Grammar Moses: To err is human; to learn from one's mistakes is divine

  • A repair worker examines the head of the "Christ the Redeemer" statue in January 2014 after it was damaged in lightning storms in Rio de Janeiro.

    A repair worker examines the head of the "Christ the Redeemer" statue in January 2014 after it was damaged in lightning storms in Rio de Janeiro. Associated Press

 
 
Posted5/16/2021 5:30 AM

No one is perfect. I certainly am not. Nobody who works here is. But, boy, do we try to come close every day and try to learn from our mistakes.

Some days are better than others, of course.

 

What follows is a compilation of reader complaints in the area of grammar and usage. Perhaps it will be helpful to you, too.

Enjoy your date with Schadenfreude.

Would you agree?

Subject-verb agreement is among the first things an editor looks for when going through a story.

Editing for spelling errors are also high on that list.

Aha! I did that on purpose.

The subject of that sentence is the gerund "editing" (which takes the singular verb 'is') -- not "errors."

The Saturday Soapbox in the Daily Herald is a compendium of short opinions and bon mots composed by Daily Herald editors, so it's embarrassing when a reader catches a flub in it.

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"One of my pet peeves is the increasing tendency of writers to match the verb to the closest word and not to the subject of the sentence," wrote Kathy Gilroy. "One of your editors wrote, 'Saving on energy and maintenance costs are the top goals.'"

Ugh. "Saving" is the subject of the sentence, not "energy and maintenance costs."

The verb should be "is."

We stand corrected.

It's either he or I!

Reader Dorene Wackerfuss was moved to write after a photo caption in our Sports section grabbed her by the neck.

"It always annoys me how 'I' is used instead of 'me' as the object in a sentence or after a preposition. This seems to be extending now to 'he' and 'him,'" she wrote.

The offending caption read: "Cubs manager David Ross was not in agreement with the suspensions given to he and relief pitcher Ryan Tepera for Tepera throwing a pitch behind Milwaukee's Brandon Woodruff's legs."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

When in doubt, remove the other person from the sentence: "Ross did not agree with the suspension given to him." When you do that, it's easy to recognize that "him" is the correct pronoun as an object of a preposition.

I think people sometimes just get confused with who goes first -- think "her and I went to the store" -- and that trips them up into botching this simple rule: "He," "she," "they" and "I" are subject pronouns. "Him," "her," "them" and "me" are object pronouns.

Who among us?

Marion Blais wrote to one of our reporters last month:

"With reference to your article on the rural fire department districts, I'm sure I'm not the only one to point out that 'between' is correct

when two parties are involved. When more than two parties are in consideration, as in your article, the correct word is 'among.'"

Essentially, Marion is correct.

However, there is an exception when relationships of three or more items are considered one pair at a time: "The games between the Cubs, Brewers and Cardinals have been high-scoring affairs."

Everyday mistake

After she told me how much she enjoys talking about this column with her mom, reader Sue Becker pointed out an error in a headline, which included the phrase "Performing everyday."

I can't find that story on our website, so we must have given the web version a different headline. So I'm lacking in context.

"'Everyday' is an adjective in need of a noun, right?" Sue asked. "I believe the correct headline would have been 'Performing every day.'"

She is correct. "Every day" is an adverb that describes how often something is done. "Everyday" is an adjective that describes something that, well, happens every day, whether in a literal or figurative sense: "His everyday chores include attending Zoom meetings, lugging furniture and writing stupid grammar columns."

I can think of a case in which "Performing Everyday" would work, and that is if the full headline were "Performing 'Everyday People.'"

That's something I'd wager Sly & the Family Stone did at every show from the song's release in 1968 until the band quit touring in 1975.

Write carefully!

• Jim Baumann is vice president/managing editor of the Daily Herald. Write him at jbaumann@dailyherald.com. Put Grammar Moses in the subject line. You also can friend or follow Jim at facebook.com/baumannjim.

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