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Prose Parade
Grammar and writing basics

December 28, 2010

Verbs and Plurals

OK, I saw a posting from the Urban Dictionary on Facebook today: mechanic – A paid assassin who “fixes” a problem, i.e. off’s someone who has been causing trouble.

Do you see the verb to off? Do you see the apostrophe? Can you tell me why a dictionary, for heaven’s sake, even a popular dictionary, would make a verb plural with an apostrophe. Why don’t I just beat my head against a wall.

One more time:

The plural is formed by adding an -s or an -es (or changing the -y to -i and adding -es). So simple, yet so challenging apparently.

The entry should read: mechanic – A paid assassin who “fixes” a problem, i.e. offs someone who has been causing trouble.

Just because the verb to off is colloquial doesn’t mean the rules of grammar don’t apply. English is hard enough without making it even harder.

September 27, 2010

Ellipsis (…)

What did the poor little ellipsis ever do to deserve such brutal treatment? Look at any direct mail letter, and they’re scattered around like seasoning on a piece of meat. I know it’s annoying, but even the poor ellipsis has rules.

First, it’s used inside a quote to indicate some part of the quote is missing.

For example, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war,that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation,shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”


Second, in general, it indicates an omission outside of a quote, for instance, to show a thought has trailed off. “I was thinking we could jump off a bridge, but

Sometimes with a thought that’s trailed off, we can see the logical end of the sentence, so the sentence should have the ellipsis and a period. “On the other hand.”

So, no matter how many times the direct mail letter has ellipses to grab our attention, we still know what the writers want: our money. And you don’t want to be in their company, do you.