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Grammar pet peeves and more. (Sept11 The convention that wasn't).

When I was asked to speak at the NCEW convention, I was about to depart for the summer into the wilds of upstate New York accessible only by boat. So, I solicited input from more than 7,000 readers of my e-mail newsletter (grammarlady.com). I received 30 replies, not too bad for high summer. I have no information about the contributors, aside from the fact that they have computers and are on the Internet, they read newspapers, and I did not have to edit their remarks.

A general lament and possibly a devastating conclusion: "A big issue for me with The Hartford Courant: Where are the editors? We know they got rid of the proofreaders, but editors should catch grammatical errors such as non-agreement of subject and verb, repeated words, and confusion over its/it's and too/two/to. I see so many of these errors, that I question the accuracy of the content as well."

There were two comments about story style.

"Current styles of newspaper writing waste the readers' time. Sometimes four paragraphs blather on before any point gets made. Newspaper reporting should address the reader, and NOT be a vehicle to show the supposed intelligence and hilarious wit of the reporter and headline-writers. We want straightforward, accurate, to-the-point writing."

"The Fresno Bee in Fresno, California, loves to do this: They neglect to summarize the facts of an article in the first paragraph. Many times I have to read on and on, sometimes down to the fourth or fifth paragraph to find out what the article is about."

Perhaps related to style is this complaint. "Seems to me that journalists will be as much to blame as anyone for the death of complete sentences in the English language. Beg them, please, to respect the difference between a phrase and a sentence." (Notice that the first sentence does not have a subject.)

Wrong use of possessives upset two writers.

"Possessives -- Charles's book. The Atlanta Journal/Constitution uses Charles' book. Our class subscribes to the newspapers every week and it is difficult to teach the students from a grammar book that declares that a singular noun that ends ins forms its possessive by adding's. We have written to the paper and they respond that they use a 'special' grammatical style form. Quite annoying."

"Please strongly discourage the widespread -- and growing -- use of an apostrophe after names ending with 's' to denote the possessive; i.e.: Governor Davis' Energy Plan should be Gov. Davis's plan."

The apostrophe causes another problem. "Using an apostrophe to indicate a plural number (1990's, men in their 70's). Shouldn't it be '1990s'"?

These two peeves have to do with state abbreviations, but I think it is also a call for consistency.

"My pet peeve with newspapers and other journals is that they do not use a standard for state names. I still see publications using a mixture -- it seems that they can't even be consistent within their own publication. They may use NY for New York, but N. Carolina for North Carolina, or Mass. for Massachusetts. Can't we have a law (from the Grammar Lady, of course) that says that all should use the two-letter abbreviations, except in formal writings, when the state should be completely written out?"

"As a senior high English teacher who requires my students to use the most recent abbreviations for the states, it distresses me that newspapers are still using Pa instead of PA, etc. How can I expect my students to use the correct form when they point to the newspapers with the incorrect form? In fact, newspapers are a great source for me to find dangling and misplaced modifiers to use as bad examples in my classes."

Other comments follow:

"My biggest pet peeve with newspapers, radio, and TV: most of the reporters use the word IMPACT incorrectly. IMPACT is a noun. Reporters use IMPACT as a verb. Then they compound their error by using the non-word IMPACTING. Good Lord,who taught these people English?"

"This one drives me bonkers: the journalistic insistence on always using 'none' as though it is a contraction meaning 'not one' -- e.g., 'None of the passengers was injured.' They wasn't??? Please tell them 'none' is not a contraction and it can mean 'not any' as well as' not one."'

"The former USSR. Well, does the former USSR have a name or not? The Artist Formerly Known as Prince Country?"

"Please write 'daylight-saving time' instead of' daylight savings time.' (Tell'em to look it up in their very own AP Stylebook for confirmation.)"

To sum up, here is a fervent statement from another teacher. "I have a comment about newspapers in general. I teach high school English and have been a school newspaper sponsor. I am very concerned about image and grammatical correctness in publications that should have the staff to correct mistakes before it goes to press. However, I live in the Washington, D.C., metro area and I am always finding grammatical mistakes in the Post and other local newspapers. I encourage my students to read the newspapers just to get experience in editing. Editing should have been done before the customer received it!"

Mary Ellen Bruder writes a grammar column that appears in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Chattanooga News Press. She was to have led a workshop at the convention.
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Author:Bruder, Mary Ellen
Publication:The Masthead
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2001
Words:890
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