a dirty water hotdog.

10. Steve Phillips, former general manager of the New York Mets and fired ESPN analyst, and his ex doink buddy, shlubby seductress Brooke Hundley, is not in love.

shlubby seductress

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Semicolons and Colons

The Semicolon

When two related main clauses are not joined by a coordinating conjunction, use a semi-colon

She tells me her flip-flops are a fashion statement; I doubt it.

The bride kissed the bridegroom; that’s when I knew I could never marry Brad.

When two main clauses are linked by a conjunctive adverb or transitional phrase, use a semi-colon.

Many women wear staggeringly high heels; in fact, the average woman is now taller than the average man.

Most gluteus maximii are impervious to exercise; gym rats, however, continue to squander their hard-earned cash.

The report stated that young people contract HIV because they are broke and enter into financial arrangements with older gentlemen; in other words, money for sex.

Use a semicolon when you have a series of items with internal punctuation

Hurt puppy dog men on film are John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever,” with his Brooklyn accent and hairdo; Montgomery Cliff in “From Here To Eternity,” with his damaged pretty-boy looks and his trumpet; and Marlon Brando in “On The Waterfront,” with his punch-drunk face and innocent desire to do good.

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Best first-date restaurants are El Greco’s, with its cheeseburger deluxe; Renzulli’s, with its clams; and Peter Luger’s, with its porterhouse steaks.

The Colon

Use a colon after a main clause to emphasize a quotation, a list, or an appositive.

Quotation:

In order to truly appreciate the sensitive side of rap music, one must listen to Jay-Z’s moving lyrics: I’ve got 99 problems, but a bitch ain’t one.

Appositive: (a word or phrase that modifies a noun)

She poured a can of kerosene on top of the mattress: a flea infested and thoroughly stained relic.

List:

Every tuna fish sandwich should include the following: Progresso tuna, mayonnaise, tomatoes, toast, lettuce, curry powder, pepper, Tobasco sauce.

Use a colon between main clauses when the second clause summarizes the first clause.

A sensitive man is like a singing dog: he can be trained to perform, but he can never understand why.

After formal salutations.

To Whom It May Concern:

Dear Madam:

Dear Mr. Jackson:

Between hours and minutes

10:45 p.m

2:08 a.m.

Proportions.

The ratio of morons to mutants was 8:2

Fix the following sentences:

1. You can become a millionaire by wining the lottery, a virtual impossibility, inheriting millions from an uncle you didn’t know existed, another thigh-slapper, or by dropping $10,000 each year, for twenty years, in a high performance mutual fund, letting compound interest do all your work.

2. She has more than twenty pillows and thirty stuffed animals on her bed, a bit too many, don’t you think?.

3. I prefer women with a .7 waist-to-hip size ration, in fact, I always carry a tailor’s tape.

4. I have three favorite movies, Hellboy, Rambo, Tashbo.

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Use The Active Voice

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A Very Passive Murder (John Vorhaus)

The room was walked into by a man by whom strong, handsome features were had. A woman was met by him. The bed was lain upon by her. Then the bed was lain upon by him. Clothing was removed from them both. Sex was had. Climax was achieved. Afterward, cigarettes were smoked by them. Suddenly, the door was opened by the husband of the woman by whom the bed was lain upon. A gun was held by him. Some screams were screamed and angry words exchanged. Jealousy was felt by the man by whom the gun was held. Firing of the gun was done by him. The flying of bullets took place. Impact was felt by bodies. The floor was hit by bodies. Remorse was then felt by the man by whom the gun was held. The gun was turned upon himself.

Verbs in the above paragraph are in the passive voice.
Technically-speaking a passive verb construction comprises the following:

Form of a “be” verb + past participle.

The woman was shot by her jealous husband.

“Woman” is the subject, “was” is the be verb, “shot” is the past participle.

Active voice:
The jealous husband shot his wife.

“Woman” is the subject, “was” is the be verb, “eaten” is an irregular past participle.
Passive:
The woman was eaten by her jealous shark

Active:
The jealous shark ate the woman.

In both examples, the active voice uses fewer words (that’s a good thing), and they are easier to read.

Use the active voice unless you have a good reason to you the passive voice.

Passive:
After bagging six chicks, syphilis was caught by Jacobo.

Active:
After bagging six chicks, Jacobo caught syphilis.

The second one is better because it is shorter and more direct.

Sometimes it’s appropriate to use the passive voice:

In order to control the jerk population, many Yankee fans are destroyed each year.

Her husband was sure of a couple of things: the condoms under the bed were used, and all of her text messages had been erased.

In both sentences, the subjects are more important than who is doing the destroying or stuffing.

Exercises: Convert the following sentence to the active voice.

1. The gazillionaire was surprised by Professor Tashman’s deep knowledge of hedge-funds and French fries.

2. He was cooed at by the crazed beauties, by the housebroken starlet, by the distraught girleen.

3. In hot July and cold February, baby-doll dresses and buttocks-baring trousers are worn by Broadway actresses with matchstick bodies.

4. When I strolled into his kitchen, muscles, cockles, and clams were being steamed in pungent, garlicky broth.

5. A storybook wedding was dreamed of by the ugly bride-to-be