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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Apartment Manager Needs Usage and Apostrophe Editor

This notice appeared recently on the door of a senior citizen apartment building. Most seniors I know had a good grammar education in school, so I wonder how many of the residents cringed when they read this notice.

First off, the middle section uses the incorrect THEIR where it should be THERE. The phrase should read as follows:

...which means that there will be no elevators!

Second and third, FRIENDS HOUSE is indicating that the house belongs to a friend and FAMILY MEMBERS HOUSE is indicating that the house belongs to a family member, so an apostrophe is needed to show POSSESSION. The first statement in the last paragraph should read as follows:

If you can stay at a friend's house or at a family member's house, that would be even better. (Notice that I also added a comma after the second HOUSE to mark the end of the introductory clause. I might also pose the question: Better than what?)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

ALERT! Do NOT use apostrophe to form plural!

I've written about this before, but there it was again in plain sight in this morning's Hoover section of The Birmingham News. In an article about Hoover not requiring sprinkler systems in new homes, News staff writer Val Walton created this sentence:

Hoover Fire Marshal Frank Brocato said he can understand the city's reasoning in not making the sprinkler's mandatory given the difficult economic times.

The word "sprinkler" should be made plural by simply adding an "s," NOT an apostrophe "s." The apostrophe should only be added when referring to something that BELONGS to the sprinkler, as in "The sprinkler's source of water varies from house to house." I've also rearranged the wording a little for more clarity. I think the above sentence should read as follows:

Hoover fire Marshal Frank Brocato said that, given the difficult economic times, he can understand the city's reasoning in not making the sprinklers mandatory.

Notice also that the reporter used an apostrophe correctly on "city" to show that the reasoning belongs to the city.

Have a great day, everyone!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Whoops! Watch those "relative" plurals.

If you decide to tell tales on your in-laws, be sure to use the correct plural and possessive forms. The reporter covering the deposition of disgraced former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy in Birmingham last week paraphrased a comment by Scrushy and used poor grammar in doing so:

Scrushy said those on the list (of approved telephone numbers he can call from prison) include wife Leslie, son-in-laws Mike Plaia and Martin Adams, and Jim Parkman....

Whoops! When you want to make son-in-law or mother-in-law plural, you add the S to the FIRST word of the compound, NOT the last. The reporter should have written this:

Scrushy said those on the list include wife Leslie, sons-in-law Mike Plaia and Martin Adams, and Jim Parkman....

Now, if Mr. Scrushy had wanted to note that all of his missing assets might be found at the home of one of his sons-in-law or at the home of his mother-in-law, he might have stated this:

All of that cash can be found in my older son-in-law's garage, and the jewelry I didn't give away is hidden in my mother-in-law's bedroom closet.

PLEASE NOTE: Like the prosecutors, I have no idea where Mr. Scrushy's assets are. This sentence is merely a hypothetical example for all my GrammarGlitch Central readers.

Monday, October 12, 2009

AFFECT? EFFECT? Still Not Clear

The Birmingham News published an excellent article titled "Interview body language" in its Sunday edition (October 11). Based on interviews with Mark Hickson, professor of communication studies at UAB, and Lana Thompson, founder of Thompson and Associates, an HR consulting, training and coaching firm, it offered many tips on appropriate body language for job interviews.

Unfortunately, the author of the article used "affect" incorrectly in the very first paragraph, detracting quite a bit from the professionalism of the message. She wrote:

"What affect can body language have on your job interview?"

Oops! She needed the noun form EFFECT in this slot of the sentence. EFFECT is almost always a noun, and AFFECT is almost always a verb. If you remember that, you will be correct at least 90% of the time, as in the sentence above. (NOTE: If you want to know the unusual circumstances EFFECT can be a verb, send me a comment, and I will do a column just on that.)

This sentence should read as follows:

What effect can body language have on your job interview?

That said, there were still some good tips in the article. Here are several examples:

1. Sit up straight, place your hands in your lap or on the chair arms, and keep your forearms slightly away from your body.

2. Take a file folder with you so you have something to hold. You can put an extra copy of your resume in it.

3. Lean forward a bit when the interview is speaking. Take a breath and lean back when you begin to speak.

If you want to see more of this article, go to and search for the title "Interview body language."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More Subject/Verb Agreement Confusion

A recent request in the local "Good Neighbors" column here in Birmingham contained a sentence that read as follows:

M. R. wanted to buy one of the pink and white commemorative plates that was given to adults who were in attendance when South Avondale Baptist Church held its last service.

At first glance, this sentence might appear to be correct. The verb "was" is singular, and the word "one" is singular, so they agree. BUT, read it again. M. R. only wants to buy ONE plate; however, many more than ONE were given out on the day of the last church service.

In this case, the clause "that WERE given to adults who...." describes PLATES (more than one) not the ONE plate M. R. wanted to buy.

The sentence should read as follows:

M. R. wanted to buy one of the pink and white plates that were given to adults when South Avondale Baptist Church held its last service.