Category: Grammar Sucks

Subject-Verb Agreement Using ‘Each’

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By Mary W. Ng

Subject-verb agreement errors are common in writing, and they reflect poorly on the writer.  If you do not want to make any such error, you must not only understand the mechanics of subject-verb agreement but also be aware of some special cases of subject-verb agreement.

Today I'd like to talk about two cases of subject-verb agreement, both involving the pronoun each.

Look at these two sentences:
    •    Each of you are a part of history.
    •    Each of you is a part of history.

Google shows 85 million results for the search term 'each of you are' and 13 million results for 'each of you is'.  So, who is correct, the majority or the minority?

Well, the subject is the pronoun phrase each of you; the simple subject is the pronoun each (meaning each one), which takes a singular verb.  In case you forgot or didn't know, the simple subject is the noun or pronoun that remains when the subject is stripped of other words.  The majority is not always right.

Now look at these two sentences:
    •    They each have something special.
    •    They each has something special.

Google reports 34 million results for the search term 'they each have' and 11 million results for 'they each has'.  So, who is correct this time, the majority or the minority?
Well, this time the majority is correct, but there is a reason for it.  The subject they is plural and takes a plural verb.  The pronoun each has no effect on the number of the subject; each functions as an appositive, giving additional information about the subject.

When you proofread your writing to check for subject-verb agreement errors, remember that the verb must agree with the subject or the simple subject.  In most cases, interrupting words, that is, words between the subject and the verb, are mere distractions.

Mary W. Ng is the author of two grammar e-books, Focus on Grammar: Subject-Verb Agreement and Focus on Grammar: Parallel Constructions.  Sample reads are available at  The website also provides information on spelling rules of verbs, word usage and grammatical errors.

The Nice Thing About Old Age…

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The best thing about old age, I've recently discovered, is that you don't have to worry about your lifelong fears anymore. They all come true, so you can leave your paranoia and nightmares behind you. But…a big but…you have to deal with the reality of your fears-come-true. Ah, life.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

Final Nail in Journalism’s Coffin

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If the blogosphere and gritty online "citizen journalists" hadn't already exposed the dearth and death of mainstream journalism (and its crass manipulation of reality), then last night's ESPN special called, if I recall correctly, "The Decision," certainly put the final nail in the coffin.

I'm referring, of course, to that overblown, downright insulting one-hour TV special on basketball star LeBron James's decision on where to play next season.

Not only did James expose himself as a hallow, shallow, unable-to-think big nothing, but interlocutor Jim Gray cemented his place in journalistic history as perhaps the biggest ethical and professional sell-out (I wanted to use the "w" word, so go ahead and fill in the final four letters of that word) of all time.

If I were still in journalism school (thankfully, that was decades ago), I'd drop out and pursue a more honorable career in, say, propaganda, er, public relations. At least in that profession you're expected to pimp for others and get paid for it.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

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June 16, Bloomsday: James Joyce Fans Celebrate in Dublin and Everywhere

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The most celebrated novel of the 20th century, Ulysses, and its author, James Joyce, are celebrated each June 16 on what's called "Bloomsday."

The "Bloom" part comes from the central character in Ulysses, who was named Leopold Bloom, and the date from the day in which the novel's 24-hour narration takes place, June 16, 1904.

Bloomsday is celebrated widely in Dublin, setting of the novel, and truly in spots around the world wherever there are fans of Joyce and his writings.

The Dublin festivities include pub crawls, which tend to incline me toward celebrating the occasion in that Irish city.

Maybe I can make it there in 2011.

The Most Important Read of Your Life

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Who will save us?

Who will save book publishing?

What will save the newspapers?

What means 'save'?

If by save you mean, "what will keep things just as they are?" then the answer is nothing will. It's over.

If by save you mean, "who will keep the jobs of the pressmen and the delivery guys and the squadrons of accountants and box makers and transshippers and bookstore buyers and assistant editors and coffee boys," then the answer is still nothing will. Not the Kindle, not the iPad, not an act of Congress.

We need to get past this idea of saving, because the status quo is leaving the building, and quickly. Not just in print of course, but in your industry too.

If you want to know who will save the joy of reading something funny, or the leverage of acting on fresh news or the importance of allowing yourself to be changed by something in a book, then don't worry. It doesn't need saving. In fact, this is the moment when we can figure out how to increase those benefits by a factor of ten, precisely because we don't have to spend a lot of resources on the saving part.

Every revolution destroys the average middle first and most savagely.

Stolen shamelessly without permission from Seth Godin's Blog. Read this and mull it over many times and prepare for the future.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

Ten Reasons Why Lists Suck

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Actually, I don't have ten, but it's a nice number to project authority on a subject matter, which is why using lists and touting them in a blog post's title helps make the thing go viral. I guess people cannot digest paragraphs, or good ol' expository writing or–heaven help us!–essays anymore. They need lists, so they can have etch little compartments in their tiny little brains and also have food for fodder when trying to sound authoritative on a subject: "Yeah, there are three good reasons why…blah, blah, blah."

So my main (numbers one through ten) reason for generally shunning lists is this–you can't develop a logical argument or a good piece of exposition by hanging it all on lists. Oh, sure, you can squeeze in a list in lots of written pieces, but I'd say for the most part lists are mere shameless expositions of laziness (when it comes to writing) and hasty ploys to go viral for an audience that disdains having to read and be led to a logical conclusion.

When I read the following article on "blogging like the British," I kept trying to figure ways I could use lists on my restaurant review site, but nothing seemed to really fit the challenge. What am supposed to write, something that goes "the ten reasons I hate Jenny's Slop House are…"?

Anyway, the article has lots of good advice in it, but I would not agree that you have to spell out numbers through 100 (read: one hundred). I start using digits at 10, and that's a good enough artifice (most books might say to use digits after ten) for everyday writing.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

To Google or To Tweet, That Is the Question

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Earlier, the Oxford Dictionary named unfriend the Word of the Year, and now the American Dialect Society has proclaimed google (lower case for Web searches) as the Word of the Decade.

Bing, the Microsoft search engine, has chimed in by announcing that Twitter was the most popular word of 2009.

What does all this mean? That we spend too much time on the Net, and we should remind ourselves to get a life in 2010.

Google that, will ya?

Categories: Grammar Sucks

Mark McGwire and Super Acetaminophen

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I guess it’s best to start with the positive (no plural). At least disgraced baseball slugger Mark McGwire had the courage to own up to his steroid abuse–partially anyway.

In admitting yesterday that he had used steroids (whose names he conveniently couldn’t remember), McGwire fell back on what has now become the number-one cop-out defense of their use. He used them for medicinal purposes.

He was okay up until that point, had he just gone on and said he didn’t realize he’d get hooked when he saw what they did for his performance on the field. Instead, during an hourlong interview with Bob Costas, he repeatedly denied that using steroids gave him any performance boost. He instead thanked "The Man Up Above" for his power to whack 70 home runs at an age (34) when most baseball players are fading fast.

Those who have been exposed as steroid users have now fallen on three standard defenses: complete and utter denial (Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds), "I didn’t know I was taking them because they were in a vitamin a teammate gave me" (Rafael Palmiero), and medicinal use (McGwire, Andy Pettitte).

Another approach is MLB-sanctioned and team-complicit silence (Manny Ramirez), but one should expect nothing less from a sleazeball organization like the L.A. Dodgers.

Anyway, call McGwire’s defense "The Super Acetaminophine Explanation":  Using steroids in "low doses" healed my body without giving me any additional strength or endurance, so it was all okay.

Then if it were all okay, why the hell did you break down and cry on TV and make the rounds of apologizing to everyone, including the Roger Maris family? Remember, Mark, they were just pain killers and body healers, not performance enhancers. No need to apologize for that, now is there?

Categories: Grammar Sucks

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What Will They Ask for Next?

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College and universities have long required applicants to write essays to evaluate their ability to reason and use the English language effectively.

However, what on earth would answers to any of these questions ever reveal on the reasoning side:

How do you feel about Wednesday? (University of Chicago, 2002)

Are we alone? (Tufts, 2009)

Make a bold prediction about something in the year 2010 that no one else has made a bold prediction about. (University of Virginia, 1999)

More silly essay topics here.

Categories: Grammar Sucks