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 Category:  Essay Non-Fiction
  Posted: August 7, 2019      Views: 143

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Don't Believe Your Ears
"Common Grammatical Errors" by shaffer40

Many breaches of language rules cry out for correction. "He ain't got no money" is an affront to the literate ear, and no self-respecting writer would commit, "I done my job," to paper. But, not all errors are so obvious. Certain grammatical blunders are used so routinely in our speech that to say them correctly would sound awkward. Perhaps that is why they are so frequently found in print --- all over the place!!

Common Error #1 -- Misplaced only

In 1934, when composer Harry Warren and lyricist Al Dubin wrote their famous standard, "I Only Have Eyes For You," it's likely they were concerned with musical cadence and not syntax. To be correct, it should read, "I Have Eyes Only For You," but who but the most persnickety grammarian or pragmatic grouch would object to this lyrical error? It's a love song, after all.

Such poetic license can be extended to writers producing romantic prose, but it behooves the rest of us to beware of "Misplaced Only." Frequently overlooked by editors, it's an error that can be found sprinkled throughout major magazines and novels by well-known authors.

"Mary only plays the piano in the evening."

In this sentence, "only" restricts the verb "plays", prompting the observant reader to wonder if Mary plays the piano rather than chopping the piano into pieces with a hatchet.

"Mary plays the piano only in the evening," clears up the confusion.

In this corrected sentence, the habitually mislaid word has been placed before the prepositional phrase "in the evening," thus giving the reader the intended information, that is, when Mary plays the piano.

A good rule is to place only directly in front of the word or phrase it is intended to restrict.

Common Error #2 -- Placement of "I"

Our parents and English teachers admonished us to place this little pronoun at the beginning of our sentences. "Me and Jimmy are going to the playground," would be followed by a stern "Jimmy and I" from the nearest grownup. Perhaps this reprimand has discouraged the use of "me" in a series, when actually, it is correct when used as part of the object of a sentence rather than the subject.

"Marion gave copies of the photograph to Ellen, Judy, and I."

This is incorrect. One would not say, "Marion gave copies of the photograph to 'I'". In this case, the pronoun in question is an object at the end of a prepositional phrase.

The sentence should read:

"Marion gave copies of the photograph to Ellen, Judy, and me."

Common Error #3 -- "Like" vs. "Such as"

"Vegetables like carrots and squash contain beta carotene."

This may sound perfectly correct when spoken, but it's a no-no in the written word. The rationale is this: "Like" means similar to, while "such as" is more specific and refers to the exact items. Therefore, the above sentence should read:

"Vegetables such as carrots and squash contain beta carotene."

Common Error #4 -- Incorrect Placement of the Prepositional Phrase -- where...why...when...how...

"I'm going to brush my hair in the bathroom when it gets dry," says Monica.

I think it's safe to assume that Monica is waiting for her hair to dry and not the bathroom, but one would never know it from her statement. Placing the prepositional phrase at the beginning of the sentence tells us clearly what it is Monica is waiting for.

"When my hair dries, I'll brush it in the bathroom."

Common Error #5 -- Hung vs. hanged

Here again, if you get this one wrong, you are in good company. A few top-notch mystery writers have used hung when they meant hanged, and this, too, is an error that editors often miss.

The rule is simple--but hard on the ears. Both words are past tense of hang. "Hung" is used when referring to an inanimate object, and "hanged' is used when describing a horrendous fate for a living creature, such as a human being or an animal. The distinction is as follows:

Mother hung lace curtains at the living room windows.
Harvey was found guilty of murder and was hanged for his crime.

Avoiding these errors will add polish to your manuscript and put you one step ahead of editors who might not recognize them. Your writing will look professional and represent a job well done!

Writing writing prompt entry

Writing Prompt
Write a story or essay with the topic of "writing". Can be instructional or a character in the story can be a writer. Creative approaches welcomed.

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